[Dixielandjazz] Bing Crosby book reviewed - Washington Post, June 10, 2016

Robert Ringwald rsr at ringwald.com
Sun Jun 12 11:15:30 EDT 2016

Bing Crosby book reviewed  
Bing Crosby’s Son on His Father’s First Love. It’s Not Singing.

“18 Holes With Bing: Golf, Life, and Lessons From Dad.” By Nathaniel Crosby and John Steger. Dey Street. 209 pp. $22.99.

by Robert Mitchell 

Washington Post, June 10, 2016

Few personalities have been as influential in the worlds of pop culture and sports as Bing Crosby. A singer whose “White Christmas” ranks as the most popular single in history , Crosby possessed a style so mellow, “you could warm your hands on the sound of his voice,” Washington Post critic Tom Shales wrote. Crosby won an Academy Award in 1944 for his role in “Going My Way,” appeared in numerous films, and was a fixture for decades on radio and TV.

Crosby’s entertainment success allowed him to indulge in his passion for sports. Over the decades he bought interests in Southern California’s Del Mar thoroughbred racetrack, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the now-defunct California Seals hockey team.

But golf was his abiding love. A new memoir by Crosby’s son Nathaniel shows just how much the game meant to him. As the title suggests, “18 Holes With Bing” focuses on the elder Crosby’s fascination with the game and how he passed it on to his son, who became an accomplished golfer in his own right, winning the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1981.

Nathaniel writes that his father’s enthusiasm for golf started early. In 1937, as Bing’s career was taking off, he hosted the first Bing Crosby Pro-Am, the influential tournament that eventually made its home at Pebble Beach along the Pacific coast. 

“Everything Dad accomplished in the entertainment field was a distant second to this game,” writes Nathaniel Crosby, who notes that his mother, Kathryn, joked that her husband was “a golfer who sang.”

Perhaps fittingly, Crosby’s death in 1977 came after he finished a round on a golf course in Spain.

Crosby’s affection for the game was returned by golf’s top competitors. “The PGA Tour is indebted to Bing Crosby,” whose contribution to the game “is immeasurable,” Jack Nicklaus writes in the book’s foreword.

One of the pleasures of “18 Holes With Bing” is its many anecdotes involving personalities as varied as Louis Armstrong, David Bowie, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Babe Ruth and Roberto Clemente .

In one such tale, Crosby is playing a foursome with JFK, Joseph Kennedy and Chris Dunphy, a golfing buddy. On the first hole, Dunphy refused to concede a short putt to the president, until JFK said he had an “appointment with the director of Internal Revenue” after they finished playing.

“‘Putt’s good,’ Dunphy said. ‘Pick it up.’”

Nathaniel Crosby recounts how inclement weather and the “bibulous” early years of the pro-am led to the event’s nickname, the “Crosby Clambake,” and describes a charity golf tournament at which a hung-over Ruth peppered the gallery with shanked drives.

Less interesting are the younger Crosby’s ruminations on parenthood and family. He refrains from addressing the allegations of cruelty directed at his dad by his half-brother, Gary, in a memoir published 35 years ago , but acknowledges that corporal punishment was routine as he grew up. “I am certain, though, that my father loathed” having to resort to it, Nathaniel writes.

Readers will have to look elsewhere for a disinterested study of Crosby as a parent. As it is, “18 Holes With Bing” is an engaging account of how father and son bonded over a sport Bing Crosby pursued with gusto until the day he died.


Robert Mitchell is an editor with the Washington Post-Bloomberg News Service. 30

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