“He was a public performer, but when you talked to him, he was a very private person,” said Merle Wilberding, who has been Bonner’s attorney for 35 years.
Bonner’s close friend, Donald “Duck” Blanton of CITYBOY Entertainment in Trotwood, was to host the March 14 event that was scheduled to take place at Gilly’s in downtown Dayton.
The March date was chosen because that was Bonner’s birthday. Bonner, who died Jan. 26 of cancer, would have turned 70 this year. The Hamilton native’s body was cremated last week, Wilberding said.
Blanton said he canceled the event after Wilberding raised some objections during a recent telephone conversation between the the two men.
“We wanted to do it in a way that we thought would be more consistent with Sugar’s wishes,” Wilberding said, referring to Bonner’s Dayton-area family members. He noted that Bonner did not wish to have any public memorials. “We had a discussion on it and the family did not wish (to have) that particular event. He had a very private life and death and it’s just not the right time and place.”
“At this time, I want to give the family time to grieve,” Blanton said, explaining one of the reasons why he decided to cancel the March event. “They don’t want me to use his name.”
Wilberding, when asked about using Bonner’s name, said, “we are concerned about his image and likeness.”
In the meantime, Bonner’s Cincinnati family members are continuing with a public memorial, according to Bonner’s granddaughter, Shaile Foster of Cincinnati. That memorial is planned for 4 p.m. Saturday at the House of Joy Christian Ministries, 5912 Hamilton Ave. The church seats approximately 500, Foster said.
Guests planning to attend include funk legend and Cincinnati native Bootsy Collins, his wife Patty and musician Wanda Rash, according to Foster.
The Ohio Players, a Dayton-based funk band, rose to international fame in the 1970s with its hits that included, “Fire,” “Skin Tight,” and “Love Rollercoaster.”
Bonner and another Hamilton native, Greg Webster, joined former Ohio Untouchables band members Marshall “Rock” Jones, Ralph “Pee Wee” Middlebrooks, and Clarence “Satch” Satchell to form the Ohio Players in 1968, according to Jones, 72, of Jamestown.
The group did not play publicly under the name Ohio Players until after Bonner and Webster joined, he said.