By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
By Pete Kotz
By Monica Alonzo
By New Times
At home, Bing reads, does crossword puzzles, watches the tube--sports and movies are his favorites--and dreams of someday having the space to surround himself with his vast collection of Bing Crosby memorabilia. Most of it is in storage.
You've heard of "Deadheads," that subculture of Greatful Dead fans who covet concert tapes and anything else to do with the venerable rock group.
Bing is, well, a Binghead: He's collected more than 3,000 of Bing's tunes on cassette and reel-to-reel tapes, and on vinyl. (Just a few titles: "El Se¤or Bing," "Hey Jude/Hey Bing!" and "Bing N' Basie.")
"I was regarded as the number two Bing collector in the Chicago area," he says. "I've always wanted to know everything about him."
His love affair with Crosby started, Bing says, by happenstance, when he was about 11 and the dulcet tones of an unknown big-band singer oozed out of his radio speakers. It was Bing Crosby, singing with Gus Arnheim and His Coconut Grove Orchestra.
"My older brothers were always asking me, 'Who's your favorite? Who's your favorite?'" Bing recalls. "When this nobody came on the radio, I heard something I liked--he was smooth, clear, one of a kind. I told them, 'That's the guy for me.'"
Bing says he met Bing Crosby twice, once at a hotel in Chicago during World War II and again around that time at a golf tournament near the Windy City.
But he says his biggest thrill came in 1972, when he, his wife and a few of their children stopped at Crosby's mansion while vacationing in the San Francisco area. Bing's game plan was to present Crosby with rare photos taken of the crooner as a youth. But Crosby wasn't home. A housekeeper took pity and invited Bing and company into the 26-room home.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Bing says, relishing the chance to tell the story again. "I got to see his study, his hat collection, everything. I even got to sit on his bed and put my head on his pillow. She let us take pictures, as long as we promised not to sell them to one of those tabloid things. It was a great day."
Bing left the rare photos behind and requested in a note that Crosby autograph and send them to him in Illinois. The signed photos that Crosby returned later that year occupy a special place in Bing's extensive collection.
Bing Crosby died in 1977, after playing a round of golf in Spain. Elvis Presley preceded him in death by two months.
"I know a lot of people consider Elvis the king, and that's okay," Bing says. "For me, it's Mr. Crosby. He always was young at heart. You got to think young, babe, if you're gonna be happy in this life.