Bing's FBI files

by Malcolm MacFarlane, editor of Bing

Bing's FBI file Part 1 ||| Bing's FBI file Part 2 (PDF)

I was very disappointed to read the article by Bill Hoffmann and Murray Weiss [in the New York Post] denigrating Bing Crosby in your edition of December 22 [1999]. Not only was this unnecessarily malicious it was also a very poor piece of badly researched journalism.

The FBI files for Bing Crosby have been in the public domain for many years and they cannot by any stretch of the imagination be said to show that "Like Sinatra, Crosby had a thing for mobsters." I have just finished re-reading all 281 pages of the files and in the main they give details of various threatening letters sent to Bing by cranks over the years and the FBI's investigation of them. There are also several warm and friendly letters from J. Edgar Hoover to Bing. They do not show someone who "lived in a sleazy netherworld of corruption when the stage lights were off". The documents do not show that Bing "was a serial gambler" or that he "hobnobbed with mobsters".

The article goes on to refer to a memo from Clyde Tolson and says that it mentions Bugsy Siegel and Frank Nitti. The memo does not mention these names, it was APB News that mentioned them. The authors say "Crosby had once coughed up $10,000 because of a threat hanging over him." In fact the memorandum from Tolson to Hoover starts out mentioning that Hollywood is "overrun at the present time with all types and kinds of racketeers, who are preying upon prominent persons in the motion picture industry." The second paragraph mentions Bing as follows:

"An instance was cited in this connection of an individual who preyed upon the sympathies of a number of motion picture actors and actresses on the plea that he was afflicted with a disease, and was unable to support himself. It seems that as a result of his contacts with a number of persons in the industry he received considerable sums of money. He is reported in one instance to have received $10,000 from Bing Crosby, and $1600 from the mother of Ginger Rogers, and it is stated that in all he probably secured between $40,000 and $50,000."

Doesn't this put the matter in a different light? No threat, no gambling losses, just Bing helping someone out who he wrongly perceived as being in trouble.

The only reference in the files to Bing having a connection with organized crime appears in a memo dated January 16, 1959 in which it is said:"The Salt Lake City Office has developed information indicating that Moe Dalitz received an invitation to join a deer hunting party at Bing Crosby's Elko, Nevada, ranch, together with the crooner, his Las Vegas dentist and several business associates."

That's all there is in 281 pages covering Bing's whole life connecting him with gangsters! And by the way, the Elko ranch had been sold in 1958 and obviously the FBI were not up to date.

And what's all this about Bing's temper being out of control much of thetime. He was one of the most controlled people there was. Why give so much space to the allegations of a man who said that he had gone on an all-night gambling spree with Bing when the FBI files state quite clearly that the man "is obviously mentally deranged." In fact Bing made very few enemies during his lifetime at the top of show business.

Throughout his life, Bing refused lucrative invitations to entertain at Las Vegas because of the crime links. He raised vast amounts for charities and he gave unstintingly of his time to servicemen in WW2. A devoutly religious man who cared deeply for his family, it is manifestly unfair how he is subject to so much posthumous criticism nowadays. The statement that Bing "even left his wife and seven children for the high life and flings with co-stars such as Grace Kelly and Rhonda Fleming" is amazing! Didn't the authors know that Bing was married twice and had children by both marriages? Any liaisons with Grace Kelly and Rhonda Fleming if they occurred would have been after the death of his first wife in 1952 and before his second marriage in 1957. I am disappointed that the authors have to dig up the infamous book by one of Bing's sons and even then they can't get the title right! The book describing Bing as cruel has been discredited by the rest of Bing's sons but still the authors have to refer to it. Sadly the article overall is of the same low standard we see from certain tabloids here in the UK.

At Christmas, the time when Bing's voice is still heard everywhere, surely it is now time to give a proper balanced view of one of the major figures of the 20th Century. A retraction of your article and an apology to those it offended would not go amiss.

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