“The Machine That Goes ‘BING!'”

Bing Crosby. BIG Bing Crosby. The amiable, impish face and the posture of the Penguin from Batman. Actually, I wonder if Burgess Meredith thought of dear old Bing when he was waddling about, thrusting umbrellas and rocking his monocle and top hat. Maybe a little bit on the Bing, a little bit on Mr. Peanut? Who knows? I know of Bing Crosby from the classics – “White Christmas”, “Going My Way”, “The Bells of St. Mary’s”, The “Road” movies with Bob Hope.

Tacoma’s favorite son is still working to this day, despite being dead for over 35 years. He appears in television commercials, radio spots, dramatic and reality-based programming. I wonder how he cashes his checks. Talk about Bing Crosby to somebody from what Tom Brokaw coined, “The Greatest Generation” and it’s like you’re talking about God, and while the Big Guy could probably croon with the best of ’em, I seriously doubt he could hold a candle to Bing.

Yes, Bing made the ladies swoon. Maybe some of the men too. I remember an old Warner Brothers cartoon with some hens falling over themselves listening to an animated version of Crosby all decked out as a rooster, but then there was another crooner competing for the attention, and this one looked like Frankie (as much as a rooster could resemble Frankie, that is). Next thing you know the crooning roosters are trading fours.

These guys were the Elvises of their day. They could make a girl crazy just by hitting a note. My guess was it didn’t take that much to impress girls back in those times. In the race to woo the ladies, Ol’ Blue Eyes eventually overtook Crosby, but the legacy remained intact. Crosby’s recording of White Christmas is the best-selling single of all time with 50 million copies sold since 1942; more than Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Michael Jackson ever sold.

The David Bowie/Bing Crosby “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” duet still gets airplay on the radio stations as part of their nonstop Christmas song pukefests, as does the music video taken from the 1977 Bing Crosby Christmas Special, Merrie Olde Christmas. Nothing can prepare you for the delightfully baroque image of androgynous rocker Bowie kickin’ it with Bing.

We’re treated to Twiggy, internationally recognized singer/supermodel best known these days for her turn in 1980’s “The Blues Brothers”, but she doesn’t hold a candle to pretty Mary Crosby (before she shot J.R. on Dallas or wooed Robert Urich in “Ice Pirates”). Bing and Twiggy go all folie à deux and meet Charles Dickens. Twiggy imagines herself as Tiny Tim, very weird. Inexplicably, David Bowie pops up again to sing “Heroes”, making out with himself against a black background – ah, the seventies!

Stanley Baxter troubles me. If not for the fact that he plays a handful of ancillary characters, then it’s because he’s trying to do a Bob Hope impersonation and failing. Later in the show, he shows up, dressed as a court jester. I was reminded of Woody Allen’s character in “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex…”. For the record, Woody does a much better impression of Bob Hope. Hope is conspicuously absent from the show, and his absence is sorely missed.

The final kicker to the whole mad affair is the fact that as of the show’s airtime and broadcast, Bing Crosby was dead and buried, in the ground and rotting. To close the show, he sings his signature song once again, and I am reminded of James Joyce.

“Snow is falling. Falling in that lonely churchyard where Bing Crosby lies buried. Falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living, and the dead.”

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

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