Monday, October 29, 2012


Any fans of Bing Crosby know that Bing put his name to a line of products throughout his career - his face was one of the most recognizable faces for more than a generation. Here are two advertisements from the 1950s. Bing is hawking the Remington Shaver in these two ads. I love the artwork and the general set of of them. It makes me think I need a shave...

Thursday, October 25, 2012


It is amazing how even in an obituary, Bing Crosby's name comes out. It is just another example of how many lives Bing touched...

Edward McConnell loved his wife and Bing Crosby's music, in that order
By Andrew Meacham, Times Staff Writer

SEMINOLE — His favorite song came near the end of High Society, a 1956 film starring Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby.

Crosby plays a divorced jazz musician who wants to win back his wife, played by Kelly. The two of them are sailing, Kelly's head rests in his lap and it's getting on toward dusk. He sings True Love, a wistful ballad, and she harmonizes on the chorus.

Edward McConnell always admired Crosby's music and laid-back public persona. He collected phonograph records from speed-78 on down, then CDs. Like the singer, he played a lot of golf.

Unlike Crosby's reputation, Mr. McConnell rarely if ever appeared flustered or temperamental.

Two years after he married Joan Nelson in 1954, True Love became their song.

"He liked his attitude and he liked his voice," said Joan McConnell, 81. "I think everybody liked Crosby."

Students who worked for Mr. McConnell in college bookstores liked him because he showed an interest in them and was patient. Mr. McConnell, who retired to Seminole in the mid-1990s and had served as president of his neighborhood association, died Oct. 9 at Bay Pines VA Medical Center. He was 91.

Mr. McConnell dressed modestly and conservatively and kept regular habits. He read newspapers daily, making a point of catching any spelling errors, and books about the Civil War.

He tried not to get in too much of a hurry about anything.

He planned roundabout family road trips so that everyone could see another Civil War battlefield or cemetery, whether the kids wanted to or not.

"They knew they were going to get history," his wife said.

He did not dominate conversations, preferring to toss in the witty one-liners that always seemed to occur to him. But others sought him out as a leader. The longtime bookstore manager was honored by the National Association of College Stores and appreciated by his neighborhood association.

"He could tell us what had happened in the past, why they did certain things and so forth," said Lee Suggs, 78, the current vice president of Seminole on the Green Villas One South.

Edward David McConnell was born in Kingston, N.Y., in 1921, and brought up by his grandparents. He studied journalism at Columbia University, then served in the Army during World War II.

He impressed Joan as an old-fashioned type, which she liked. He stood when a woman entered the room. He opened doors. He looked people in the eye when he shook hands.

"Not everyone is like that," she said.

Because of the cowlick of hair on his forehead, his grandfather called him Skee, after the comic strip character Skeezix from Gasoline Alley. Other people called him Mac for reasons that are unclear, or Professor when he ran the a bookstore outside Rutgers University and, later, the bookstore for Florida State University.

Mr. McConnell and his wife lived in Tallahassee for 23 years before retiring to Seminole.

"I remember him as sort of being the funny guy, the jokester, putting on masks and scaring me and my sister," said Cara Hodson, 33, a granddaughter who once called him Bop Bop.

When she visited Mr. McConnell in Seminole, her own young children also jumped in fright. This time it wasn't their great-grandfather startling anyone, but a 2-foot-high Bing Crosby doll that bursts into song when touched.

Heart trouble and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder slowed him down in recent years.

An urn containing his cremated remains rests inside a columbarium at Serenity Gardens Memorial Park. Beneath his birth and death dates, his wife had two words engraved that she believes sums up their 58-year marriage: "True Love"...


Sunday, October 21, 2012


Ample evidence exists to suggest that Crosby was the most popular entertainer on the twentieth century. From 1926, the date of his first commercial record release, until his death in 1977, he was constantly in demand as a recording artist, film actor, radio—and later, television—personality, and concert performer. Jose Ferrer offered the following assessment of his talent: "Bing Crosby is like Mr. Everything of all time."

His singing, of course, was central to understanding his appeal. In addition to virtually defining the crooning tradition, he was widely held to be a premier jazz interpreter. Earl Orkin would write that Bing Crosby was one of the greatest of all jazz singers. Although he could and often did sing just about anything, he grew up in the world of Bix Beiderbecke and Hoagy Carmichael, and jazz was always what he loved best. (Unlike Sinatra, for instance, he always phrased the music, not the words.) Short of Louis Armstrong or Billie Holiday perhaps, there is no better role-model for an aspiring jazz singer that Bing.

Osterholm attempted to ascertain Crosby’s importance as a singer in commercial terms. Conceding for a moment that Elvis Presley, who died two months before Bing, sold 500 million records since 1954, and that Bing sold only 400 million since 1926, we could, for a simple method, compare relative sales in relation to population by comparing the nation’s population at the mid-points of their careers. Adjusting Presley’s sales by the audience in Crosby’s time, it would be about 365 million, Crosby’s sales would be 508 million in Presley’s time. Moreover, in the 1930s, when Bing was first popular, record sales were very low because of the Depression, and many people also maintain that Bing has actually sold more than 500 million records.

This success was instrumental in enabling Crosby to assume a larger than life persona. According to Thompson, Bing Crosby is probably the most-loved character in the world apart from the creations of Walt Disney. For a half century he has dispensed much joy and much entertainment for the benefit of millions who were never ever to meet him but felt that they knew him and in him had a friend. A colossal, enveloping warmth of affection has justly come his way through the years. Even if the image of the casual, lazy pipe-smoking crooner was not completely true it would not matter. He was Bing, Mr. Family Man, Mr. Clean.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012


This past weekend marked 35 years since Bing Crosby died on a golf course in Spain. Other than a few slight mentions on the internet, nothing much was really said. Of course, I would rather his life be celebrated than his death – but it would be a good time to issue some new Bing material to the public. However, the desert of new Crosby releases has remained barren which is unfortunate.

Bing Crosby Enterprises has issued some fabulous material in recent years. Not only have they issued rare material, but also high quality material. However, nothing new has come out of the company in two years. It is unfortunate because other family run camps, like that of Frank Sinatra continue to market the Sinatra name. It is easy for someone on the outside to be a sideline critic for these companies, because we do not know all of the restrictions and rights needed to issue a product, but still the aging fan base of Bing Crosby is craving new material sooner than later.

I also was hopeful that Gary Giddins second volume on Bing Crosby would be issued this year as announced. Unfortunately that does not seem likely at this point. One of my prized possession is Giddin’s first volume, but with dwindling book sales I am worried that the publisher will not risk a second volume on Bing as each year passes by.

The years after Bing died on a golf course on October 14, 1977 have not been kind to his memory. He was the biggest personality in the world during the 1930s and 1940s, and his voice was the most heard and recorded voice of all-time. Bing deserves better not only when we remember his birth and his death, but when he take stock of all he gave to his fans and the public in general during his fifty plus years of entertaining. I wish other people to realize that and remember Bing more fondly and not just his dedicated fans...

Sunday, October 14, 2012


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...


Wednesday, October 10, 2012


SPOKANE -- Bing Crosby's last words are well-known:

"That was a great game of golf, fellas," he said, striding off the 18th green at a Madrid golf course, moments before suffering a massive heart attack.

Yet some of his last written words are in the possession of Herb Rotchford Jr., the principal of Shadle Park High School.

Those words are contained in a handwritten letter Bing sent to Herb Rotchford Sr., one of the Spokane-raised star's oldest and dearest childhood friends. It arrived at Rotchford's Hayden Lake, Idaho, home three days after Bing died on Oct. 14, 1977.

Bing had written the letter from London on Oct. 5, 1977. In it he chats about his shows at the London Palladium, his deteriorating golf game and his back problems, caused by a tumble into a Pasadena orchestra pit earlier that year.

Here's the letter, in its entirety:
"Dear Herb,
"No. I didn't have to have the operation. The medics are very reluctant to go into the back surgically, and they didn't deem it necessary. Not unless a sudden and drastic change occurs. At the moment I seem to be progressing well, if somewhat slowly, doing some concerts and TV here in Europe Chud Wendle (a mutual friend from Spokane) was at the show last nite. Play golf, but badly, of course. Very limited back-swing. But I love these golf courses and lots of good guys to play with. Be home in late October.
"Love to all,

It's a friendly, informal letter made poignant by its timing. This letter is just a small part of the trove of Bing-related items in several photo albums and scrapbooks passed along to Herb Rotchford Jr. by his father, who died in 1981. It's a mother lode of Crosby memorabilia and artifacts or what aficionados worldwide call "Crosbyana."

The Crosby theme is evident throughout the Rotchford albums for one simple reason: Bing and the elder Rotchford remained close all of their lives. One of the earliest photos shows Rotchford and Crosby on the same youth basketball team in 1920, when they were teens. The friendship endured even after Rotchford Sr. became a Spokane dentist and Bing went on to become the biggest star in the world.

Sometimes, Rotchford Sr. would go down to Hollywood to visit him. The Rotchford photo albums include snapshots showing Bing and sometimes Rotchford Sr. posing with such luminaries as Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and William Frawley (Fred Mertz of "I Love Lucy" fame). More often, it was Bing who came to visit Herb Sr. in the Inland Northwest. The Rotchfords had a house on Hayden Lake, and Bing would sometimes stay there while on visits to his hometown. He came to love Hayden Lake for its golfing and fishing opportunities.

"He liked it so much, he had my father buy him a house on the lake and a Chris-Craft boat, sight unseen," Rotchford Jr. said.

From that point on, Crosby and his growing family would spend every August at their place on Hayden Lake. Bing, in his autobiography, "Call Me Lucky," called it an "oasis of enjoyment in a hurly-burly world." The Rotchfords lived only a few houses away. The family photo album is jammed with snapshots of the two men playing golf together, clowning around together and going on joint boat outings with their families. Bing was, in fact, Herb Jr.'s godfather. The scrapbook contains another Bing letter, this one written to Herb Jr. when he was in college at the University of Washington in 1969.

In this one, Bing speaks his mind in a surprisingly candid fashion about one of the most divisive issues of the day, the Vietnam War:

"It seems to me the government is making noises like they want to get out of Vietnam. I hope they're serious about this, and I know you hope so, too. It would be a great relief, I'm confident. It's a silly war, and it doesn't seem to be getting anywhere. Just costing a lot of lives, and a lot of money. Nobody can give you a valid reason why."

He ends the letter with a typical Bing-style ribbing of Herb Jr.'s dad:

"I hear your folks have gone back to Spokane. I suppose this pleases Herb, as he has a number of good golfing pals around there, and it must have been difficult for him to find these kinds of pigeons around Seattle."

The letter is signed, "Always yours, Godfather Bing."

Rotchford Jr. also has a set of golf clubs made especially for Crosby, inscribed with his name. At some point, Bing gave them to Rotchford Sr. Those clubs are particularly apt pieces of Crosbyana, since Bing was so closely associated with golf. Yet for Rotchford Jr., they represent just another tangible reminder of "Godfather Bing."

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Guest reviewer and Bing Crosby guru Bruce Kogan is back for his usual entertaining review of Bing's films. This time is the forgotten early Bing film College Humor (1933). The film is pretty much forgotten, but it is now available on DVD suprisingly... 

It's always been a source of amazement to me how Jack Oakie was able to keep playing dumb jock college students throughout the 30s. Yet he got away with it as he does here and when all's said and done, he's a pretty funny fellow.

In this one he has a coed sister played by Mary Carlisle who football jock and Oakie's fraternity pal Richard Arlen thinks he's got a claim on. But no, Carlisle has her eyes on music professor Bing Crosby.

This was Bing's second feature film and the first he'd make with Mary Carlisle. She and Bing were a perfect fit in those films. This is also the second feature film that Crosby would make with Burns & Allen. They are personal favorites of mine and I only wish we saw more of them as a pair of caterers at a fraternity party.

Bing recorded three of the songs from College Humor, the biggest hit being Learn to Croon which immortalized his Buh-Buh-Buh-Boo for the ages. It's a nice number done as Bing teaches a music class as we learn that all the past music immortals would eventually been buh-buh-buh-booing it with Der Bingle.

He sings a nice ballad to Mary Carlisle entitled Moonstruck and no it has nothing whatsoever to do with Cher's film two generations later. For once Paramount gave Crosby a Busby Berkeley like production number in Down the Old Ox Road which apparently was the slang term back in the thirties for the local college passion pit. The number travels all over the campus showing the students singing about the glories of Ox Road with Bing in the finale.

I think this is one of the early movies that Crosby did that doesn't hold up as well as the others. But I think none of those college films from the 30s do, with rare exceptions. In this one I don't think anyone was getting an education. Especially Jack Oakie, just see what he does with his college degree at the end.

College life has undergone so much change in the over 70 years since this film was made. I can't identify with any of it from the 60s so God only knows what college kids would think of it today. Still it's a fine old chestnut and anything with Der Bingle and George and Gracie you can't go wrong with...

Monday, October 1, 2012


Singer RussColumbo was a rising singing star in 1934. He was just signed to a long term radio contract, and he was signed to a movie deal with Universal. His first film for the studio was supposed to be film adaptation of the broadway show Show Boat. Also, Russ was engaged to one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood - Carole Lombard. Columbo was tragically  killed on Sunday, September 2, 1934, the innocent victim of an accidental shooting. He was 26 years old when he died.

Russ's pall bearers included Stuart Peters, Carole's brother; Walter Lang, the film director and future husband of Madalynne Fields, Carole's friend, (He would later direct the film version of "The King and I"); actors Gilbert Roland and Zeppo Marx, (substituting for director, Lowell Sherman, who fell ill and had to cancel. Sherman died later that year.); musician, Sheldon Keate Callaway; and singer, Bing Crosby. The pall bearers wore white gardenias, Russ's favorite flower, and was given by Carole as an expression of her love.
I had always heard that Bing Crosby was a pallbearer at the funeral for his fellow peer, but I was never sure if it was just Hollywood rumors. He indeed was a pallbearer as the following sad pictures show...