Bing on Ice

Carmela posted 01/12/03 07:54 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
I'm sick of hearing Bing was cold, distant etc. He couldn't be close friends with everybody. The man was very busy -- work, golf, hunting, family etc. Also,I think someone who is rich and famous has to be careful of people who want to get too close to them. They have to choose their friends. I'm not rich and famous and I choose my friends. I think Bing was a very generous person in many ways. He had many friends who loved and admired him.Many woman wanted to marry him. He had a nice personality. And from what I read and people that I've talked to who were friends with Bing, I find he was far from being a cold person. I found him to be warm and caring.
Lars posted 01/13/03 01:11 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Carmela. you seem to be a bit sensitive when it comes to this subject. For as long as I can remember I've heard the description of Bing as being "cold and distant". While I find it interesting to hear stories about Bing when it comes from people who actually met Bing, it's less relevant if it's hearsay. I believe that even when somebody who's been interviewed (like in the book I recently read about Bob Crosby's band) mentions that they didn't really get to know Bing it's not necessarilly meant as a bad thing. Probably just the reply to a question (if they knew Bing). And they said that they didn't. They met him, and they shared asome jokes but they didn't know him. Bing had the same faults as everybody else. I don't see it as negative that he kept the distance to many of those who he met. I'm sure we all do it. We don't love or like everybody, and we don't want to love everybody either. Some people make you more comfortable if you keep them at arms lenght. On many occasions I've read that Bing secretly helped others who needed it. And he obviously wasn't the kind of person who hugged everybody he met or said he loved them. I don't see anything wrong with that. Even though it's popular today to hug anybody you meet, and kiss them on the cheek, I find this practise phonie. It doesn't really matter what Bing was really like as he still brought so much joy and happiness to people who never ever met him. But it's still interesting to try to understand what made him tick. I think he was a good person - as well as human one. And I'd fight anybody in this room who says he was anything else. But life isn't just black and white. Bing had faults like everybody else - and he had bad days too. Like everybody else... I don't know anybody who hasn't any faults. All my closest friends have faults - but it's part of their personality. Not everybody has been blessed like Dean (and Wayne) with being born perfect. Most of us have to work on it - if we care at all... With or without faults Bing brought so much joy to millions through his many talents, his singing and acting. Many years after his death it still works. And I even got new friends thanks to Bing. Most people who's been collecting Bing is a nice and friendly bunch.

I don't see all my friends that often - but we can still pick it up where we left it months later. Therefore I don't find it necessarily that strange if Bing didn't meet some of those he considered his friends very often. Bing lived a very busy life. So it's not that hard for me to understand that Bing in one of his later interviews - much to the surprise and delight of Phil himself - named Phil Harris as his very best friend, even though they might not see eachother very often. Bing's home was his castle (as far as I've understood it) and he kept his private life private. He had his huntingbuddies and businessbuddies and never mixed the two - and almost never brought anybody home. Nothing strange with that either. For that matter I don't necessarly mix people with different interest or backgrounds either - just because it wouldn't work. I'm sure most of us are not much different from Bing. He was as human as everybody else - and born in another time when things were different. He really don't need to be defended. 30 years after his death they are issuing more of his recordings than ever. In fact there are more issues today than 30 years ago.

This weekend I needed to just relax and to take it easy. I read and listened to music. Mostly Bing. And more Bing than I've listened to in a very long time. For example, "Bing and Satchmo", "Songs I wish I had sung", "Fancy meeting you here", "Bing with a Beat" some of the later "Chronological CD's", "Seasons". "Hey Jude", "Thoroughly Modern Bing", "Holiday in Europe", "Return to Paradise" and many, many more... I recently converted those albums to MP3-files so I didn't have to change "the record" very often - it just kept playing while I read - and even when I slept Bing kept singing. And I plan to pick it up where I left off once I get home tonight. With all the recordings Bing made there's always something to fit the mood you're in.
Harley posted 01/13/03 03:03 AM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
Bing clearly was hard to know for most people and didn’t make it a habit of letting people “in” all that often. You could say he was “cold and distant” or you could just say that he was “private.” I really don’t think anything of it if Bing liked to keep his distance from most...which clearly, from the many first-hand accounts, is something approaching a “fact.” I don’t find this makes Bing a bad person in the least...Bing didn’t have a contract that said as a celebrity he had to hang out and buddy it up with his co-workers peers or fans. I’d also agree with what Carmela says about Bing as a famous person having cause to be very careful about his dealings with others...that Bing chose this path rather than being an extrovert makes no difference to me. Bing was humble, Bing was private, more power to ‘im, says I.

I’m more of a person who enjoys art for art’s sake and does not make a habit out of being a “fan” of a person, but rather a fan of the art. To be completely honest, I’m a music fan, and as such I’m a fan of Crosby’s music, not his lifestyle or legacy as a human or anything like that. That said, I LIKE a lot of what I know of Bing, who I believe was an intelligent and level-headed guy, and I do admit to an interest in knowing something about the workings of a mind which produces great art. I wrote here recently about the effect of Eddie Lang's death upon Bing, but I am not so foolhardy as to draw conclusive results from what can only ever be speculation. Of course, we all know that Bing's mother was a bit chilly, and his father a bit zany, and it's not inconceivable that Bing inherited or learned to have a capacity for both. He surely exhibited a lot of his father's care-free ways in the twenties and early thirties, and I don't think I'd be out of line to suggest that we see a bit of dear old mom in the older Bing. This certainly doesn't mean that Bing had all of one and none of the other...that's silly, Bing was not a one-dimensional character, but he may be leaning towards one more than another at a given moment or period in his life. It’s no secret (anymore, at least) that Bing had a philanthropic streak both for general causes and for specific individuals. It’s also no secret that Bing didn’t like his philanthropy to be known, which fits in with the profile of a decent guy who nonetheless wanted to be left alone so he could go golf or fish or do whatever he wanted to do in private. I would never say Bing was mean or evil...I think his moral compass was pretty well focused, and I think his "goodness" is not at all contingent on his "friendliness" or "openness." One can be perfectly good and admirable whilst keeping to ones self. That was Bing’s prerogative. Like I said, you can call it “distant” or “cold” or whatever, but I think Bing was a private guy, so I’ll just call it “private” and get back to my enjoyment of his art.

Oh, and Lars, as far as Dean (aka, Mr. Perfect) is concerned, I am continuing my intensive program of voodoo potion experimentation in an effort to steal and bottle his distinctly British charm. I am getting some good results and my product should be on the snake-oil market directly.
Tom Degan posted 01/13/03 07:18 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
This is an interesting discussion. Bing had alot of the same qualities of another great man, Franklin D Roosevelt. Everyone who knew FDR felt they never really knew him. Externally he was a very jovial friendly guy who possessed more charm than the law allows. But there was something about the man's pchycological makeup that refused (or was unable) to let people in, to discuss his innermost feelings. Even to his wife and children he seemed a charming but distant, unreachable figure. Did these character traits, mysterious as they may have been, make Roosevelt a bad guy? Certainly not. His public legacy proves beyond doubt that he must have been a very good and decent man. The same could arguably be said of Bing Crosby. Maybe he wasn't the most extroverted man who ever lived. Maybe the touchie-feely-huggy-kissy bit wasn't his schtick. Hey we're all human! That was the great thing about the Giddins bio - Wow, he was just like us! The man had flaws! It has been alleged that the death of Eddie Lang in March of 1933 had a long-lasting traumatic effect on him. That might be true but we'll never really know for sure. What we do know is that Bing Crosby was an extaordinary artist who enriched the lives of not only the people of his generation but generations he would not live to see. All and all that's a pretty good legacy.
Steven Lewis posted 01/13/03 11:57 AM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
I suspect Bing gets the label "cold and distant" in large part because of his enormous celebrity and the desires of others to be close to him. Bing was probably not a lot different from your typical American male except he had to walk around with a spotlight shining on him wherever he went and everyone wanted his attention and affection. Combine these high expectations of others with Bing's need for a little privacy and security and you get the claims of "cold and distant."
Howard Crosby posted 01/13/03 12:41 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Well, I guess I'd better put in my two cents worth on this topic. I was around Uncle Bing in all sorts of environs, and it was my experience that the "cold and distant" persona was something he was certainly capable of, and it appeared to be reserved for syncophants, hangers on, Hollywood phonies, and the like. He absolutely DETESTED personal flattery of any kind, and so people who fawned over him would get the ice cold stare. On the other hand, many times I saw him charming and outgoing with waiters, cab drivers, busboys, caddies and all sorts of other folk who treated him like a regular guy. If a stranger spotted him in a public place and just wandered up and asked him something like "say mister, do you know what time it is? By the way, did you hear if the Giants won last night?", he would get a very polite response from Bing, who would then engage in a conversation. If the fellow would then later say "you seem familiar, were you on TV or something" then Bing would say something like "well, I made a few pictures, sang a few songs, once upon a time". Anyway, it was my experience that was how it had to done. And come to think of it, don't we all have more than one side to our personality?
Ben Weaver posted 01/13/03 02:00 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
The subject of Bing's so called 'cold and distant'personality always reminds me of the experience that the record producer, Michael Brooks had in meeting Bing as related in his notes to the LP set "A Bing Crosby Collection-1931-1934".

"My own personal involvement with the great man was miniscule. I met him for the first and only time about a year before he died and I was as nervous and excited as a kid chosen to present a trophy to a sports superstar. He was staying in New York just across from the Metropolitan Museum and I as I waited in the lobby of his apartment building I saw him come through the door. He was smaller than I expected and the face,though deeply lined, was instantly recognizable, right down to those icy-blue eyes. And, typically Crosby, he was carrying a bundle of dry cleaning under his arm when the place had a bevy of flunkies for such menial tasks.

It was awful! I got the fish-eye treatment in spades. First of all he denied knowing about the appointment, although it had been set up in advance through his agent. Then he was utterly intransigent, blocking every one of my questions skillfully with "no, I don't remember singing that song at all","no, that was too long ago", and "no,I don't recall such a musican" until my carefully prepared interview lay in ruins and I cursed the day I went into a record store and bought my first Crosby 78.

It took me months to get over the experience and come to the realization that Bing Crosby was a man, very human and probably very tired. But we elevate people of his statue to the level of gods and while we fawn on them we demand total obedience, ordering them to smile and be gracious while we claw at them and bellow inanities in their ears. If they slip and allow themselves the luxury of telling some cretin to go f--- himself we immediately howl that they have forgotten the public who made them. And I understood the sound common sense of his "private person" philosophy which probably extended his career and his life by decades."
Lars posted 01/13/03 04:00 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Ben,your posting reminded me that somebody once mentioned that Michael Brooks' "failed" interview took place the day after burglars had visited Bing's hotel suite and stolen some irreplacable things.
Greg posted 02/06/03 05:57 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Also keep in mind the absolute enormity of his fame. I'm sure the only way to remain sane is to keep a certain amount of distance with strangers and people who's motives might be qustionable. We mortals can't really comprehend what a life like his must have been like.

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