CelebrityHollywood

October 25, 2021

Bing Crosby’s Son Repeated His Brother’s Poignant Fate Just 17 Months after Family’s Tragedy

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Late singer and actor Bing Crosby was a prominent figure in the entertainment industry. He was also a father of two sons who unfortunately died in the same circumstances shortly after tragedy struck their family.

Late singer Bing Crosby was one of the most influential musical artists in history, even dubbed the first multimedia star. He was also an exceptional actor, best known for movies "White Christmas" and "High Society."

The movie star was an icon of casual sophistication and wit loved by both men and women. Outside his career, he was also a family man, even hailed in 1937 as "Hollywood's Most Typical Father."

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Bing Crosby smiles with his twin sons, Philip and Dennis, on the set of director Frank Tashlin's film, "Say One For Me" in January 1965. | Photo: Getty Images

'LOVING' DAD, 'PERFECT' FAMILY

Bing maintained his public image as a loving father to four sons - Gary, twins Dennis and Philip, and Lindsay. He also showed how devoted a husband he was to his wife, actress Dixie Lee.

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His seemingly perfect family was a source of pride for him, and he enjoyed appearing in photos and magazine spreads with them. Their children presented good manners in public as well. 

But amid the celebrated icon's publicity stunts about his family, his children suffered many tragedies and troubles. Their lives were far from perfect.

Bing Crosby's appearance on Pete Murray's "Open House" show on Radio 2 in United Kingdom on September 15, 1975. | Photo: Getty Images

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A DYSFUNCTIONAL FATHER

In his 1983 book, "Going My Own Way," Gary, Bing's eldest son, revealed that the former movie icon was a dysfunctional father and abusive towards him and his brothers. Gary recalled:

"If we got caught whispering between the beds before it was time to get up, the housekeeper was allowed to lick us... . I never wanted to be home."

Gary described his father as a cold and disapproving man who would punish them even for the smallest mistakes. Although raised in a Catholic home, he said living with the TV icon was like a prison cell.

Gary and Bing Crosby pictured having a discussion over a musical arrangement for one his father's show in January 1950. | Photo: Getty Images

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STRICT PARENTS

Like their authoritarian father, Dixie was also a strict mother. She and Bing set rules for every waking moment, and their sons would suffer humiliating punishments if they disobeyed their orders.

Gary recalled that one of the humiliating moments he experienced at the hands of their parents was the time his father shamed him because of his weight. Once a week, Bing would check if he lost weight or else he would be whipped.

According to Gary, being raised by abusive parents seemed to have taken a toll on their adulthood. He shared that he and his siblings became drunkards.

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Dixie Lee and Bing Crosby smiling while posing for the camera in January 1935. | Photo: Getty Images

THE BROTHER'S COMPLICATED LIVES

Besides their drinking problems, Gary and his three siblings were involved in complicated relationships and broken marriages. They also had past brushes with the law. 

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While Philip had been distant, Dennis and Lindsay grew close.

Gary acknowledged that his own life story and the tragedy of his two brothers, who died 17 months apart, was also one of the crippling effects of alcoholism. He and his brothers used to be very close with each other.

Dixie Lee and her husband Bing Crosby pictured together with their sons Gary and twins Philip and Dennis in 1934. | Photo: Getty Images

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In addition to being excellent singers performing as a group in a nightclub, they all served in the military. While they all lived in California, Gary shared that they had drifted apart.

Gary, who embraced Alcoholics Anonymous as part of his life, had not spoken to Dennis nor Lindsay for quite a long time. Meanwhile, Philip would rarely see his twin brother Dennis.

While Philip had been distant, Dennis and Lindsay grew close. Both appeared to be each other's soul mates as they shared similar qualities - quiet, gentle, and nonconfrontational men. 

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LINDSAY'S UNTIMELY DEATH

Aside from sharing similar personalities, Lindsay and Dennis also had an identical fate. In December 1989, Lindsay took his own life using a gun at his condominium in Calabasas.

Lindsay, then 51, battled alcoholism and depression when he found out his inheritance had run out. While he struggled with his acting career, his inheritance had provided him income.

Gary's longtime friend and publicist, Marilyn Reiss, stated that the lawyers had told the brothers several days before Lindsay's death that their inheritance failed to generate money.  

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Lindsay Crosby looks at a piano book of bandleader Buddy Cole during a rehearsal for "The Bing Crosby Show" on June 6, 1956. | Photo: Getty Images

The siblings' inheritance came from the oil investments of their late mother, Dixie. Reiss added that the inheritance helped the brothers to live decent lives. Reiss said:

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"It was not humongous but it certainly allowed all four boys to live comfortably."

The brothers relied on their mother's inheritance since their father, Bing, who passed away due to a heart attack in 1977, left them a blind trust that was untouchable until they reached the age of 65.

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Lindsay's death shocked the siblings. In the wake of their brother's death, Dennis fell into darkness and struggled with alcoholism, a vice that impacted his marriage to Arleen.

Arleen, a daughter of a famous movie music composer, tied the knot with Dennis in 1964, but they divorced after 27 years of marriage. Like her husband, she also suffered the strain of having famous parents.

Amid their divorce, the former couple remained close. Arleen lived in their Pebble Beach home while Dennis stayed with his longtime Army buddy, Peter Murphy, in a small San Francisco town.

A portrait of Bing Crosby and his wife, Dixie Lee Crosby with their four children and pet dog taken in June 1952 at Beverly Hills, California. | Photo: Getty Images

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DENNIS' LAST CALL

Sometimes, the former pair would talk over the phone, but one phone call left Arleen disturbed. She recalled that Dennis told her how he had been dealing with a lot of pain and hurt. 

Arleen told her ex-husband that she understood his situation, but he insisted she did not. Dennis later revealed to his ex-wife that he understood how Lindsay felt before. 

Dennis Crosby with singer Rosemary Clooney on the set of "White Christmas" in August 1945 in Hollywood. | Photo: Getty Images

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Shortly after their divorce and their last phone call, Dennis, 56, was found dead by his roommate in May 1991. He took his life the same way his late brother took his a year and five months earlier.

Arleen described her ex-husband as an easygoing person. Meanwhile, Gary said that Lindsay's death may have been too much for Dennis to bear.

Director Dave Butler and Dixie Lee Crosby pictured watching a race in 1940. | Photo: Getty Images

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GRIEVING OVER HIS MOM'S DEATH

While grieving the loss of his close sibling, Dennis had not stopped himself from grieving over the loss of their mother. He had few good memories of Dixie, even if she was an imperfect mom.

Born as Wilma Wyatt, Dixie was an alcoholic. She never quit drinking until she died of ovarian cancer at 42 in November 1952, a few days before her birthday. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.

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