Reporting from Hofstra ...

Sue Horn posted 11/14/02 10:38 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
This mini report will be followed up on tomorrow and the next day, I just wanted to let all of you know that this event is doing Bing proud. It is a pleasure to see new and old Bing fan faces here, and the program has been so complete that it is almost grueling. Jane, Judy and I have been enjoying it a lot. Also here are Arne, Malcolm, Wig, Greg, Harold, and many more!! I am in seventh heaven, if the truth be told. Today I bought Mrs. Crosby's new book (which is beautiful, much like the paperback version of the first tome, with more color pictures and a heart-rending dedication from Bob Hope on the back cover). I met her for the first time, and she is a charming woman. She asked all of us to help out with getting more Bing video and music out there, even asking for help cleaning out the family home' basement which has a mold problem, and some tapes run the risk of being damaged. Ken Barnes was as articulate as ever, regaling us all with his memories of Bing, Fred Astaire and Joe Bushkin (who tells it like it is himself at 86). Buddy Bregman is another great speaker who stressed how close he felt to Bing and how he wished he'd had as great a father. He told of how Bing had asked Buddy to call him anytime day or night if he ever found Gary in a situation that could have been dangerous for him. Buddy had to perform that duty 3 times. He contrasted Gary and Phil, sharing memories of working with the younger Crosby boys and with Bing himself. Ruth Prigozy, the organizer of this event, is a big Bing fan herself, and thank God she's an organized and very capable one. Gary Giddins, of course, is a treasure trove of information and admiration of our beloved crooner. And what I've shared with you is merely the first hour of this event, so you can imagine how tired your three correspondents are!!

The second session that Jane and I attended was the one on Songwriters and Bing Crosby. It was nice to hear the recollections of Linda Emmet (Irving Berlin's daughter), Rory Burke (Johnny Burke's daughter), Margaret Whiting and Will Friedwald. The sesion was a bit more anecdotal than I would have liked, but the interventions were heartfelt and on the whole new information. Ervin Drake was also on that panel. Harold went to the concurrent panel on Bing and American Catholicism, which he reported as being very interesting.

The lunch interview with Buddy Bregman (led by Gary Giddins) was wonderful!! I wish it could have lasted twice as long.

The tribute to Rosemary Clooney brought a tear to more than a few eyes, and all I can say is that Gabriel Ferrer was raised right! What a gracious man. This panel was to honor his mother, and he kept recalling how much Bing had o do with her comeback and her success. The clips shown were nice, and it was great to see Rosie on a big screen!!

I missed the panel on White Christmas the SOng, so someone else will have to report on that, as Jane and I went to the panel on Bing Abroad. It was great to hear how bing is beloved in England and Australia. We were even treated to some Michael Holliday recordings and a report from Kenn Crossland on that talented singer who made it his business to live out a tribute to Bing and his music.

We had to run out of that panel a little early to make sure we made it to Arne's talk and concert. I loved every word he said and could relate to his reactions to having been a misfit youth who (at the time) appreciated Bing's talents much more than those of the Beatles. Arne's singing was a revelation to me. The influence of Bing's phrasing and style, the way Bing identifies the life and soul of a song seemingly effortlessly, that is also there in Arne's singing. Yet his voice is all his own, and it was great to hear him.

Judy will have to report on the Panel on Bing and WWII, which was at the same time as Arne's. Finally, Jane, Judy and I enjoyed an evening of Crsoby Films and Videos, hosted by Bob DeFlores (who sitll harbors hopes of finding the elusive Just and Echo), Martin McQuade and Thomas Inge. Unfortunately, that meant we had to miss three other concurrent panels!! There is just too much to do here.

More tomorrow!! And Carmel, just look for the deliriously happy trio of female Bing fans and you'll find us no problem. We'll be looking out for you on Saturday.

Wayne Martin, Club Crosby posted 11/15/02 12:57 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Hi Sue and all:
Last night I dreamed I went to Hofstra University but couldn't find the building. I wandered through vast valleys and high mountains until I finally spotted it. Then I couldn't remember what I was supposed to do there. In sheer frustration, I got up and did a crossword puzzle.

Looks like you did a lot better than I did, Sue, and I'm sure Greg, Arne, Carmela and all the rest are enjoying the conference and all that it offers.

Steven Lewis posted 11/15/02 03:05 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
A fascinating coincidence, Wayne. I had a similar dream two nights ago. I recall getting to the city and searching for Hofstra in my rental car. I was in a downtown area and someone pointed out Hofstra to me and it looked like a deserted grocery store. I couldn't find a Bing fan anywhere. Where is Dr. Freud when you need him? At least, Wayne, we have Sue and our dreams!
Sue Horn posted 11/15/02 11:04 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Day 2 Report:

The conference is sold out. They have a 330-person capacity, and the place is full!! In fact, it has been for a few months. Isn't that heartening to all of you?

Today was even better than yesterday, if you can imagine that. I have met so many older Bing fans that didn't believe that there were 300 of us left in the world. I have set them straight and turned their eyes toward this site, where we must be at least 700 strong or more.

It is amazing how well this event has been organized, and the one at Gonzaga in May will be even better, I think. Those of you having Freudian dreams must take heed and start planning to be there in May (Steven and Wayne, take note!!!!!!!). It is the only way to dispell the strange dreams, believe me. Plus, there will never again be another 100-year birthday celebration for Bing. If we need to take up a collection to get you two and anyone elsw out to Washington for this celebration, well, that's just what we will have to do.

Today, watching people whose lives have been touched directly or tangentially by our favorite crooner, I was kicking myself that this wasn't done ten or fifteen years earlier. Rosemary Clooney would definitely have been out in force, as would Dorothy Lamour, Bob Hope and countless others. With each month that passes, those who worked directly with our Bing are fewer and more infirm. Please try to go to Gonzaga, all of you. I'm already working on my family to get the whole gang to go.

You can't imagine what it feels like to see a collection of clips prepared by an Irish film fan who lost his wife this last year but who still put together this labor of love and came to the conference (George O'Reilly). I think I've been to at least 500 such events in my lifetime (paid conferences, I mean, as an interpreter, all over the world). I can honestly say that this one is very special. The comeraderie, the good feeling, the celebration of music and life... I'm not being half as clear as I'd like to be, but I think you can get the idea.

Let me tell you what touched me most today. Yesterday I'd met a couple that was here mostly for Fred Astaire. They are local and come to many of the events at Hofstra (and this university has a great cultural program going on, by the way). They had heard rumors about Bing and what a bad father he allegedly was and whatnot (but in any case they came). Of course they've heard the others sharing their love of Bing, how he gave himself fully to each person with whom he came in contact, how generous he was in spirit and in action. Anyway, on a panel about Fred and Bing, Fred Astaire's daughter was one of the keynote speakers. My friend Ted waited patiently on line at the end of the marvelous session (which by the way, filled the house), and when he got to talk to Fred's daughter (who'd flown in from Ireland), he had a little Fred statuette that was the prized possession in his memorabilia collection. He set it o the table and when she saw it, she was so moved that she couldn't speak at first. They exchanged pleasantries, and Ted asked Fred's daughter if she wanted the statue. She was floored and asked if he was serious, hoping against hope that he was. Ted told me that he hadn't intended to give it to her, but once he's gone someone will else have it anyway, and who better than Fred's daughter, Ava. Well, that moved me to tears. I told Ted that I was glad to know him. I think he's become more of a Bing fan in this whole process as well. I'm sure a big Ted fan now, I'll tell you.

Welll, I'm blabbering, so I won't go on any more about the excellent sessions (Skitch Henderson, Nick Perito, Moselle Seger (the Crosby family accountant), Gord Atkinson, Jack Ellsworth, plus all the people I mentioned yesterday). I won't go into how hard it was to choose between fora on Bing on the radio, Bing and the other singers, The Cultural and Historical Background of the Crosby Era, and much more. I won't tell you how wonderful it was to sing along with Kathryn and she chose to sing Pennies from Heaven, Moonlight Becomes you and The Second Time Around as she shared exceprts from her wonderful book. She was showing clips of Bing and Mary Francis during the second song, and her voice broke (who knows why MF isn't here), and we all had to jump in and help her finish singing. The swelling voices of the crowd, all of whom knew every word and nuance of phrasing, was sooooooooooo nice.

I won't tell you of the special session by Joe Franklin, about the banquet, about Margaret Whiting's recollections, about how happy I am to be here.

Instead, I'll roll into bed and try to get enough energy to make the most of tomorrow's sessions.

Guys, you have got to take part the next time, this really is the chance of a lifetime.

Keith H posted 11/16/02 03:51 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Sue captured the scene and activity very well. I just returned home (Philadelphia metro) skipping Saturday afternoon sessions in order to avoid night driving in the rain. The first two days were a lot running from 8 in the am to 10pm Friday and because of the banquet after 11 on Saturday. I'm savoring the event and was afraid that any more input might just begin to dilute all that I was trying to hold on to. Kathryn truly impressed and had, in addition to her speaking and entertaining activity, time for everyone that wanted to talk to her. Gary Giddens was the other event star and he has earned his interview with Kathryn for volumn two.
A special treat for me was seeing Phillip Furia, the author of three wonderful books about lyricists , and his presentation about Mercer and his relationship and envy of Bing. Great stuff and I look forward to his next book about Mercer which promises to include much about Bing. Steve and Wayne..... you would have really enjoyed this event. I hope your dreams don't become nightmares. I have attended, programmed and spoken at many many conferences but this one was outstanding. An occasional microphone hog but all-in-all a most satisfying activity.
Met the lady representing Gonzaga and that event should be worthwhile as well. She'll be contacting you Steven to get linked and talk to you about their plans.
Another interesting presentation was that of Ken Crossland who described the meteoric rise but tragic demise of Michael Holliday, the UK's Bing Crosby. I agree too with Sue about Gabe Ferrer. Had forgotten he was married to Debbie Boone. Fun too to see and talk to "Wig", Malcolm Mac Farlane, Ken Barnes, Greg Van Beek, Arne Fogle, Gary Giddens, Joe Franklin, Bob DeFlores, Howard Crosby, Bing's nephew (scratch golfer)who is only about 6'5 and 300 lbs, Will Friedwald, and Skitch Henderson and of course I even got to meet the peripatetic Sue horn who should win the most enthusastic attendee prize. I never did find or even see Lois.. er Judy Schmid. At dinner I sat next to two female collegians from Vancouver, Washington who said that they are Bing fans and play his music often despite some funny looks that come there way. Gary's son Steven made some thoughtful remarks that I had hoped might be expanded upon but were certainly positive about Bing and Gary. There were wonderful videos and film on Thursday night for 3 hours, the affore- mentioned George Reilly video and others mixed in with the presentations.
I Met some great folks and will long remember this timely lead-in to Bing's 100th birthday. Hope to make it to Spokane and see more of you there.
Jim Kukura posted 11/17/02 12:36 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Well, Sue us the fastest with the mostest, but I still want to get in here with my own observations, and maybe a slightly male view. I say this because I spent most of my time with Sue Horn, Jane Fitzgerald, and Judy Schmid, and they obviously look at Bing as a romantic figure. They are three delightful, dedicated, and just nice, warm ladies. I would have had them all to myself, but Howard Crosby, Bing's nephew (Ted's son), kind of threw in with us, and since he is about a third taller than me, a third younger, and inherited a good Crosby singing voice, this old man did not stand a chance. But is was fun and educational to be with all of them.

I found my first conference, "Bing And American Catholicism", to be very informative and thought provoking. One of the panalists was Elaine Phillips, a fellow Bing board poster. We got to chat for a while at the Sunday wrap-up reception, and she too is a delightful and talented young lady. And she is loaded with academic credentials, so I'll have to watch my spelling more closely. I then attended the "Bing Crosby And World War II" sesseion that Sue has already referred to.

Friday's last session, for me, was "An Evening of Crosby Films and Videos". Bob DeFlores, of Festival Films, did an excellent job of putting together an video presentation of Bing, including a number of rare film appearences of Bing that I had never seen, or never seen in their entirety. Bing's screen test to play Will Rodgers, was one that went a lot further than the small snippet I had seen in the past.
And I have to tell you that I had the opportunity to talk with Bob DeFlores and his associate, Ron Hall, a few times, and you could not meet two nicer, or approachable gentlemen. Thank heaven for the wonderful film presentation work they do for Bing and others, although Bob made it clear that Bing was his favorite, and he also told stories of the times he met Bing.

Saturday, and here we go again. The first session was "Working With Bing". Ken Barnes, Skitch Henderson, Buddy Bregman, and Nick Perito were the panelists. They were all great and told beautiful, warm stories of working with Bing. Before the discussion, I was wondering what the connection was of Skitch Henderson with Bing. Well, just when you think you've heard every wonderful story there is about Bing, you find out that you've just barely scratched the surface. I took no notes, so If I remember things less than accurately, please excuse. In 1943, Skitch (before he was Skitch, a name Bing would create from Sketch), was a sergeant in the RAF flying combat missions from North Africa. He was on leave in England, and they needed a substitute piano player to accompany Bing. Sometime after that, Bing told the Military that he did not want to see this young piano player killed, would like to use him, and wanted to be transferred from the RAF to the USAF. And transferred Henderson was. Talk about clout. Skitch also told the story of the best advice he ever got. After the war he was playing piano on Bing's radio show. He happened to pass by while someone was making unkind remarks about his playing. He took the follow by the collar, and had him pinned up against the wall, and Bing walked by. Bing immediately told Skitch to get into his office. Bing then explained that you never solved problems with confrontation or violence. You would try to work it out, compromise, or just walk away because confrontation and violence was counter productive. Skitch says he still thinks about that advice every day of his life. All the other panelists told equally heartwarming stories of Bing.

Next was the keynote address by Gary Giddens who is a wealth of knowledge, and who also gave some revelation on gathering and verifying information for biographies such as Bing's. The only time that any reference was made during the conference, at least where I was in attendance, of "The Hollow Man", and I never heard any reference to "Going My Own Way", by Gary Crosby.

Next I went to the "Radio Hosts And Bing Crosby" panel. Again there were stories of actual face to face encounters with Bing, and always of very complimentary stories of Bing interacting with DJs and the like. There was also discussion of the lack of Bing and contemporaries being played on the radio, with no satisfactory answer or suggestions for improvements.

Then came lunch and "Remembering Bing Crosby" by family and others. Steven Crosby, Bing's granson, Gary Crosby's son, told some warm stories about his grandfather. He went to Bing one day, with great trepidation, to ask his grandfather to appear at a benefit at Steven's college. After listening for a while, Bing said "Where do you want me to be and when", the same response I would hear in other stories when Bing was being prevailed upon. Steven then said Bing took him to his basement and sent him back to college with 8 cases of Olympia beer, from what Steven described as the largest collection of beer he had ever seen in his life. Howard Crosby, a good high school athelite, told of the time his family was going up to visit Bing and called ahead to see if Bing could get tickets to the Giant game, who just happened to be playing the Pirates. After they arrived at Bing's, he told them to be ready to leave at 2:00pm, which they thought strange for a 5:00pm game. When they arrived, then 16 year-old Howard found out that Bing had arranged for him to suit up and take batting practice with the Pirates, and sit in the dugout next to manager, Danny Murtuagh for the entire game.
It was just one warm story after another.

The next panel I attended was "Bing And Other Singers" i believe it was here that I saw the 1926 short film, WITH SOUND (a year before "The Jazz Singer" was released) of Al Jolson singing three songs. Another piece of film history saved by Festival Films.

I went with others to the library display on Crosbyanna, and saw a few things I had never seen before, and some I had only seen photos of. Then we went to the wonderful special address by Kathryn Crosby and the songs she sang, accompanied by Nick Perito on Piano. As I listened to Kathryn speak, it dawned on me that I was witnessing one reason that Bing and Kathryn were attracted to one another. She definately has the same streak of modesty and aversion to compliments that Bing had. Hofstra University president, Stuart Rabinowitz had given Kathryn a glowing and lengthy accomplishment based introduction. Kathryn mentioned several times what good fortune she had in her life and that it was all possible because she had won the title, at a Houston livestock show, of "Miss Fat Stock" But she truly is a lovely and gracious lady, a remarkable talent in her won right, but very much dedicated to Bing and his legacy.

Since we were assigned to tables at Friday night's Gala Banquet, I had the opportunity to meet several more Bing fans that I had not previously talked to. Everything was behind schedule and I had to leave just after Margaret Whiting began her singing.

Saturday morning, my first conference was "Fans Speak Of Bing". Sister Mary Francis Moore, Greg Van Beek, "Wig" Wiggins, Malcolm Macfarlane, and Ronald Field from Australia, all told wonderful stories. Sister Mary Francis was particluarly amusing in how she once had to change a clock back with a window pole so that shoe could watch a Bing show after the convent's deadline for turning off the TV set.

Next came a very interesting panel on "The Collections". Two that impressed me were the Gonzaga Universtiy collection and the work going on there to catelog and eventually commercially produce CDs from 16 inch transcription records of Bing material. And the U.S. government's National Archive Resources apparently hold a treasure trove of Bing material. Included in the handout was a copy of the 1920 census, dated in very early January, which lists Harry Crosby as being 16 years old. Do the math. He would be 17 in May of that year showing he was born in 1903.

Next I want to "The Actor" panel, a little thin since a major panesist did not show up. A lunch interview with Nick Perito was very good. Nick was an arranger, Conductor, and Music Director on a number of Bing's TV shows. When you hear Bing say "Hit it, Nick", this is the man Bing is taking too. Nick did the TV arrangement for "White Christmas". Next was "Crosby's Versatility In Film" which generated some lively debate on Bing's acting career. The last two panels I attended, "The Irish Connection" and "Bing and The Girl Singers" tended to get off the subject some, but were still informative and enjoyable.

I also got to spend some time talking with Malcolm Mecfarlane and "Wig" Wiggins, two very cordial and hard working Bing experts. "Wig" has forgiven me for any past transgressions and did not take me to too much task when he spotted me nodding during a panel he was part of. It sure was not "Wig" or the subjest matter. I went to bed about 1:30 Wednesday night (Thursday morning) and got up at 4:00 to be on the road by 5:00. I arrived at Hofstra about 8:15.
Leaving about 10:30 on Thurdsay and Friday night, I would arrvive at my dad's just before midnight. I would talk to him for about 45 minutes and try to sleep in a room I last slept in in 1967, in a bed I was not used to. It would take a while for me to drift off, and the alarm was set for 5:00 so I could be on the road by 6:00. So I was one tired little puppy the entire time.

Ther were not too many dissapointments, and they were far overshadowed by the good. It was unfortunate that none of Bing's children attended. Also, since some panelists were on several panels over the three days, you heard the same stories twice and three times. The worst part for me was dealing with New York drivers on the road, and paying an outlandish $6.00 every day to cross the Gothals Bridge from New Jersey to Staten Island, and $7.00 to cross from Staten Island to Long Island on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

The good was great. The Hofstra Universtiy staff and students, all the panelists and guests, and the many regular fans were all super terrific. I heard more new stories about Bing's warmth and generostiy than I thought possible. I now wonder how many similar stories there are that we will never know about. I learned a lot and learned that I still have so much more to still learn about. And I have hope that there are many Bing video and sound appearences that I have the opportunity to obtain some day and add to my Bing library.

I know I probably forgot dozens of things I would like to have mentioned. Hopefully, other can cover the many things
I failed to remember. Gonzaga may be out of my reach, quite a trip by automobile, but If I can find a way, I'll get there.
Judy Schmid posted 11/17/02 02:52 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Hello - it's me! Hi everyone! First of all, let me apologize for not posting sooner - I just drove home from Hofstra (5 hrs)and had to show off all my signed books and CDs and tell my family my stories.

Second of all, I was unable to get a laptop to bring with me.

I hereby relinquish my Lois-Lane moniker to Sue, who brought a laptop and was a 'good girl', she went to her room at the end of the day and typed up her reports. I, on the other hand, went to the hotel bar..... I did bring a camera everywhere, but so did everyone else (hooray!)...there was a moment when I was drinking Jameson's Irish whiskey, just soaking up a witty conversation being held in front of me by Bing Crosby's nephew and Fred Astaire's daughter...and I didn't 'snap it'. Guess I was too 'in the moment'...

It was wonderful, and a bit surreal...and Keith - sorry you didn't see me - I was 'everywhere' - as people's photos will most likely prove... ;-)

Ken, Mr Lurker, I know you're out there - I'm happy you introduced yourself to me! And to those other folks I met who will start posting here - welcome!

Steven and Wayne - I'm sorry you didn't attend...but as Greg said, there are audio cassettes available - contact me privately and we'll start getting you the information you need for this board and Club Crosby.

judy (still on Cloud 99)

ps - no, I'm not hungover, for those of you curious...just drained! ;-)
Jane FitzGerald posted 11/17/02 03:21 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Judy, I can't believe you beat me to a posting today!!! I was up before dawn (Bing would be proud) and made my flight, but needed to get back to the realities of my life before I signed on. As Judy, I'm drained. I've unpacked and am, as I type, sipping on the hot toddy I've wanted for days! The conference was, as you've all surmised, wonderful, albeit intensive. There was so much information to absorb and so many sessions so close together that it is difficult at this point to look back and find the best nuggets. My film has been dropped off for developjng (Judy had a digital camera, so hopefully we'll some shots on this site before I see my own) and I'll share whatever comes out and looks interesting.

Over the next couple of days as we sort through materials, notes and collectibles, lots of stories will be recalled and I look forward to reviewing them with all of you - stories from other attendees and my own.

One comment cannot wait. Part of the joy of the conference was the opportunity to meet in person some of the folk who have become regulars here on the bulletin board (I've taken to calling us "the faithful"). And meeting many of you there...Jim, Sue, Judy, Arne, Carmela, Wig, Greg, Malcolm (and others - please forgive me for leaving anyone out; I'm still spaced...and, actually, Keith, I never saw you, did I? So many people, so much to do!) But I digress. My point is that Crosby fans are the nicest people in the world! It was such a delight to share my life-long love for Bing with other folk who share my interest. I feel that I've now made life-long friends of many of you. And the rest, I'll just have to meet another time!

Judy had posed a question at one of the sessions asking if anyone's interest in following Bing's career had diminished at any point, only to be reawakened later in his or her life. I realized later that I should have shared this: while I never stopped for a moment being a fan of Bing, my stance as fan/collector has been enhanced since I discovered this bulletin board. The information available here has made the fan/collector experience so much more enjoyable, accessible and rewarding than ever before. Thank you, Steven.

Only other comment: Jim Kukura walks faster than any other person on the face of the earth. Happy birthday, Jim!

Later friends, Jane :-)

P.S. My cat, Bing, was really happy to see me come home.
Carmela posted 11/17/02 03:59 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
I didn't get to attend event the first 2 days but made sure I got there Saturday. I really enjoyed meeting all you nice Bingers! Judy, Jane and Sue I only wish I had more time to spend with you girls. I must appologize for acting a little dopey[usually it from my pills but this time I think it was Bingitis.].Maybe[like someone suggested] we bingers on the East coast could get together once a year. I would love to get to know all of you and chat about Bing and other things.Hey, Jim I look at Bing as a romantic figure too! Jane, Judy and Sue I saw your faces as Bing clips were being shown[They were saying "He was so cute!"]I met so many people and all really impressed me. Kathryn, was so nice and spoke to me for a half hour, she also signed my shirt and book for me. She even let me pose for pictures with her. What a beautiful woman inside and out. Please let me know when cassettes come out , I missed many panels I would have liked to attended. Jane, I have a parakeet named Bing and he has a deep voice and is the color of Bing's eyes.Didn't it feel like Bing was there? Especially when hanging around Kathryn. Wow! What a feeling! Thank you all for being so nice to me!!
Sue Horn posted 11/18/02 09:21 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
There is not much to add to this chorus of voices, and the only thing I want to say is that after the conference I saw my sister, Linda, in the city for "Oklahoma". After the show, we dropped in at Joe Franklin's bar (good food there by the way, and I hope to get to see Bing Cherries sometime before it disappears). Anyway, Lin was asking me somewhat curiously what one could do at a Bing Crosby conference for three whole days. Once she got me started, I couldn't stop babbling. I had her in tears after a while, and I must say, Bing's memory is really alive and well.

I know that we all met you Kieth, and I do have your photo and will send it on to you tonight or tomorrow when things get back to normal.

Jim, you should have no worries about being displaced in our affections. There's room for Howard and you in the hearts of this boards distaff Bingfans!! It was one of the highlights of the conference to get to know you. Sharing a few meals, you actually have time to talk to people. The same goes for the time I spent with Arne. He is one of the nicest people, as many of you must already know. When I would make a comment that was off-the-wall, he would never cross his eyes or look at me in amazement, he would think about what it is that I had probably meant to say and continue with the conversation!! I miss you all already. Jane, you and Judy sahould listen up here. You are folks that I do not want to lose touch with either. Let's figure out how to keep this contact going after Hofstra!! And I have a couple of requests for you (tapewise) and movies to send, so we'll have to be in touch soon offlist.

Gotta get back to work, I'll tell you more details about the sessions I attended on Saturday and Friday that have not yet been reported on here.

Bing lives!
Jane FitzGerald posted 11/18/02 02:35 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Remember Bing's comment in his autobiography about putting a coin in the jukebox to see what memory might play back? I have a new appreciation for that. Memories of the Hofstra conference keep playing through my head. Pardon the sporatic logging on; my memory's not what it used to be. Howard Crosby told me that the session he most enjoyed was the one on Bing and jazz, which I enjoyed also. There are many of you here on the board who are much more knowledgeable of music than I (I really don't understand what a mordant is), but the panel did a fine job of presenting the jazz-singer we all love. Howard was especially pleased with this one because he runs into so many people who don't associate Bing with jazz at all.

One of my personal favorite sessions was The Irish Connection, what with my heritage and connection to our local Celtic festival. It was a joy to meet and talk with George O'Reilly, who incidentally contributed MUCH to the conference as a whole. As a part of the pre-gala festivities, we were treated (and I mean treated) to a film covering Bing's career. When the lights went up there wasn't a dry eye in the house. When we filed in for dinner we were all handed an envelope with our table seating number on it and IN it was a music cd prepared especially by George. What a delightful man.

Everyone I met was delightful. Carol, thanks for bringing your Bing scrapbook and sharing it with all of us. Bill G., thanks for sharing your "Seasons" tunes. Keith, I realized when you said you looked like Johnny Carson that we did, indeed meet,
and I apologize for the oversight. (Actually I thought I had said that in a posting this morning, but maybe I didn't send it after all. I'm blaming the head cold I fought off till I got home and not my age!)

Jim Kukura, you are NOT an old man. You are a warm and funny guy who added to the Hofstra experience for all of us, even if you do walk too fast! Sue, don't worry, I've got a feeling that you, Judy and I will be in touch! Maybe we could plan a little spoof on the Andrews Sisters for'll have to be off-key, though if I'm in the trio!

More from the juke box as memories spin on...
Elaine Phillips posted 11/19/02 09:09 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I finally have a chance to chime in. I really enjoyed putting faces to names and I just wish I could have met more of you. I really enjoyed chatting with Judy, Arne, Jim and Howard and I'm sorry I never really got a chance to meet Sue and Carmela. Anyway, the juke box memories that pop out in my head are

1) hearing Howard sing "Pennies from Heaven" to Rory Burke (Johnny's daughter);

2) Seeing the Rhythm Boys clip from King of Jazz and realizing even that early Bing had "It"--I couldn't take my eyes off of him although Harry Barris was practically climbing all over the piano

3) meeting Ava Astaire McKenzie and having her sign my program for my sister, a die-hard Fred fan;

4) watching a clip of Frank Sinatra, Bing, and Peggy Lee singing a piano medley with a much younger Joe Bushkin zipping away at the keys--with Peggy Lee's daughter sitting right under the large screen version of her mother;

and just meeting dozens and dozens of people who came from all walks of life and all sharing stories about Bing and their admiration/affection for him. It was by far the best academic conference I ever went to and I am now seriously thinking of treating myself to a trip out to Gonzaga to meet everyone else again.

Thanks for the nice compliment on the paper, Jim, and once again I want to thank Judy for her generosity. Hope to see a bunch of you again in May!
Arne posted 11/19/02 05:42 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Sorry to be so late with this, but I just got home! I went directly from the conference to my sister's place in Morristown, NJ, and had a little RandR for a few days......

What can I say? A crazy, tumultuous, hectic, joyful, stressful, busy, educational, revealing, amazing, and totally unique experience that was satisfying in almost every way.

One of the standout experiences, of course, is the thrill of meeting the people who post regularly on this board; people you already feel like you know, as if they've sprung forth from the computer screen and come to life: Sue Horn, Jane FitzGerald, Judy Schmid, and Elaine Phillips - I want you to know that I've already developed major crushes on all four of you (I'm such an impetuous youth). Those who weren't able to get to the conference should know that these ladies are totally the terrific people they seem to be from their many communications on this website (Carmela, I'm sorry I didn't get to meet you). Great meeting Jim Kukura and Edwin Garcia, super guys from this board who were fun to talk to and hang with as well, and of course Greg Van Beek (and his Dad) who I met last year.

Some of the celebs and Crosby-connected people were wonderful to get to know: Howard Crosby (Bing's nephew) was such a nice guy, and genuinely honored to be a part of the event, I think. I actually got to harmonize with him, and we traded our CDs! Just a marvelous, down-to-earth pleasure. Nicky Foster (Peggy Lee's daughter) was a sweetheart, Johnny Burke's daughter Rory was a panic, and heroes like Ken Barnes and Will Friedwald were approachable, charming, and available at all times for questions or just to chat. Of course this also goes for people like Gary Giddins and Kathryn Crosby, whom I've been lucky enough to have gotten to know previously. Then there's the joy of finally meeting, in the flesh, the people who have enhanced our Crosby enjoyment for so many years: Malcolm McFarlane, Michael Crampton, Ken Crossland, Gord Atkinson, and especially Wig Wiggins. I'm so pleased that I've finally had the chance to meet you all in person.

Some standout moments for me:
The first day was a blur, trying to get myself together for my presentation in the face of a serious headcold which robbed me of sleep and a good deal of my ability to sing. Nevertheless, I was fascinated by the panels I witnessed, especially the Clooney tribute with Giddins, Barnes, Margaret Whiting, etc.

I gave my presentation at 5pm, and it seemed to go OK.

I really enjoyed the Crosby video programs put together that evening by Bob DeFlores and Martin McQuade, who was curator of the magnificent Crosby "museum" of wonderful memorabilia elsewhere on the premises. While watching the films was great, I managed to steal myself over to the tail-end of a concurrent set of late-nite panels in a different section of the main building where such scholarly subjects as "Bing and the Minstrel tradition", etc. were being discussed. Lively, stimulating (at times heated) discussion. I loved it.

Next day, informative talks by Skitch Henderson, Buddy Bregman, Nick Perito, and Ken Barnes on the subject of what it was like to actually work with Bing. Gary Giddins' keynote address followed, and I was reminded of the fact that this event was more than just a convention of "fans", it was a serious study into the cultural significance of a major player in the world of the 20th century, and to be treasured as such - those of us who moan about Bing not being taken seriously will never have to complain again; it just doesn't get much more "serious" than a three day scholarly conference!

Later that day I had the priviledge of being part of a panel of broadcasters (all New York legends except for little old midwestern me!) on the subject of "Radio Hosts and Bing Crosby". I was proud to be in their company, and I got to contribute a little bit. ONly problem is, I had to miss Ava Astaire in a concurrent panel.

Well, I'm going to have to end this little rememberance now, It's time for dinner. But I'll be back with "part two" later on......
Howard Crosby posted 11/20/02 10:18 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Hello to everyone from Hofstra! I must start by saying a big thanks to Dr. Ruth Prigozy and the people at Hofstra who put this magnificent conference together. It was very memorable for me, and I think it could serve as the jump off point for a thorough re-evaluation of Uncle Bing's role in the development of American popular music. Clearly, the scholars in attendance were of the unanimous opinion that Bing Crosby was the seminal figure in the evolution of American popular song.

It was such fun to meet the people who regularly post on this board, Judy(you drink like an Irshman), Jane, Jim (I don't think you had too much competition from a 280 lb bald guy!), Sue, Arne(who did a nice rendition of some classic Bing songs), Greg(who did a fine job moderating a panel that I saw)Carmela, Malcolm and the British contingent, Ron and the Aussie contingent, and all the others I'm forgetting. I feel like I made some great new friends there.

Also, special thanks to Professor Elaine Phillips from Tennessee, and Professor MaryAnn Josnick from Chicago for their excellent papers on Bing and American Catholicism, and to my old friend George O'Reilly from Dublin for all his hard work and generosity and to the other scholars who put so much time and effort into this endeavor.

So what were the highlights for me? Well, if forced to choose, I would say that the presentations by Will Friedwald and Gary Giddens, which have begun to restore Bing's proper place in the pantheon of American jazz singers, topmy list. For years, I have been greated by either blank stares or mock disbelief when I tellpeople that Bing was a great jazz singer. As they point out, no lessauthorities than Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald knew that Bing was a GREAT jazz singer.

Also, until I heard Nick Perito, and saw his film clip, I didn't know that in all of his concerts after 1979, Perry Como opened each show with a twenty minute tribute to Bing Crosby. Watching the film of Perry walking onstage to the theme of "Where the Blue of the Night", and telling the audience that Bing was the greatest of all popular singers, sent chills down my spine. I might add that I met Mr. Como twice, and he was the nicest, most thoughtful and decent guy in the history of entertainment. He was pure goodness itself.

Once again, I could ramble on for pages of this, but suffice to say I can't tosee all of my new friends in Spokane!
David Robbins posted 11/20/02 10:26 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I tried to post this a couple of days ago but for some reason it didnít take. The conference has by now been pretty well summarized but Iíll try to tack on a few impressions. It was an amazing three days. First off, I got to shake hands with Kathryn Crosby. I've never been one much for autographs. A handshake is more meaningful for me and I think I would rather shake hands with Kathryn Crosby than Martha Washington or Mary Lincoln. It was a thrill. She was wonderful. I imagine Bing fans can get to be a pain from time to time but she was really superbly sweet to us. She treated us like family. She even read and sang to us with the accompaniment of Nick Perito who has lost none of his virtuosity at the piano. In a way we were like family. Crosby fans just donít get together often enough -- only a few times every hundred years.
I got to see Malcolm, Wig and Laura. I met Sue Horn and Greg Van Beek, Ken Barnes, Joe Buskin, Margaret Whiting, Will Friedwald, Joe Franklin, Gary Giddins and so many others. It was great fun meeting Howard Crosby who was very generous with his time. He told me a story about how his Uncle Bing was once driving him to visit an aunt (I think it was Mary Rose) and when the conversation subsided, Bing sang for 45 minutes. Can you imagine what that must have been like? I listen to Bing almost every day in my car too but I have to put in a tape or cd. Howard sang a few bars of "Pennies From Heaven" to Rory Burke in the lobby and I'm not kidding you, he can really sing. Howard said he never sang in Bingís presence but Bing was probably more impressed with golfers anyway.
There were a few moments that stood out. Rosemary Clooney's son, Gabriel Ferrer, told a great story (tongue in cheek with obvious affection) about Bingís daughter. Mr. Ferrer said when they were children; Mary Francis Crosby was a "demon child", who lived to get him in trouble. She evidently conned him into swimming with sharks among other things. Gabriel has the distinction of being one of the few people who caused Bing Crosby to lose his cool.
Buddy Bregman opened the last session (Bing and the Gal Singers) up to questions since one of the panelists didnít make it. He was brilliant. He has led a fascinating life and I would definitely wait in line to buy his book if he ever writes one. I would recommend that tape along with any session that involved Gary Giddins who implied that being Crosbyís biographer hasnít been exactly lucrative. Thatís a shame because in years to come you wonít be able to reference either Crosby or Giddins without mentioning the other. The two are linked like Johnson and Boswell. The second part of the biography is at least two years away, according to Mr. Giddins, partly because a work of this magnitude takes time but also because he has to make a living in the meantime.
Bob DeFlores showed about four hours of rare films the first night and they were terrific. Bing Crosby was wearing hats even in the late 1920ís. There were lots of great insights over the course of the three days but most of us were happiest when someone showed us film clips or played audio bites. We got to see a few rare clips of Crosby and Louis Armstrong. There was definitely no faking the fun when these two guys were together. Bing danced with Fred Astaire because it was part of the number but with Louis, he just danced because he felt like it. Speaking of Fred Astaire, his daughter, Eva, seems to have inherited her dadís classy modesty. Itís funny. I read somewhere that Fred Astaire didnít like to do love scenes because they made him uncomfortable. According to Eva, they made Fredís wife uncomfortable and so now we know the rest of the story.
It was a great three days. Iím sorry I didnít meet more people from this website but maybe next time. After three days of sitting I ended up with a very sore back but my spirits are high. I still canít quite believe I got to shake hands with Kathryn Crosby.
Arne posted 11/20/02 05:14 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Okay, here's part two......
Ran back after my "Radio hosts and Bing Crosby" to the "Remembering Bing panel", but missed most of it. Heard Buddy Bregman, whose friendship with both Bing and Gary Crosby was always good for special stories and insight. "Bing and Other Singers" featured my good friend, Prof. Philip Furia, who used to be at the U. of MN. His talk regarding Bing and Johnny Mercer was fascinating and revealing, and I can't wait for his upcoming book on Mercer to be published. At the official opening of the conference exhibition "Bing's Diversity On Display", I was thrilled to see such an amazing collection of posters, memorabillia, etc. including a mounted display of Bing's earliest notices for his college work in Spokane newspapers. Absolutely beautiful.
In the beautiful Adams Playhouse, Kathryn gave a disarmingly casual, chatty performance accompanied by Nick Perito at the piano. She read from her new book, told stories, and led a sing-along! Then came the beautiful banquet, at which I got to sit with my new friend, the one and only Malcolm MacFarlane on my right, and my Minneapolis buddy, head of Festival Films, Ron Hall, on my left. Joe Franklin and Robert Merrill appeared briefly, Joe Bushkin pounded the keys briefly but wonderfully, and the magnificent Margaret Whiting did a full set of her terrific songs.

I missed the early morning panels on Saturday - too bad, because they looked great - Included were Wig Wiggins and Greg Van Beek in a "Fans speak of Bing" panel. But I'll be getting the tapes, so I can soak up every word. Panels on the Crosby Collections at Gonzaga and Bing's work with Bob Hope followed. Many of these panels, by the way, featured scholars and authors reading directly from texts they'd written. Some folks find this sort of presentation a little dry, but I found that when it's done well, it can be fascinating, especially at an event in which the participants are not there primarily to be "entertained", but rather to be "informed", in a scholarly way, regarding Crosby and his place in 20th century culture.
"Bing and Jazz" and "Bing and Louis" were eagerly awaited panels by many people, including me. Giddins, Friedwald, and Bill Milkowski were fascinating. Less so was a fellow who, during the course of his "Bing and Jazz" remarks, delivered more incorrect info about Bing than I'd heard during the rest of the entire conference! His conclusions werer right on the mark, however: that Bing was, indeed, a remarkably forceful jazz singer. "Bing and Frank", "Bing and the Irish Connection", were among the final panels and discussions. All big topics, interesting and meaningfully discussed and analyzed. At times, the information and presentations outstripped the time allotted for them, and much had to be cut. I would've enjoyed a whole week of this!

There was a fascinating panel at the end, "Bing and the Girl Singers". One of the planned participants failed to show up, so things were a little "askew", but we were still treated to a warm appearance by Peggy Lee's daughter Nicky, remarks by Buddy Bregman, and a great paper which treated the magnificent LP, "Fancy Meeting You Here". For various reasons, this panel turned slightly "contentious" towards the end. However, I've heard that people were literally at each other's throats during parts of the Sinatra conference in '98, so I guess a little of that can be expected. Makes life interesting.

Another element of an event like this is the conversations that spring up here and there, during which one learns almost as much as in the formal panels. I really appreciate the "quality" time I was able to spend with so many people, including those whose names I don't remember, or never caught in the first place. If that latter description includes anyone reading this, please accept my apology for not mentioning you in these postings.

I also enjoy the fact that I got to spend time with my friend Ken Gray, whom I hadn't seen in many years. Ken keeps a "low profile", but he is one of the most generous, accomplished and knowledgeable Crosby collectors in the world.

Special thanks, by the way, to my Minneapolis pals Bob DeFlores and Ron Hall, who turned a personal "negative" into a "positive" by helping me to see the humor in the fact that a conference official stepped up to the stage and informed the audience that a free pasta dinner was being offered out in the dining area by one of the event's sponsors - just as my presentation-performance was about to begin - robbing me of about two thirds of my audience! Thanks to Bob and Ron, the three of us were shouting "Free Pasta" and laughing hysterically by the end of the evening.

Another personal high-point for me was Will Friedwald's introducing me to Robert Lang, a relative of Larry Conley who co-wrote "A Cottage For Sale", one of the songs on my CD. Mr. Lang was kind enough to listen to my version and discuss it with me on Saturday. On the subject of CDs, I hope you all got a chance to grab a copy of Howard Crosby's disc. He really has nice sound, with a recognizable Crosby tonality. Yet, he clearly doesn't try to imitate his uncle on this beautifully produced disc of inspirational songs.

Last but not least - my gratitude and admiration goes out to Dr. Prigozy and all the others who put this amazing week together. Their hard work produced a wonderful, one-of-kind event that we'll never forget.
Carol posted 11/22/02 09:58 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Hi all! Sadly, up until now, I've mostly been a lurker. I think I posted once or twice few years ago but I've been an avid Bing fan for about 5 years.

I was fortunate to attend the conference at Hofstra. Although I'm from PA, my parents still live on Long Island so I stayed there for free and had only about a half hour commute. Despite the wonderful comments everyone has posted, unless you've seen Bing on the big screen you can't really appreicate how great the conference was. Those film and TV clips were my favorite.

I remember thinking I had dressed improperly on the first day. Everyone was wearing suits or very nice clothes and I was the one in the Bing sweatshirt (it displayed a movie poster of Anything Goes with Bing and Ethel Merman). Everyone I met was so very nice and definitely reinforced the idea that Bing fans are the best.

Among the people I met were Stan (wearing the black Bada Bing! sweatshirt) and Linda, Sue Horn, Jane, Judy, Arne, Wig, Lee, Jim, Malcolm and so many others. Everyone made me feel welcome.

I had such a blast that I've decided to do everything in my power to attend the Gonzaga birthday party in May. I hope everyone here will have the opportunity. I can't wait to meet all of you again or for the first time. Hopefully, Gonzaga will include showing Bing's films on the large screen.

Jane, thanks for including my name in your post. It was fun sharing the scrapbook that I purchased on ebay a while ago. I plan to bring it with me to Washington.
Greg Van Beek posted 11/17/02 01:00 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I returned home from the conference last evening around 7:45, and I still have a (now) permanent smile on my face from what I had just witnessed during the past three days! I met so many wonderful people, many of the 'regulars' here on these message boards. It honestly felt like a big family reunion! Sue Horn (the hug and kiss was worth the trip alone!), Judy (not the "frump" she thinks herself to be!), Keith H, Carmela (who now is the proud owner of a shirt autographed by Mrs. Crosby!), Arne, Ron Hall (and Bob Deflores, who needs to get himself a computer and get online!), Jim K, and of course the ICC "gang": Malcolm Macfarlane, Michael Crampton, Wig Wiggins et al. I also met the hero of all Bing CD collectors, Chick Wilson. The few names I've mentioned are only a small percentage of distinguished guests in attendance. I just hope the three rolls of film I shot turned out. I'm going to get them developed tomorrow (I didn't trust these to Walgreens or Walmart- I'm going to a professional!)

I shared a van with Gord Atkinson yesterday- he was off to JFK and my dad and I were off to LGA. What a nice man. We had a nice chat during the 1/2 hour drive about his Crosby Years series, his visits to the movie studios in the late 1940's, his friend Rich Little (who sadly had a commitment that prevented him from attending Hofstra) and other topics. I was troubled to learn he had a maniac driver that collected him at the airport- the driver side-swiped a parked car, leaving poor Gord stuck for hours until the police came and filled out their reports.

The event was a HUGE success, I'm sure even far exceeding the expectations of those involved with co-ordinating it. The local PBS station from Spokane was there taping interviews with a lot of the people presenting for a documentary on Bing and his impact on American culture, which they feel confident will air nationwide by next Christmas (it's planned to have it run locally around Spokane in time for the centennial). They sat me down, powdered me up, and let the camera roll, but I doubt I said anything they'll use. It's only going to be an hour long show, and there were a lot more prominent people to give air time to than me. More good publicity came via the NY Newsday newspaper. It had a nice cover story on Bing and the event.

And Kathryn Crosby's new book sold out in 40 minutes flat! If it weren't for the help of my good friend Ron Hall, who picked up a copy for me, I would've been outta luck. I, and I'm sure everyone else who has a copy, can't recommend it enough. It's even greater than the first volume (My Life With Bing), with so many beautiful color photos. Kathryn read the note from Bob Hope on the back cover, and choked up when she read the line "tell Bing I'll see him soon". This was written some years back, but we all know at 99, dear Bob is living on borrowed time. Go to and order yourself a copy. You won't be disappointed!

The film and TV clips were shown on a HUGE screen, as large as in a movie theater. George O' Reilly put together a wonderful video presentation titled "An Ordinary Guy Who Could Carry a Tune". Wayne, you should've been there to see your name spelled out as big as a marquee sign during the closing credits! And of course Bob Deflores had a fantastic hour of rare Crosby footage dating from 1928-1961, followed by an hour of rare TV footage compiled by Martin McQuade.

One last observation -- Bing's music permeated throughout virtually the entire campus! The cafeteria had piped in music- I listed to cuts from the Bregman album while my hamburger was being cooked. I hope the students took notice and gave a listen. I didn't hear anyone complaining, which was a good sign!

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