Monday, February 24, 2014


An interview with Mary Crosby:
"My Father, Bing Crosby"
by Sheila Weller, McCalls, July 1980

"My one regret is that Daddy isn't here to share the tremendous joys of my life right now," says 20-year-old Mary Crosby, Bing's only daughter and a star of TVs top-rated Dallas. "But other than that" -- she instantly shifts from dreamy to direct -- "I am very clear on his death. Daddy died while he was still very much a man, while he still had control of the lives of the people he loved. If he'd lived much longer, he would have had great pain in dealing with the fact that his children were making choices he couldn't approve of."

My decision to live with the man I loved before committing my life to him in marriage is something that went against all Daddy's beliefs. He had painted himself into a corner by telling Barbara Walters he would disown me if I ever did that. I would have confronted him with my decision and, though I believe his love and trust would have eventually won out over his anger, it would have wounded his pride terribly to have had to give in. I'm grateful that I never had to use one of Daddy's greatest lessons to me -- that there is a time to be selfish -- in a way that would have hurt him, hurt us both, in those last years of his life."

This honesty -- the ability to confront conflicts and pressures with unequivocal clarity and grace -- is the first thing that strikes you about Mary Crosby. It seemed logical to expect something else: cautiously dutiful talk from the wide-eyed young girl you had watched for almost two decades singing "White Christmas" and extolling the merits of orange juice with her famous, perfect family.

"It was Daddy, really, who gave me the great sense of privacy that my life is all about. This house, for example." She laughs. "Even the people Eb and I invite over can't find it! Daddy raised my two brothers and me in Hillsborough (a San Francisco suburb) on purpose -- to protect us. His Hollywood days were over by then. Mostly, he did his hunting and his golfing and came home to be the man of the house -- and that house was ONLY family. He saw friends like Bob Hope -- oh, maybe once every three years. To this day, I have never been to a Hollywood party, though it would probably be good for my career. In fact, I was so sheltered that, when I first met Larry [Hagman, who stars as the suavely corrupt oil scion, J.R. Ewing in Dallas], I said, "Oh, and how did you get into the business?" She throws back her head and laughs again. "I didn't know he was Mary Martin's son!"

So it was not, really, the fact that Mary was the daughter of one of the world's most beloved entertainers that shaped her intriguing blend of wholesomeness and savvy, idealism and precociousness. It was something else. This girl who looks so young, yet has matured so quickly -- who is equally sweet and strong -- became that way because that was the ONLY way you could turn out as the one daughter, among six sons, of a patriarch with very rigid ideas about morality and behavior, a man whose affection had to be deftly read between the lines, whose vulnerabilities were safely hidden for 70 years in his male-to-male exchanges and the shielding protocol that comes with being the older traditional husband to a younger traditional wife. There was only one person who could find the chink in Bing Crosby's armor, who could love him in a disarming new way that would teach him something, who had to gently fence with him to assert -- even find -- her true self. And that person was Mary.

"You know something? I don't think poor Daddy had the vaguest idea of what to do with a girl. He'd had four sons on his first marriage, and I was wedged between Harry and Nathaniel and was a terrible tomboy, beating both of them up until I was eleven -- when they started to beat ME up. Daddy would treat me like a boy -- teaching me to shoot, taking me on safaris to Africa -- and then turn around and get wonderfully befuddled by what he'd just done. 'Wait a minute, I can't take her duck hunting: she's a girl!' And 'What the heck is she doing out there playing football? Oh, yeah ... that's right ... I taught her.'

"But I had my special little-girl ways of showing my love for him. My mother was smart enough to say, 'I don't know how to cook' -- which of course wasn't true. So on the days the housekeeper was off I'd make Daddy's meals for him: burnt eggs, overboiled soup. I'd bring them to him on a tray while he sat watching the football game on TV. He never looked up from that game -- that was his style -- but I could FEEL his love.

"That's what my communication with Daddy was all about: We understood much more about each other than each of us ever let on: there was an awful lot of love there, but it was so unspoken. He'd been raised in a large family of staunch Irish Catholics. In contrast to Mother -- who is a soft, warm, affectionate Southern lady -- he was very uncomfortable with expressing his feelings. He'd use sarcasm or criticism to slip in a compliment upside down. Or we'd hear of his praise from other people. If I kissed him goodnight, he'd pull away. If I hugged him too long, he'd squirm. It was fun playing against his resistance, because I knew he secretly loved the tenderness he found so hard to express.

"Daddy was also not above emotional blackmail, but I could spar with him on that too. Because he was an older father [55 when Mary was born] there was a sense we all got from Mother that we had to protect him, that each day with him was precious. So when he wanted us to do something we didn't want to do, he'd moan, 'Look, I don't know how much longer I'll be around.' I'd just say, 'Hey, waaait a minute! I don't buy that garbage!' He was sly: he would try to have it both ways -- the patriarch and the martyr.

"But underneath all of that he was a lovely, honest, MODEST man who didn't consider himself a fount of wisdom, who understood his mistakes. He had been hurt by people he'd helped out over the years who never repaid him, and I got the sense that he would have wished more from his first four sons than he'd gotten. Maybe that's why he wanted perfection from the three of us."

When Mary was invited to spend her 13th year as an exchange student living in the home of a large Mexican family, Kathryn was delighted, supportive. But Bing was not.

"He got a little sulky about it. For four months all my letters and phone calls to him went unanswered. But I kept on writing, telling him about all I was learning and how I understood how he was 'too busy' to write. What I was really saying, between the lines, was, 'Look, I know you have to stay mad at me because you made a stand and you can't back down from it. I just want you to know I understand -- and if you do change your mind, I promise I won't call you on it.'"

Her veiled communiqué was answered when Bing phoned her one day, his voice shaking, "I'm about to have an operation," he said, "and I want to ask you a favor. I want you to come home."

"Of course I'll come home," I told him. Then he shocked me by saying 'I'm sorry about the way I acted, but that's just the way I am. I'm not going to change now. But I want you to know I really love you -- and I NEED you now.'" Mary's eyes mist at the memory. "That was such an incredibly hard thing for him to do -- apologizing like that, admitting his need."

Bing survived the operation -- the removal of a lung -- and though he pretended to continue to disapprove of Mary's time in Mexico, "after the year was up" -- she smiles cagily -- "he was bragging to EVERYONE that his daughter was bilingual." They were set in a pattern: he, keeping up his strict, taciturn facade; she, using her quietly learned empathy to help him keep up that front, despite her secret knowledge of his vulnerability.

As part of this pact of unspoken love through not one but two generation gaps, "Daddy and I never even tried to talk about me and boys. He just laid down his ultimatums and I didn't dispute them; it would have been ridiculous to try." Yet he did consent to Mary's going off to the University of Texas in Austin after she had graduated from high school at the tender age of 15. "But the funny thing is, I felt OLDER than my sorority sisters. I was always taking care of them. Underneath their sweet, innocent, Southern game, they were the biggest bunch of little drinkers I'd ever met in my life! They wanted four years of playing -- time enough to find husbands. That is not what I wanted. I wanted to act."

So after a few semesters she left -- for San Francisco's prestigious American Conservatory Theater, which was close enough to the Crosby home for Mary to commute, albeit inconveniently. "Daddy approved. But he also said, 'If you want to be an actress, I'm not going to help you. I want you to make it on your own.' and I said, 'Good. Because I wouldn't have it any other way.'"

During this period of Mary's budding independence, the Crosbys traveled together to New York to perform at the Uris Theater. "I remember one day walking with Daddy through the streets of Manhattan -- blocks and blocks and blocks. The whole time he was doing something he had never done before -- holding my hand. That little gesture meant so much to me because it had taken him so long to get there. And it made me think I might have even taught him something."

It was during the trip that Mary made friends with a young man, Barclay Lottimer, the son of a Virginia economist, who had a very strong hunch that she would get along with his brother Eb, a handsome young singer-songwriter who was finishing his classes at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

When Mary returned to California, Eb called and they had a "telephone relationship" for two weeks. "That was such a nice way to begin," Mary says. "We could debate, argue, discuss things -- without anything physical getting in the way. Those conversations just flew. He was funny, he was intelligent, he was creative; I was attracted to Eb before I even met him -- which was important to me, because I didn't want to waste my time on an unproductive, superficial relationship." That last thought is fascinating coming from a then-17-year-old girl. It's something you hear a lot of women in the 30s saying. "Well," Mary says when this thought is expressed, "you don't have to go through a lot of bad experiences to know you don't want them."

On January 14, 1976, Eb and Mary each set out for a stretch of beach that was exactly halfway between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. She had the picnic dinner, he had the wine. She was looking for a blue truck, he a silver Monza. "We pulled into the parking lot at exactly the same time," Mary remembers. "We were instantly keyed into each other's electricity," he recalls. "We fell in love."

The next step -- taken, judiciously, months later -- was telling Bing. By now, the news would come right on the heels of Mary's decision to move from her father's home to an apartment of her own, closer to her acting classes. "I just said, 'Daddy, I have a very special friend coming over for lunch today. PLEASE be courteous.'"

"I wasn't really intimidated at the prospect of meeting Mr. Crosby," Eb recalls. "But, legend that he was and because I myself was entering the music business, I would have liked to have gotten to know him a little better than I did. I mean, I respected the fact that he was very protective of his only daughter, but ...."

"What happened," Mary says, interpreting her husbands tactfulness, "is Daddy came downstairs, said, 'How do you do?' then proceeded to turn on the baseball game -- which he watched all during lunch. The primo moment came when we were saying grace. There's Daddy, checking Eb out from the corner of his eye, making sure he's crossing himself."

After lunch, Mary and her father set out to look at the apartment Bing had chosen for her. "It was classic: a dorm for older ladies with dowdy little rooms with mismatched '50s furniture and a huge mahogany dining room -- and waiters! I was trying so hard not to giggle. I looked at him and said, 'You've got to be kidding.' He just shrugged and said, 'Well, you can't blame me for trying.'"

On October 14, 1977, Mary was rehearsing in the A.C.T. production of Julius Caesar when an aide to the theater's director called her out of the chorus and told her the director wanted to talk to her. "I was the third lady of easy virtue to the left, so I knew it wasn't my performance he needed to discuss. I felt my throat tighten a little, and the minute I saw the man's face I felt sorry that he was the one who had to give me the news that my father was dead."

Mary is hurt about stories that she and Eb moved in together right after Bing's death. "It didn't happen that way, not nearly that fast," she says. "And reading that publicity was hard on Mother. The stories came out negatively like, 'What kind of woman would raise a daughter to live with a boy?' It was very unfair. She had no defense. It caused a lot of unnecessary pain.

"I'm not saying that the publicity was the only thing that upset her. Our living together unmarried probably went against a lot of what she too was brought up to believe." Did they fight over it? "I'm an independent person, living my own life" is Mary's firm reply. "I don't think that's something my mother had too much to say about. I cannot speak for her, nor she for me. But," she hastens to point out -- softly now -- "she's always had a lot of faith in my judgment."

Still, Kathryn Crosby did NOT attend Mary and Eb's wedding, which took place Nov. 24, 1978, and was, as Mary puts it, "a joyous celebration of our love," with food she had been preparing for weeks, music by Eb's since-disbanded rock band, and the request that "our friends bring their presence, not presents."

Bing would be delighted at that. But then he would probably really be delighted -- albeit secretly -- with everything about Mary's life now. Even her decision to go against the Crosby grain and have "only one child -- I'm sure of that -- and then not for lots and lots of years." Why? "It's not rebellion; nothing in my life has been that. It's just that I have too much else I want to enjoy for a while. Daddy taught me that there is a time to be selfish. My parents also taught me -- really, through everything -- to be an individual, to make up my own mind."

POSTSCRIPT: Mary and Eb divorced in 1989. Mary married a lawyer, Mark Brodka, in 1998, with whom she has had 2 children...


Monday, February 17, 2014


It's been awhile since we had a guest review from Bing guru Bruce Kogan. Here is his usual enjoyable review of the Bing film If I Had My Way (1940)...

If I Had My Way was the second of two films that Carl Laemmle acquired Bing Crosby's services for from Paramount, the first being East Side of Heaven from the previous year. Over at Universal Bing was surrounded with a cast of different contract supporting players than he usually had at Paramount. But the results were pretty good.

Crosby brought over his usual songwriters at the time from Paramount, Jimmy Monaco and Johnny Burke. The team wrote four songs for this film, April Played the Fiddle, Meet the Sun Halfway, I Haven't Got the Time to be a Millionaire, and The Pessimistic Character. There was also the title song which was written by James Kendis and Lou Klein.

April Played the Fiddle and If I Had My Way are good ballads sung solo by Bing on film. The other three while recorded solo by Crosby, in the movie they are duets with his adolescent co-star Gloria Jean. She was sort of bullpen Deanna Durbin that Universal had at the time. Later on Universal developed Jane Powell for the same purpose.

Bing had a genre of popular music all his own, the upbeat philosophical number which he alone seemed to sing on screen. That's what the Gloria Jean duets are here and her soprano in no way clashes with his crooning. One of the songs, Meet the Sun Halfway, is a personal favorite of mine. There's a line in the Johnny Burke lyric where it goes, "you know when you smile, you throw yourself a big bouquet." You listen to Crosby sing it on record and I swear the smile leaps right off the vinyl.

The plot is not too complicated. Bing Crosby, El Brendel, and Donald Woods are construction workers who are just completing the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Woods is a widower with a young daughter Gloria Jean who hangs out with the guys. The last night of the construction job, Woods is killed. So Crosby and El Brendel have to deliver young Ms. Jean to her family in New York whom she's never met.

Problem is there's a family feud going between her uncle Allyn Joslyn who's a real stuffed shirt and great uncle Charles Winninger who's a retired vaudevillian. But of course everything gets fixed up in the end.

Crosby was really developing as an actor by now. His scene where he tells Gloria Jean about her father's death is very moving. No one could have done it better than Bing, not even a Sir Laurence Olivier. Director David Butler got one of Crosby's best cinema moments. Four years later Bing would win the Best Actor Oscar.

If If I Had My Way seems a little familiar maybe it's because there's a lot of similarity between it and the earlier Pennies From Heaven where Crosby plays a similar footloose and fancy free character with a young adolescent girl that's come into his care. However here Universal did something somewhat daring, they didn't give Bing any romantic interest at all. Unusual to say the least, both then and now. But it's not something you really notice during the film. This is a must for true Crosby aficionados like your's truly...

Bruce's rating: 7 out of 10

my rating: 8 out of 10

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Remembering the late great Shirley Temple. She died on February 10, 2014 at the age of 85...

Original caption: Bing Crosby and Shirley Temple Black discuss final plans for a gala dinner, "A Party with Shirley," a $100-a-plate event over which Bing will preside October 23rd. Crosby is a member of Shirley's finance committee. Black, candidate for Congress, will deliver a major address. The picture was taken on October 17, 1967...

Monday, February 10, 2014


Zombies are very popular now on television and movies, and I found this story about if Bing was a zombie. It is bizarre and not for everyone, but it is about Bing...

Warning: Some “colorful” language within, might not be good for little ones. -Matt

Christmas Eve. A time of peace and caroling. Stockings are hung by the fire in hopes that the patriarchal paradigm will reward us for our submissive behavior. Soon St. Nick will appear. Unless you die first, of course. Police in the metro area are getting reports of a sloppily dressed crooner with a pipe singing for people and then eating them.

“The front door rang” said one survivor.

And I opened the door. Bing Crosby was standing there in the flesh. Well, as much flesh of him that hadn’t fallen off. He started singing. Normally I would have shut the door but who can resist Bing Crosby singing White Christmas on Christmas Eve? So I invited him in.

After being invited in, Crosby, or his zombie equivalent, sat by the fire place and regaled the family with Christmas tunes and stories of Hollywood in its glory days. I remember during the making of Road to Singapore Bob Hope and I had a bet on who would be the first to sleep with Dorothy Lamour. I thought I would win. What woman can resist a crooner.

. It was this off-color anecdote that convinced the family to throw Crosby out.

It was then that he got belligerent. He grabbed my wife and started eating her arm. At first I thought it was just some crazy Hollywood joke but then my wife started screaming. I got scared and hit Crosby with a shovel and threw him out. Now my wife’s a zombie! But on the bright side if she’s dead I don’t have to pay her alimony I guess.

After being thrown out Crosby went from house to house, knocking on doors and asking the residents if they had seen Bob Hope. When told that Hope had not been spotted Crosby would take a bite out of whomever answered the door.

It was after the eighth house had been attacked that police mobilized.

“We’ve been expecting the zombie apocalypse for years” said a police lieutenant.

We have drones, explosives, enough ammunition to kill every Mormon. What? We’re not fighting Mormons? Never mind. We still have enough ammunition to kill every damn zombie we see. I was just hoping it would be W.C. Fields and not Bing Crosby. I’ve always liked his singing.

Despite their ammunition the police were not able to stop zombie Bing.

I guess we didn’t think it through too clearly. I mean he’s already dead. What good would shooting him do? I know, you’re supposed to shoot zombies in the head. But we are police officers. We’re notoriously bad shots, except against private citizens defending the second amendment.

With all other options gone, police decided to pay a call on David Bowie.

He was reluctant at first to help us. ”Please don’t make me sing Little Drummer Boy again” he kept begging. But eventually we wore him down. We told him it was his patriotic duty to help us. He agreed. Though it might have been our crisp blue uniforms.

After being flown into the kill zone, Bowie was dropped off and told to distract Crosby. He was unsuccessful as zombie Crosby attacked Bowie, throwing him onto his stomach and biting his neck and back. Bowie could be heard screaming, “Stop! I gave up this sexual practice in the 1980s!”

With Bowie now turned into a zombie, he and Crosby cut a wide swath across the United States, eating anyone unlucky enough to cross their paths.

President Obama is scheduled to address the nation about the Crosby/Bowie zombie menace.

Those who have seen a rough draft of the president’s speech say that it asks all Americans to remain calm and to remember the many contributions zombies have made to world culture.

“Let us welcome zombies into our homes. Now is not the time to appear triumphalist about being non-dead.”

***Breaking News***
Zombie Bob Hope has joined forces with Crosby and Bowie and they threaten to eat every last living person. And then make a Road movie.


Monday, February 3, 2014


Even she died over 60 years ago, Dixie Lee Crosby is making news or at least her estate is...

C.A. Tosses Ruling in Favor of Estate of Bing Crosby’s First Wife
By a MetNews Staff Writer

The estate of Bing Crosby’s first wife is not entitled to revenues resulting from the popular entertainer’s right to publicity, the Court of Appeal for this district held yesterday. Div. Three, in an opinion by Justice Walter H. Croskey, reversed the order granting Wilma Wyatt Crosby’s trust a community property interest in her former husband’s right of publicity.  The trial court, in a judgment by Superior Court Judge Michael I. Levanas, had granted Wilma’s estate the interest because a 2008 amendment to the Civil Code §3341.1(p) created a new right to a deceased personalities who died before 1985. The statute, which provided that a deceased celebrity’s right of publicity is descendible, was amended to expressly provide that the law was retroactive to celebrities who died before 1985.

Harry Lillis Crosby, known as Bing Crosby, married Wilma Crosby on Sep. 29, 1930. They had four sons together, and remained married until her death in 1952.Wilma Crosby—also known as Dixie Lee—left a will which provided that her community property should be distributed in trust to her sons. Bing Crosby died on Oct. 14, 1977, leaving the residue of his estate to a martial trust for the benefit of his second wife, Kathryn Grant Crosby.

In 1996, Wilma Crosby’s trust sued the a company which was formed for the purposes of managing Bing Crosby’s interests, including his right of publicity for the trust’s entitlement to income derived from the community property of Bing and Wilma Crosby. That matter was settled for roughly $1.5 million. The settlement provided that the agreement was to be final and complete as to any money due to Wilma Crosby’s trust. The agreement also contained a release of all claims involving claims to community property.

On June 23, 2010, Wilma Crosby’s estate petitioned for an order granting it an interest in Bing Crosby’s post-mortem publicity rights under §3341.1, as amended by SB 771, which was signed into law two years earlier. The estate argued that the right to publicity in Bing Crosby’s estate was only created when the 2008 amendment was signed into law.

Croskey said:“The trial court reached this conclusion based solely on the 2008 amendment’s provisions that it was ‘retroactive’ and without analyzing the pre-2008 version of the statute. In fact, prior to the 2008 amendment, section 3344.1 provided that it applied to ‘any such natural person who has died within 70 years prior to January 1, 1985.”

The justice went on to say:“The amendment did not create any new rights that fell outside of the 1999 settlement’s release of all claims to community property, the argument…[that] right of publicity did not exist in 1999 and thus could not have been the settlement agreement must fail. The petition of Wilma’s Estate is clearly barred by res judicata.” The case is Crosby v. HLC Properties, B242089.