Sunday, October 14, 2012

BING AND 1977


Bing Crosby returned to world headlines when he fell into a twenty-foot-deep orchestra pit while taping a CBS special commemorating his fiftieth anniversary in the entertainment business at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, California March 3, 1977. Although grabbing for a piece of scenery helped to break his fall, it was found that he had ruptured a disc at the base of his spine. He underwent a prolonged recuperation. At his age, it was hard to determine how he would be affected. Eleven weeks after the accident, however, he appeared on the Barbara Walters Special, doing a little dance step with Barbara as they walked arm-in-arm and, because it was drizzling, singing a few bars of "Singing in the Rain."

He returned to the gold course in short order and his "Bing Crosby and Friends" did a concert at Concord, California in mid-August as a tune-up for a planned tour of Norway, Sweden, and England. The troupe performed at Momarkedet August 25 in a benefit for the Norwegian Red Cross. In September Bing taped his last Christmas special, his forty-second (going back to radio), in London for CBS. The program, titled Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas and featuring guest star David Bowie, was aired on November 30. He also found time to record his last album, Seasons, with British producer Ken Barnes; it would become his twenty-fourth gold record.


"Bing Crosby and Friends" opened September 26 at the London Palladium, playing to sell-out crowds through October 10. Variety published the following review of the show: "Undoubtedly, the highlight of this two and a half hour show, in for two weeks at this vaud flagship, is a stint when Bing Crosby and the Joe Bushkin Quartet glide smoothly through a medley of chestnuts including "White Christmas" and an up-beat arrangement of "Old Man River"….[Crosby] always looked relaxed and confident, whether gagging with the capacity audience, duetting with wife, Kathryn, or son, Harry, or singing along with Rosemary Clooney….The audience was predominantly middle-aged to elderly, and much of Crosby’s show is designed to take advantage of the singer’s tremendous nostalgia appeal."

On October 13 Crosby flew to Spain for golf and game shooting. His wife and family employee Alan Fisher remained behind to help Harry, Jr. get settled in the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, where he would be a student for the next three years. At the La Moraleja Golf Club the next day, he challenged Valentin Barrios, the former Spanish champion, and Cesar de Zulueta, president of the club. Teamed with Manuel Pinero, then Spanish champion, Bing was reportedly in the best of humor, joking and singing throughout the match, which they won by one stroke. He collapsed from a massive heart attack while walking away from the eighteenth hole. He passed away without regaining consciousness as an ambulance was taking him to the Red Cross Hospital in Madrid.


Television stations in Spain interrupted their programs with the news, and word quickly spread across the globe. Tributes immediately began pouring in from a vast number of friends and admirers. President Jimmy Carter offered the following eulogy:

"For all the roads he traveled in his memorable career, Bing Crosby remained a gentleman, proof that a great talent can be a good man despite the pressures of show business. He lived a life his fans around the world felt was typically American: successful, yet modest; casual, but elegant."

His crooning rival, Frank Sinatra, would comment, "Bing’s death is almost more than I can take. He was the father of my career, the idol of my youth, and a dear friend of my maturity. His passing leaves a gaping hole in out music and in the lives of everybody who ever loved him. And that’s just about everybody. Thank god we have his films and his records providing us with his warmth and talent forever.".

Even now, thirty five years after his sad passing, Bing Crosby's death is felt by anyone who picks up a microphone and croons or anyone that is a fan of truly great music. Bing Crosby's legacy is a distant memory now in 2012, but what he gave to his fans and the entertainment wolrd in general will never be forgotten...



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2 comments:

  1. David, I had forgotten about that accident. That was a pretty amazing recovery for a performer his age. My Dad had a copy of the "Seasons" album.

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