Monday, June 27, 2016


Here is a news item written by journalist Carl Swanson which was published on December 1, 1997. It details a home that Bing's son Harry Crosby purchased...

Bing Crosby’s son, Harry Crosby, has just purchased the 12-room duplex maisonette that was owned by Anne McDonnell Ford Johnson, the ex-wife of Henry Ford II who died last year, for around $4.35 million, according to brokers currently dealing with the exclusive building.

Mr. Crosby, 39, is the elegant eldest son from Bing Crosby’s second marriage, to actress Kathryn Grant. (Mr. Crosby could not be reached for comment.) An avid golfer (like his father) and a man described by an acquaintance as “a wonderful and very attractive guy,” Mr. Crosby spent his youth performing on his father’s annual Christmas TV special.

Mr. Crosby’s maisonette, which can be entered from the lobby or the street, is described as “very grand” by brokers who have seen it, with “very comfortable servant’s quarters” and a “beautiful staircase.” Facing Fifth Avenue, at 64th Street, it just lacks the privacy that upper-floor apartments have. The 5,000-square-foot home was put on the market several months after Ms. Johnson passed away in March 1996. The maintenance is just over $5,000 per month.

Did he get a deal? Many consider the maisonette, a duplex apartment which begins on the street level and has private entrances, to be the great (relative) bargain in one of the city’s finest buildings. Even in a building as enviable as No. 834-where socialite Carroll Petrie, left, Greek shipping magnate George Livanos and Sotheby’s chairman Alfred Taubman are current residents, and Elizabeth Arden, John DeLorean and Rupert Murdoch are former owners-“you don’t have to be as rich to get [into the maisonette],” noted one broker familiar with the building. “And they cost half as much as upstairs.”

This year, all three maisonettes at No. 834 have been on the market. One sold at the beginning of the year for around $4.6 million and the third, which Mr. Livanos is trying to sell, is being offered for $4.85 million.

Monday, June 20, 2016


I can not believe it has been nearly 30 years since Fred Astaire's death. Here is just the partial obituary that appeared in the NY Times on June 23, 1987...

Fred Astaire, whose flashing feet and limber legs not only made him America's most popular dancer but also set standards for motion picture musical comedies that have rarely been met and never exceeded, died of pneumonia yesterday at Century City Hospital in Los Angeles. He was 88 years old.

Mr. Astaire blithely danced his way into the heart of an America tormented by the Depression and edging toward World War II. His deceptively easy-looking light-footedness, warm smile, top hat, cane, charm and talent helped people to forget the real world that nagged at them outside the movie house.

In a statement released by the White House press office, President Reagan said: ''Nancy and I are deeply saddened by the loss of a very dear friend. Fred Astaire, an American legend, has died. We join the entire nation in mourning his passing, and our heart-felt sympathies are with his wife, Robyn, and his family.'' 'The Ultimate Dancer'

''Fred was, in every sense of the word, a 'superstar,' '' Mr. Reagan said. ''He was the ultimate dancer -the dancer who made it all look so easy.''

The Astaire legend, which spanned more than six performing decades on stage, screen and television, began before he was 10 years old when his mother paired him as a dancer with his sister, Adele, the partner with whom he first found success.

Mr. Astaire starred in more than 30 film musicals between 1933 and 1968. Eleven of these co-starred Ginger Rogers, his most durable dancing partner. The music they danced to was written by the cream of the popular-music world, including Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and George and Ira Gershwin.

There were other famous dancers, but few could match the sophistication and inventiveness of Mr. Astaire in such films as ''Flying Down to Rio,'' ''The Gay Divorcee,'' ''Top Hat,'' ''Swing Time,'' ''Follow the Fleet,'' ''Blue Skies'' and ''Easter Parad For all the lushness of his films, often in settings of splendor and champagne, Mr. Astaire projected a down-to-earth personality, that of a good-hearted fellow whose effortless steps, even at their most dazzling, matched his casual demeanor.

His dance numbers fit neatly within the bounds of a movie screen, but they gave the illusion of being boundless, without regard for the laws of gravity or the limitations of a set.

He danced with Rita Hayworth atop a wedding cake (''You'll Never Get Rich,'' 1941), danced on roller skates (''Shall We Dance?'' 1937), danced while hitting golf balls off a tee (''Carefree,'' 1938) and danced up the walls and on the ceiling (''Royal Wedding,'' 1951). He danced while airborne, aboard ships and in countless ballrooms where he glided flawlessly across wide-open spaces. It was the kind of dancing that caught the imagination, even of those who disdained the thought of witnessing any dancing at all.

He was popular and beloved, a thin, sandy-haired man 5 feet 9 inches tall, who fretted and sweated off-camera and offstage to make his dance come across with a spontaneity that few could equal. During a long career in which he went from vaudeville to Broadway to Hollywood and later to triumph in television - his own special, ''An Evening With Fred Astaire,'' won nine Emmy Awards in 1957 - he never failed to delight mass audiences. 'Greatest Dancer in World'

He was also a paragon among his professional peers. George Balanchine, the artistic director of the New York City Ballet and a man whose supreme standards rarely allowed for superlatives, called him, simply, ''the greatest dancer in the world.''

Irving Berlin, in whose musical ''Top Hat'' Mr. Astaire wore the topper and tails that became the dancer's working hallmark, said: ''He's not just a great dancer; he's a great singer of songs. He's as good as any of them - as good as Jolson or Crosby or Sinatra. He's just as good a singer as he is a dancer - not necessarily because of his voice but by his conception of projecting a song.'' On learning of Mr. Astaire's death, Mr. Berlin told The Associated Press yesterday that ''there hasn't been such a talent as his.''

''He was an international star,'' Mr. Berlin added.

Anna Kisselgoff, dance critic of The New York Times, gave this description of the Astaire genius: ''At its most basic, Mr. Astaire's technique has three elements - tap, ballet and ballroom dancing. The ballet training, by his account, was brief but came at a crucial, early age. He has sometimes been classed as a tap dancer, but he was never the hoofer he has jokingly called himself. Much of the choreographic outline of his dancing with his ladies - be it Miss Rogers or Miss Hayworth - is ballroom. But of course, no ballroom dancer could dance like this.''

The Astaire seen in performance was a different Astaire from the one who lived out of the spotlight. He detested formal dress, although his personal wardrobe was stylish, and frequently told interviewers how he regarded top hat and tails as no more than working dress, certainly nothing to be worn on his own time.

The easygoing air that surrounded his own performance was developed by a dancer who was extremely serious and painstaking about his work. He was frequently described as a perfectionist, and the evidence seems to leave little doubt that he worked with more than average diligence to bring his production numbers to final gloss. 'Can't Just Sit and Do It'

''Dancing is a sweat job,'' he said in a Life magazine interview when he was 66. ''You can't just sit down and do it, you have to get up on your feet. When you're experimenting you have to try so many things before you choose what you want, that you may go days getting nothing but exhaustion. This search for what you want is like tracking something that doesn't want to be tracked.''

Monday, June 13, 2016


Here is a picture of a young Der Bingle wearing a woolen swimsuit outside the Spokane Public Bath. He is quite the sight in this picture. I would say this picture is from 1914 to 1917, but does anyone know what year this picture was taken?

Monday, June 6, 2016


To anyone in 2016, if they hear the name Shirley Ross, I almost guarantee that 90% of the time - the person will say "Shirley Who?". Ross has been gone for over 40 years now, but she was such a treat to see in many movies of the 1930s, namely the ones she made with Bing Crosby. She appeared in 25 feature films between 1933 and 1945, including singing earlier and wholly different lyrics for the Rodgers and Hart song in Manhattan Melodrama (1934) that later became "Blue Moon."

Shirley Ross was born Bernice Maude Gaunt in Omaha, Nebraska on January 7, 1913, the elder of two daughters of Charles Burr Gaunt and Maude C. (née Ellis) Gaunt. Growing up in California, she attended Hollywood High School and UCLA, training as a classical pianist. By age 14, she was giving radio recitals and made her first vocal recordings at 20 with Gus Arnheims’s band. Here she attracted the notice of the up-and-coming songwriting duo Rodgers and Hart, who selected her to sell their latest offerings to MGM. One song, which was later re-written as "Blue Moon," led to a successful screen test in 1933 and then to a number of small parts in films that included Manhattan Melodrama with Clark Gable and William Powell in which, made up to look black, she sang "The Bad in Every Man," the original version of "Blue Moon," in a Harlem nightclub.

In 1936, MGM loaned her to Paramount, and she was paired with Ray Milland in The Big Broadcast of 1937. Although this was officially a leading role, the Big Broadcast format included a busy programme of musical comedy sketches with big-name performers who somewhat overshadowed her. But one press review declared that she had ‘one of the sweetest voices of any actress on the screen and predicted a big future for her. Paramount signed her to a five-year contract; meanwhile her introduction to the songwriting team of Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger would prove significant.

Her duet with Bing Crosby in Waikiki Wedding was a Robin-Rainger number titled "Blue Hawaii." Thus began a three-year period during which Ross was cast opposite either Crosby or Bob Hope on five occasions.

After a career interruption in the making of This Way Please with Buddy Rogers, when she walked off the job, alleging that Jack Benny's wife, Mary Livingstone, was trying to sabotage her scenes, she was cast opposite Hope in The Big Broadcast of 1938. Their duet, "Thanks for the Memory", became a huge hit and a defining moment for two careers headed in opposite directions – for Hope, a springboard to bigger and better things; for Ross, the pinnacle. It would prove to be her sole enduring claim to fame.

The duet's great success sparked spin-off movies with Bob Hope, Thanks for the Memory (1938) and another called Some Like It Hot (1939; later renamed Rhythm Romance to avoid confusion with the unrelated 1959 feature). Although Thanks for the Memory did produce another hit song, "Two Sleepy People", the films themselves made little impact, apparently reflecting Paramount’s declining interest in musical comedy. Although Ross would have been willing to play straight drama and had performed well in Prison Wife, Paramount relegated her to supporting roles in two minor romantic comedies, which did nothing for her career, even though one of them (Paris Honeymoon) teamed her once more with Crosby. Her extremely promising career suffered a steep decline and never recovered.

Although Ross knew that her understated appeal was better suited to the screen than the stage, she played the lead in Rodgers and Hart’s Broadway musical Higher and Higher (1940), featuring the song "It Never Entered My Mind." The show was a critical failure. After a few forgettable movies and some radio work, Ross increasingly attended to her terminally ill husband Ken Dolan, which became an early retirement.

Ross died from cancer on March 9, Menlo Park, California, aged 62. As her married name, Bernice Dolan Blum, was not well known, her death was not widely publicized. But Hope, with whom she had an enduring real-life friendship, did not fail to commemorate her death. He and Crosby sent a 5-foot tall cross with white carnations and a spray of red roses to her funeral...