Danny Gilbert (1941-2022): A fixture of tourism’s golden age
A lifelong tourism ambassador and hotel worker known for old-fashioned Bermudian hospitality made a name for himself as Champagne Danny.
Danny Gilbert was synonymous with the Elbow Beach Hotel in Paget.
He devoted 56 years to the South Shore resort, befriending guests and managing its famous nightclub during the heydays of live entertainment in Bermuda.
George Scott, a close friend and a former Progressive Labour Party MP and union organiser, said Mr Gilbert was “old school” when it came to service.
“He was from that era of the suit, shirt and tie – but he didn’t hesitate to have a good time.”
The two often travelled to Brazil, where Mr Gilbert, a regular visitor, was known by name to many across Rio de Janeiro.
Rolfe Commissiong, also a former PLP MP, said Mr Gilbert was “a fixture at Elbow during the golden era of tourism”.
“He was manager of the iconic nightclub that hosted all of Bermuda's quintessential bands such as the Talbot Brothers, Hubert Smith and the Coral Islanders and the Esso Steel Band”.
Mr Commissiong added: “Bermudians like Danny made the industry what it was.
“He had that special Bermuda touch with guests that kept people coming back year after year.
“The nightclub in particular was small and intimate and the acoustics were great. It was loved as a venue.”
He said Mr Gilbert hailed from “the Gilbert clan of Somerset” which was well-known in the West End.
Mr Gilbert joined the Elbow Beach Hotel in 1961 when it hosted massive crowds during College Weeks.
Spring break tourism boomed at the resort and elsewhere on the island in the 1960s and 1970s.
Mr Gilbert told The Royal Gazette in 2018: “I used to manage the nightclub downstairs with Chilly Simmons.
“He has passed away now. In those days we had entertainment all different nights, steel pans, limbo dancers. Every night there was something to do.”
Mr Gilbert started out at the hotel in room service but gravitated towards dealing with guests.
He worked in the hotel’s bars and took over the lounge after Mr Simmons died.
He told the Gazette in an interview several years ago: “I am a frontman. I see the guests and you have to go out of your way. That is my thing. You have to give them the special touch.”
He added: “I love what I do because it is my life. This is my country and it is my life. Hotel work is me because this is my industry.”
Mr Gilbert was the only member of his family to go into hotel work.
His initiation into the sector was aboard the RMS Queen of Bermuda, Furness Bermuda Line’s glamorous flagship ocean liner, when he was 16 – but in the engine room.
Mr Gilbert worked on the ship’s boilers, but later took a job as a busboy at the Coral Beach Club.
The nickname “Champagne Danny” came from his drink of choice after he knocked off work.
Mr Gilbert’s rum swizzles were a favourite among Elbow Beach guests and he made a point of knowing the preferred cocktails of repeat visitors as well as their names.
He said Brazil became his “second home” in later years.
Mr Gilbert retained his love of a good party, but said the island had lost its entertainment edge.
His working life at Elbow Beach ceased in 2018 when the hotel, now closed, was taken over by new management.
But Mr Gilbert said he would have preferred to stay doing what he loved. He told the Gazette: “What do I need to relax for? I’m relaxed already.”
· Danny Charles Gilbert, a veteran of the hotel industry and a tourism ambassador, was born on March 5, 1941. He died on February 27, 2022, aged 80.