Friday, December 31, 2010

BING AND 2010

Another year is almost gone - hard to believe. In regards to the Bing Crosby world, it was the busiest year for fans since the sad death of the icon in 1977. First let me start with the bad news of 2010. In January of 2010, the legendary internet resource The Bing Crosby Internet Museum shut down. For the past 14 years, the site was an oasis for die hard and new Bing fans alike. Also in 2010, Redmond Nostalgia closed after years of providing old radio shows to avid listeners. Finally in later 2010 Kathryn Crosby was involved in a serious car accident. Hopefully, she is still on the mend.

On to the happier news, with the closing of The Bing Crosby Internet Museum came the birth of not one but three other interet sites dedicated to keeping the memory of Bing Crosby alive. (This site is among the three). There are links to the sites on this blog. Each site gives a different view or approach to the legacy of Bing Crosby, but all share in a common interest of honoring the greatest entertainer of all time.

Many compact discs and DVDs were issued making it so easy to collect items of Bing that once were so rare. I feel that the best addition to anyone's Bing Crosby collection is the DVD issued by Universal in their "Backlot" series. This time around Universal released some of Bing's rarest movies like: COLLEGE HUMOR, HERE IS MY HEART, MISSISSIPPI, SING YOU SINNERS, and WELCOME STRANGER. Many of those movies collectors had on third and fourth generation old videos, so transferring these rare gems to DVD will help to keep Bing's memory alive for generations to come. Looking back at thirty years of collecting Bing, I am overjoyed at the availability of Bing material out there. However, I can't help to feel a bit sad. It was such a joy in the early days of collecting Bing to find a rare recording at a flea market or an autographed picture at an estate sale. A lot of the fun of collecting Bing Crosby was the hunt for the items. Thankfully, Bing Crosby put out such a wealth of material that the hunt is never really over. Here's to happy hunting in 2011...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

THREE CROSBY PROPERTIES FOR SALE

Three properties once owned by Bing Crosby are up for sale. Der Bingle sang of a "White Christmas," but the crooner's heart was in sunny Southern California, where he invested in real estate and built houses.

One that recently came on the market in Rancho Mirage is priced at $3,495,000. The sprawling 6,700-square-foot home sits on more than an acre with a hillside backdrop in the Thunderbird Heights neighborhood. The d├ęcor incorporates midcentury film posters — the Moroccan studio screening room is an ode to Crosby's "Road to" movies — and other Hollywood memorabilia and photographs.

The current owner is entrepreneur Jeff Teller. About seven years ago, a real estate agent asked Teller and his father if they had any interest in touring the former Crosby spread. "My dad, who is 72, remembered living near them in L.A. and thought it would be fun to see," said Teller, who was considering building a family home in La Quinta but was concerned about how long it might take to get a contractor. He and his father were awestruck from the minute they walked through the 10-foot front doors. The back of the house consisted of sliding glass doors that opened to views of the Coachella Valley, he said. "He looked at me, and I looked at him," Teller recalled, and they arrived at the same decision: "Let's buy this."

The single-story house, built in 1957, has an outdoor swimming pool and spa with adjacent fireplaces and a putting green. Crosby often entertained celebrities around the pool. Five bedrooms and 51/2 bathrooms include a wing named the Kennedy Suite in honor of President Kennedy's 1962 visit to Palm Springs. The suite has a kitchen, living area and separate entrance. On the other side of the house is the master bedroom wing, which Teller favors. "It has an outdoor shower with these quartz walls that Bing had brought in," he said. The estate has been used from time to time as a resort rental at rates of $2,000 to $3,000 a night, depending on the season. "We loved spending the holidays out there," said Teller, who has listed the property with Valery Neuman of Windermere Real Estate. "We could sit in the pool and see the snow on the mountains." A Toluca Lake home owned by Crosby that was listed at $10 million last year has been reduced to $5,995,000. Although the Southern Colonial has had a succession of Hollywood owners, including actors Andy Griffith and Jerry Van Dyke, it is still identified as Crosby's house.

SOURCE

Thursday, December 23, 2010

BING MEETS DAVID BOWIE

Peace on Earth, can it be? When David Bowie posed that musical question to Bing Crosby 33 years ago, a generation of young TV viewers watching in amazement asked another question: Did that really just happen? Was the Thin White Duke actually singing a heartfelt duet with the "White Christmas" dude? Those who saw Crosby's 1977 holiday special - or MTV's frequent airings of the video clip - still remember how unusual that moment seemed. The premise is that guest-star Bowie is stopping by the English manor where Crosby is staying. They share some corny dialogue - "'ello, you the new butler?" the rock star asks with perfect timing - before discussing yuletide traditions. Then they launch into the majestic "Little Drummer Boy," with Bowie quickly segueing into the sweet, soaring counterpoint of "Peace on Earth."

To understand the impact of this musical detente, you would have to imagine Lady Gaga singing with Andy Williams for a 2010 special - which actually doesn't sound that outlandish anymore. These days, there are plenty of successful culture clashes, like Tony Bennett's duets with Sting and Bono. But back then, Bowie's avant-garde rock style - his "Heroes" video was featured on the same special - was considered as far from Crosby's mainstream crooning as Pluto is from the sun. Having them perform together was a landmark instance of pop-culture worlds colliding. And it worked. In the years that followed, the weirdly beautiful moment - which aired not long after Crosby's death - became the stuff of legend, fondly remembered and, eventually, lovingly parodied by several very funny people.

During his "Daily Show" era in the 1990s, Craig Kilborn did a sarcastic version with Bob Mould, where it sounds like the former Husker Du front man asks Kilborn if he's "the new Bill Maher." Dave Foley of "Kids in the Hall" fame did a fantastic Bowie impression in a skit for his 2002 "The True Meaning of Christmas Specials" on CBC that cast Joe Flaherty as Crosby. It alters the lyrics about peace so that Bowie sings, "Where do the monsters go at Christmas?" And it ends with a nasty argument between the two where Crosby insists on mispronouncing Bowie's name and questions his masculinity. Recently, two parody versions from comedy all-stars debuted on the Web. In a takeoff that appears on CollegeHumor.com, Jason Segel and Jack Black sing the duet with nice sincerity as themselves, except they're animated characters who gather at a rustic log piano and float briefly through a sunlit sky.

In the other, done for FunnyorDie.com, Will Ferrell is Bowie and John C. Reilly is Crosby in an elaborate, virtual word-for-word re-creation of the original. It's almost exactly like the real thing, from the clothing and set to the goofy script. "You're the one that sings, right?" Ferrell asks, just as Bowie did. "Well, right or wrong, I sing either way," says Reilly, relishing the pun. But there is a new ending - some bleeped expletives are exchanged between Ferrell and Reilly when Bowie corrects Crosby for getting his name wrong. In the 1977 special, there was no fighting. Peace on Earth - or at least on television - was achieved.

The Bowie-Crosby summit wasn't as big as the Beatles appearing on "The Ed Sullivan Show," but maybe it was a turning point of sorts. These days, celebrities from different genres frequently bridge the generation gap. Betty White gives Jon Hamm dance lessons in an Emmy skit. William Shatner works with Ben Folds on an album. John McCain and Snooki are Twitter pals. And they have Bowie and Crosby to thank, in a small way. At least, I hope that is right. Right or wrong, their duet is still making people jolly during the holidays.

SOURCE

IF THEY COULD SING LIKE BING: RED FOLEY

Now I have heard "White Christmas" by almost every star imaginable, but this version by Red Foley is new to me. Red Foley (June 17, 1910–September 19, 1968), was an American singer, musician, and radio and TV personality who made a major contribution to the growth of country music after World War II. For more than two decades, Foley was one of the biggest stars of the genre, selling more than 25 million records. His 1951 hit, "Peace in the Valley", was among the first million-selling gospel records. A Grand Ole Opry veteran until his death, Foley also hosted the first popular country music series on network television, Ozark Jubilee. I am not a huge country music fan, but this version of "White Christmas" is appealing...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

BING AND THE 1956 THUNDERBIRD

Chances are you've already heard Bing Crosby sing White Christmas or Silent Night this month, maybe you've even heard his weird Christmas duet with David Bowie from the 1970s. Now you can hear Bing Crosby sell you a 1956 Thunderbird. In 1956 the Ford Thunderbird was still riding the wave of a pretty successful debut the year before. Ford's personal luxury response to the Corvette was so well received that almost no changes were made between the 1955 and 1956 model years. One of the few changes made was the Continental Kit which gave the car long pure lines. According to Mr. Crosby the additional trunk space the relocated tire left enough room for "4 hunting dogs, a brace of decoys and a case of uhhh…" Oh the good old days, when drinking was still somewhat taboo. Bing Crosby wasn't having a bad year himself in 1956. He starred in the well received movie "High Society" with Grace Kelley and Frank Sinatra. Perhaps more importantly (at least to us) Ford gave him a brand new 1956 Thunderbird in exchange for him saying some nice things about the cars. Judging from this advertisement, if singing hadn't panned out for Bing, he could have made it as a car salesman. Bing Crosby already had a successful and established career when he endorsed the Thunderbird in 1956. Although the Thunderbird was in its infancy in 1956, it also went on to have a pretty successful career, with continuous production through 1997 (Let's pretend the Thunderbird story ended there).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

THE CENSORING OF HOLIDAY INN

I love this time of the year for the sheer amount you see and hear Bing Crosby. You hear him on the radio. You hear him at the malls, and you see him on television. At least once a week in December, one channel is showing either HOLIDAY INN or WHITE CHRISTMAS. It is a great time to be a Bing Crosby fan.

This is the second year that the cable channel AMC (American Movie Classics) is showing HOLDAY INN. However, it is also the second year that a musical number has been cut and censored from the movie. The number is called "Abraham" and it marks Abraham Lincoln's birthday. The number is in blackface, which is of course an outdated type of performing. It can be offensive as well, however it is altering and censoring the movie.

A little history on blackface...Blackface is theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows, and later vaudeville. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century. In 1848, blackface minstrel shows were the national art of the time, translating formal art such as opera into popular terms for a general audience. Early in the 20th century, blackface branched off from the minstrel show and became a form in its own right, until it ended in the United States with the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Blackface was an important performance tradition in the American theater for roughly 100 years beginning around 1830. It quickly became popular overseas, particularly so in Britain, where the tradition lasted longer than in the US, occurring on primetime TV as late as 1978 and 1981.

In both the United States and Britain, blackface was most commonly used in the minstrel performance tradition, but it predates that tradition, and it survived long past the heyday of the minstrel show. White blackface performers in the past used burnt cork and later greasepaint or shoe polish to blacken their skin and exaggerate their lips, often wearing woolly wigs, gloves, tailcoats, or ragged clothes to complete the transformation. Later, black artists also performed in blackface. Stereotypes embodied in the stock characters of blackface minstrels not only played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images, attitudes and perceptions worldwide, but also in popularizing black culture.[citation needed] In some quarters, the caricatures that were the legacy of blackface persist to the present day and are a cause of ongoing controversy. One view is that blackface is a form of cross-dressing.

By the mid-20th century, changing attitudes about race and racism effectively ended the prominence of blackface makeup used in performance in the U.S. and elsewhere. It remains in relatively limited use as a theatrical device, mostly outside the U.S., and is more commonly used today as social commentary or satire. Perhaps the most enduring effect of blackface is the precedent it established in the introduction of African American culture to an international audience, albeit through a distorted lens. Blackface's groundbreaking appropriation,exploitation, and assimilation of African-American culture—as well as the inter-ethnic artistic collaborations that stemmed from it—were but a prologue to the lucrative packaging, marketing, and dissemination of African-American cultural expression and its myriad derivative forms in today's world popular culture.

Getting back to Bing Crosby wearing blackface, he only did it in three of his movies. Bing was far from a racist, having helped many black jazz artists and singers throughout his career. I had one person tell me that they did not want their child to see the blackface scenes, because it was hard to explain it to them. I feel that is what is wrong with society today...erase it and it never happened. Just as slavery, and the slaughter of the American-Indian happened, so did blackface. If we do not discuss the mistakes of our past, how can we teach our children to be better people in the future? That is why I think it is wrong to cut out the "Abraham" scene from HOLIDAY INN. It was entertainment in 1942, but I believe 68 years later it can be a valuble teaching tool. American Movie Classics did not return our request for comments for this article.

Friday, December 17, 2010

THE STORY OF WHITE CHRISTMAS

He didn't think it was any good. After all, he was a Jewish-American composer the son of immigrants who's own holidays as a youth were remembered more for their poverty than for anything else. But he was charged with writing songs about every major holiday for a film titled "Holiday Inn", starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. And Christmas for him was simply a challenge. His name was Irving Berlin. And he was the most prolific songwriter of American music in the 20th century. Born in 1888, his self-developed songwriting talents produced music still beloved generations beyond their time. From "Alexander's Ragtime Band" to "There's No Business Like Show Business", Irving Berlin had a talent to not only create a tune that everyone would whistle, but he wrote lyrics that spoke from the heart of Americans who adored him. One such example occurred at the end of World War I, when Berlin introduced "God Bless America", performed by Kate Smith. The song generated such sentiment that serious efforts were made to replace the national anthem with this patriotic song. Even now eight decades later during another moment of national crisis that Irving Berlin composition stirs the souls of all Americans. So when Bing Crosby assured Berlin that "White Christmas" was a winner, he knew then what others would shortly feel as America marched off to World War II. Christmas is full of feeling for home and family and love. And "White Christmas" captured that feeling perfectly: I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, Just like the ones I used to know. These days, we sing White Christmas with a Currier and Ives-like scene in mind. But for the folks who heard it for the first time for real it had a most profound meaning. The year was 1941. It was a time when folks were possessed with worries of an unstable world, of loved ones being shipped off for war not knowing when they would be together again and when futures were put on hold. A Christmas "just like the ones I used to know" was definitely something to hope for and a sentiment they shared equally. For most of the folks listening to Bing Crosby's radio show on NBC, their thoughts were of separation during Christmas' to come. Nobody knew how long the war would last or what the outcome would be. For many, facing Christmas under these circumstances made "White Christmas" a song listened to with reverence and reflection. As the war progressed, it became, in essence, an anthem itself. Christmas 1943 saw many families torn apart as America fought the war on two fronts. Christmas 1944 was a cold, bitter and frightful time for folks living continents away. This song was cherished on both sides of the ocean, and revered for the sentiment it carried. By the end of the war, "White Christmas" had become the biggest selling single of all time. For the next several years it raced up the Top 30 charts no less than 16 times and it remains, to this day, the most popular recorded holiday song of all time. Where the treetops glisten And children listen To hear sleigh bells in the snow. Bing Crosby performed for the troops overseas in countless places during the war. Without fail, he recalls requests for "White Christmas" regardless of the season. "It really got so that I hesitated about doing it because invariably it caused such a nostalgic yearning among the men that it made them sad. Heaven knows that I didn't come that far to make them sad. And for this reason, several times I tried to cut it out of the show. But these guys just hollered for it." So popular was the recording that Crosby had to re-record it in 1947, because the masters of his 1942 recording session were worn beyond use. Well after the close of the war, Crosby starred in a syrupy and plot-challenged holiday film also called "White Christmas" co-starring Danny Kaye. The movie was a hit that created another surge in popularity for the song. The song defined Bing Crosby's career. For over 50 years it remained the biggest selling single of all time in all song categories and was only surpassed in 1998 by Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" recording in honor of Princess Diana. I'm dreaming of a white Christmas With every Christmas card I write. "White Christmas" has endured recordings by various artists there are over 500 versions! and it has been translated into 25 different languages. While it is performed each holiday season, it seems to get an unusual amount of attention from the military. Even during the Vietnam War a war that Crosby was privately opposed to "White Christmas" was used as a signal song to waiting Americans who were evacuating the embassy in Saigon. When the signal phrase "It's 105 degrees and rising" was uttered followed by the playing of "White Christmas", a mad scramble ensued for waiting helicopters effectively ending America's presence in Vietnam. May your days be merry and bright And may all your Christmases be white. There are times when the most impracticable of elements combine to create something special. Such was the case with the creation of "White Christmas". And for most of us today, Christmas is just not Christmas without it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

WHITE CHRISTMAS - 1958 VERSION

In 1958, the USO decided against sending out individual shows to military bases all over the world - what a let down for Bob Hope. Instead, they chose to stage a spectacular featuring dozens of stars. In this clip, we see a clever introduction of Bing Crosby by David Niven, Kim Novak, and Gregory Peck. Bing is singing yet another great version of "White Christmas"...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

AVE MARIA

Bing could sing any type song from a dixeland jazz number to a religious hymn. Here he is singing the beloved "Ave Maria" with opera star Rise Stevens from the film GOING MY WAY in 1944...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

BING AND JACKIE GLEASON

Here is Bing and Jackie Gleason together...the greatest singer and the greatest comedian of all time. This is taken from Bing's Christmas show of 1976. It was Bing's next-to-the last Christmas special. Here the duo are singing "A Pair Of Loafers"...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

HAPPY HOLIDAYS - REMIX

I know what many purists think of the remixes, but here is one from 2003 that I think has been done pretty tasteful to Bing's 1942 recording of "Happy Holidays" from the movie HOLIDAY INN. What do you think...

Friday, December 10, 2010

BING CROSBY ESTATE PICTURES

Here is some very interesting pics of Bing Crosby's old estate. Bing Crosby's original 1957 mid-century desert estate is now for sale. Fabulouse renovated vintage celebrity home located in Thunderbird Heights, Rancho Mirage, California. Offered by Valery Neuman, 760-861-1176...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

AUDIO ASPIRIN: LOOKS LIKE A COLD,COLD WINTER

Bing was in fine voice for this audio aspirin entry. He is crooning the forgotten song "Looks Like A Cold, Cold Winter". Bing recorded this in September of 1950 at the same session where he recorded "Silver Bells". This is a very appropriate song at this time of year with the cold weather we are already having here up north...


 

Monday, December 6, 2010

BING'S THEME SONG


Bing Crosby would record the song "Where The Blue Of The Night Meets The Gold Of The Day" for the first time in 1931, and as we all know for the next 46 years it would be his theme song. The song was originally "When the Gold of the Day Meets the Blue of the Night", but the title was changed before recording. Because Crosby contributed to the lyrics of the song, writers Roy Turk and Fred E. Ahlert included him in the songwriting credit. Although the song was popular and successful, Crosby did not take special pride in having written it, saying much later, "I really think I'd trade anything I've ever done if I could have written just one hit song."

Here is a clip from Bing's 1933 short of the same name:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

FLORENCE GEORGE: BING'S SISTER IN LAW

I was surfing the internet looking for interesting stories and tidbits, and I discovered that Bing's brother Everett Crosby (1896-1966) was married to an actress. Her name was Florence George, and she appeared in a few movies, namely COLLEGE SWING.

I have not been able to find out how long Everett was married to her or if they had any children together, but if anyone has more details, inquiring minds would like to know. Florence died on September 13, 1998 at the age of 80.

UPDATE: Malcolm MacFarlane of the International Club Crosby had this bit of info: Florence was Everett's second wife. They married on May 9, 1939. She was 23 and Everett was 42. This was what Carolyn Schneider wrote about her uncle Everett in BING magazine #144:"Uncle Ev was devoted to Florence, his second wife. So much so, that in an effort to boost her operatic career goals, he arranged a European singing tour for her. Uncle Larry was appalled to learn that the gowns Ev told his wife to buy for the trip cost more than what Florence was being paid for her appearances. Definitely not one of Ev’s money making deals, no one had the courage to tell Bing. And it was a good thing too that uncle Bing wasn’t around the day Florence came in the Crosby offices and brought her pet monkey. She parked him right next to poor Magee who was trying to juggle a multitude of phone calls and had no time for monkeyshines."

Florence never did make it big in entertainment, and the latest work I could see she did was appearing with Paul Whiteman on his 1950 revue show...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

WHITE CHRISTMAS

Well, the Christmas season is upon us even though it seems to begin earlier every year. The best part of the season is hearing Bing Crosby on the radio now! He was the father of Christmas carols, and luckily he recorded a lot of them. My favorite Christmas song by far is "White Christmas". Here is an interesting video showing clips of the different versions Bing sang on his television specials throughout the years...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

KATHRYN CROSBY INJURED

Some sad news during this holiday time for the Crosby family. Hopefully Kathryn Crosby and the Crosby family know they are in our thoughts and prayers...


Bing Crosby's widow recovering after traffic crash RENO, Nev. (AP) — Bing Crosby's widow, Kathryn Crosby, is recovering from major injuries suffered in a deadly traffic crash in the Sierra Nevada. Kathryn Crosby, 77, was hurt and her husband, Maurice William Sullivan, 85, was killed in the Nov. 4 single-vehicle wreck on U.S. 50 east of Placerville, Calif., California Highway Patrol spokesman Dan Stark said Thursday. The former actress, who has homes in Genoa and Hillsborough, Calif., was flown to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno and has since been discharged. Sullivan was westbound when his vehicle left the roadway, struck a large boulder and rolled many times, ejecting him, Start said. The cause of the crash has not been determined, and an investigation continues. "We may do some follow-up with her (Kathryn Crosby) to determine the events that led up to the accident," Stark said, adding he had no details on her injuries or update on her condition. Kathryn Crosby's family did not return phone calls seeking comment.

She and the crooner, best known for "White Christmas" and the "road" movies he made with Bob Hope, were married for nearly 20 years before his 1977 death at age 74. She was his second wife. In recent years Kathryn Crosby has staged a cabaret act in which she sang Bing Crosby hits, and has appeared in a "Legendary Bing Crosby" documentary shown on PBS stations across the country. Bing Crosby was one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century, a huge star on stage, radio, movies and television. His recording of "White Christmas" was for decades the biggest-selling single of all time. Kathryn Crosby and Sullivan married in 2000.