Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

‘Bing Crosby Rediscovered’ unveils another side of legend

Date: 11/21/2014

Two documentaries are in the column this week and both of them are well worth watching.

Bing Crosby Rediscovered

So have the Beatles or Bruce Springsteen sold half a billion records? How about recording nearly 400 hit singles? I don’t think so, but Bing Crosby did.

Bing, who?

From the 1930s until his death in 1977, Crosby was an iconic figure in American entertainment through his radio shows, recording career, movies and television. The guy was everywhere and that was quite an accomplishment in the analog, pre-Internet days.

His life and career are the subjects of a new edition of the PBS series “American Masters” titled “Bing Crosby Rediscovered.”

For Baby Boomers, Crosby was that really relaxed singer who seemed to be joined to Bob Hope at the hip. What we didn’t realize was just how big he had been and how popular he remained until he died. This excellent documentary does a great job in placing his record-setting career in place and for presenting Crosby as the complex person he was.

Crosby is seen here as a performer keenly aware of his persona and audience. Although his on-stage character was both laid-back and breezy, he was a serious man who showed he had considerable depth as a businessman.

Although contemporary audiences might not understand how Crosby was an innovative singer who changed vocalization, the film goes into detail to show just how significant and influential he was.

The documentary also grapples with his relationships with his fellow performers – he was known to be generous and supportive of many of his colleagues – and with his family. Crosby had two sets of children each by his two wives. His reputation suffered when one of his older sons, Gary, published a book after his father’s death depicting him as a stern disciplinarian who practiced corporal punishment – a controversial characterization to this day.

His younger children, including actress Mary Crosby, defend their father.

My one unanswered question from viewing the film was about Bing’s relationship with his brother Bob, a talented musician and successful bandleader. I wondered if there was a level of competition or jealousy between them?

Although I was never a real fan of Crosby’s music – I do like the many “Road” films he made with Hope – this film certainly fascinated me and made me wonder if any of the people who are singers today will ever have the kind of career Crosby did. I think the answer is “no.”

I am Santa Claus

Many, many years ago, when I was a clean-shaven fat man, the city of Holyoke asked me if I would be the “official” Santa for a promotion of downtown businesses. I readily agreed and it was one of the best experiences of my life, especially when a young nephew of ours declared to my wife, “That was the real Santa.”

This very engaging documentary follows a group of men from around the country who not only become Santa for the holiday season, but also maintain the beard and the attitude all year round. One is a gay antique dealer in Texas, while another is a retired man in Michigan. There is a fire suppression system contractor in New York who has legally changed his name to Santa Claus, and a real estate agent in California. The fifth man profiled is former WWE wrestler Mick Foley, who is so in love with Christmas he has a permanent Christmas room in his home. The film details Foley’s decision to portray Saint Nick.

The film shows these men in their everyday lives and they all have their concerns and issues. When it comes to being Santa though, they’re dedicated to being the best Santa they can be, even the most curmudgeonly member of the group who swears and drinks.

They all speak about how being Santa makes them better people.

This is a great little documentary and very appropriate holiday viewing.