Christmas At the Hollywood Palace

Jon O. posted 12/04/04 10:05 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I just finished watching “Christmas At the Hollywood Palace” on my local PBS station, and I have to say, it was all I had hoped for and more, in spite of the abrupt interruptions of the pledge drive. It genuinely evoked for me memories of watching Bing at Christmastime during my childhood, and stirred up some very real and unexpected Christmas spirit. In fact, during a closing montage in which Bing is shown singing “White Christmas” at different times over the years in which he hosted the Palace Christmas shows, I remembered my dad telling me for the first time just how big that song was when he was a young man in the 1940’s.

Unlike "A Bing Crosby Christmas - Like The Ones We Used To Know" - the program of clips hosted by Gene Kelly and Kathryn Crosby in 1979 - this offering didn’t have the advantage of accessing Bing’s later Christmas specials, as it was limited to the Hollywood Palace only. But this apparent disadvantage actually turned out to be a plus, in that we got to see complete performances of most of the songs that were featured, rather than a series of interrupted clips. The pace was more relaxed, similar to that of the old Hollywood Palace itself, which added to the nostalgia.

Also welcome were warm, in fact glowing, recollections and appropriately adulatory remarks from Kathryn, Harry, Mary Frances, Nick Perito, and others, the likes of which I haven’t heard since “Remembering Bing”, more than 20 years ago. Harry and Mary both reflected on what a great father Bing was, as well as their fond remembrances of performing with him and their mother. At one point Mrs. Crosby, while remembering a vocal slip-up of Nathaniel’s on the Palace, recalled Bing’s visible urge to jump in and sing the line properly, but instead – and her voice started to break with emotion at this point – he overcame his professional impulse and said “you did that part good.” Darned if I didn’t get a little choked up myself. We sometimes forget that this icon was a living, breathing man, don’t we?

The theme, as the title states, was Christmas at the Hollywood Palace, and Perry Como hosted the final Christmas show in 1969, so a handful of his performances are included as well. I have mixed feelings about this, since I like Perry a lot, but I’d rather see a whole show of Bing. Nevertheless, it’s always a pleasure to hear Como sing, and his style is certainly consistent with Bing’s. In fact, early in the program, I believe it’s Nick Perito and producer Bill Harbach who speak of how much Perry idolized Bing, and modeled himself after him. However, since he hosted only one Christmas show, there was obviously less Perry to select from; so his fans get to see most of – or all of – his performances from that particular night.

Much as I like Perry, the juxtaposition of his performances alongside Bing’s serve to remind us of just how simultaneously warm, comfortable and professional Bing was in front of an audience. Certainly no one could ever accuse Perry of being stiff, but next to Bing that’s exactly how he appears. More than once I just sat and marveled at Bing’s stage presence, and how well he could do it all – and make it look so effortless. That’s a cliché, I know, but after all, clichés come about because something is so obvious that it’s worth repeating over and over. At a time in his life when he was “semi-retired”, and supposedly “phoning it in”, he could still overwhelm.

Thanks to the members of “Team Crosby” who pulled this one off. It’s a keeper.
Leah Yolo posted 12/05/04 08:59 AM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
I think Perry has to suffer in comparison with his idol Bing Crosby. I just added Perry Como's Greatest Hits to my Ipod; there was a nice reference in the little booklet that came with the cd that told about Bing's influence on Perry. It said Perry would listen to Bing's recordings between performances to see if he was singing the songs right. As much as I've enjoyed Perry's music in the past, when compared with Bing Crosby, Perry comes off as kind of weak, most definitely on songs like "Temptation".
howard crosby posted 12/05/04 10:06 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
After Bing died in 1977, Perry Como opened his shows with a fifteen minute tribute to Bing Crosby, singing a medley of Crosby Classics from the 30's and 40's. He would introduce this as his own tribute "to the greatest popular singer of all time".

That moved Perry Como WAY UP in my estimation. Plus, I always liked his singing, anyway
Ronald Sarbo posted 12/05/04 12:29 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Perry Como always acknowledged Bing as his primary influence. In an interview Como said "I've heard it said in show business that you can't get anywhere copying someone else. Well I copied Crosby and I got someplace"

Como also recalled that during a long medley with Bing on TV he stopped and said "If it wasn't for that man I'd still be cutting hair".

Afterward he said that Crosby looked at him "sternly and in no uncertain terms told his disciple "Don't ever do that again." Como now realized that such displays of idolatry made Bing "highly uncomfortable".

Como's tribute to Bing is on his "Live On Tour" Lp from 1980
Steven Lewis posted 12/05/04 04:27 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
Xmas is usually pronounced Christmas.
Jon O. posted 12/05/04 04:35 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
The "X", or "chi" (pronounced "ki"--long i) in the Greek alphabet is the same as the Roman letter combination "ch". The Greek "P", or "rho", which is the same as "r" in our Roman alphabet, is frequently used in combination with the "X" in Christian symbolism (the New Testament was originally written in Greek). Together, "XP" means "chr", an abbreviated version of "Christ". Many accept the "X" in "Xmas" as an abbreviation of the abbreviation.
Lee posted 12/13/04 04:23 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Wow, over the weekend I watched the Christmas at Hollywood Palace show. Fantastic, this is what a Bing special should be like. Every clip was a gem, my only objection is they didn't go on long enough. While I also like Perry Como, I do wish they used only one or 2 clips of Perry and reserved the rest for Bing. After all he hosted the Christmas shows 4 years and Perry only once. Perry seems to have gotten at least 50% (if not more) of the show. As great as the clips were of Bing, there weren't enough of them. I would have liked to see the Kate Smith and Bing duet and even Kate Smith's song "Christmas Eve In My Hometown" which she sang so great in the '65 program. The clip of Bing telling the story of the "Little Match Girl" once again elicted a few tears from these baby Hazels. I've seen this show in it's entirety for the past several years, and it still gets to me. Of course, now seeing it in color was fantastic. I truly wish they'd release all of the "Hollywood Palace" shows UNCUT on DVD sometime. I'd be first in line. I loved this special and this show. I used to watch it as a kid. Also Bravo to Mary Frances for saying out loud what we all know, Bing was the BEST singer of them all. Not one of the best, the best.
Steven Lewis posted 12/13/04 08:56 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
While Lee pulls himself together and wrings out his hanky I will add my responses to Christmas at the Hollywood Palace. I viewed the program tonight thanks to the holiday esprit of Mr. Oye. The program was the best Crosby retrospective I have viewed in many years, largely because it involved Mrs. Crosby and two of the Crosby children, Mary and Harry. Considering that the Crosby children have been conspicuously absent from many Bing events since his death, their resurfacing in the past year with positive, loving remembrances of their father will do more than this website or 10-years worth of BING magazines to extinguish the half-truths and contextless tabloid babelry that have engulfed Bing's fatherhood since Going My Own Way. Both Mary and Harry came across as warm, intelligent and sincere. What a contrast to the first brood. They are their pop's best legacy.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Crosby continued her reinvigorated efforts on Bing's behalf. She took us on a brief tour of their San Francisco home, showing us where the Christmas tree used to be. At one point tears came to her eyes as she recalled stories of their family Christmas gatherings. I suspect Bravo would have deleted that little scene as unsuitable for their jaded Christmas special.

I agree with Lee that the Palace special was too brief, although I didn't mind at all the intrusion of the second Mr. C. If Mr. Como was Mr. Cool, Der Bingle was the Grandaddy of Cool. Of course, by the late 1960s standards of "hip" were changing from easygoing to intense. Mr. Como and Mr. Crosby remained popular icons to the old crowd, but their prime had passed, contrary to the exhortations of the PBS announcer.

Many of these Palace snippets were new to me. I grew up in a desolate oasis where television consisted mostly of NBC, a snowy CBS and only rare glimpses of ABC out of Wichita. The only original Hollywood Palace show I viewed as a kid was the 1966 Christmas special hosted by Bing. I watched at a friend's house. They had one of those tall directional antennas. Not only did I get to view it on a color TV, but I also recorded Bing singing on a reel-to-reel tape machine. I wonder whatever happened to that tape?

The Crosby kids were cute and quite the hams. The family interacted quite well. From the testimony of Mary and Harry there were no beatings, no threats ... they enjoyed the spotlight and the chance to work with their dad. Nathaniel may have been a little camera shy at first, but it was clear to see he soon overcame that.

The Palace special closed with Bing singing "White Christmas" from 4 different Palace shows. Then with a hop and a skip -- and a slip of a disc -- he was gone.
Malcolm Macfarlane, BING magazine posted 12/21/04 04:45 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Courtesy of Greg Van Beek who sent me a video, I watched the Christmas at the Hollywood Palace show last night. Very enjoyable indeed and a great tribute to Bing. It was very nice to hear the Crosby children talk so warmly about their Dad. Wonderful entertainnment for us Crosby and Como fans. It may sound churlish to comment that to an impartial viewer there may have been just a little too much gushing about how wonderful everyone was and perhaps we could have had another song or two to replace some of this. But how great to see Bing remembered so well. Congratulations to everyone concerned.
Judy Schmid posted 12/21/04 08:06 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Truthfully, I really was happy this was on - sure, I'd like to see Bing separated from Christmas in order to broaden his appeal, but, then sentiment grabs me..and it was great..I remember those shows - I called my parents to remind them it was on and my mom said "you mean you don't have these etched in your memory-banks already?" Well, yes and no, ma, but NOW I can share these with MY kid...and despite her grouching, she did peek at the TV a few times, and then grin, and then sing along...

It's workin', it's workin' - educating this next generation! Thanks to all who helped put this together! ;-)
Cathie posted 12/21/04 10:03 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Judy, be prepared dear..our three kids..all now grown..were big grouchers as well when Hobie would put on Crosby music and or films. Funny isn't it that now they have to watch GOING MY WAY and any number of Road films as adults. They imparted this muscle memory on to their spouses and various children.~ When they are in the traveling mode they even go out of their way to look for Crosby material. KIDS!
Ron Field posted 12/26/04 05:44 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Just caught the show in Seattle/Vancouve BC. So good to see it right through without any stops for ads. Too bad Nathaniel wasn't involved as well. Didn't have time to whip in a tape to record same, if I have a blank one at the house. Just watched a 2 hours show on Arnold Palmer but not a mention of Bing although there were clips with Bob Hope and Perry Como. I watched hoping to see Arnie at Bing's clambake.

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