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Bruce Belland

Bruce Gerald Belland was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 22nd, 1936, the second son of Rev. Stanley G. Belland, a Fundamentalist minister, and his wife Hertha,a gospel radio singer. 

He sang his first solo in church at age four. It was greeted with enthusiastic “Amens” from the congregation and his proud parents’ praise. And with that, his dream was born. He wanted to be a singer. He never wavered from it. Bruce grew up singing along with Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers with his supportive mother at the piano while their supper burned on the stove. 

His dream drew closer when his father became minister of the blue-collar West Hollywood Community Church just off the Sunset Strip. During his adolescent years, Bruce developed his vocal skills at funeral services. As Bruce puts it: “Other fathers took their son fishing or to a baseball game. Dad and I buried people.” Still, he told himself, it was performing.  

As a starstruck teenager, he delivered newspapers and flowers “across the tracks” in Beverly Hills, where he met members of the old Hollywood A-List: Lucille Ball, Jimmy Stewart, Gene Kelly, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jimmy Durante, Danny Kaye, Ira Gershwin, Danny Thomas, George Burns, Harpo Marx, and Rosalind Russell. Their lavish lifestyles further sparked Bruce’s interest in entertainment. 

Bruce attended Emerson Junior High in West L.A. where his classmates hailed from the affluent neighborhoods of Bel Air and Brentwood. With his hand-me-down clothes and short stature, he was bullied mercilessly until he discovered he could avoid a thrashing by making bullies laugh. Comedy would become an important aspect of his career. His Emerson classmates included future film star Robert Redford (who carried his books when Bruce broke his leg and was on crutches), Doug McClure, and Oscar-winner Bobby Driscoll, Hollywood’s biggest child star since Shirley Temple. 

During this period, Bruce and his best friend Eddie Cobb often snuck onto the back lot at 20th Century Fox studio and wandered through exotic film sets—fantasy playgrounds that fascinated the two youngsters and further fueled their ambition.  

Glamorous Sunset Strip nightclubs were just blocks from his family’s modest parsonage. As a teenager, Bruce snuck out after his parents went to bed and bluffed his way backstage to watch the great performers of the era: Sammy Davis Jr., Nat “King” Cole, Jimmy Durante, The Andrews Sisters, Billy Daniels, Martin & Lewis, and Spike Jones. After meeting his childhood idols, the Mills Brothers, Bruce decided he wanted to sing in a close harmony vocal group. Also inspired by The Four Freshmen, Bruce refined his harmonic instincts. Meanwhile, he also composed songs for church events at his father’s request. 

Friday, April 19
8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
GIDGET (1959)
Columbia 100th, Poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt
Poolside at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel