Tuesday, January 29, 2013


By Jamie Todd Rubin

I don’t know when it was that I first heard of Bing Crosby. I know that the name was familiar when I was younger, but only because it was distinctive. Who else in entertainment was named “Bing”? In college, I recall hearing one of his songs, “They All Laughed” but I don’t exactly recall where I heard it. I like it though, and I played it over and over again.

Sometime after graduating when I was living in Studio City, California, I walked into a record store (this was circa 1995: there were still big chain record stores in existence) and was browsing around and I came across a Bing Crosby boxed set. It was called Bing: His Legendary Years 1931-1957. At this point I’d only ever heard a handful of Bing’s songs, most of them seasonal songs. But I remember listening through most of the 100+ songs in the boxed set that first day, in my tiny apartment, and it felt like I was living in a different era. There was something magical about the songs, some kind of pseudo-nostalgia for a period I’d missed. I’ve been a Bing Crosby fan ever since.

I have no idea of gauging what his most popular songs were, but I suspect they were the Christmas songs. My favorites run the gamut, but if I had to pick one absolute favorite, I think it would be “Far Away Places.” There is something magical about that song as well, not only in the way it is performed, but in the lyrics themselves. I liked the song so much that it was mentioned in my first published science fiction story, “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” when two people visiting an observatory on the surface of the moon dance to this song under the earth-light.

I have lots of other favorites including some of Bing’s collaborations with other entertainers and musicians, like his duet with Louis Armstrong, “Gone Fishin’.” I think I’ve remarked before how I never sang lullaby’s to the Little Man when he was a baby. I’d always sing Bing Crosby songs and although he is only 2-1/2 years old, he can sing “Gone Fishin’” as well as other songs like what he calls “the train song”: “The Atchison-Topeka and the Santa Fe”. It is adorable to hear him finish the lines. I sing Bing songs to the Little Miss as well and they seem to calm her down. And when I get to the end of a song, it’s almost as if she knows it, she starts turning out her lower lip and I have to start right back in lest the tears begin flowing once more.

It was well, after listening to and learning Bing’s songs (I probably know 160 of them by heart) that I started watching the movies he made. I can remember the first time I saw White Christmas and was mesmerized by it. I watched other movies like Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s. I watched pseudo-movies like Holiday Inn. I’ve seen two of the Road movies (The Road to Morocco and The Road to Bali) and found them both to be hysterically funny. But my favorite Bing Crosby movie is High Society in large part because of Grace Kelly. I don’t watch that movie often, but wow, what a movie! (And yes, I’ve seen The Philadelphia Story, and I’m sorry, but this is one case where the remake is better than the original.)

There is a Bing Crosby song for just about every occasion. The last time I was in Hawaii, I sat out on the lanai overlooking the Pacific ocean with a warm breeze blowing through my hair listening to a series of songs like “Trade Winds” and “Harbor Lights” and “Blue Hawaii.” I was in an Irish bar in Old Town Alexandria one time and the entire bar started singing “Clancy Lowered the Boom” and I was able to join in because I knew the verses from a Bing Crosby duet. When my Grandfather was nervous, frightened and depressed the night before his quadruple bypass surgery, I queued up Bing’s “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” and played it for him. The song opens: “Be careful, it’s my heart. It’s not my watch your holding, it’s my heart.” I told him he should sing those bars to the surgeon as an admonition to him before he got started. It made my grandfather laugh and feel better. When I drop off the check for the Little Man’s tuition at his school, I often find myself humming, “I found a million dollar baby, in a five and ten cent store.”

Sometime in 2000, Gary Giddins came out with the first volume of a Bing Crosby biography, Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams which read twice and enjoyed. I’ve since been awaiting the second volume, wondering if it will ever come.
It seems that it is odd for someone born in the early 1970s to be a fan of Bing Crosby. What’s more, he was politically conservative and I am politically liberal. There were rumors that about him and his kids (Giddins dispels these rumors as just that in his biography, but who knows for sure, right?) Somehow, perhaps because I didn’t grow up at a time when Bing was the superstar entertaining for music and film, none of this affects my enjoyment of his music or movies.

Bing died on October 14, 1977 at the age of 74 and did so in a way that would make most people envious. Isaac Asimov once wrote that he hope he would die at the typewriter, with his nose in the keys, doing what he loved best. That’s not how it worked out for him, but it is how it worked out for Bing Crosby. He was in Spain and had just finished up a round of golf with several of his good friends. He said, “That was a great game of golf, fella,” turned to walk to the clubhouse, and was struck dead by a massive heart attack.

This time of year, I always find myself with the urge to listen to his music, and no just the holiday music, all of it his entire body of work. It takes me back to a time that never really existed for me, one where life was a little simpler and things weren’t so interconnected, and you didn’t have to worry about “disconnecting” for a while...


Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Bing Crosby and Magnetic Recording
By John Vardalas, Ph.D., Outreach Historian, IEEE History Center

Just a few months away, 2013 will mark the 110th anniversary of Bing Crosby's birth. His career as a singer, entertainer, and actor spanned six decades. During those years, he had become a cultural institution for several generations of Americans. His velvet-like voice and relaxed manner transformed popular singing. He was one of the first performers to exploit the microphone in performance. During World War II, Bing Crosby threw himself into lifting the morale of U.S. soldiers and the troops loved him. His success as an entertainer is underscored by his numerous singing and acting accolades: he was the top box office draw for over a decade, he sang on many platinum and gold records, a number of his songs that appeared in films that won Academy awards, and he even won an Oscar for Best Actor. In 1962, Crosby won the first Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Crosby was also an astute businessman. Not only was he an investor in the business of radio and television; at one point, in 1948, he became a large investor in the Vacuum Foods Corp., which pioneered the first orange juice frozen concentrate. The company later changed its name to Minute Maid. Not content to be just an investor, Crosby obtained sole distribution rights for the West Coast.
He had part ownership in the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team and owned extensive real estate holdings, including oil drilling operations. Though he is well known as an entertainer, and to a lesser degree as a businessman, very few people think of Bing Crosby as a champion of innovation in radio and television broadcast technology.

His first foray with technical innovation stemmed from his growing dislike for doing live radio shows. In 1936, Crosby became the host of the Kraft Music Hall, a musical variety show. For over a decade the Kraft Music Hall, which aired on the NBC network, remained a very popular feature on American radio. These shows were always broadcast live. By 1945, Crosby felt that the time commitment of a weekly live radio show had become an unacceptable burden on his family life. Crosby's desire to pre-record the show put him on a collision course with NBC executives, who refused to consider any option other than a live broadcast. Crosby refused to do the show. NBC sued, forcing him to finish the 1945-46 season. Looking to increase its ratings, ABC approached Crosby with an offer. He could pre-record his own show, but with one proviso: the quality had to be as good as a live broadcast. Crosby accepted and immediately threw himself into using the recording technology of the day, electrical transcription, a phonographic disc format which had been developed for radio in the late 1920s.

Crosby's 30-minute show was called the Philco Radio Hour. Two discs were needed to record the show. Very quickly, Crosby discovered the weaknesses of electrical transcription technology: the sound quality was inferior to the live broadcast; and editing, which is one of the great potential benefits of pre-recording, was very cumbersome. The inferiority of the technology hurt the show's ratings. With his show struggling, Crosby was receptive to any new recording technology that would improve the show's audio quality. John T. (Jack) Mullin, an electrical engineer, working with wartime German technology, would provide the answer.

Born in San Francisco in 1913, Mullin attended Santa Clara University and majored in electrical engineering. During World War II, he worked on a variety of wartime electronic projects. While in England, Mullin was struck by the quality of pre-recorded music broadcast from German radio stations. Electrical transcription technology could never produce this exceptionally high quality. “How were the Germans doing it?” he wondered. In 1944, he got his answer. That year he was sent to Paris to examine captured German electronics equipment. At one point, he visited a German radio station where he discovered the AEG Magnetophon K-4 studio magnetic tape recording machine. Given permission by the U.S. government, Mullin brought two units back with him, along with 50 reels of blank magnetic tape made by I.G. Farben. The I. G. had been created from a merger of several German firms, most notably Bayer, Hoechst, AGFA, and BASF, and by the 1930s, the I.G. was the world’s largest chemical manufacturer.

As soon as he returned to the United States, Mullin set about improving the quality of the AEG Magnetophon machines. He changed the recorder's bias circuitry to further improve the signal-to-noise ratio, added pre-emphasis for higher frequencies, and replaced all the components with standard U.S. parts. Together with his partner W.A. Palmer, in 1946, he produced their improved version of the AEG machine. This magnetic tape recorder was first demonstrated at a 1946 meeting of the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) in San Francisco. The engineers, who were at the demo, all marveled at the high quality of the recording. Though it was a technical "tour de force," no one in the entertainment industry was ready yet to embrace it, until Mullin demonstrated the machine to Crosby in 1947. Immediately, Crosby asked Mullin to do a test recording of the Philco Radio Hour's first show of the 1947-48 season. Not only did the quality of this recording rival the live broadcast, but it also offered superior editing capabilities. Crosby was ready to pre-record his shows for the entire season, but he and his team had two concerns: would there be an adequate supply of recording devices and, if so, would there be enough magnetic tape to feed them? The season was about to start and Mullin had only his two machines. Enter Ampex and 3M.

Ampex, founded in 1944 in the San Francisco Bay area, produced small electrical motors and generators for the war effort. After the war, Ampex had to rethink its product line. Company founder Alexander Poniatoff decided to gamble its entire future on magnetic recording technology. Working with Mullin, its engineers produced two prototype units that worked well. Now the challenge was to go into production, but Ampex was unable to raise the needed capital. When Crosby heard of the difficulty he sent Poniatoff a check for $50,000 — a considerable amount of money for 1947. Crosby was determined to use this technology. His commitment did not stop there. He also invested money in Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M), the company that was to produce a reliable supply of good quality magnetic tape. "[3M] ... had started development of their new red oxide tape that would work with the Ampex recorder. Jack Mullin began to work with Robert Herr and William Wetzel of 3M conducting tests to help develop a high quality magnetic tape for audio recording. ... The result was the Scotch Magnetic Tape No.111 that later evolved into the No. 111A that became the standard of the recording industry." Crosby recognized the long-term potential of this technology beyond his own radio program. As he did with Minute Maid, Crosby obtained exclusive west coast distribution rights from Ampex and 3M. After Crosby's entry into magnetic pre-recording, other radio programming followed suit. The 3 May 1948 issue of Newsweek featured this breakthrough in recording technology.

No sooner had Crosby adopted magnetic pre-recording than the "laugh track" was introduced for the first time on radio. Removing small mistakes on a tape had created short gaps in time. To fill in these empty spaces, Crosby suggested to his technicians that they introduce pre-recorded laughter after those jokes that he liked. Magnetic recording prompted other innovative applications like the 1948 show Candid Microphone. The creator of the program, Allen Funt, would go out and put unsuspecting individuals in awkward, but humorous situations, secretly tape their responses, and then play back the responses on radio. Funt later adapted this strategy to television with the popular show Candid Camera.

Crosby was not merely content to finance the innovation of others; he also saw the need to develop an in-house capacity to innovate. For the Kraft Music Hour, NBC had provided the engineering know-how to produce the show. But with ABC, Crosby wanted to use his own in-house audio engineering expertise. So in 1948, he created the Electronics Division within Bing Crosby Enterprises and hired Mullin as its “Chief Engineer.” Frank Healy, who was a former Hollywood producer, headed up the Electronics Division. When Crosby moved into television, he immediately thought of pre-recording his shows. The only technology available at the time was through film, which Crosby used in his early shows. As early as 1951, Crosby had asked Mullin if television broadcasts could be taped like radio. Mullin replied there was no reason why such a system could not be developed. At this point, Crosby created an R&D component within the Electronics Division and poured money into this quest to invent the first video recorder for television broadcasting, which at this point was still in black and white.

In November of 1951, Mullin demonstrated a prototype of a video recorder to the Hollywood press. Though still a very crude device, Healy used his talents as producer to convince the press corps of the machine’s great potential. The demo made the news in Variety. In a sense, this demo was the shot fired that started the race to invent a commercial video recorder. Ampex jumped in. RCA’s giant R&D machine also jumped in. But its goal was more ambitious — to invent a recorder for color television. Mullin soon discovered that moving from a crude prototype to a commercial machine proved much harder than he could have ever imagined. Crosby's first TV show had to be pre-recorded through syncing magnetic audio recording with 35mm film recording. Crosby's Electronics Division was not the only group trying to invent the video recorder. Crosby, pragmatically backing two horses, also encouraged the Ampex group.

In 1956, Ampex won the video recorder race, at least for black and white broadcasting. A day before the official start of the annual convention of National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters (NARTB) in Chicago, Ampex staged a successful demo of their video recorder. The 300 invited guests from the networks were caught completely off guard. They did not know that they were coming to see the first video recorder. As the guests sat listening to the VP of ABC give a speech, little did they know that it was being recorded. Then the curtains opened as the speech was replayed on several televisions around the room. After a few moments of stunned silence, the crowd broke into applause and stomped their feet in approval. Word of the video recorder spread like wildfire throughout the convention. The crowds wanting to see it were enormous.

For Crosby, the 1956 demo was not news. Because of his close ties to Ampex, he had known for a while that it had beaten his group to the video recorder. In 1955, Crosby sent Mullin over to examine the video recorder that Ampex was working on. Mullin returned with the bad news. The Ampex system was superior to theirs. Even though the Ampex machine wasn't quite ready for sale, Crosby wrote another $50,000 check to Ampex; but this time for the first machine when it was ready. This purchase effectively put an end to video recorder development at BCE. The design know-how built up at BCE was not wasted, however. Working closely with Ampex, the Crosby group developed technology to record rocket telemetry data for the U.S. military. In 1956, the video recorder work at BCE was shut down and the Electronics Division shifted its focus to an airborne wideband recorder for the U.S. Air Force. Using the knowledge gained in its approach to video recording, the Electronics Division saw an opportunity. With Ampex focused on the rotary head technology that chopped some types of signals, there was an opening for wideband longitudinal recording that had no head switching. With the move to military design, the activities of the Electronics Division started to diverge from BCE's business focus. Crosby's close association with 3M created an opportunity for him to sell off the Electronics Division. 3M found itself getting into magnetic recording hardware as a natural complement to its tape business. In August 1956, 3M decided to buy the Electronics Division. In 1957, with the Air Force contract completed, 3M formally acquired the Electronics Division.

In September 1977, Bing Crosby pre-recorded his last television show in London, U.K, with the rock star David Bowie. Just a month later, on 14 October 1977, the remarkable life of this entertainer, businessman, and champion of recording technology came to an end. The show aired on 30 November 1977. This year, 2012, on the 35th anniversary of his death, Crosby’s talents live on through a technology that he helped champion...


Sunday, January 20, 2013


The late Hobie Wilson was one of the truly great Bing Crosby fans out there, and he will be missed...

Hobie Wilson passed away at his Petaluma residence on January 15, 2013 at the age of 80 years. Loving husband for over 56 years to Cathie Wilson. Devoted father of Elizabeth (Steve) Hanak of Petaluma, Eileen (Gary) Bowers of Sonoma, and Loretta (Tom) Devito of Santa Rosa. Cherished grandfather of Catherine Mary Ackerly, Megan Ackerly, Natalie Hanak, Camille (Nick) Williams, and Jordan Devito and great-grandfather of Sabine Ackerly-Albright and Hobart Ackerly-Esquivias. Dear brother of Edith Stanley of WA and uncle of Joan Stanley.
“Hobie” was president and founding member of the “Bing’s Friends and Collector Society”. For over 30 years he enjoyed publishing the quarterly newsletter. On Sunday evenings he could be heard on our local radio station KTOB playing big band music and of course, Bing Crosby. He worked for the Post Office in San Francisco for over 36 years and previously lived in Sonoma.
As per his request there will not be a service. Memorial contributions may be made to Wounded Warriors Project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS 66675...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Nice to see Bing Crosby even getting a mention on an ice cream blog...

The Slice Blog has dealt with Bing Crosby ice cream before. The thing that actually caught my eye in the photo below is the carton on the lower left.

I happen to know someone who once got some grief for referring to Neapolitan ice cream as “Van-choc-straw.”

But there it is. “Van-Choc-Straw.” Big as you please.

Sometimes evidence to help us support our case surfaces too late. But still, there's some comfort in knowing you are not alone...


Friday, January 11, 2013


Bing Crosby, one of the greatest singers of all time, and one of the most beloved icons of the 20th century has seen his reputation tarnished over the last thirty years. Bing has been dead since 1977, but after his oldest son Gary Crosby published a supposed "tell-all" book called "Going My Own Way" in 1983, the memory of Bing has been ruined in the public eye. It is so unfortunate because people refuse to put aside the family rumors, and they take Gary's book as the absolute truth. Every week I find myself correcting people on Bing Crosby rumors. I even had one person ask me if it was true that Bing attempted to murder one of his sons. Now come on!

Decades later the rumors have grown and have a life of their own. I was amazed that the National Enquirer continued to perpetuate the gossip by running a December story called Bing Crosby: A Black And Blue Christmas. I made myself read to article in hopes that maybe the title was deceiving, but alas it was the same old story. Gary Crosby has been dead since 1995, but the tabloid magazine used old stories Gary told in the 1980s when he was pushing his book. I am just so tired seeing these negative stories about Bing Crosby.

People assume that Bing Crosby was the cold and heartless child beater just from one book his alcoholic and bitter son wrote about him. No one remembers that four of Bing's children have come to his defense, saying he was a great father. No one remembers that before Gary Crosby died he recanted most of the fabrications he put into his book. No on remembers the countless selfless acts Bing did throughout his career such as entertaining with the USO during World War II, and also helping out other stars when they hit rough times like Mildred Bailey, Judy Garland, and Peggy Lee. It is such a shame that after 2500 plus recordings and countless appearances in movies, and on radio and television that Bing is remembered as a child beater.

I do not know the truth about Bing Crosby's parenting skills. I do not know that he did not hit his children, but then again none of us know for sure if he did. As listeners and fans is it any of our business what personl issues Bing had in his life. Other stars like Frank Sinatra, Dick Haymes, Betty Hutton, and Betty Grable had rumors and gossip persist about their family lives - however, people are allowed to appreciate them for their body of work. For some reason, people can not let go of the rumors that swirl around about Bing, and just appreciate Bing for what he gave to this country and the world for that matter.

In my opinion, Bing Crosby was not father of the year by any stretch of the imagination, but he was not the Adolf Hitler of parenting that he is being portrayed. Bing Crosby, like millions of other parents in this world, were trying to do the best they can. He might not have made the right decisions all of the time, but none of us are perfect. What is known is Bing Crosby shared his talent with millions of people for a better part of 50 years while he was alive. That should be what we remember him for 35 years now after his death...

Saturday, January 5, 2013


I am so glad Sepia is keeping up with their Bing Crosby issues. The movies Say One For Me (1959) and The Road To Hong Kong (1961) were pretty dreadful, but the soundtracks were actually better than the movies!

This is the full track listing, taken from the Sepia Records site http://www.sepiarecords.com/sepia1216.html


1. “THE ROAD TO HONG KONG'' OVERTURE Robert Farnon & Orchestra
2. LET’S NOT BE SENSIBLE Bing Crosby, Joan Collins
3. MOON OVER HONG KONG Robert Farnon & Orchestra
4. TEAM WORK Bing Crosby, Bob Hope
5. THE ONLY WAY TO TRAVEL Robert Farnon & Orchestra
6. THE CHASE Robert Farnon & Orchestra
7. THE ROAD TO HONG KONG Bing Crosby, Bob Hope
8. LET’S NOT BE SENSIBLE BLUES Robert Farnon Orchestra
9. RELUCTANT ASTRONAUTS Robert Farnon Orchestra
10. WARMER THAN A WHISPER Dorothy Lamour
11. LAMASERY CHANT Robert Farnon Orchestra

12. “SAY ONE FOR ME'' MAIN TITLE Lionel Newman Orchestra
13. SAY ONE FOR ME Bing Crosby, Debbie Reynolds
14. SAY ONE FOR ME Lionel Newman Orchestra
15. YOU CAN’T LOVE ’EM ALL Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wagner
16. SAY ONE FOR ME (Orchestral Reprise) Lionel Newman Orchestra
17. THE GIRL MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wagner
18. YOU CAN’T LOVE ’EM ALL (Orchestral Reprise) Lionel Newman Orchestra
20. I COULDN’T CARE LESS Bing Crosby Accompanied By Buddy Cole
21. I COULDN’T CARE LESS (Hangover Scene) Lionel Newman Orchestra
23. SAY ONE FOR ME Bing Crosby
24. CHICO’S CHOO-CHOO Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wagner
26. I COULDN’T CARE LESS (Pop Version) Bing Crosby
27. SAY ONE FOR ME (Pop Version) Bing Crosby
28. THE SECRET OF CHRISTMAS (Pop Version) Bing Crosby

Please support Sepia Records!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Improvements to the Bing Crosby Theater are creating a buzz. Jerry Dicker purchased the downtown Spokane landmark 10 months ago and went to work.There’s a new high-definition movie projector and screen that will soon be wired into a new surround sound audio system. The leaky roof has been repaired. New heating and air conditioning systems are making the theater more comfortable. And a new outside sign is lighting up the theater’s east side at night.

Events have been filling the theater’s 756 seats, and there is now demand for even more shows in the historic 1915 movie palace at 901 W. Sprague Ave.

“The Bing is going really well,” said Dicker, a real estate investor and developer who has become a major figure in historic preservation in Spokane.

He paid $1 million to classic car collector Mitch Silver last February to buy the Bing, with plans to sink at least $500,000 and probably more into renovation and upgrades.

“He is going to have a product that people will want to visit,” said theater manager Michael Smith, who is expanding the range of events.

Movies shown at the theater are varied: Some claiming to push intellectual thought are coming to the theater on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for early evening entertainment, and Smith is talking about hosting a film festival featuring amateur videos shot by people wearing GoPro helmet cams while skiing or skateboarding.

A Bing cinema festival is planned to open Jan. 19 with a showing of the James Bond thriller “Dr. No” and other classic films. The theater will serve martinis that are shaken, not stirred, during the 1962 Bond film. Other showings will be vintage rock concerts redone with digital sound.The theater also is preparing to provide live streaming video for incoming and outgoing shows. It is also being equipped to create digital recordings for later sale.

There’s talk of a new live comedy series called “Bada Bing.”

“It’s going to be fun here,” Smith said.

“We want people to look at the Bing and say there’s always something happening there,” added Dicker.

The theater is reaching out to the community for partnerships.

One of those is with Christian Youth Theater Spokane, which is staging “The Little Mermaid Jr.,” starting on Feb. 22 for seven performances.

“I love CYT,” Dicker said.

At some point, the theater will be turned over to a foundation and board to run as a nonprofit, Dicker said. But he wants to get improvements funded and in place before that happens.

The project list keeps growing. Space on the third and fourth floors overlooking Sprague Avenue and Lincoln Street could be renovated for use as a lounge, event center or possibly even a Bing Crosby museum.
Dicker has purchased a private collection of Crosby memorabilia for future display. He said he would like to work with Gonzaga University, which also has an extensive collection.

“We reach out to as many partners as we can,” Dicker said.

Helping with renovation and remodeling is Jared Mauer, who specializes in historic buildings. The original Ivar Peterson murals that decorate the interior were repaired and touched up by Melville Holmes, and Jaye Nordling, an expert in sound and lighting, has worked as a consultant on the technical improvements.

Tickets to events include a $2 charge for theater restoration.

Built as one of the country’s most elaborate movie palaces, the former Clemmer Theater drew audiences to the luxurious surroundings of an opera house. It retains that character today. It was placed on the Spokane Register of Historic Places in 1990 and the national register in 1998. Dicker said he believes it is one of the five best historic buildings in Spokane.

During the 1920s, live acts performed between movies, including one in 1925 with Spokane’s own Bing Crosby. The Oscar-winning “The Sound of Music” movie ran at the theater – then called the State – for a city record of 54 weeks in 1964 and 1965, according to the historic register nomination.

The former Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities Co. bought the theater and renovated it for a reopening in 1988 as the Metropolitan Theater of Performing Arts, or The Met. Smith was hired that year and has managed the theater since.

Silver acquired the theater in 2004 and agreed with Bing Crosby fans to rename the theater the Bing in 2006 to commemorate Spokane’s beloved stage, screen and recording star. Dicker’s acquisition in February came through his GVD Commercial Properties Inc.

A block to the south at First Avenue and Lincoln Street is the artsy Hotel Ruby and Sapphire Lounge in a renovated 1950 motor inn, another of Dicker’s projects.

The theater is trying to keep costs affordable by charging rents of $500 to $800 for nonprofit groups. But show organizers have to agree to spend a few hundred dollars on advertising or promotions to ensure a crowd turns out.

“We don’t want people renting the theater and not producing an audience,” Dicker said...