At a young age, I sensed that my Christmas was different. Sure, there was typical cookie-baking and tree-trimming to be had. Yet, all of our holiday activities were done while another music standard played in the background: Bing Crosby. Other kids in my class hummed along to Alvin and the Chipmunks. I tried to get them to sing “Looks Like A Cold, Cold Winter,” and was greeted by deafening silence. Why didn’t anyone know the words? I can’t be both the girl’s and the boy’s part!
Bing had a strong-jawed, jolly feel that fed my latent ideas of romance. His White Christmas album features his grinning face framed by a fur-lined hat. As the vinyl spun on the turn-table, I would prop the cover up on my lap and study the picture. After some introspection, I came to interpret Bing to be a younger, suave version of Saint Nick. Under the spell of his baritone, I would lean back and watch bubble lights percolate behind spiked pine tree branches, dreaming of a handsome man stooping to arrange presents with my name on the tag.
Bing in the flesh appeared to me much later. The soundtrack White Christmas was eventually followed up with a viewing of the film. White Christmas is about two rag-tag entertainers, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye). Bob and Phil are former WWII GIs who trade the soldiering life for center stage. One night, they happen upon an act by the Haynes Sisters. Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy’s (Vera Ellen) charisma immediately captures Bob and Phil’s attention. They decided to follow the women to Vermont in the hopes of adding to their act and possibly wooing them. The plan becomes complicated when the men learn that the show’s venue is owned by their former commander, General Waverly. Business at his lodge is not faring well, and the talented visitors are just the people to help.
What I didn’t realize was the six degrees (or, rather, two degrees) of Bing Crosby separation that already existed beyond my TV set and speakers. The circle of Bing gradually rotated right back to where it had started: my family. Growing up in California, my Grandfather witnessed many a celebrity sighting. Nevertheless, Bing was the only one who ever provided enough wonder to justify trespassing. Prior to writing this post, I was under the impression that Grandpa had unintentionally met Bing. He clarified the story over the phone:
Grandpa: “I broke into his backyard.”
Me: “Are you joking?”
Grandpa: “No. Roosevelt Elementary, the place I where I went to school, boarded the Bing Crosby Estate. There was a gigantic brick wall that separated the two properties. I decided to scale the wall. I jumped down to the other side and landed on a wasp nest. The wasps chased me down the block. I got stung really bad.”
Me: “What prompted you to do it?
Grandpa: “I wanted to see Bing Crosby’s place.”
Despite the craziness of the confession, I sense the logic. The pristine nature of the man demands a closer look. Perhaps that is why the walls were so high. Bing didn’t want you to be disappointed.Tags: Bing Crosby, Christmas, Christmas Music, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen, White Christmas