Babara Walters TV Interview - May, 1977

Fred Sevekow posted 09/17/04 07:25 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Today an excerpt from that famous Barbara Walters' interview was posted on the "What's News" section of our Museum.

If I remember correctly (please correct me if I'm wrong, because I'm not sure), wasn't Mary Frances having an affair with someone when BW asked that "loaded" question of Bing re what he would do if his daughter was having an affair with someone without being married.

I think Ms. W knew, but Bing didn't, or why would she follow up naming Mary Frances after she had already asked the same question regarding the sons?

I ask this question because it's something I've always wondered about, and because it possibly shows how low BW would go. Bing is my idol, and always will be!
Steven Lewis posted 09/18/04 12:12 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
Bing's rigid responses to Walter's questions seem out of character to me. Of course, he often belittled his contributions to American pop culture, but here he completely dismissed any contribution. One wonders if perhaps his long recovery from his fall off the stage in March of 1977 was still taking its toll on him in May, when Walter's interviewed him.

I do have a different view of Bing's 'take no prisoners' approach to his children's potential amorous liaisons. I think Bing was firing a warning shot to any would-be suitors who might try to take advantage of his daughter. I don't for a moment believe he actually meant what he said about disowning her if she 'shacked up' with a boyfriend. Recall that Bing didn't disown any of his 4 sons from his first marriage even though their numerous affairs and drunken, brawling behavior certainly could have justified such action. Recall Bing moved his second family away from Hollywood to San Francisco in the mid 1960s to get away from the influences that helped destroy his first family. I think he was determined to prevent the same fate for his second family.
DEAN posted 09/18/04 01:15 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
STEVEN, as you are probably still a "Mere Youth" as Bing would have said, you might not realize that your opinions tend to harden as you get older and Bing was reacting with unease to a rapidly changing social scene that seemed to be chipping away at many things he held dear.

As for criticising his four boys from his first marriage; well, Bing would have had to be a prize hypocrite to chastise them about behaviour that wouldn't have startled Father o' Malley. Especially when his wild and irresponsible behaviour involving drink and drugs and women are well chronicled, not least by himself.

We have to thank the much maligned Dixie Lee for setting the young boozer on the straight and narrow.
Greg Van Beek posted 09/18/04 02:33 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I do recall reading in a magazine article that, not long after Bing's death, Mary Frances did indeed "shack up" with a guy. As a result, she received lots of poison pen notes from Bing's fans condemning her actions. She may very well have been dating this guy when Bing made those comments to Barbara Walters.

Speaking of Barbara Walters, in the mid 1990's when I corresponded with the Crosby family butler Alan Fisher, we discussed Barbara Walters. Alan wrote me that Barbara spent two days with Bing taping the interview, and that after they'd finished, upon her return to New York, she sent Alan a handwritten letter, which he thought was such a nice gesture. Alan went on to say "she is so incredibly attractive up close-- incredible legs. In fact, Mr. Crosby said to me 'Alan, she's got wonderful legs'" In 1977, Barbara Walters would've been 46, about 2 years older than Kathryn Crosby at the time.
Martin McQuade posted 09/18/04 03:37 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I was informed by a close personal friend of Alan Fisher's that at the time of the Walters interview, that Bing was simply trying to convey a message to Mary Frances, and had no intention of banishing her to Aloha - land. I like to think that Bing's amazing self efacement during the interview was an attempt to rattle Ms. Walters after she called Bing a loner, to his apparent consternation.
Fred Sevekow posted 09/18/04 05:03 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Thank you all for your replies.

Of course, I meant no disrespect to Mary Frances. I do, however, remember reading a magazine article shortly after the Walters interview which mentioned that MF was living with, I believe, an actor in, or director of, a local LA stage play she was appearing in at the time. This was probably shortly after Bing's passing. However, knowing Walters, it may have been going on at the time of her May, 1977 interview with Bing -- hence her "loaded" questions about his daughter!
Jon O. posted 09/18/04 05:55 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
For what it's worth, here's what Mary Frances had to say about it in 1980.
Steven Lewis posted 09/18/04 07:26 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
I wouldn't label anyone a "hypocrit" who sincerely advises others not to follow their example. One of the benefits of age is a lifetime of lessons learned.
Ron Field posted 09/18/04 08:03 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Didn't Kathryn make a remark that Mary Frances would not be living with a bloke if Bing was alive at the time? Seem to recall that somewhere along the line.
Ron Field
Sue Horn posted 09/19/04 12:00 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Have any of you ever known an Irish-Catholic father who didn't make sweeping statements like this to keep his kids in line, though the kids themselves knew that there was really nothing behind it? Funny thing is that MF did wait until after her dad had passed to move in with her boyfriend, and I think it was out of respect not fear. My father came out with the same type of epithets and ultimatums. He had four girls who all came of age in the 70s (poor fellow), and I think he did a mighty fine job with us. He never saw any of his girls married, unfortunately, because his love for Old Gold cigarettes robbed him of what should have been the last years of his life. All of us tried to do him proud, however, before and after his death. Did we do things he disagreed with? Sometimes. Did he ever enforce the overly strict sanctions he'd threatened us with? No. Did he seem any less in our eyes for that inconsistency? No. Did we try any less hard to make him happy with our choices even though we knew we'd win him over in the end? No. My pop and Bing had a lot in common that way, and at least in my case, I knew how much he loved us and that is all that mattered.

And all this speculation about BW's leading questions and what she knew or didn't about MF's private life,... Hooey! Doesn't anyone here remember that this is the woman who asked Katherine Hepburn in all seriousness what kind of a tree she'd be if she were a tree?
F Sevekow posted 09/19/04 02:11 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
To: Jon O, thank you so much for posting the web address to the Mary Frances interview. It cleared up any questions I may have had.

Unless I'm mistaken, it DOES appear that Barbara Walters DID know something about Mary Frances that Bing didn't, when she bated him with questions about what he would do if his daughter was having a sexual relationship out of wedlock.

Shame on Ms. Walters!
DEAN posted 09/19/04 06:11 AM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
Steven, as you say, it would be a good thing to advise your children not to follow in your footsteps if those have been foolish and irresponsible. I feel though that it would be hypocritical to chastise your children for behaving better than you did at their age; and this as far as I'm concerned is what happened. From the information that's available to all of us it does appear that Bing was pretty wild and irresponsible as a young man and he was only protecting his public image when he publically regretted the boy's behaviour in interviews. I don't think it was fair to them.

Just my view. I accept that others see things differently for different reasons.
Cathie posted 09/19/04 06:51 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I have to agree with Sue that being raised with an Irish Catholic parent can be akin to having a Carmelite Sister Superior in the house. When I started to date "himself" who was Anglo/Irish non Catholic you would have thought I had set about to murder the pope.

Bing's sister Mary Rose and I were good friends and she frequently revealed that Bing took his mothers teaching to heart and passed them on to both families. Not easy having to live up to the precepts laid down by an Irish dad or mum. While I don't think Bing would have disowned Mary Frances because of dating habits he disapproved of I think he could have been pretty hard to be around for any length of time.
Carmela posted 09/19/04 07:15 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
I remember Kathryn Crosby saying that Bing was a little uncomfortable with the way he anwered some of Barbara's questions. Maybe he wasn't comfortable with the Barbara Walter's type of questions.
Jon O. posted 09/19/04 08:44 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Is ANYONE comfortable with Barbara Walters' type of questions? I can't watch her interview specials - her interrogations make me cringe with embarrassment.

Seems the nature of celebrity TV interviews (due in large part to the "pioneering" work of BW) is to get the interviewee to slip up somehow, whether by coaxing them into revealing something about themselves they haven't before, getting them to say something controversial, or just getting them to break down and cry (Walters' specialty). I get the feeling that after Bing made his "Aloha" comment, BW must have said to herself "mission accomplished".
Steven Lewis posted 09/19/04 09:19 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
I guess Bing could have opted for the Fidel Castro line -- family talk is strictly off-limits. I was surprised that such a literate and cool-camera guy like Bing let Walters push his buttons on-the-air. He should have lit his pipe and blew smoke in her face, but Bing's pipe had been retired after his lung surgery. Bing was still suffering from the disc he dislocated in March and I suspect that pain and medication may have put him uncharacteristically on-edge. BTW, Sue, Barbara did document that Hepburn was first to bring up the tree analogy. Barbara's question about what kind of tree was a follow-up to Hepburn's reference.
Tony posted 09/20/04 09:41 AM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
I wonder if Mary Frances still thinks it was a good idea and what she would advise her own children. Women who live with a man before marriage are often desperate or have been sold a bill of goods. No decent man in love with a woman would want this demeaning option. It must be obivous to even the most liberal that free sex(not love) is hurting women and not helping our society. Bing knew what he was talking about and wanted to protect his daughter from a mistake she would have to live with the rest of her life. Just ask her.
John Walton posted 09/21/04 05:02 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Living in the UK, I've never seen a Barbara Walters interview and, from the comments posted, I don't think I would enjoy the experience. In British media, we have a glut of pushy confrontational interviewers; indeed, 'confrontational' is almost a synonym for 'professional'. In my opinion, all that such interviews ever do is induce uncharacteristically edgy comments and attitudes from their victims, and make them say things that are not typical or representative. Yet, most people seem to believe the interviewers are 'getting to the truth.' In most cases, they're simply producing cheap effects. Good TV, maybe but certainly no more truthful! Michael Parkinson obtained a more natural response from Bing, as he does with most of his guests, by exhibiting the 'art that conceals art'. He manages to ask pertinent questions within the framework of a friendly chat. Guests at ease generally reveal more of their real personalities than those on the defensive. Mr Parkinson's interviews with Bing are a testament to this.
Candace Scott posted 09/26/04 08:27 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I met Barbara Walters in 1991 at Heathrow airport in London. It was a flight from London to L.A. I was in the waiting area, killing time before boarding the plane and Barnara and someone else (a young lady, I presume her ABC assistant),were sitting in the "VIP" section. I so much wanted to go up to Barbara and ask her about Bing, but I thought it was pushy to intrude on her privacy.

However, once we were on the airplane, one of the lavatories in the coach (cheap seat) section was broken, so a section of the plane was allowed to go forward to the First Class portion of the airplane to use the restroom.

As I was waiting in line, I noticed that Barbara Walters was sitting on the aisle, reading "New Yorker" magazine. The line was long, it wasn't moving and I thought that now was as good a time as any. So I said, "Excuse me, Miss Walters, I remember your interview with Bing Crosby and am a big fan of his. Did you enjoy meeting him?"

Walters removed her glasses and looked me over and then responded. I has never liked her and thought she was a brassy, rude, pushy broad, but she was actually pretty friendly. At least she wasn't rude to me. She was brief in her comments, though. She said something to the effect, "Bing was not easy to get to know. He has a gorgeous estate though, what grounds! It was like a European palace there. But I've certainly connected with many other of my interviewees better than I did with Bing Crosby."

I wanted to ask more and have her elaborate, but Barbara put her glasses on and returned to her magazine. I've never forgotten this brief, trivial encounter. I got the impression she wasn't too fond of Bing.
howard crosby posted 09/27/04 08:03 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
There's a ring of truth to Walters statement that Bing was difficult to get to know. He certainly could project a cool reserve, and I don't think he ever would have done the interview, except for one thing....

His neighbors were Patty Hearst's parents, and after she was kidnapped, Bing was terrified for the safety of his three young children, so he wanted to use the Walters interview to downplay his wealth...remember the ridiculous assertion he made that he was really only worth "a little over a million or so"Knowing Uncle Bing as I did, the last thing he would ever want to do is sit through an hour of Walters type "personal reflection", but he suffered through it to protect his children, in my view.
Ron Field posted 09/27/04 03:48 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Bing had a problem with the boy's in the 30's - kidnapping - due to the Lindbergh affair.
Sue Horn posted 10/01/04 06:00 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I don't think BW knew anything beyond the fact that Mary was going out with someone. She didn't move in with her then-boyfriend and later husband until after Bing's death. BW is a journalist who had certain very defined goals going in to any of these encounters. I don't find it surprising that she found Bing hard to get to know, because she wasn't the type of person that would have any reason to be allowed into his inner circle. It would be presumptuous to assume thast just because you are doing an interview that the person will spill their guts and allow you to explore a series of intimacies. I think Bing's well-developed sense of privacy and self-preservation were working overtime, but as Steven has said, he let some buttons get pushed when it came to his kids.

One more thing about Katherine Hepburn. I did read BW's cover story on her question to Kate Hepburn, and it made me laugh. Kate herself said, "What a ridiculous question," or something to that effect, before answering. I think she said she'd be an oak, but I'm going from memory here, so don't shoot me if I'm wrong. What Katherine had said before the tree question was that she felt like a tree growing by the river, straight and tall. That image was enough, and to ask what kind of tree shows that BW just didn't get it. What is revealing to me is that she decided to air that part o the interview, including KH's response of how silly the question was. I guess she thought she'd come off better than KH there, and she didn't.

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