Thursday, January 27, 2011

BING SINGS THE SINATRA SONGBOOK

Der Bingle Takes on Frank by Steve Horowitz Bing Crosby has a rich, dulcet tone. When he sings, as on the holiday classic “White Christmas”, one can easily get lost in his deep velvet bass-baritone. Frank Sinatra, on the other hand, has a different type of voice. He sings with a more nuanced passion. The conventional wisdom is that Crosby sang before the days of electric amplification and could be heard in the back row. Sinatra, who called himself a “saloon singer”, knew how to use the microphone to convey even the subtlest of his vocal abilities. The two singers came from different eras, and Bing was a star long before Frank hit the scene. Yet Sinatra’s career eclipsed Crosby’s, and even by the ‘50s made Crosby’s music seem old fashioned. This new Collector’s Choice disc gathers 18 songs recorded by Crosby mostly for various television programs during the ‘50s. The titles are best known by Sinatra. The production is crystal clear. Crosby is in fine voice. But he’s no Frank. The problem is that Crosby sounds like a boring old adult. On love songs like Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You”, Carolyn Leigh and Cy Coleman’s “Witchcraft”, and the Oscar-winning Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen’s “All the Way”, Crosby sounds like someone crooning a love song to a daughter more than he does seranading a lover. Sinatra sang these tunes with edgy sexual energy. Songs like “All the Way” and such implied physical touch and being out of control. Crosby’s strong style overwhelms the wispiness of E. Y. Harburg and Vernon Duke’s “April in Paris” and Johnny Mercer and Henry Mayer’s “Summer Wind”. His tones are too full when they should be breezy and light. On the other hand, Crosby makes cheese out of Jimmy Kennedy and Michael Carr’s “South of the Border” and William Rose and Mabel Wayne’s “It Happened in Monterey” by treating the music as novelty numbers. You knew Sinatra was play acting when he sang these songs, but he invested the personae with a sense of romance. Crosby’s tunes settle for just being fun. Sinatra and Crosby do sing a medley of Edgar Leslie and Horatio Nichols’s “Among My Souvenirs”, Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill’s “September Song”, and Herman Hupfield’s “As Time Goes By”. The medley was recorded in March 1954 for The Bing Crosby Show for General Electric. These songs have the narrator reflect on the past (e.g., “You must remember this”) and Crosby sounding older serves him well. However, Sinatra still somehow manages to steal the show through his youthful charisma. These titles were not originally intended to be packaged together, but Sinatra’s name should be a selling point for Crosby. That’s a shame, because Crosby’s great talent cannot be overstated. He is truly one of the most gifted singers of the modern era. And these are great songs. Sinatra always had a good ear for material, and these are among his notable titles. But if you want to hear songs like Carolyn Leigh and Johnny Richards’s “Young at Heart” or Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen’s “Love and Marriage” sung right, go out and buy Sinatra. These sides are for Bing fans in search of fresh material. The completist would appreciate the fine fidelity of these recordings, but there are much better Crosby discs out there. SOURCE

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

BING MEETS REGIS PHILBIN

Television icon, Regis Philbin, who dropped a bombshell with the recent on-air announcement that he would leave “Live with Regis and Kelly” later this year, didn’t hesitate when asked about his favorite episode from the show he has hosted for more than a quarter century. It involved the retirement of another television icon in 1992. “The one that I did in Johnny Carson’s last few months on air,” Philbin said by phone from Palm Beach a few days before making his shocking statement. “I knew he wouldn’t sit still for an interview but I called his producer, a longtime friend, Peter Lassally, and told him I had an idea for one more shot at Johnny before the show ends. “So we flew out from New York with the camera crew to California to shoot Johnny parking his car and walking into the studio, picking out his suit and doing all the things he does before the show,” the 79-year-old continued. “It turned out to be a very funny and beautiful piece that I will always remember and am so happy to have on tape.” Philbin, whose career started in 1961 in San Diego with the local “Regis Philbin Show,” has hosted “Live” since 1983 when it premiered in New York as “The Morning Show.” Kathie Lee Gifford joined him in 1985 and three years later the show debuted in national syndication as “Live with Regis & Kathie Lee.” In 2001, Kelly Ripa replaced Gifford and the program entered its current phase. Philbin grew up wanting to be a vocalist like his hero Bing Crosby. Shortly before graduating from The University of Notre Dame in 1953, he surprised his parents with a private performance. Philbin, accompanied by a piano playing friend, sang the Crosby hit “Pennies from Heaven” for them at a music hall on campus. “My mother was in tears and my father was angry,” Philbin recalled The young man heeded his dad’s advice and set aside his singing ambitions. About 15 years later, though, they would be rekindled thanks to an on-air encounter with the singer he used to emulate. Philbin had gained his first national exposure as Joey Bishop’s sidekick on “The Joey Bishop Show.” The two men would take an hour-long walk each day up and down Vine in Hollywood before taping. One day they discussed what they first remember wanting to be. Philbin admitted to always wishing to be a singer. Bishop said he wanted to grow and be a comedian. Couple months later, Crosby appeared on the show and while the cameras rolled Bishop mentioned that Philbin was his biggest fan and asked the famous crooner to sing for him. Crosby turned to Philbin and did a bit of the classic “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (That’s an Irish Lullaby).” Then, Bishop tells Crosby that Philbin would like to sing for him. The young sidekick manned up and did his best “Pennies from Heaven.” “Crosby joined in with me,” Philbin said. “That was a big, big thrill.” SOURCE

Monday, January 24, 2011

DIXIE: IS IT A RACIST MOVIE

Back in the 1940s, race relations were quite different than they are today in most of the United States. African-Americans had little freedom and rights back then, nearly 80 years after President Lincolm emancipated the slaves. Even though African-American soldiers fought valiantly during World War II against the Axis Powers, they were not looked upon as equals. The entertainment industry was a little different with the popularity of bands such as Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington and singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday. However, they had a long way to go as well.

A popular medium at the time was the use of blackface in performing. Blackface was theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows, and later vaudeville and movies. The use of blackface is almost universally denounced today in 2011, but the debate rages on if it should be deleted and/or forgotten from movies of the 1940s. One such movie that uses blackface a lot was DIXIE (1943).

DIXIE, directed by A. Edward Sutherland, capitalized on the then current trend of musical biographies of popular songwriters of the twentieth century, a cycle that appeared to have begun with the life of George M. Cohan in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942). Unlike this and others made during this period, DIXIE goes back a century, prior to the Civil War in fact, depicting the life of a composer named Daniel Decatur Emmett. His life-story is as unknown as his name itself. The fictional screenplay does toy with the facts before leading to the purpose of its film title, the composition that's to become Emmett's most recognizable American song of all, "Dixie."

Bing Crosby, one of Hollywood's top box office attractions, is properly cast as Dan Emmett. It reunites him with HOLIDAY INN (1942) co-star, Marjorie Reynolds, and re-teams him opposite Dorothy Lamour, in her only film opposite Crosby outside from the seven "Road to" comedies all featuring Bob Hope as part of the funny trio.
Dan Emmett's life is portrayed more to the personification of Çrosby himself, that of a good-natured singer/composer whose only weakness is his forgetfulness, especially when it comes to leaving his lit up smoking pipe around that causes a fire. He is engaged to Jean Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), a beautiful blonde Southern belle whose father (Grant Mitchell) disapproves of their courtship because he feels Dan to be irresponsible and won't amount to anything. Mason's more convinced now after Dan's lit-up pipe has caused the burning and destruction of Mason's old Kentucky home. However, Mason consents to Jean's marriage only if Dan can prove himself capable by doubling his $500 life savings to $1,000 within six months. (A similar opening lifted from the more familiar Fred Astaire musical, SWING TIME, in 1936).

Leaving his clerical job, Dan seeks his fortune in New Orleans. While riverboat bound, he loses all of his $500 to Mr. Bones (Billy De Wolfe), a suave actor and cardsharp. After discovering that he had been cheated, he sets out to find Mr. Bones. Instead of beating him for the return of his money, composer and actor form a partnership leading to the origins of what was to be known as a Minstrel Show. Dan, who has already encountered Millie Cook (Dorothy Lamour) at the boarding house to whom Bones and other out-of work actors (Lynne Overman and Eddie Foy Jr.) owe back rent for their lodgings to her trusting father (Raymond Walburn), finds himself in love with her, in spite that she's the aggressor who made the first move. Dan decides to return to Kentucky and break his engagement to Jean. Upon his return, Dan finds the girl he once loved to be a victim of a crippling disease, polio, that puts him in a difficult situation as to which girl he should marry, and which should get his swan song.

The movie has never been issued on video or DVD leading many people to the conclusion that it has been removed from circulation. However, the movie has been aired on AMC, as late as 1989. The question is...is DIXIE a racist movie? While blackface is outdated and just plain wrong in 2011, the movie DIXIE was a 1940s movie depicting life in the 1860s. The entertainment scene in the 1860s was mostly blackface due to the popularity of the minstrel show. While it is hard to watch DIXIE today because of the black face scenes, it is a part of history that should not be brushed under the carpet. As a society, we need to view the movie from a history standpoint. If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Watching 1943's DIXIE, we need to view it from a historical standpoint. We can look at it from the viewpoint of it being a 1940s depiction of 1860s life. Watching DIXIE some 68 years after it is made does not make us a racist, but it should make us aware and proud of how far we have come...and maybe how far we still need to go.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

GUEST REVIEWER: THE COUNTRY GIRL

Bruce Kogan is an avid classic movie fan and a huge supporter of Bing Crosby. I am proud and honored to be able to publish his take on THE COUNTRY GIRL (1954) here...

THE COUNTRY GIRL(1954) by Bruce Kogan Bing Crosby's career reached its dramatic heights in The Country Girl. In fact the trio of Crosby, Grace Kelly, and William Holden all hit incredible highs with this one. Clifford Odets's play was a good backstage drama without any great political statement that characterized his earlier work It would be another three years before Bing Crosby would do a film without singing at all. But for those who've never seen the Odets play, the story is one without any music. Crosby's role on Broadway was originated by Paul Kelly.

When Paramount bought the screen rights they had Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin write the songs that Crosby sings in The Country Girl. Curiously enough none of them, good that they were, became any kind of hit for Bing. Also this was Ira Gershwin's last score for either the stage of screen. It's fitting that Grace Kelly won her Oscar for this part. Uta Hagen who played Georgie Elgin on Broadway won a Tony for her performance. Kelly was up against some stiff competition that year and upset the betting favorite Judy Garland for A Star Is Born. Other nominees included Dorothy Dandridge for Carmen Jones, Jane Wyman for Magnificent Obsession and Audrey Hepburn for Sabrina. I suppose it was the fact that Kelly was cast against type in her portrayal. Usually playing chic blonde princesses, she's almost dowdy looking in this film.


Crosby plumbed some dramatic depths also and was nominated for Frank Elgin. However after three successive years of being nominated and not winning, Marlon Brando was not going to be denied in 1954. The rest of that field included Humphrey Bogart for The Caine Mutiny, James Mason for A Star Is Born and Dan O'Herlihy for Robinson Crusoe. Not a shabby field there either and Crosby's personal best came up against Brando's consolation for not winning for Streetcar Named Desire. Oscar politics at its finest. Bill Holden's part of Bernie Dodd was originated on Broadway by Steven Hill who today's audiences know as DA Adam Schiff from Law and Order. After years of playing what he called "Smiling Jim" roles, his acting took on some bite with Sunset Boulevard. He's a cynical man here also, but there was an additional edge here.

One of the plot elements was alcoholic Crosby knowing about Holden's bad marriage and using that knowledge to blame his bad behavior on Kelly. Holden was in the midst of a bad marriage himself, the only one he ever had. Marked by bitterness, recriminations, and mutual infidelities, he and Brenda Marshall stayed married for over 20 years for the sake of their children. When Holden's Bernie Dodd talks about his former wife there's an edge that I'm sure came from personal experience. The only other role of any size is that of producer Phil Cook and it's played Anthony Ross. Another plot element is Holden's championing Crosby going head to head a few times with Ross who never really wanted him in his show. One of Ross's condition to using Crosby is that he given a contract with a two weeks notice clause and not a run of the play contract. Ross gets hoisted on his own petard for that one. Sadly this was Ross's last film, he died the following year. The Country Girl is mature and intelligent and avoids the usual Hollywood clichés concerning show business stories. Even if you're not a fan of any or all of its three stars, this can be enjoyed on its artistic merits...

Friday, January 21, 2011

THE EARLY JAZZ SIDE OF BING

Here is an article I wrote, nearly 10 years ago! It appeared in IN TUNE INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE in March of 2001... THE EARLY JAZZ SIDE OF BING CROSBY - by David Lobosco In the fifty years that Bing Crosby made records, he recorded just about every conceivable genre of music from cowboy songs to sacred hymns. Bing was comfortable singing any type of song, but he seemed to be most at home singing jazz. Growing up in Spokane, Washington he was a long way from the sights and sounds of New Orleans. However, during Bing's formative years he soaked up the music of Kid Ory, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong. His early efforts showed how Bing had absorbed the jazz atmosphere that he found so musically stimulating. Those early efforts on vinyl included his stint with the Paul Whiteman orchestra. The Whiteman organization contained some of jazz's foremost pioneers like: the Dorseys, Eddie Lang, Joe Venuti, and Bix Biederbecke. Bing especially followed the cornet stylings of Biederbecke, and Bix not only became an idol of Bing's but also a drinking buddy during their time with Whiteman. Bing's first recording with the band was in late 1926, but it wasn't until March of 1927 that he got to record his first solo vocal on vinyl. The song, MUDDY WATER, is now considered a jazz classic, but to most Crosby fans it bears little distinction. For pure historic reason alone it should be highly valued. Whiteman gave the song to Bing after being impressed with Bing's work. For the next couple of years however, Bing mostly just waxed discs as a part of the Rhythm Boys and not much on his own. That would change though in January of 1929 when Bing was loaned out to the newly formed Dorsey Brothers Orchestra to record a few songs. One song that brought the young Crosby wider recognition was MY KINDA LOVE. Arranged by a very young Glenn Miller, the song was unexceptional. Fortunately, the Crosby vocal does the song more than justice. Later that year, Bing recorded one of the best records with Whiteman and the Rhythm Boys. Written by Leo Robin and Richard Whiting, the song is practically a theme song for French singer Maurice Chevalier. However, LOUISE is undoubtedly the Rhythm Boys' at their wild best. If Bing takes centre stage, his two colleagues also have very good parts and it amply demonstrates all the different facets of Bing's emerging personality - scat, comedy, harmony, and masterful solo singing. In mid 1930, the Rhythm Boys left the Whiteman organization and latched on to the popular Gus Arnheim orchestra. The trio made a few records with the band before it became obvious that Bing was emerging as the star. The trio broke up in 1931, and Bing stayed on with Arnheim as a solo singer. Bing made two very good recordings while he was with Arnheim. The first recording was the jaunty ONE MORE TIME. The opening bars are a true indication of what follows. The orchestra announces their presence and Crosby almost literally bursts upon the scene with his best solo jazz vocal to date. The other recording is not as well recorded, but I'M GONNA GET YOU bears recognition since it marks his last recording as a band vocalist. The limited range of the song seems to irk Bing into thrusting beyond its restraints, and Bing's final note is almost inaudible. In June of 1931, Bing recorded the highly popular song I FOUND A MILLION DOLLAR BABY for the first time with a studio orchestra. The significance of the recording has never truly been realized. This recording marks his first up-tempo song as a solo artist. The song is a joyful departure from Bing's early solo efforts such as JUST A GIGOLO, which were mournful and sad and not as upbeat as Bing could naturally sing. Soon after embarking on a solo recording career, Bing also found himself the star of radio and movies as well. For his first feature role in 1932, Bing recorded the jazz classic DINAH. It also marked the first pairing of Bing and the Mills Brothers. It is hard to come up with enough adjectives to describe this jazz masterpiece. It is a gem polished to near perfection by the singers and orchestra alike. The version Bing sang in "The Big Broadcast'' with lone accompaniment by guitarist Eddie Lang is equally good with Bing really digging his teeth into the scat singing part of the song. Bing returned to singing with a great jazz orchestra when he lent his vocals to Duke Ellington's rendition of ST. LOUIS BLUES. This recording with the Duke is an early example of Bing's ability to sing jazz convincingly. He fits into the Ellington scene as if he had been part of the band for years. Bing's next great jazz rendering is his take on the Sophie Tucker theme SOME OF THESE DAYS. Crosby sings the enjoyable ditty with the Lennie Hayton orchestra, and the recording featured a great solo by Crosby favourite Eddie Lang. The song was written by Shelton Brooks in 1910 specifically for Tucker. However, the recording made by Bing is the one that is frequently quoted as an example of Bing's ability to sing jazz. In 1933, Bing teamed up with the now forgotten Jimmy Grier band to record the Gordon Jenkins composition BLUE PRELUDE. All the sentiments of pain and anguish are expressed by Bing's magnificent phrasing, and Bing turns it into more of a blues number than a jazz one. Bing would go on to record over half a dozen songs with the Grier organization, like: LEARN TO CROON, DOWN THE OLD OX ROAD, and THANKS, but none of his other recordings had as much of a jazz feel as BLUE PRELUDE did. By 1935, Bing Crosby was taking matters into his own hands. He left Brunswick records to become one of the charter recording stars of the newly formed Decca Records. Under the direction of its founder Jack Kapp, Bing recorded less jazz oriented numbers. However, throughout the decades he would record with some of the greats of jazz like Connee Boswell, Lee Wiley, Jack Teagarden, and Louis Jordan. However, that is for another story...another article!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN

"Pennies from Heaven" is a 1936 American popular song with music by Arthur Johnston and words by Johnny Burke. It was introduced by Bing Crosby in the 1936 film of the same name. It was recorded in the same year by Billie Holiday, and afterwards performed by Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Clark Terry, Frances Langford, Arthur Tracy, Big Joe Turner, Frank Sinatra, Stan Getz, Dean Martin, Skrewdriver, Gene Ammons, The Skyliners (a major hit in 1960), Louis Prima, Legion of Mary and many other jazz and popular singers.

Presumably Burke’s lyrics were written to evoke a sense of optimism in difficult times, assuring the listener that when it rains, “There’ll be pennies from heaven for you and me.” The introductory verse, however, casts a shadow across the optimistic chorus. It warns that we may pay penance for our ancestors’ lack of appreciation of the better things in life. Storms may bring us fortune, but with that fortune we must buy what we used to get for free. On a personal note, "Pennies From Heaven" was my grandfather's favorite song, and it is my personal favorite recording by Bing. Bing recorded it commercially in 1936, but he also sang it a few times on his television show. The clip below is from a 1964 variety special Bing did. "Pennies From Heaven" may be a corny song by today's standards, but if you really listen to the lyrics, we need a song like this more than ever...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

BING AND JACK BENNY: part 2

If you received one of Universal’s new Bing Crosby DVD collections over the holidays and have immersed yourself in his films, you can sample another aspect of his career at the Internet Archive (archive.org), where you can find a scratchy, slightly blurry copy of “The Bing Crosby Show” from 1954. The show, actually a half-hour variety special that was essentially Crosby’s introduction to television, is an entertaining and enlightening time capsule, from the opening promo for General Electric with its blazing arc of current to the host’s caustic remarks about his “Road” movie partner, Bob Hope. Ever noticed Hope’s facial expression on TV, Crosby asks — “like a stricken steer?” Later, when Jack Benny jumps on Crosby’s back as part of a routine, Crosby deadpans, “First comic I’ve carried since Hope.” The show has sly moments: When Crosby tells a story about Benny’s being thrown out of the nightclub the Cocoanut Grove for bringing in his own food, Benny replies, “I remember when you were thrown out of the Grove, and it was a different kind of picnic.” After the well-toned Sheree North, posing as Benny’s date, whips off her long skirt and performs a calisthenic dance routine, Crosby tells Benny, “Say, pick up Sheree’s skirt and muff before you leave.” Benny: “I’ll pick up her check too.” In addition to the banter and jokes — mostly delivered while standing in front of a fake stage curtain covered with huge CBS eyes — you’ll be treated to Crosby’s renditions of “It Had to Be You,” “Changing Partners” and “I Love Paris.” SOURCE

Sunday, January 16, 2011

SPOTLIGHT ON EDDIE LANG

Even though Eddie Lang has been dead well over 75 years, I am continue to be amazed by his ability and talent on a guitar. Had he lived longer, Lang would have been the greatest guitarist of all time. A friend of Bing's, Lang played an important role in Bing's early recordings, and he would have also remained an important person in Bing's career as well.

Eddie Lang was born on October 25, 1902 and was regarded as Father of Jazz Guitar. Lang was born Salvatore Massaro, the son of an Italian-American instrument maker in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At first, he took violin lessons for 11 years. In school he became friends with Joe Venuti, with whom he would work for much of his career. He was playing professionally by about 1918, playing violin, banjo, and guitar. He worked with various bands in the USA's north-east, worked in London (late 1924 to early 1925), then settled in New York City. Eddie Lang was the first important jazz guitarist. He was effectively able to integrate the guitar into 1920s jazz recordings. He played with the bands of Joe Venuti, Adrian Rollini, Roger Wolfe Kahn and Jean Goldkette in addition to doing a large amount of freelance radio and recording work.

On February 4, 1927 Eddie Lang featured in the recording of "Singin' the Blues" by Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra featuring Bix Beiderbecke on cornet. Lang trades guitar licks while Beiderbecke solos on cornet in a memorable landmark jazz recording of the 1920s. In 1929 he joined Paul Whiteman's Orchestra, and can be seen and heard in the movie The King of Jazz. In 1930, Eddie Lang played guitar on the original recording of the jazz and pop standard "Georgia On My Mind", recorded with Hoagy Carmichael and His Orchestra. Joe Venuti and Bix Beiderbecke also played on this recording. When Bing Crosby left Whiteman, Lang went with Bing as his accompanist and can be seen with him in the 1932 movie Big Broadcast. Lang also played under the pseudonym Blind Willie Dunn on a number of blues records with Lonnie Johnson. Lang died following a tonsillectomy in New York City in 1933 at the age of thirty. He had been urged by Bing Crosby to have the tonsillectomy so that he might have speaking parts in Crosby's films.

Lang's voice was chronically hoarse, and it was hoped that the operation would remedy this. It is unclear exactly what the cause of death was, but it is thought that uncontrolled bleeding played a role. It was said that when Lang died, Bing sobbed uncontrollable, which was unusual for Crosby to show that emotion. Many people have said that Bing was never the same after Eddie Lang passed away.


Eddie Lang's compositions, based on the Red Hot Jazz database, included "Wild Cat" with Joe Venuti, "Perfect" with Frank Signorelli, "April Kisses" (1927), "Sunshine", "Melody Man's Dream", "Goin' Places", "Black and Blue Bottom", "Bull Frog Moan", "Rainbow Dreams", "Feelin' My Way", "Eddie's Twister", "Really Blue", "Penn Beach Blues", "Wild Dog", "Pretty Trix", "A Mug of Ale", "Apple Blossoms", "Beating the Dog", "To To Blues", "Running Ragged", "Kicking the Cat", "Cheese and Crackers", "Doin' Things", "Blue Guitars", "Guitar Blues" with Lonnie Johnson, "Hot Fingers", "Have to Change Keys to Play These Blues", "A Handful of Riffs", "Blue Room", "Deep Minor Rhythm Stomp", "Two-Tone Stomp". "Midnight Call Blues", "Four String Joe", "Goin' Home", and "Pickin' My Way" (1932) with Carl Kress. Jazz guitarist George Van Eps assessed the legacy of Eddie Lang: "It's very fair to call Eddie Lang the father of jazz guitar". Barney Kessel noted that "Eddie Lang first elevated the guitar and made it artistic in jazz." Les Paul acknowledged that "Eddie Lang was the first and had a very modern technique."

For more information on the great Eddie Lang, I would recommend going to www.eddielang.com!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

BING'S DECCA PROFILE

I came across Bing's profile on the website for Decca. It is a very interesting profile, and surprisingly good... Bing Crosby Born: Harry Lillis Crosby in Tacoma, Washington, May 3, 1903. There has always been some dispute over his actual birth date and even his mother at one time said it was May 2, 1904. This is the date quoted in his official biography and shown on his gravestone at Holy Cross Cemetery in Los Angeles. His correct date of birth has been confirmed to be May 3, 1903, from his baptismal certificate. Bing was the fourth of seven children born to Harry Lincoln (sometimes Lowe) Crosby and his wife Catherine Helen (nee Harrigan) Crosby at 1112 North Jay Street, Tacoma. Bing's mother was of Irish descent and his father was descended from a maritime family. In all, there were seven Crosby children: Laurence (born 1895), Everett (born 1896), Edward (born 1900), Bing (born 1903), Catherine (born 1904), Mary Rose (born 1906), and George Robert (born 1913). The family moved to Spokane in 1906 where Bing grew up and attended Gonzaga High School and Gonzaga University until he left home to seek his fame and fortune in California with friend Al Rinker in 1925. He was known as Bing from a young age, when he got the nickname from the comic The Bingville Bugle. Other nicknames included The Old Groaner, El Bingo, Le Bing and Der Bingle. Died: October 14, 1977, on La Moraleja Golf Course near Madrid, Spain. He had just completed a successful round of golf when he collapsed as the result of a massive heart attack. He had been playing with Spanish golfers Manuel Pinero, Valentine Barrios, and club president Cesar de Zulueta. Bing's last words were reportedly, That was a great game of golf fellas. Let's go have a Coca-Cola. Bing Crosby - The Recording Artist: Bing made recordings in every year of his career which spanned fifty-one years, and he recorded some 2000 titles. He was the most successful recording artist of the twentieth century, with well over 300 hits to his name and twenty-two official Gold Records. Bing recorded with many stars including the Andrews Sisters, Patti Andrews, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Connee Boswell, the Boswell Sisters, Rosemary Clooney, Dixie Lee Crosby, Gary Crosby, Trudy Erwin, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Al Jolson, Danny Kaye, Grace Kelly, Frances Langford, Peggy Lee, Mary Martin, Johnny Mercer, the Mills Brothers, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Carol Richards, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, and Jane Wyman among others. First recording: "I've Got the Girl", a duet with Al Rinker and Don Clark and his Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel Orchestra, recorded October 18, 1926. Last recording "Once in a While" with Gordon Rose and his Orchestra recorded for the BBC, October 11, 1977, in London. Bing's voice was at its peak in the thirties and early forties and throughout this period he had no equal. During his career, he sang every imaginable kind of song including romantic ballads, country and western, patriotic, religious, Irish and Hawaiian favorites as well as light opera and jazz classics. No singer has ever matched Bing when it comes to Christmas; his Yuletide offerings remain preeminent throughout the world. Some 1500 of Bing's recordings (both commercial and radio) are currently available on compact disc and more are released all over the world on a regular basis. Over 300 Crosby CDs have been issued since the advent of the compact disc as confirmation that twenty-four years after his death Bing remains ever popular. Bing Crosby In Concert: Bing originally developed his skills on the vaudeville and theater stage and enjoyed a record run of over twenty weeks at the Paramount theaters in New York and Brooklyn in 1931-32. Appearances at numerous theaters across the U.S.A. followed before Bing went into films. His heavy commitment in films and radio virtually ended his concert work until World War II when he became a prolific entertainer at military camps and at bond rallies. Thereafter he made very few live performances until 1976 when, to everyone's surprise, he returned to the concert stage with a vengeance. Bing starred in concerts in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami Beach, New Orleans, Pasadena, San Jose, Preston (England), Dublin (Ireland), Edinburgh (Scotland), Manchester (England), and Oslo (Norway) as well as headlining two sell-out seasons at the London Palladium in 1976 and 1977. His marvelous performances endeared him to all that saw them. Bing's last public engagement was at Brighton, England, on October 10, 1977. SOURCE

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

FLASHBACK: 1982

Here is an interesting article that appeared in People magazine in 1982... "I'm trying to keep my head above water. But you get to think that in India they had a good idea with the widow just throwing herself on the funeral pyre. It would have been simpler that way."—Kathryn Grant Crosby In life, he was Der Bingle, the ineffably relaxed and good-natured crooner whose ingratiating movies, records and TV specials made millions of dollars and left millions of Americans feeling better about themselves. But five years after his death, another, darker portrait has emerged of Bing Crosby: a distant and aloof father, an emotionless friend and, according to one 1981 biography, Bing Crosby: The Hollow Man, a person whom no one really knew. Both in life and in death the staunch protector of Bing's reputation has been his strong-willed second wife, Kathryn Grant Crosby. Yet now, at 48, Bing's ambitious and determined widow finds herself at the center of a controversy that is reopening some old wounds in the oft-troubled Crosby family. At issue is Kathryn's seemingly innocuous decision to auction off some of the possessions Bing had accumulated over the years in six homes. Four days this week, a San Francisco auction house will gavel down more than 14,000 items of Crosbyana. The lode includes everything from Bing's golf clubs, fishing rods and shotguns to valuable English hunting paintings, his 1967 Aston Martin, his favorite photos (with Hope, Sinatra and Dempsey) and even his first recording (1926's I've Got the Girl). Some of the items are startlingly personal: Bing's pipes will go on sale, as will his platinum records for Silent Night and even the bed he and Kathryn shared during their 20 years of marriage. "It was a very emotional time for me," asserts Kathryn of the process of sorting out Bing's things. "It was painful." Bing's bed, she says reverently, "still has his hair oil on it." Of a favorite chair (also on the block), she asserts that "to sit in it and rub the wood that his fingers touched is very special." The auction, she insists, was meant to be "a celebration. It's for Bing. It has to be fun because that's what he was all about. It's important to share his things with the people who loved him." Kathryn says she discussed the sale with her children—Harry Lillis III, 23, a sometime actor and now a Fordham University business student, Mary Frances, 22, who played the conniving Kristin on Dallas, and Nathaniel, 20, last year's U.S. amateur golf champion. As for Bing's four sons by his first marriage, to Dixie Lee, who died in 1952, Kathryn says, "The older boys have been so good about it. They think this is the ideal thing to do." But not all of Bing's family remember it that way. "I don't know anything about the auction," says son Dennis, 47. "She didn't ask me to look through anything." Nathaniel says, "I'm not sure what's going on," and admits he was "surprised" that Kathryn is selling some of his father's old awards and trophies. "That bothers me," he says. "I might have to have a talk with the little lady." Then he hastily adds, "I don't think she's trying to tamper with Dad's memory. I think my father's belongings have somehow affected her progress in life. She has very vivid memories of him." Bing's younger brother, Bob, 67, a bandleader, disgustedly calls the whole idea "a flea market; I'm horrified." He says, "Kathryn never asked me or my sister [Mary Rose] if we wanted anything." The fact is that there is little love lost among some of Bing's bumptious first family. Gary, 48, and Dennis' twin, Phillip, are openly hostile. "As far as I'm concerned, Phillip's dead," says Gary. "He isn't worth the powder to blow him to hell." Replies Phillip: "Gary has a two-by-four on his shoulder. He's embarrassed his family too many goddamn times." Only Gary and Lindsay, 44, will come up from their homes in the L.A. area to attend this week's auction; Phillip and Dennis are staying away. No one denies Kathryn's right to do what she wants with Bing's estate. "A lot of people want things that were Dad's, and they don't do anyone any good in the attic," says Mary Frances. Several of Bing's homes have been sold. "I was storing furniture everywhere," Kathryn explains. "Some antique-dealer friends said, 'Honey, why don't you have a garage sale?' " Going through it all, she recalls, "I cried daily. I suddenly became the age I was when an item first entered my consciousness, like the top hat Bing wore the night in 1955 he took me to the Academy Awards." She sees herself as the keeper of a special flame. "He was the man I loved," Kathryn says, brimming with tears. "He was the man whose children I wanted to bear. And, miracle of miracles, that happened." Kathryn says the idea that she is selling off Bing's things because of her financial difficulties is ridiculous. "I have been beautifully provided for by a very loving husband," she insists. But others say that, though Bing's estate is worth close to $30 million, the strings on his will are tight. Phillip says he gets $3,000 a month and won't receive part of his inheritance until 65: "I could hear Dad saying, 'When they're 65, how much trouble will they get into then?' " Eldest son Gary calls the monthly check "kind of emasculating" and adds, "I don't think he'd do it any differently for Kathryn." Speculates her brother-in-law Bob: "I imagine she needs the money." Kathryn's supporters say that she's really paying the price of so loyally guarding Bing during his life. "She got the reputation of being a bitch when she was just doing what Bing wanted her to," says Rosemary Clooney, a longtime family friend. The daughter of a West Columbia, Texas schoolteacher and politician, Kathryn came to Hollywood as a beauty contest winner and onetime queen of the Houston livestock show and rodeo. She landed a movie contract at 19, wrote a column ("A Texas Girl in Hollywood") for a string of home-state papers, and met Bing at Paramount the year after Dixie Lee died. Four years later they wed in Las Vegas. "I remember thinking when they married, 'I wouldn't give that spot to a leopard,' " Gary says. "It wasn't easy being Mrs. Bing Crosby." By most accounts, the marriage was a successful one. "She was the most wonderful thing in Dad's life," says Mary Frances. "She was so full of life and love." Son Lindsay agrees: "She was extremely good for my dad." With typical determination, Kathryn carved out a series of professional lives apart from Bing's. She earned a nursing degree, won a California teaching certificate, wrote her autobiography, hosted a half-hour TV talk show for three years in San Francisco, and appeared on many of Bing's TV specials with their children. Her friend Rosemary Clooney recalls that "Bing lived in a very grand style, and for a little girl from Texas that was quite a jump. She wore black until she was 30 because she thought it was expected, being married to an older man. She went about it as a student—she studies and learns." Kathryn stoutly denies the charge that Bing was a cold and emotionless man. "He thought outward displays of affection were sissy," she explains. "That's your good Jesuit boys' school upbringing." At home he "liked to put his feet up on the Louis XVI table," she recalls. "He dropped his raincoat on the English heraldic chairs in the front hall. The dogs were always in the house. But it was a home, it was the way Bing wanted it." Moreover, she insists, "Bing was the best father he could be to all his children." The couple locked horns "quite often, but not on things of real importance. I tended to buy West Los Angeles if it struck me, and Bing would say, 'You may not have one more wastebasket for this house!' " Yet she admits she was as exacting as Bing. "Nothing was ever enough," she says. "I was never good enough. The children were never brilliant enough. Contentment is not in my nature, but maybe it's time to be contented. I don't have to make it perfect anymore. I'm not sure we had a great marriage, but we lasted 20 years and possibly would have gone 20 years more." Then she backtracks. "My marriage was a great marriage. I think every wife should feel that way." Her first year of widowhood, she says, was "absolute lunacy. You lose all your married friends. You can't go out with the same people or do the same things anymore. I survived by holding on to as much of Bing as I could. Since he traveled so much, I could pretend for a long time that he was coming back." Everyone grants Kathryn respect for the toughness she has shown since Bing's death. "I can't think of a person who needed less support than Kathryn," says Phillip admiringly. "Kathryn believes the best way to get things is the pleasant way," Gary adds, "but if she needs to she can hit you over the head with a hammer." Even her friends concede that Kathryn can give the wrong impression. "She can have a lot of phoniness," allows Ann Miller, her TV producer, "but I believe it's because of what she thinks is expected of her. Kathryn is afraid to be Kathryn sometimes." These days Kathryn is redecorating the 24-room Crosby mansion in the tony San Francisco suburb of Hillsborough. Up early, often at 4 a.m., she writes and spends an hour with her bookkeeper, with whom she then plays a four-hour game of chess. She has written a biography of Bing (although a dissatisfied Simon & Schuster has sued to get its $33,000 advance back). She's also resumed acting, touring with Same Time, Next Year and Guys and Dolls and playing at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre. Kathryn says she does not date, though some friends have linked her romantically with Bill Sullivan, 56, a Yale-educated publisher of scholastic materials and Crosby chum who is a trustee of Bing's estate. Arleen Crosby says they're living together. Kathryn and her friends say firmly they're simply old pals. "I don't see myself marrying again," Kathryn says. "I don't even feel 'come-hither' anymore. After a certain point it's all over." "She doesn't have a relationship, but I'm sure she dates people," Clooney says. Kathryn, oddly heated, denies even that. The widow of the crooner who sold 400 million records is still wedded to one role. "I want you to understand," she says with a stony look, "that my position in this world rests on being Mrs. Bing Crosby." SOURCE

Monday, January 10, 2011

UNIVERSAL MUSIC DONATES BING RECORDINGS

If Universal music won't issue Bing Crosby recordings, they might as well donate them... Universal Music Donating 200K Master Recordings to Library of Congress by Mike Barnes The collection, which includes songs by Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday, marks the largest single gift given to the Library's audiovisual Recorded Sound Section. Songs from the likes of Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday are among the more than 200,000 master recordings that Universal Music Group is donating to the Library of Congress, it was announced Monday. UMG's gift is the largest single donation received by the Library's audiovisual Recorded Sound Section and the first major collection of studio master materials obtained by the nation's oldest cultural institution. Also among the collection's thousands of metal and lacquer discs and master mono tapes are released and unreleased versions of recordings by Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, the Andrews Sisters, Connee Boswell, the Mills Brothers, Guy Lombardo, Ella Fitzgerald, Fred Waring, Judy Garland and Dinah Washington. The gift includes Crosby's 1947 version of "White Christmas," Armstrong's "Ain't Misbehavin,' " the Mills Brothers' "Paper Doll," Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald's duet "Frim Fram Sauce," Les Paul's "Guitar Boogie," Josh White's "Jim Crow Train" and recordings from Machito and his Afro-Cuban band. UMG has one of the world's most extensive music catalogs, and its gift to the Library includes historic masters from such labels as Decca, Mercury, Vocalion and Brunswick dating from the late 1920s through the late '40s. The collection, which consists of the company's best copies, will be cataloged and digitized at the Library's Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va., which will secure their exceptional sonic quality. The Library will stream recordings from the collection on a website to be launched in the spring. "A surprisingly high percentage of America's recording heritage since the early part of the 20th century has been lost due to neglect and deterioration. The donation of the UMG archive to the Library of Congress is a major gift to the nation," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said. In September, a study released by the Library estimated that only 14% of commercially released recordings before 1965 are available from rightsholders, and of music released in the U.S. during the '30s, only about 10% can be readily accessed by the public. "Music is a distinctive feature of any historical period, and this particular collection of masters provides true insight into popular music's humble beginnings and who we are as a culture today," UMG president and COO Zach Horowitz said. "We are delighted to be collaborating with the Library of Congress to preserve and call attention to the groundbreaking musical achievements of these amazing musical pioneers." SOURCE

Saturday, January 8, 2011

BING TALKS ABOUT ELVIS

Today would have been the 76th birthday of Elvis Presley. Although Elvis is dubbed the king of Rock n Roll, Bing is the king of popular music. Here is an interesting audio interview Bing did with his biographer Pete Martin in 1957, and they talk about Elvis Presley...

Friday, January 7, 2011

1953 CROSBY CLAMBAKE

Here is a very fascinating film some 48 years old! It is film of the 12th Annual Bing Crosby $10,000 Invitational National Pro-Amateur Tournament, Pebble Beach, California, held January 9-11, 1953. A nice day for golf. Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, eventual winner Lloyd Mangrum, and other notables appear. it was filmed by William Foley (1919-2003) and edited by William Foley II. The song used is Bing Crosby's "Straight Down The Middle"...

POPULAR CULTURE STARTED WITH BING

AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE BEGAN WITH BING by Henry Zechner To Louis Armstrong, his voice sounded like gold being poured out of a cup. That mellifluous baritone with the texture of velvet, the color of mahogany, and a bubbly vibrato with the resonance of a built-in echo chamber, became the most instantly recognizable musical sound in the world. As the electronic age matured, he became the world’s first multi-media superstar and one of the most resonant figures in an American popular culture that he created. As far as Duke Ellington was concerned, he was simply "the biggest thing ever!" Bing Crosby’s casual demeanor and enigmatic grace were typically American. Artie Shaw called him the first hip white person born in the United States. He was, in fact, the complete personification of cool; and his ability to sustain for three decades the image of his generation’s jaunty youth enabled him to maintain his hold on an enormous public. But Crosby wasn’t the greatest entertainer of the century because he was cool. He was the century’s most influential entertainer because his arrival was the defining moment in American popular culture and American popular entertainment. When Der Bingle made his first recording (I’ve Got the Girl in 1926), what might have been termed popular music was a kaleidoscope of styles. It could be either opera (Enrico Caruso), stage and minstrel (Al Jolson), blues (Bessie Smith), jazz (Louis Armstrong), country (Vernon Dalhart), burlesque (Sophie Tucker), or effeminate tenor (John McCormack). In other words, there was no such thing as popular music as we know it today. In fact, the term didn’t even exist. It was later coined to describe the music he created. He was born Harry Lillis Crosby in Takoma, Washington, on May 3, 1903. He received the nickname Bing from his fondness for a comic strip called the Bingville Bugle, for which reason his friends called him "Bingo from Bingville" and, eventually, simply Bing. And, he was born into the acoustic age, before electronic amplification, when singers had to fill entire concert halls with their voices. This was fine for opera, but it didn’t allow for more intimate musical communication. It was also the era of vaudeville, when entertainers traveled the circuit and appeared in local theaters, parks, and schools, and when orchestras perform in nightclubs and concert halls. Phonograph records were just appearing in disc form, and the first Gold Record ~ Vesti La Giubba (On with the Motley) from the opera Pagliacci ~ had been recorded by Caruso in 1902. Among the greatest confluences in history was Crosby’s arrival at the dawn of the electronic era with electronic amplification, radio, and talking films. The enabling instrument was the newly invented microphone, which not only allowed for all the instruments in an orchestra to be recorded on records without having to bunch up in front of a gigantic horn, it also allowed a singer to sing at near conversational volume and yet be heard throughout concert halls without having to project to the rafters, and across great distances. This was revolutionary for, like FDR, Bing understood the potential of the microphone, and he knew instinctively that he wasn’t broadcasting to the masses, but to individual listeners in the intimacy of their homes in which he was a guest. It required his smooth, warm personality and approach to do this, because no other singer at the time could have done it. It also revolutionized American music. Singing at conversational volume, Bing was able to play the microphone like a musical instrument, focusing on the lyrics, and the message in the song, something no singer before him had been able to do. He not only articulated words, he underscored their meaning, and thus became a song-writer’s dream. He was not a deliberate innovator, like Sinatra, but learned his craft by trial and error. Still, he developed into a first-rate vocalist, and the new style allowed for individual interpretation and turned mere performance into personal expression. An aria sung by Caruso, Richard Tucker, or Luciano Pavarotti, sounds pretty much the same; but listen to Mack the Knife sung by Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, or Frank Sinatra ~ and note the variety of styles. You can thank Crosby for that! Where the popular image of the singer had been the effeminate semi-falsetto tenor, Crosby’s baritone was virile and passionate, yet warm, relaxed and subtle, his style seemingly effortless and, most of all, swinging with a sense of rhythm that was both breath-taking and, at the time, ground-breaking. Above all, it was intimate, in a way music had never been. As Dick Hayme’s mother described his approach, Crosby sang as if the two of you were in the parlor, and he was leaning over the piano with something terribly important that he wanted to say to you, now that you and he were alone. A quarter of a century before Elvis Presley became the "first" white man to sing like he was black, Crosby was the first white man who sang like he was black. A savvy, inscrutable, and enormously talented musician, he was the first of his race to understand and assimilate the timing, rhythms, comedy and spontaneity of Louis Armstrong (with Bing, left). Armstrong, a natural musical genius, created modern jazz, and Bing became a major jazz figure; but it was popular music that he created, both as it was then and still is today. Every pop singer you can name ~ whether Frank Sinatra, or Nat Cole, or Barbra Streisand, or Johnny Mathis, or Karen Carpenter or Tony Bennett, or anybody else you can think of ~ flourished in an art form created by Crosby. It was Bing, drawing on the influences of Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Billie Holiday, and other jazz legends ~ in what was still mainly a musician’s world ~ who spread throughout the world the Afro-American idiom that became the very foundation and essence of American popular music. El Bingo rejuvenated the film industry during the Depression, and caused the rapid growth of radio. When he insisted on casting Armstrong in Pennies from Heaven in 1936, it was the first time a black actor would land a major role in a white Hollywood production. In 1939, Bing led the legal fight to allow radio disc jockeys to play phonograph records on the air. When his recording of White Christmas hit the streets in weary, war-torn 1942, it became the biggest-selling single of all time and launched the Christmas music industry we know today (Christmas music, while hardly unknown, was not a major industry before this). In 1946, he revolutionized the entire broadcast industry by insisting on tape recording his radio programs for future broadcasting, the second most important development in 20th century entertainment after the advent of films with sound. No film star had the Box Office run he had: No. 1 for five years in a row (1944-48) and in the top 10 for 15 out of 21 years, not to mention being nominated for three Academy Awards and receiving one. While it looked to many as if he was playing relaxed and easy-going Bing Crosby in all of his roles, this was deceptive. He was simply so naturally talented that he made it look easy, yet he did things on film no other actor could do. Director Frank Capra ~ who worked with all the top stars of his time ~ rated Crosby one of the ten greatest actors in films. He starred on radio longer than any other performer ~ from 1931 to 1954 on network, and from 1954 to 1962 in syndication. Yet, at the same time that his weekly radio program was No.1, he made 40 recordings a year, producing more hit records than Elvis and the Beatles combined. The greatest thing Bing Crosby accomplished, however, was actually less tangible ~ the reassurance he gave us during the Depression and the Second World War. He embodied the best of Yankee individualism, personified hometown decency, and became the voice of the nation. He was the most influential entertainer of the first half-century because, as biographer Gary Giddins put it, "more than anyone else he had come to define ~ at a time when national identity was important ~ what it meant to be American". Elvis is generally assumed to have surpassed Crosby in record sales, but the King’s final decade was marked by total disintegration, and he was dead at 42. Bing recorded 10 albums in the last years of his life, six of them produced by Britain’s Ken Barnes, all of them capping a discography that represents the very cornerstone of the American vocal tradition. At this writing, there are more than 130 Crosby compact discs for sale on various labels around the world. Some of his recordings have not been out of print for more nearly 80 years. There is a line of demarcation in the 20th century that marks the dawn of our memories. As impressionist Rich Little put it, You’re only as big as the generation that remembers you. Those of Le Bing’s vintage are mostly gone and, as they leave us, memories of him go with them. We remember Sinatra (with Bing, right) because Sinatra thrived in the 1940's and 50's, and was recently active. Bing died in 1977, his music was outdated a quarter century before that, and his reputation was ruthlessly trashed ~ but you can forget the Daddy Dearest demonizing of Bing that followed his death. Those who knew the family well, including Buddy Bregman, Phil Harris, Bob Hope, and biographer Giddins, as well as all the nieces and nephews, flatly (and angrily) dispelled the lies. Bing was no monster, and he did not brutalize his sons. Finally, he was artistically creative and revolutionized the industry in the 1930's, an era mostly long forgotten. The films of that era, the filming and recording techniques, even the often stilted acting, seem quaint and prehistoric compared to what developed with and after the war. True, he became an American institution with the war, especially because of White Christmas ~ still claimed by some to be the biggest-selling single disc of all time; but we’ve forgotten what a truly innovative and creative artist he was, what a universal impact on the 20th century he wielded, or what a truly marvelous voice he had. Today’s American popular culture began with Crosby. He revolutionized radio, phonograph recordings, film, and television. For ten years in the 1930's, popular music consisted of Crosby and everybody else singing like him. As his good friend Perry Como put it, "You either sang like Bing, or you didn’t eat". During the war, his voice was heard somewhere in the world every moment of the day, and would eventually be heard by more people around the globe than the voice of any other person who ever lived. He was so incalculably enormous that there has simply never been anything like him, before or since. Bing Crosby came along when American entertainment was at a crossroads, with the coming of electronic recording, the universality of radio, and the emergence of jazz. Only he could show it which road to take, and he did. As Giddins put it, he "plaited the many threads of American music into a central style of universal appeal". But, he did more than that. "He taught the world what it meant to live the American dream. Aside from his music, that was the best part of his art, perhaps the best part of himself." SOURCE

Thursday, January 6, 2011

BING CROSBY RESTAURANT CLOSES

Walnut Creek's Bing Crosby's closes for good by Associated Press When one of Walnut Creek's most upscale restaurants closes abruptly, serving its final cocktail on New Year's Eve, people wonder what happened -- especially if it might mean a restaurant empire is crumbling. The reason for the sudden closure of Bing Crosby's Restaurant at Broadway Plaza and South Main Street is simple -- the economy, according to Rick Dudum, chief financial officer of Dudum Sports and Entertainment, often called DSE. "When we started we were the only ones on the block," he said. "And now with Ruth's Chris (and) Fleming's, we were splitting our fine dining with everyone else. They can withstand a downturn in business; we couldn't."

With 280 seats, Bing's was one of Walnut Creek's largest restaurants. Since it opened in 2004 it was, at times, a prominent hot spot featuring a piano bar and tall-back booth seats with a "country club-plush" decor. But its heyday had passed years ago, according to owners. The other four Bing's restaurants, in Southern California, have also closed in recent months, Dudum said. So too did Joe DiMaggio's Italian Chophouse in San Francisco, which the restaurant group owned. It closed in October. "The economy over the last two or three years has taken its toll," he said. "We've been trying to work it out."

The signs of financial trouble for the business are apparent. In October, Orange County placed a $459,035 lien against the company, listing as debtors the San Diego Bing's and DSE, based in Walnut Creek. In addition, there are several other federal, state and county tax liens for smaller amounts posted in recent months against the Walnut Creek company. Records do not indicate which debts, if any, have been repaid. Rick Dudum said it's still early in the closure process and that the liens are still being paid off. There are no plans for DSE to file bankruptcy, nor plans to reopen any of its restaurants, he said. That's unfortunate news for Trina Reilley, who loved Bing's and has more than $200 in gift cards for the restaurant. She also recently gave away gift cards to friends. "I just feel bad for the people we gave the certificates to," she said. "It's embarrassing." Rick Dudum said he doesn't know whether the cards will be honored anywhere else.

The downfall of DiMaggio's and the Southern California Bing's restaurants isn't why the Walnut Creek location closed, Dudum said -- every restaurant is separate and each its own corporation. Because the Dudum name is linked with other restaurants in Walnut Creek, many who heard of the Bing's closure asked whether McCovey's and the Maria Maria Mexican Cantina, which the Dudum company opened in partnership with famed musician Carlos Santana, would soon shutter. Dudum said Maria, Maria is "prospering" and will remain open. But IRS records show a $103,357 federal tax lien filed on Aug. 20 for Maria Maria California based in Walnut Creek. As for McCovey's, Rocky Dudum Sr. bought the restaurant in June from DSE, owned and run by his sons, Rick and Jeff. Dudum Sr. would not disclose how much he paid for the restaurant dedicated to San Francisco Giants Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, but "it was a very pretty price, a large price," he said. A collector since 1959 and friend of McCovey for decades, Dudum Sr. owns all the baseball memorabilia in the restaurant. Without that, he said, there would have been no restaurant for his sons to sell. "I wanted this place here for my grandchildren and for me," said Dudum Sr., who has taken over running the daily operation of the restaurant. As for a $76,676 federal tax lien on the restaurant filed in August, Dudum Sr. said it has since been paid off. He said he cried the most when Bing's closed down, especially for his sons.

"I am are very proud of them and what they have done in the business world for 10 years, but the economy has killed those boys," he said. What will happen to the former Bing's building is unknown; it is owned by a family trust in San Francisco, not the Dudums. Jay Hoyer, president of the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce, said he doesn't know what will take Bing's place. But he points out that Neiman Marcus is being built down the block, and across the street a new retail-residential building complex will soon be going up. "It's still a prime location," Hoyer said, "and I think there will be a number of opportunities." All of the restaurants were not owned by the Crosby family.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: MAN ON FIRE

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the forgotten Bing film MAN ON FIRE(1957). The film was Bing's second of two films he made at MGM (HIGH SOCIETY was the first in 1956). The dramatic film about how a divorce is pulling a child's life apart was not well received, but I still enjoy the movie. The cast also included great supporting work from Inger Stevens and E.G. Marshall...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

BING'S JEEP FOR SALE

A little blurb I found on the internet... We all missed this one over Christmas. Believe it or not, a 1958 Willys Jeep owned by Bing Crosby, and bought directly from the crooner by the seller’s grandfather, fetched just £3,800 on the American eBay site. Barn-stored since 1973, it had done only 3,000 miles and even had Bing’s name on the pink slip. Expect that one to pop up in a few months at treble the price.