Transcript:

Speaker He was my dad and, you know, I loved him as such. She was, uh, you know, engaged in his career, but we didn't have a reference.

Speaker And so we weren't we didn't have the same level of fascination. We wanted to be a part of it. You know, I was attracted to music early on. And, you know, again, you probably heard the story, but quite by accident, I went down to watch him do the Hollywood Palace at age six, and they asked me if I knew any songs. And I said, well, I just learned a Christmas Carol. So, of course, that fit well and and ended up doing the show with them and complete and black tie and shorts and shiny black shoes. And and that was the beginning of the Christmas shows. So so, you know, we were we were raised kind of as normal kids. We thought so in San Francisco. And, you know, we loved him as a dad.

Speaker Did you have did you have an aha. Yeah. Did you have an aha moment when you hit you like how the public.

Speaker You know, reacted to him now, you know, it wasn't like an aha moment where we kind of stood back and said, oh my God, look who were related to me.

Speaker And it was you know, he was he was an integral part of our family as first as the father. You know, I loved what what he loved about music and the fact that he imparted that on us, but in a very casual way. He was very low key guy. And part of the reason I think we were in San Francisco as a as a family is, is because he he wanted to kind of stay low key. You know, he engaged when he had work. And we recognize that that we were all kind of in a public light. My mother instilled that in us, you know, early on, so we would try and stay out of trouble for the most part.

Speaker But when you did the Hollywood palace and that was in front of a live audience, right? Yeah. So, I mean, you saw that was that the first time you saw him in front of a live audience? The right and the right?

Speaker No, I don't think so. I mean, accused of sex.

Speaker So but but I I've seen stills where I was on the set of of either movies or shows or things like that. So, no, I think we were exposed to it fairly early on where, you know, I was thrust out in the middle of the audience was it was a it was a baptism by fire, but it was all good. It was nurturing. And they quickly, you know, rewrote the the show and to allow for that piece. And that was great.

Speaker Did you as you got older and into your teens, everything. Did you ever notice A which would be completely understandable where the when he walked on stage or when he walked back when he walked into the theater or backstage, that he was there ever a switch to professional mode now for him?

Speaker No, he was he was himself. I mean, I think that's what made I think people feel comfortable around him working as he was he was very much, I think, disciplined in the way he approached his work and learned his lines and understood his songs and the material. But but when he you know, when when the show started, he was very much, you know, at peace with what he was doing and very much himself.

Speaker The he was a kind of guy that was was, you know, kind of selfless and not embarrassed if he started a song and he kind of got it wrong or he didn't fit right. He'd say, all right, you know, hold it, guys.

Speaker You know, let's start from the top. And he would and he he he lay it out again.

Speaker I learned that part of it from him because when we were in the Palladium, I did that more than once and, you know, and stop and, you know, started again and then and did it. And so now he improvised a ton. And, you know, whether it was lines in a movie or whether it was the song, there was a ton of improvisation and he was very free form that way.

Speaker You said that and spin it back to me. You said that as the oldest, there was a degree of trust.

Speaker That he gave you a degree of trust?

Speaker Yeah, yeah, well, first of all, I think he was comfortable with boys and I was the eldest of of the second family and, you know, right out of the box, you know, I love my dad. I love the things that he did. And I wasn't just singing and performing. It was or music. It was hunting and fishing and outdoors and all the things that he kind of liked, I embraced and, you know, and some sons and daughters do and some some don't. They follow their own path. I followed my own path, but I embrace the kind of things that he did. And so it was sort of naturally we hung out together a lot and.

Speaker And you that tell us he would take you out of school to go hunting and fishing.

Speaker Yeah, he snuck he snuck me out occasionally. I think I've I'm out of the schools now, so I'm not going to get in trouble. But yeah, we I was probably 13, 14 and sneak me out of North Hillsborough School where I went, you know, lower school, and he'd have a car all loaded up and the dogs in the car. And we had about a 200 mile drive up to central California, which is and, you know, just north and east of Sacramento. And we get the car across the Bay Bridge, pay the tolls. And then he slipped me into the into the driver's seat, sitting on top of a pillow. And I would drive the remaining 120 miles or so and without incident, I might add. But, you know, he's done it before. And and and we talk about everything and hunt together during the week, during the weekend. But he snuck snuck me on on Fridays around one o'clock.

Speaker But because you were so interested in music, did you or did you begin to ask him about, you know, when you did this when you tell me about when you did that kind of you know, it's interesting.

Speaker I was I love music on my own. So it wasn't it wasn't I wasn't like Michael Feinstein, who's just brilliant. I mean, he he's such a historian and a musicologist first, as well as a brilliant musician on his own. I mean, I think we talked a little bit about what he did with with IRA Gershwin. I mean, he was a catalogers. He had a Ph.D. in music. I wasn't as interested or fascinated with my father's history. I was much more interested in James Taylor and Carole King and and some of the early rock groups and the Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead. And and I hold the first group. I actually loved Latin music as a kid. And we grew up spent a little time in Mexico every year or so. So I loved, you know, a whole different set of music. I love what my dad did. But I but I kind of followed I follow that path.

Speaker Did you ever say to him, when you're doing the specials, did you ever say to him, like, we should get so-and-so on the show?

Speaker Oh, yeah. I mean, well, one guy I loved and they I don't know that I influenced it, but Glen Campbell, who is, you know, was was a crossover from country to Pop and, you know, and sung beautifully and was also a great guitarist. I mean, he started as a studio musician. So it really resonated with me as a guitarist. And he gave me my first, you know, real guitar and an ovation at the time. And I maintained a friendship with him, you know, for a long, long time. So still friends. I don't talk to him much now. But he he he came on the Christmas show and played and and those were the kind of guys who resonated. What was that at your urging? I mean, I was eight. How so? So, no, I would love to say I influence there and David Bowie, but these were people that I loved and, you know, worship the music standpoint. But but, you know, we did talk about it a little bit through osmosis. I think, you know, dad dad saw and the one thing I loved about him musically, it was he was intellectually curious about all the different things. And that's what I think gave him such longevity, is because, you know, he loved Irish music and Irish ballads and he had the tenor voice from it. But then he he explored jazz and he explored Hawaiian music and he explored Latin music. And and so there were a lot of different facets.

Speaker You may not know this, but now you're going to pretend like, you know, OK, damn it, I no, I love that.

Speaker I'll say what you want me to say.

Speaker Well, I think it's important to say I'm quoting from Gary's book, but it should be stated, since he refused to publicly identify himself with any political candidate as Jimmy Stewart or Bob Hope or John Wayne had a premier said, I never thought it was proper for a performer to use his influence to get anyone to vote one way or another. Well, that's true.

Speaker I mean, he was he was a private man. And and and he you know, so much of his work was public. And, of course, he was probably it's very different now. I think we're just everything is so quick and the social media and so on. But he had a hit, a general philosophy, which is, you know, as far as stills and morning shows and any kind of publicity. And he had a publicist, but I think for the most part was more and more to keep things dialed down rather than to dial it up. And and his view was, if all that is fine, if you have something to sell, if you have a book out or if you have a show you want to talk about or if you've got a new song that you've done, then then all that makes sense. And we all kind of grew up that way. So we were we were not we were comfortable in front of cameras, but for the life of me and I moved actually actually to New York, I didn't understand this whole social circle and shiny sheets and and, you know, and all these people going to dinners, fancy dinners, but but more importantly, getting photographed and getting seen in magazines and papers and things. We we never we never had that as as for, you know, political focus objectives, he had great relationships with both sides of the aisle, but they generally started as a friendship. And the thing about it and growing up is, is his beliefs, political beliefs or ethos really was never out there for people to see. He was he was not accessible that way. I kind of wish we were more more that way.

Speaker Now, unbutton your jacket, because I want to see what happens when you unbutton my jacket.

Speaker Yeah. Let's see. There you go. That's good. And move your tie to the center kind of support. Yeah, good. How's that good. This way. This way. This way.

Speaker All right.

Speaker Let's jump to pot smoking.

Speaker Let's shall we. I mean, it's people really think of him as he gave an interview to Nat Hentoff at The Voice, I guess, or no, the Wall Street Journal. He's very clear. He's against the Vietnam War. He who did this? Yeah, he's against the Vietnam War. He's for legalizing pot. He's really dislikes Richard Nixon.

Speaker You tell us that I should tell you that.

Speaker Well, you know, I was I was like 12, I think so I don't I don't I don't remember him saying any of those things. He was he was very conservative. I mean, I, I kind of go back to and Gary Giddins and others may have done a lot of work on it, but I had a general view and based on my observation that he was in his 20s and 30s, he might have been like a lot of 20 and 30 year olds who had achieved some fame. You know, he kind of let it fly. He may have, you know, had a little bit to drink and liked to party a little bit. But I think early on, in order for him to have sustained such a long lived career, he really took care of himself. So I think he kind of shut it down along the way. If you're asking me whether he smoked pot or not. I mean, we've heard stories, but, you know what he had in his pipe or in the 30s or not. But I wasn't there. Now, my experience of him was that, you know, he was pretty conservative and wanted us pretty buttoned down on it. And whether he liked Nick's or not, I mean, you know, I can't say whether he was a Republican or a Democrat. I think they were, you know, the way he thought was, you know, pretty much right down the middle. I mean, you know, whether it had been whether it was Eisenhower or Kennedy or Reagan or, you know, it wasn't Reagan before. You know, it's he was accessible. Both sides of the aisle.

Speaker What do you what do you know about his parents, your grandparents, his growing up in Spokane and all his parents?

Speaker Well, he he lost his father, I think, of a heart attack, you know, in the forties, I want to say. So I never met met him. His mother, I, I met and knew I was I mean, I was a young young boy when she passed. And you have to appreciate, as you probably do, that that, you know, he was born in 03.

Speaker So the you know, I mean, parents were kind of advanced when I came along. The mom was and so say I had a relationship with the grandmother, with my grandmother. Then it was hard. I don't even know when she was born. But it was in the late 80s, 90s, 1888. I would think so. But she was strict. According to my mother, she spent some time in our home and the final years, and she was devoted to to dad and she loved us. But, you know, I think it was hard at seven. She was dad was one of seven siblings and Spokane.

Speaker It was. And it was it was tough up there. The.

Speaker I know what the first four boys that there were kidnapping threats against them and serious I mean, there's FBI files, there's kidnapping threat was and was that a case with you guys to, you know, not really that we were aware.

Speaker We took public buses to school for a period of time. I think there was one car parked outside of our driveway that was suspicious, you know, at once. And then and all of a sudden we were driven to school. You had a nanny drive us to school. Now, Hillsborough is a low key, great suburb just south of San Francisco Airport, 15, 20 minutes, you know, Burlingame area. It's it's a great little city. And it's a city in the sense that it's incorporated. It's really suburbia. You know, Greenwich is large compared to what this is and had three public schools. And we went to the lower schools through the eighth grade. They were public schools. And I mean, it really was just that local community and there were still seats that couldn't be filled. So it was very easy environment there. So it was pretty safe.

Speaker Let's talk about the relationship between your mom and dad, because what's so clear in her books is that she gave as good as she got from him. I mean, she's pretty remarkable. Just don't do this, OK?

Speaker And then she just went, you know, whether someone thought, well, that's true. Yeah. Nursing or becoming a teacher.

Speaker Well, it's I mean, it's a it's human nature, right? You you you fall in love with with a certain qualities and attributes and then you try and and, you know, make them yours. But but part of the attributes is independence and talent and things that that are more of a public forum. And she was an actress and they met on a lot and the Columbia a lot of paramount Paramount Pictures.

Speaker I should know these things, pick it up to say they met at the point on the Paramount lot.

Speaker They met. They met on the Paramount lot. And she was nineteen. And, you know, he asked her if she wanted to have a cup of tea and and she, you know, coyly said, can I bring my aunt, which wasn't her real. And but it was kind of guardian who was there and who was far more thrilled than my mother was at the time. But, you know, she she was independent. She took elocution. You know, she grew up in an area that was remote, part of Texas, south of Houston, called West Columbia. And West Columbia was you know, it was you know, they had a Texas accent and and mom kind of worked her way, wanted to be an actress. And and and she spoke it kind of in a in a more generic way. She could turn on the Texas accent, particularly when she was mad at us. But she she went out there young and and curious and full of life. And it started a courtship. So she was independent. Right.

Speaker Right from the bat. Did.

Speaker Yeah, yeah, it's kind of amazing. Yeah, no, and she was strong and she was strong and she she, you know, she she wanted to perform, she wanted to do films.

Speaker She developed relationships early on. And back then, you know, the contract players, I guess Clint Eastwood was a contract player. There's a host of others in that vintage that grew up. You know, it's like playing for the base and you learn a lot of different about directing and voice and dance and being in front of the camera, being behind the camera. And you're exposed to great, great folks that have all those skill sets. And and then eventually you get your own contract and you do things so. So she grew up in that environment.

Speaker All right.

Speaker She no, he never watched his old movies with you guys.

Speaker You know, I think there were certain specials and TV specials and things like that we loved. I'll tell you what, we went up on our own to the attic and there were 16 millimeter films and we would watch all the road pictures. I loved the road pictures and the one thing and thought about it. He brought it up. The road pictures were all improvised. And I've gone back and since looked at the scripts and there was just more lead and erasers, you know, striking the the dialogue.

Speaker But they I mean, they had a ton of fun with it.

Speaker And and you got to observe him and Bob together first hand.

Speaker Yeah. Well, Delores was my godmother and saw a lot of Bob and I saw a lot of Bob after dad passed. And he was such a it was a good friend and and he was very supportive of my mother and frankly, the family and and a little charitable golf tournament we had down in North Carolina. Very language. A great guitarist. I used to listen to, you know, a lot of his early, early music and and and and dad loved and they had a special relationship. I think there was someone that could really developed a style early, early on in jazz in terms of riffs and melodies and voicing. And, you know, a lot of folks have tried to emulate emulate that style. It was premature that he passed, you know, so early on. I don't know what age he was, but but he was very close to that.

Speaker And he went in with, I think, tonsillitis and and died on the table through I don't know if it was from the operation, but I thought it was from anesthesia.

Speaker And, you know, and there was I mean, he was broken about it. I mean, personally.

Speaker But he was broken about it because he had such a unique thing musically with with Eddie Long.

Speaker Let's talk about the Krosby clause in his contract.

Speaker Well, if it's about billing, you know, it's interesting, hee hee, he and I've heard this firsthand, he said, you know, you can always they can always shoot at you if you're top billing, if the movie is a flop. So being second billing, he didn't have the ego that he felt he needed to be. You know, number one, you know, he he played whatever part he played on the on the movie and did well. He would do well and the movie would do well. And if it didn't do well, he was second billing. So that's. That's what that's what he liked.

Speaker What do you think he decided to move all you guys out of L.A.?

Speaker You know, I think whoever you speak to, you're going to you may get a different answer. I had a view that, you know, we kind of pushed a reset button as far as having a new family fell in love with my mother. They had a long courtship and four year courtship. Of course, she was 19 when they met. But, you know, I think the fact that that the two families were so different in age and the dad was a known quantity so so he could live in Alaska and people knew where to find him. And if he liked the material or the product or the project, you know, he could come down and do it in Los Angeles or New York or wherever he needed to be. And he had his eye on a house and he was exposed that he visited back. And I want to guess the 30s or early thirties. And it was a house that Charles Howard lived in. And for those of you that have seen Seabiscuit, Charles Howard was the owner of the horse and dad was involved with Del Mar. And and that's how they met. Yeah. Now, he was he was he was clearly a recognized personality and a known quantity. And in Hollywood, he could have moved anywhere. I think he really wanted to kind of push the reset button and with our family move in an area that was more of a I know I don't say normal environment, but an environment that was in an area he enjoyed, he could come back to you could go to Los Angeles and work whenever he needed to. You know, and incidentally, he he fell in love with his house. That's still my my mother's house where we grew up in which is owned by Charles Howard. And dad met Charles and his son Lynn, as written in in the book about Seabiscuit in the 30s when dad was involved with Dalmar Racing. And I don't think he had much in terms of of developed wealth. He wasn't a, you know, a FIPS or one of the big families that were into horses. But he loved horse racing and he loved Dalmar and he helped build that. And I think that's what kind of got him into the circle with Charles Howard. So 30 years later, he had his eye on the house and purchased the house in the early 60s. So that was our home. And it's still our home today or my mother's home and.

Speaker Your mom was the disciplinarian more than he was, I think so. I think so. She was turned it around as a statement.

Speaker Yeah. My I you know, everybody suggested, you know, which parent is a disciplinarian. I always think the mother is is kind of the structure and the backbone of most of us with our family. My mom was a disciplinarian and and she ran a pretty tight ship. On the other hand, she was very, you know, had a very open mind about things. Dad was kind of fully baked in terms of the things that he wanted to do in life. And having a family was part of it. But he still is going to go fishing and go hunting and go doing other things. And if these kids were too young to shoot or or fish, he was still going to go fishing. And he went to Baja California, found this great place, a remote part of Baja, just north of Cabo San Lucas. And back then, Cabo Cabo San Lucas was, you know, a chapel and a dirt airstrip and a fishing village. And there was nothing there. And so he built a small home, again, about 150 or 200 miles north of there. Well, water caterpiller generator running the running the electricity. And he would go down for two to three months in the spring. And my mother after the second year said, you know what, we're all going down. So we we had homestudy, March, April, May. We all learn Spanish. And and she brought all the curriculum down from our our schools to the extent that they had allowed it. My mother was a substitute teacher at our school, so they they couldn't contest her ability to teach. And she ran you know, we needed to study six hours out of any part of the day. But she was very open to taking us out of school, putting us down there March, April, May of every year, which we did until the high school shut it down. We had to finish our studies up north.

Speaker Yeah, it did. To where if if it did at all. Where didn't like the normal teenage rebellion come in for you or your brothers or sisters.

Speaker You.

Speaker Yeah. I don't know that, you know, define rebellion running away from home or getting arrested. I don't think it really occurred to any one of us. We we were a tight family, you know, where we the best behaved kids now. But but we we loved we loved our independence. We were given independence along with the responsibility of not getting into trouble or the independence would be taken away. But but, you know, I think we were we were blessed that way because we had parents who were somewhat structured, but they were also open minded and wanted us to run as far and as fast as we could. My sister, with her acting, I mean, she was out of the house at eighteen nineteen. She was doing Dallas, lived in Los Angeles. Nathaniel, you know, won the US amateur is a very young age and was off to college on his own. And I was living in London from the age of 18. I went to school, you know, started at nineteen there. So, you know, we were all pretty independent.

Speaker And so he never had to invoke. Well, your step brother and say, look, I've been through this already. Don't try this now.

Speaker I mean, it's it's fine because there's always this kind of connection. And, you know, I wished I had gotten to know my half brothers. I mean, their long deceased now as to what it was like, you know, and I again, it's this is more a philosophy that's not based on fact, as I understand it. But, you know, my father was who he was at 30, 40. And through his death as a person, as a man, was he more active and busy in his professional career in the 40s and 50s? Probably so. Was he less available for his kids? Maybe he was available for us, but it wasn't so much of I'm going to be at home for my children. It was more of like, you know, I'm going to do this and you can come along for the ride. So we embrace that. And and that's, you know, that helped shape our lives.

Speaker Going forward, I mean, I think the four half brothers had a ton of opportunities when you think about, you know, Gary performing with Louis Armstrong and the USO tours, I would have I mean, I would have loved to have done that. You know, I'm close to Wynton Marsalis and, you know, we're doing a little something for Jazz at Lincoln Center and a couple of weeks, which I'm passionate about. And when it's not only, you know, well studied in every aspect of jazz, but, you know, brilliant musician and to be a part of that. So to have Gary be a part of Louis Armstrong, I mean, Jesus, you know, great.

Speaker But that didn't end very well.

Speaker No. I mean, you got to show up for work. And Gary didn't. And, you know, and I and I think Gary had a hard time in Los Angeles. And I think it was mostly through excesses. You know, he did a dragnet and he did a couple of other things. Jack Webb, as I understand, was was more compassionate and loved Dad and and really wanted to give him, you know, a second chance, a third chance. And, you know, I think as Gary grew older, you know, those opportunities, you know, started to fade. But but as I understand the you know, the the boys were talented and two of them, you know, dad. So, yes, we're very good singers and.

Speaker And I think he was supportive in his in his own way.

Speaker I mean, as I told you, it's kind of clear now that they more than likely suffered from foetal alcohol syndrome.

Speaker Yeah. And again, that's it for me. Was I there? Know. But I think, you know, current studies suggest that if if anyone drinks heavily while pregnant, it's not a good thing. It's on most labels. And and I don't think they knew that back then. And, you know, it's documented fairly heavily that Dixie was a heavy drinker and was more than a social drinker. I think it was a sickness. And I don't know that there was that much information when those kids were were born. But I think more so. They loved you know, they loved their mother and their father and and I don't know that she was a strong or is capable at the time.

Speaker Given given the circumstances, the letters show how much she really tried to help them over the years, too, which is an important fact.

Speaker And.

Speaker Is. Well, with talk, let's jump for a minute to the Christmas specials, because I want to place these in context and I need you to say that at that time in entertainment that Dean Martin Sinatra, Lucy, Judy Garland, they were all putting everybody put their kids into their act on all the right. Yeah, everybody. So it's this was not an isolated case. It was common practice for these variety shows back then. So can you.

Speaker Well, I mean, I never thought about that, but it was kind of by accident because it wasn't contrived. I went down to to to watch my dad rehearse. I mean, there was there was I can remember it, even though I was very young back then, was done by Nick Van off and Bill Harbach and Bill Harbach is still very much around. And we've spoken, you know, recently, as earlier this year, he fascinated me. He was the director of the Hollywood Palace, as you know, was a variety show. And Dad did a ton of them generally around the kind of Christmas genre. And and I don't know whether it was Bill or somebody. It said, you know, can you sing something? And I said, great. And, you know, I did this little Christmas Carol that I had learned. In the first grade for four for Christmas, Christmas, Christmas performance at school and so sang it and they said, great, your year end and they quickly score, you know, wrote a little score, surrounded it, and they used a glockenspiel and a little piano and and it was a cute song. And that led to the following year where they said, OK, we're going to we want to bring the whole family in.

Speaker And there was never a time when you and your siblings were like, we don't want to do it this year.

Speaker Now, are you kidding? We got out of school. We got out of school September and October, and it was like we had three weeks off. This was really great. We could take off school. The painful part as we grew older was that we had to get our braces off so we can do the show. So not only did you know the painful way of there was no Invisalign back then, it was all braces and we had all that taken off. And then we lost about six months because we had it taken out. So we had to put it back on. And but other than that, we you know, we cut class. It was all good. So what was the rehearsal process like on this thing? You know, was it was it was as as as it would be today, I mean, you you know, we were sent a script. They had, you know, a number of different variety shows were back then. You know, you had a number of different scenes and it was, you know, formulaic. You know, there'd be a little dialogue and you'd sit down and then it would lead into into a song and then you'd finish and I would kind of fade to black. And then you'd you'd you'd open with something else. And there were a series of different artists. There was a little bit of comedy. I was a John Byner. I'm trying to think of some of the folks. It was Adam West from Batman at the time as Glen Campbell, I think Mary Martin might have been.

Speaker And one of them was I would have tons of them. I mean, way before David Bowie, which was, you know, as we were middle teenagers, but just great performers, talented folk and somewhat relatively new on the scene as well.

Speaker And were you into Bowie when he came? Yeah. Yeah. So were you really excited about Bowie doing the show? Yeah, yeah. Yeah, sure I was. What do you remember about that?

Speaker Well, he was just very cool, relaxed. He walked in and he has a pack of Goolwa at the time and he he cracked it open and he sat on one side of the piano and dad sat on the other and, you know, and they all made it look so easy. The Drummer Boy was such a and of course, it's so different than than the kind of stuff that he did at the time. But he had a great voice, has a great voice and and just kind of laid it out there.

Speaker Let's talk about the Minute Maid commercials. What can you tell me about those? Because I've seen your sister. It's kind of like you look at all of them and it's like you get like a very professional home movie because you're all running around. I mean, it's shot at the house. I mean, you should tell us they were all shot at the house. Yeah. Yeah, it was.

Speaker I mean, it was it was like a home movie, except all with orange juice. And and it was very relaxed. You know, we kind of all were running around in bathrobes, getting ready for breakfast for three full days. And it was great. I'm trying to think it was done by Bob James was the producer on it. It's still around. We keep in touch. Great guy work for Moshiach agency, which is then now been rolled up into and another large company I've forgotten now WPP or or something. And we were just, you know, allowed to kind of run and run with it. You know, there was there was a storyline, but a lot of it was improvised. And and, you know, we were home. It was very relaxed. We had we had a great time. I mean, I don't know when it started, but incidentally, the first commercial I did was a commercial, and I must have been about two or three. And and to say that I remember it would be insincere. But I do remember not cooperating the entire time. I don't know that it ever got in there. But no minute, mates. We started very young. We were all at the house. It was very relaxed. We were running around doing different things as a family. But it's centered on three days of filming with a storyline always different from running around in pajamas to playing croquet to other things around the house. But it was it was all about breakfast. And trying to get that frozen substance out of a can was art, not science. But it was fun.

Speaker The. Well, let's go here.

Speaker You mentioned we've talked about this in retrospect and you should say this because you you told me you were in the family sort of feel you should have done some damage control after Gary's book, correct? You more. You more.

Speaker Mimic your dad's style of, you know, like, yeah, you're I probably do mimic more of dad's style, which is kind of like you can you can approach the no comment to, you know, go out on and do a do an antique Gary book tour, which would only improve sales. But I think when it came out, I can't remember I was either a teenager or not teenager, but early 20s anyway, or early to mid 20s. I was just to me, it was so preposterous. And, you know, and I first of all, I didn't believe any of it was true because I had 20 years, 19 years of a life with the same man. I didn't get it. It wasn't that, you know, I was horrified by it. I just didn't understand why he would come out or feel that he needed to come out with with something so, so such and such poor taste and probably just full of inaccuracies. So, you know, I wasn't there. I, frankly, didn't have a close relationship with Gary. I didn't know him that well. You know, he's got a son who's, you know, a nice guy who lives a normal life based in Los Angeles and and the other siblings. I didn't really know. I do believe that there was probably some jealousy or some envy that might have gone on as they were approaching their mid 20s or 30s and and maybe a level. And I'm saying not just Gary, but just the whole group, that there was maybe a level of expectation that the world was their oyster and things should open up for them. And and they they were supposed to get whatever they supposed to get. Well, you know, Dad worked hard and I think Dad was supportive. And these these four boys and I call them four boys, they're thirty years my senior were, you know, enormously exposed to tons of different things, you know, whether it was Hollywood, different actors and artists and musicians. They went to LCO, which is a wonderful ranch in the middle of, you know, Nevada, and had a ton of outdoor experience and hunting and fishing. So they I mean, they had a lot of those things. And I frankly, I think we were exposed to to a different chapter. But it was the same kind of environment that had a ranch and rising river, which is now owned by Clint Eastwood. Great place, beautiful place. And that's where we had our summers and learn to ride. And we worked on the ranch and helped with raising cattle and and and and got a chance to hunt and fish with that. So, you know, I'm I'm less less sympathetic. So the book was was not something that I wanted to even engage in in a debate.

Speaker Do you think that that's sort of what can you hold that camera right there? But do you think that that's sort of what led to a reduction in in. The public's sort of. Continued embracement of him after his death. That kind of.

Speaker I don't think the book ask the question again. Well, I'm just.

Speaker I mean, it's a twofold thing, because when Sinatra died, the family almost immediately kicked into gear with merchandising him.

Speaker Right. You know, and you guys didn't. But then you had the double whammy of the book.

Speaker So, you know, I honestly think and again, this is distant memory for for for me, because you have to appreciate kind of where we all were, right. So so I was still kind of in the formation period. I was 19. I was distraught that my father had passed. You know, it was a tough experience. I was working with him at the London Palladium and and I had taken a year off college to see whether this was a direction that I wanted to go in. I had a great opportunity. I was playing with Johnny Smith, a great, great guitarist, Milt Hinton and George Duvivier, interchangeably to great bassist Jack Hanna, Joey Bushkin, Rosemary Clooney was singing and and I had a chance to continue through that school year to perform with that. And and we did the London Palladium. And then we were doing some of the provinces in England. And then we're going to go to Australia and Japan. And Dad had decided, you know, strangely about three weeks before, not to continue with the tour. You didn't feel really good. And it wasn't, you know, wasn't apparent that he didn't feel good. He just said, you know, I just I don't think I want to do this. So I panicked. And it's now October. I passed on college for that year and I went back and and got into college and London. And Dad and I got an A in a in an argument he wanted me to to cut class and go with him and play golf and shooting and and then we would explore, you know, university when we got back. But meanwhile I saw the year dissolving in front of me. So I was going to school quietly during the day and then taking the tube and doing the Palladium at night, unbeknownst to my dad and unbeknownst to my students that I was doing the other. So what took the lid off of everything was when he passed away, what changed tapes were ran out of tape. So so he was invited on the trip after he had cancelled this tour to go to to Spain, just outside of Madrid, a little golf course called La Maurella, which is a great course, just outside of the city, and and then go hunting and basically playing. And he wanted me to play with him. And I informed him gently that I was enrolled and attending college in London and and couldn't couldn't leave. So it's a little bit of reverse psychology. He was trying to say, come, come with me to Spain, you know, never mind the school thing. And and I was trying to argue in favor of actually completing college. So so we had a little tete a tete and and and then he laughed the next day, you know, fixed him coffee. And we were staying in a flat in the West End and he he went and played golf, finished around. And I remember it was on a Friday, two days later, and I got a call and he had passed away. So I was to say I was guilty would be an understatement. I felt, you know, if I had gone, I would have, you know, it wouldn't have happened and all those things. And at 19, I had to, you know, basically pack my bags, go over and and and deal with the authorities and pick him up and take him home.

Speaker And so it was a new chapter.

Speaker And not only did you have to do that, but you guys had to do a Christmas show, right, without him?

Speaker No. Now, we had done well there. You know, there was a Christmas show. It involved a lot of tape and stuff after that.

Speaker But the new stuff that you guys did without him.

Speaker Right. I got here for saying because I can't remember that that part of it was, is that what we did? Yes. They would say there was a bunch of it was a bunch of tapes and a retrospective was. Yes, yeah. Because I had forgotten that I had forgotten. OK, go ahead. OK. Right. OK. Well, so, yeah, no, it's interesting, we did we did a Christmas show, and it was a retrospective of of of a collection of the Christmas shows and Dad and, you know, it was all it was it was it was a tough period. It was a tough period because, you know, I had a close relationship with my dad. My brother had a close relationship with with dad. And and Mary does as well. I think he he helped us grow up and made us feel respected from in terms of our music, in terms of our acting and and working together, but also as a family and.

Speaker Now that you've been married a while yourself. Yes. You look when you reflect back, why do you think Catherine and Bing's marriage worked so well?

Speaker We don't have enough time for that. It's just it's too much too much time, too much data.

Speaker Now we are I mean, when my mother was nurturing and loving and and the relationship she had with dad was a was a genuine one.

Speaker They were 30 years apart. I don't know how many relationships that are 30 years apart or, you know, last for the duration. But there's did I think he died prematurely.

Speaker And my wife and I are 10 years apart. But, you know, it's great.

Speaker It's a great relationship that you should mention this, even though it's one of those things I need you to spit back to me that he should do that for his from the minute he made it and started earning money, that he took care of his extended family, relatives, financially and friends, anybody who needed help. He was very generous with.

Speaker Yeah, I think he grew up, as you know, they were. Second or third generation, but they were, you know, as an Irish clan, if somebody succeeds, you know, they take care of their of their own and their own in their current generation, not just their own children. And I think dad grew up and evolved with everybody working in the office. Yeah, Everett was his manager and agent. Larry was kind of the the business ideas guy. So everybody that had an idea, good, bad or cockamamie, that that, you know, Larry, was was the filter for that.

Speaker Dad's father was an accountant by background and I think was was an accountant that kind of did the financials at Del Mar going way back. And Ted, I didn't know that well, although I remember, you know, stories about him trying to write and get involved in Hollywood and largely unsuccessful.

Speaker But Dad was, you know, felt obligated to kind of pull some strings. Merri Rose the same. So I think, you know, there was a financial burden trying to appease the open hands. But I also think there was you know, they were a tight family, but there was some expectation Bob Crosby, you know, in his own right, worked and was independent and successful. And Dad may have helped him in some ways, but I think Bob was very much his own man and and talented in his own right.

Speaker The why do you think he decided to tour again towards the end?

Speaker You know, I think he wanted to keep working. And and like some folks, you know, if they love what they're doing, they're going to do it until until someone says, please don't do that anymore. And the idea of of actually putting together a show that included his family, I think he took a lot of pleasure from that. It was very episodic with the Christmas shows was once a year M.H. shows or once a year or the M.A commercials or once a year. And it was kind of fun for us and fun for dad and mom. And, you know, we did what was then called the Urist Theater in New York. Seventy six. And that was with all of us together. And it was we produced a show and we sang lots of different things. It was not a Christmas related show is kind of a variety show. And then we took that to London in seventy six and then again in seventy seven. And then from 77, you know, I was going to go off or did go off with my dad to, you know, to continue continue on the tour. Were you there in Pasadena when he took the fall. Yeah, I did the show. Tell us about that. I had a show called, I mean a song called Tenten. Tennessee was kind of an early Earley's tune. And it was one of those things where like probably like the Oscars or like other shows there, they rehearsed. But there's so many different acts that go on one after the other that you're really bumping up against. And your final dress rehearsal, you're bumping right up against the show itself, which is live but taped. And it may be a two hour show, but it's going to be taped in four hours. And so I think what happened was that dad had. All day, and I had done my my little song, you know, early in the afternoon, and then I was chilling until until the show started. And then when the show started and I did my piece, I left. So I didn't see the end of the show during that time. The end the very end of the of the dress rehearsal. The there's a there's a platform and it's a hydraulic platform and it goes up from about 25 feet from a floor below and brings up bands and props and musicians and other things, including a grand piano. And then it's it's lowered down between the sessions or acts. And then people come in and they change from below. And then it comes back again to the audience level, stage level, and it all works kind of flawlessly. It was down when it should have been up. And Dad went in to finish the last the very last part of the show, which is to to thank everybody for coming and take a bow and as practiced over 50 years, took a bow and he turned to walk off and the platform was down literally to over two stories and he had an enormous fall. He was fortunate, even though he was unfortunate, there should have been protection. And he was fortunate that he was able to catch his fall break, his fall with cat and catching a, you know, a large prop that that was that slowed him down. But he was very hurt. And my theory is, as shared by others, I think, is that that that true that was a contributor to his his heart attack.

Speaker But yet he recovered and he did recover and he was, you know, bruised from the back of his neck to the to the back of his knees. And, you know, I just think he was really badly he had such an impact from behind. It could have it could have messed messed up, as is the valve basically caused from the.

Speaker Mary, you got you got it more from his mother, from your mom, he wasn't extremely demonstrative, correct?

Speaker Yeah, no, mom was very, very demonstrative. That was good. And it's bad to if you're in trouble. She was demonstrative. If you you weren't in trouble. She she was she was great that way to.

Speaker But not him so much.

Speaker Now, you know, he he was, in my opinion, I was speaking in the first person and he was very accessible, you know, he was he wasn't a cuddly guy, but at the same time, he was very expressive and there were many ways to show affection, and he did. And he was unconstrained that way. So to say that he was cool or he was withdrawn or it wasn't that excessive, you know, that's that's that's not accurate.

Speaker The the way celebrity has changed now, the nature of celebrity people have a hard time grasping. They have a hard time processing the idea that there was somebody as world famous as he was who actually was humble and not interested in seeking more fame. Right. That he was, you know, this what he did for a living and that, you know, the people, that he wasn't something he sought out, particularly like to sing. He's glad to do it, but it wasn't the way he liked doing what he liked to do.

Speaker Bob Hope is contrasted in it, but in a positive way. Bob Hope couldn't stop working. He would always work nonstop. Dad worked really hard, but then he liked to play hard and his playing hard was not necessarily to be seen. I mean, he would disappear off into the wilderness hunting or fishing or doing other things that he liked to do with his pals. And and he continued that right up, right up to the end. But in terms of, you know, being seen and paparazzi and photographs and selfies, you know, there wasn't a lot of that there. There really wasn't a lot of that. He didn't. He didn't need it.

Speaker He had enough publicity stills, and you should also point out that the when he went off with these friends, for the most part, there were not other actors or singers he had.

Speaker You know what? It was amazing. He had such diverse group of friends and it was in sports, it was business. Incredible amount of people that, you know, remember, I had lost him at 19. So I I kind of felt comfortable with much older folks who were his peers, but also who knew him well and so developed those friendships. But guys like Phil Harris, who was, you know, an actor, comedian that I was very close friends with, and, you know, and there were others and they were conversely, there were those folks that he had a ton of respect for that he worked with, but that he didn't necessarily socialize with.

Speaker And did he ever leading up to a quarter his I need you to spit back to me.

Speaker Did he ever tell you when he was, you know, early days sort of carousing and, you know, when he was singing with these bands, whether it was a Coconut Grove or with Paul Whiteman, you know, did he ever used to say we were just.

Speaker It was not a fun mess, but, you know, yeah, he you know, he you know, I never heard anything explicit from him about how they got completely messed up after that one night when they sang and did whatever. No, but I you know, I got a sense that early on he, you know, he caroused. I mean, there are great stories and I'm sure they've been told better by others. But Harry Warner warned Dixy Lee to stay away from this this gigolo and said, you'll be you know, you'll be supporting this guy for the rest of your life. Stay away from this guy, Bing Crosby, because he's he's just a carouser. He's a partier. Yeah, he's you give me I give him. He's got a decent voice. But, you know, he'll be in your pocket for the rest of your professional career just just, you know, just stay away. And and she she failed to follow that advice. But I think he hit a point and I said it before that that I think he said, I really love doing what I'm doing and I'm going to shut it down and I'm going to be, you know, thoughtful about what I do. You know, he smokes cigars. He had a scotch every now and then. He liked a little wine, but there was never anything in such excess. And I'm sure if he's human and enjoy life, that there were some there were some rough or fun nights interchangeably. But I think in terms of his general approach, you know, he was there for the long haul. Oh, he worked like crazy.

Speaker I mean, he had he had a movie, you know, again, every at least two or three months. He had a radio show. He had a ton of records that were independent of the radio show. I mean, that was one thing that actually helped him create what became part of Ampex, which is the recording, both audio and ultimately video. And I didn't learn this until much later in life, is that he you know, again, radio shows were done on acetate and they couldn't be the fidelity was so low and perfect that they couldn't just replay things back then. And during the war, they were able to and it was a few engineers were able to kind of import higher fidelity recording devices and it really in pieces or in sections. And Germany had it figured out how to to create kind of the first recorder, the tape recorder. And they were able to to record the radio. He had to do two radio shows a day, as I understand it. And he did. He said both for my voice and for the fact that I'd like an afternoon off. I want to I want to try and record this.

Speaker And he ended up ended up doing any sort of them the seed money, right? Yeah. Tell us that.

Speaker No, he had he had an office in in Los Angeles with a group of folks that that were developing kind of the first audio tape recorder. And they were competing with Ampex and then they eventually became part of it, part of it. But they had the technology because they had brought in they had brought in low fidelity recorders in and kind of analyzed them and tried to improve them. And that really was the genesis of kind of early recording the.

Speaker Barbara, tell us about the Barbara Walters interview.

Speaker Well, I wasn't there. Fortunately, I wasn't there. I might have had something to say about it. She's a wonderful lady, a better and better socially through various functions. But she she was tough. She had a an interview with dad and I can't remember with seventy six or seventy seven. And, you know, she asked some pretty pointed questions, as Barbara would and as she's known for. I think Dad was, you know, Dad was generally very reticent to do any kind of interviews except, you know, if he's selling something or talking about the show that it was that was upcoming. And in this case that that was that was what he wanted to do. It quickly turned into more of a discussion on his first than the first family. And then I think it it it went into talking about, well, what what if, you know, if my sister, Mary Frances moved in with.

Speaker With a guy and his response was, you know what I had, you know, I would have to, you know, I would have to write her off or I'd have to ask her to leave or something.

Speaker And of course, that's not the way he felt. He loved all of us. And he was great with my sister. They had a great relationship, but. You know, I think I think she really had him cornered and I think it was unfair, but in the school of journalism, it's it's not about fairness, it's about your get and your, uh, you know, your ability to sensationalize something, you know, blurred by any inaccuracies.

Speaker Do you have a favorite scene or movie of his or both?

Speaker Well, I mean, I love the opening of White Christmas where he's singing the singing the first song with Danny Kaye. I love the scene of sisters that Rosemary Clooney does when he indicated it together. You know, there are lots of lots of things that he did. I actually liked the movie for television that he did with Blythe Danner and a guy named Frank Converse, who I don't know what's happened to him, but it was called Dr. Cook's Garden. And it was about, you know, a doctor who was, you know, folks that were really on their last legs. He was just kind of helping them on. And it was a heavy drama for particularly for television.

Speaker And and there were some great scenes in there that he did that his contemporaries, Garland, Sinatra, there's a current there's an undercurrent. And you as a musician, you know, pick up on this. There's definitely an undercurrent of nervous tension running through those performances of.

Speaker You know, it's it's a little bit, you know what I'm saying, right. And then with him, it's who which an even higher level than they did. And that was pretty big. It's a whole other it's a unique. Place in entertainment, because you can there's him and then you can start, you know, grouping other people as good as they were, you know what I'm saying? But you do understand. Yeah. I mean, yeah. So what do you attribute that to or how do you define that?

Speaker Well, it's hard. I mean, there's so many things that are intangible. You know, Dad worked hard. He he understood the songs. He understood the intonations. And you draw and contrast Fred Astaire. And I've seen this where they do a duet album together. You know, Fred Astaire writes out every cadence. He understands where he's going to emphasize notes. He's going to understand exactly where he phrases things. And that's what he did when he when he danced. I mean, it was made to look improvised, but it was so thought out and so specific and so fine. I think Dad was very much a natural and use that, but he had all that preparation. It's just that that he could improvise and he could and he did it in a way that was natural.

Speaker But he always came prepared. It wasn't kind of coming unprepared. And and then and so I think he was he was relaxed. He was relaxed in that way. And there was not.

Speaker Again, there's no need for like the 11 o'clock number with him. It was always smooth. And, you know, it's like Tony Bennett said yesterday, he sort of taught America how to relax.

Speaker Yeah, that's OK. We can go for the two minutes because I think. Well, yeah, I think we get the one minute.

Speaker And you've never, never saw him express any stage fright.

Speaker No, no, no.

Speaker I mean, was he you know, was he nervous about this or about that, you know. Yeah. But he's you know, he's he's. He'd hide it well, he you know, when he got back into live performance, he really did a lot more work because working with a mic, without a live audience in another film or television, you know, was just a lot more intimate. And you could draw people in. But if you've got a big stage or a thousand people, even with mikes, you need it. You needed more.

Harry Crosby
Interview Date:
2014-07-22
Runtime:
1:10:28
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
N/A
MLA CITATIONS:
"Harry Crosby, Bing Crosby Rediscovered." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 22 Jul. 2014, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1144
APA CITATIONS:
(2014, July 22). Harry Crosby, Bing Crosby Rediscovered. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1144
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Harry Crosby, Bing Crosby Rediscovered." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). July 22, 2014. Accessed December 06, 2021 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1144

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