BING CROSBY'S family has closed ranks to preserve his memory as a loving father and husband in the wake of an explosive "Daddy Dearest" book written by Gary Crosby, his black-sheep son.
Bing's furious widow, Kathryn, told the STAR: "The book is the kind of filth that until recently was unprintable. Bing was not violent and the book does not resemble him in any way. I was appalled. But perhaps we should be grateful Gary hasn't done anything more than character assassination."
And Gary's own brother Philip, 48, added: "I'm positive there isn't a word of truth in it (the book) because I don't think Gary can separate truth from fiction. For as long as I've known my brother he's told lies."
In Gary's just-published memoirs Going My Own Way, he charges that he:
Lived under constant threat of harsh beatings and whippings from his father who would hit him "until he drew blood." Was constantly bullied by his father over school grades and his weight problem. He claims that Bing would taunt him with nicknames like "bucket butt." That his three brothers, Philip, Lindsay and Dennis, were imprisoned in their home so they felt "as penned up as cons in a prison." The servants were allowed to beat the boys and one maid in particular would punish them with coat-hanger beatings nearly every morning. Servants were also ordered to spy on them "under strict orders to report each and every transgression." His father drove their mother Dixie Lee to drink. His father had other women.
But "it's all a piece of trash," according to Bing's second wife of 20 years, Kathryn Crosby, 48, who also publishes her own story this month, My Life with Bing.
"The whole thing was in Gary's head. The book is a document from a creature who's full of hate. Gary has been telling everybody these things since he was a little boy. Gary has a problem. He needed a great more love than Bing could give him. Some people cannot share love. To share love with the rest of the world was intolerable for Gary," she said.
"I can only say this: I had to do the spanking in our family. Bing became physically ill at unpleasantness.
"My mother was a school teacher and she said if you do spank a child you'd better do it enough. If Gary was beaten, he wasn't beaten enough because he didn't learn anything.
"I suspect Gary had an incredible level of hostility from the time he was small. If he had the education he might have made a marvelous litigator. He would have loved to go into court and chew over someone's ankles. The sad thing is he did not train that great drive. He's frustrated. "
She pointed out that Gary, 49, a former alcoholic, first visited a psychiatrist when he was only 14 years old. "The doctor said you better get the boy in here before he kills."
Kathryn stressed that Bing always had Gary's interests at heart: "I have all the files, all the letters. Bing saved every one of Gary's letters. I have hundreds of letters when Bing was trying so desperately to help Gary with his career, how concerned he was."
She also disputed the book's statement that Dixie, who died of cancer in 1952 at the age of 40, was an alcoholic. "I know that Bing never said anything about that during our 20 years of marriage. It's not to my knowledge that she was an alcoholic."
Kathryn, who has three children from her marriage to Bing -- Harry, Mary Frances (of "Who Shot J.R. Fame") and Nathaniel, added:
"I would say that Gary has been a victim. The book was published as an exploitive piece to make money. But yes, I'm sure Gary said all those things (the book was actually written by Ross Firestone).
"There's no limit to what Gary will say about anyone or anything. I just know no friend of Bing's could have written a piece like this. It's almost like those demon movies when children are talking filth. What a shame it is. Bing thought Gary had a good voice and a good chance at a career. Gary can be utterly charming. He spent three months with me last year recovering from a heart-bypass operation. But he must never be allowed to do this to his father."
Backing Kathryn to the hilt is Philip, Gary's younger brother. "If anything, he wasn't abused enough or he wouldn't be the complete dud he is. It's a dead takeoff of Christine Crawford's book (about her mother Joan Crawford). He's 100 percent to blame for the book," Philip said.
"Gary was really a pain in the neck as a little boy. He was a liar. He would do things and look at Mom and Dad right in the face and lie right out of a situation. He always was a whining crybaby. He always felt that everyone put on him because his name was Crosby, yet he used to strut around like a rooster just smart-mouthing people saying 'I don't have to do this because my dad's Bing Crosby.'"
Philip added: "The worst part about this is his motive for writing the book. I believe, Number One, he's trying to copy Christina Crawford. Most people say it's for the money, but there's really one reason: He's so totally void of any talent, as far as he's lost his singing voice through all those years of drinking, yelling, screaming and getting sick on stage. He must have thought the only way he could keep his name in the papers and possibly get on talk shows is to write something very controversial in the hope it will snowball into as big a success as Christina Crawford's did.
"He was being interviewed on television about the book and I couldn't believe my ears -- he was trying to build a case for child abuse. My parents were strict but they weren't overstrict. They had a very definite set of rules and guidelines -- for example, don't talk back to a grown-up, never speak disrespectfully to your teachers. I would not call any of the punishment 'beatings' -- that word has the connotation of someone picking up a two-by-four and whacking you until drawing blood. Most of the time Dad just whacked him across the hands. He and Mom did use the belt once in a while, but only when we definitely deserved it."
Gary's first wife, Barbara Cosentino, who divorced him in 1981 after 19 years of marriage, said of the 'tell-all' book: "I do not know if what's in the book is true but he never said anything to me about whippings. I think it all got a little out of hand. I certainly never witnessed anything between him and his father. I couldn't believe it when I read the book because it just didn't sound like Gary. I can't pinpoint it. Gary said to me before I read it, 'It's not the same book I wrote.'"
Lindsay Crosby, 45, married three times, also defended Bing. "He was a good father. It was a happy childhood. We had our differences, but we were raised to respect our parents, to do what they said. If we didn't, we got punished."
Talking about the book, Lindsay said: "As far as I know he wrote it because it was about himself and what he felt his life was about. I don't think it had anything to do with Daddy Dearest. I understand what he's trying to prove. I don't think he did anything wrong."
And Dennis Crosby, 48, told the STAR he too had a "good childhood," adding "It was strict but I didn't see any of that (violent beatings) around me. Gary might have had it tougher because he was the oldest and got the brunt of everything."
Dennis also denied that his father drove Dixie to drink and had other women: "He had to do what he had to do because of the business he was in. That involved going away. She didn't like that and she didn't want to go, but that was between them. Yes, she was an alcoholic, a nice one. I liked her," said Dennis.
As for the book, "It's Gary's business. If people want to read it and believe it, it's their own prerogative. I don't hold grudges. I think Gary is fine except he has one heck of a temper. If he could control that he'd be fine."
When approached by STAR, Gary Crosby said: "I wouldn't like to clear up anything. Absolutely no comment."