6 Surprising Facts About Bing Crosby

George Stroud, Express/Getty Images
George Stroud, Express/Getty Images

You know him as the man who sang "White Christmas" and co-starred in a slew of movies with Bob Hope, but what don't you know about Bing Crosby? Here are five facts about the musician, actor, and avid golfer, who was born on May 3, 1903.

1. He got his name from a comic strip.

The entertainer was born Harry Lillis Crosby, which doesn't have quite the same ring to it. The nickname "Bing" found him when he was just 7 years old. The Spokane Spokesman-Review ran a comic feature called The Bingville Bugle, which was a parody of hillbilly newspapers. The young Crosby thought the feature was a riot, and would giggle uncontrollably when reading it. A neighbor noticed his laughter and started calling Crosby "Bingo from Bingville." The "o" eventually went away, but the nickname stuck.

2. He was almost Columbo.

American actor Bob Hope (1903 - 2003) with American singer and actor Bing Crosby (1904 - 1977) practice for a charity golf match at the Berkshire Golf Club, near Ascot
Keystone/Getty Images

When television fans think of Columbo, they probably envision Peter Falk starring as the title character. However, the job could have been Crosby's. The Columbo character made his debut in 1960 on The Chevy Mystery Show with Bert Freed portraying the detective. Thomas Mitchell also spent some time in the role, but the character really exploded when NBC decided to make a television movie in 1968.

The film's producers wanted either Crosby or the great Lee J. Cobb to portray Columbo, but Cobb couldn't squeeze it into his schedule. Crosby turned down the role for a funnier reason: he thought it would interfere with his golfing. At that point Bing considered himself mostly retired, and he didn't want to deal with the long drag of shooting keeping him off of the links.

3. He took his golf seriously.

Maybe turning down an iconic role for golf isn't so surprising considering what an avid golfer Crosby was. Crosby wasn't just any old amateur player; he was serious about his game and whittled his handicap down to two while playing in both the British and U.S. Amateur championships. In the late 1940s he signed a contract with ABC to do a weekly radio variety show, but he made a seemingly strange request: that the show be taped instead of live. This stipulation was a first for broadcast radio, but it enabled Crosby to spend more time on the golf course.

Although Crosby was a fine player, his most enduring contribution to the game was probably the tournament he started in 1937. The first "Crosby Clambake" was played for a purse of $3000 that came out of Crosby's pocket, but it gradually grew into a major event. The tournament is now known as the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, one of the PGA Tour's most beloved events.

4. "Peace on Earth," his Christmas duet with David Bowie, almost fell apart at the last minute.

The Thin White Duke was set to appear on Crosby's Christmas TV special in 1977 when the production hit a snag. The producers had decided that Bowie would sing "The Little Drummer Boy," but Bowie felt the song wasn't really right for him and refused to sing it.

The nervous producers huddled and decided to rewrite the song in an attempt to get something Bowie would actually perform. With just hours to go before the broadcast, the musical team wrote an alternative version with a new melody and alternate lyrics. Bowie liked the new version, dubbed "Peace on Earth," and agreed to perform it with Crosby, complete with a stilted intro sketch.

The song actually had staying power, and RCA ended up releasing it as a single in 1982; it still gets little resurgences each holiday season.

5. He liked the ponies, too.

Crosby wasn't just a golfer; he also enjoyed a little bit of action at the track. In 1937, he teamed up with a group of fellow superstars to open the Del Mar Racetrack just north of San Diego. In addition to Crosby, the team of investors included Jimmy Durante and Oliver Hardy. Crosby was at the track's gate on its opening day, shaking hands and greeting guests, and the track soon became one of California's hottest spots for celebrity sightings.

The racing itself wasn't too shabby, either: The track played host to the famous winner-take-all two-horse race between Seabiscuit and Ligaroti. The race was such big national news that NBC radio made it the company's first-ever national broadcast of a horse race.

6. Crosby is partly responsible for the Canadian tuxedo.

American actor and singer Bing Crosby (1904 - 1977) with his sons Gary, Phillip, Dennis and Lindsay, circa 1948
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Before denim-on-denim was a certified fashion trend, pairing a jean jacket or shirt with your favorite pair of blue jeans was considered a sartorial faux pas. Nicknamed the “Canadian Tuxedo,” the look has been the butt of many pop culture jokes for years—perhaps most famously in the movie Super Troopers.

However, Boing Boing traces the outfit back to Crosby. According to Levi’s Vintage Clothing, legendary singer Bing Crosby was denied entrance into a Canadian hotel in 1951 because he and his companion were clad in head-to-toe denim. Management soon realized that Crosby was a celebrity and let him in. However, tales of the incident spread, and designers at Levi Strauss and Co. eventually caught wind and designed Crosby a custom jean tuxedo jacket. That way, his denim would be dressed up enough for the swankiest of establishments.

Updated for 2019.

Target Has Launched a Harry Potter Line of Clothing, Accessories, and Home Goods

Target
Target

No more blending in with the mediocre Muggles—now wizards can decorate and accessorize like the magical creatures they are with Target's brand-new line of Harry Potter clothing and home goods.

Target shoppers will feel like they’ve stepped through Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station as they wander the Harry Potter-stuffed aisles. Popsugar reports that Target will carry more than 500 Harry Potter-themed items, including socks, lanterns, pillows, dolls and much more.

You’ll be able to wake up in your Hogwarts sheets, have your morning coffee in a Slytherin mug, and take a ride on a foam Nimbus 2000 replica while rocking a Potter t-shirt. Not sure what house you’re in? No sweat! Target is even carrying a real-life sorting hat.

Whether you need a gift for the kiddos, or just want to treat your inner witch, Target is sure to have the perfect find in its Wizarding World line.

House Boasting a ‘Harry Potter Room’ Under the Stairs Hits the Market in San Diego

Cupboard under the stairs featured on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter in London.
Cupboard under the stairs featured on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter in London.
Matt Robinson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When Harry Potter fans dream of living like the boy wizard, they may picture Harry's cozy quarters in the Gryffindor dormitory at Hogwarts. One home owner in San Diego, California is trying to spin one of Harry's much less idyllic living situations as a magical feature. As The San Diego Union-Tribune reports, a listing of a three-bedroom house for sale in the city's Logan Heights neighborhood boasts a "Harry Potter room"—a.k.a storage room under the stairs.

In the Harry Potter books, the cupboard under the stairs of the Dursley residence served as Harry's bedroom before he enrolled in Hogwarts. Harry was eager to escape the cramped, dusty space, but thanks to the series' massive success, a similar feature in a real-world home may be a selling point for Harry Potter fans.

Kristin Rye, the seller of the San Diego house, told The Union-Tribune she would read Harry Potter books to her son, though she wouldn't describe herself as a super fan. As for why she characterized her closet as a “large ‘Harry Potter’ storage room underneath stairs" in her real estate listing, she said it was the most accurate description she could think of. “It’s just this closet under the stairs that goes back and is pretty much like a Harry Potter room. I don’t know how else to describe it," she told the newspaper.

Beyond the cupboard under the stairs, Rye's listing doesn't bear much resemblance to the cookie-cutter, suburban home of 4 Privet Drive. Nearly a century old, the San Diego house has the same cobwebs and a musty smells you might expect from the Hogwarts dungeons, the newspaper reports. But there are some perks, including a parking spot and backyard space for a garden or pull-up bar. The 1322-square-foot home is listed at $425,000—cheaper than the median price of $620,000 for a resale single-family home in the area.

If you want to live like a wizard, you don't necessarily need to start by moving under a staircase. In North Yorkshire, England, a cottage modeled after Hagrid's Hut is available to rent on a nightly basis.

[h/t The San Diego Union-Tribune]

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