Carroll with Bing and Bob Burns Shepherd and Slatzer's The Hollow Man

Clumsy Hatchetmen Maul
Crosby's Memory in Crude Book

Reviewed by Carroll Carroll, chief writer,
Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall, 1936-46.
(Photo: Carroll, Bing and Bob Burns)
Variety, June 17, 1981, p24.

Bing Crosby, the Hollow Man (St. Martin's Press -- $13.95) just arrived in the mail. Like all such out of the nowhere biographies of those who have achieved preeminence in their fields this one attains immediate dullness by starting with the subject's less than interesting childhood, wending its way through his nonentity-ship and ultimately presenting his perfidy with the fascinating literary fluidity found only in the first volume of the Yellow Pages. There is probably a way of writing these sneering, finger-pointing bios with some measure of class, charm and technical skill, but Messrs. Shepherd and Slatzer unfortunately haven't hit on it.

It must have been a year ago that I received a telephone call from a man who introduced himself as Don Shepherd. After assuring himself that he'd hooked up with the right Carroll Carroll he said the he and Robert F. Slatzer were writing a biography of Bing Crosby. "Does the world need another one?" I asked with all the naivete I could muster. I was assured that the one they had in mind would be different. He asked if they could come and talk to me about my 10 year association with Bing in the Kraft Music Hall.

"If you're planning a hatchet job, include me out" I said, drawing on my years of attending Samuel Goldwyn films.

They didn't. They have included information (and quoted extensively) from my book, None of Your Business now in paperback as My Life with ....

The quotes didn't bother me since they were hardly pejorative except for the one which implied that I had cooperated on the book by saying "Bing was doping the horses with a scratch sheet in his hand, Carroll told us." That's the Enquirer way. I never spoke to them about Bing or anyone else.

They also put an elliptical twist on some of the material they found in my book by saying that when Bing left the Kraft Music Hall he dropped me. He didn't. I remained a member of J. Walter Thompson Company. In the same context they said that Bing took John Scott Trotter with him. He did not. They created a fanciful spelling of the name Cal Kuhl. He was the original west coast producer of the Kraft Music Hall, but left it before the end of the run.

I don't know what other researchical mess-ups there may be in the book. Such things are not important, merely annoying.

My only wish is that the authors of Bing Crosby, The Hollow Man had attacked him (if they had to) with the rapier deftness he deserved instead of hacking at him with a dull bread knife.

Bing was a one of a kind, an eccentric, colorful, complex, talented and flawed human being who might not have given the world the great legacy of entertainment he left it had he been otherwise.

Those who knew his dark side didn't need any card catalog of his behavioral aberration. They are a comparatively small group compared to the millions who still bask in the warm glow of his charisma and talent. They did not have to have the memory of him and their pleasure in what he left them diminished by this book.

National Review, March 19, 1982, p314.
Reviewed by Terry Teachout

Discovering that Bing Crosby was an unscrupulous, drunken cad who habitually cheated on his wife is a bit like being told that apple pie causes cancer in laboratory rats. After initially brushing the whole thing off as a pack of lies, you find yourself taking in all the lurid details with horrified fascination; but, once the tale is completed, you end up wanting more than anything else to kill the messenger.

In the present case, as it happens, there are two messengers: Donald Shepherd and Robert F. Slatzer, a pair of literary hacks from California who have joined forces to turn out a demoliton job on Crosby that is barbarously written but so murderously effective that "White Christmas" may never sound the same again.

It seems that (among other things) Crosby deliberately sabotaged the careers of his fellow Rhythm Boys in order to make a start of his own, had to postpone his network radio debut because he was in the middle of a bender, drove his first wife to drink, ran out on her while she was dying of cancer, all but disowned the children of their marriage, and regularly committed adultery with his female co-stars. He even meant all those nasty things he said about Bob Hope!

Had these appalling revelations been set in the context of a balanced, intelligent biography, they would certainly have evoked the worst kind of dismay: Shepherd and Slatzer, though, are more than content to stick to their hatchets, causing ennui to set in well before the final chapter. Readers of Bing Crosby: The Hollow Man will get no sense at all of Crosby's remarkable and lasting stature as a popular artist, though they will find out that he never learned to read music. In the end, one simply wonders why the authors even bothered to write about someone for whom they obviously cared so little.

Library Journal, May 1, 1981, p990.
Reviewed by Christopher Schemering

This is a needlessly sensational dossier on the star's personality and emotional make-up. The actor-singer emerges as a cold, greedy, ungrateful man who walked over everyone in his path, was alternately indifferent to and overly strict with his family, and was unconscionably cruel to his first wife. Although the book will probably be popular due to the often shocking disclosures, the authors provide little background information on Crosby's career. To their credit, they do correct many inaccuracies of previous, authorized efforts: but the book is marred by gratuitous editorializing and lack of critical acumen.

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