For decades, Bing Crosby was the embodiment of a perfect father to his kids, but upon his death, one of his sons shared gory details of his upbringing -- one that was a far cry from the picture-perfect family everyone saw.
Life magazine referred to Bing Crosby as "Hollywood's most typical father." But appearances can be deceiving, and this was one instance where Crosby's "perfect" family appeared to have everyone fooled.
After his demise, details of his dark and abusive nature began to unfold as his firstborn son, Gary, blasted his father's image of the "incontestably the No. 1 Big Family Man of Hollywood."
Left: Actor and Singer Bing Crosby. Right: Crosby, with his children Gary (standing), and twins Dennis and Phillip | Source: Getty Images
After Gary's shocking confessions, one of his brothers and two from Crosby's second marriage confronted him about the accusations, while the rest remained quiet about the topic.
THE DEATH OF THE FIRST MULTIMEDIA STAR
On the day that Gary learned of his father's death, he was playing tennis at a club in Los Angeles. He recalls seeing a lady come to the back gate. She was crying.
When she got to him, she apologized for being the one to relay the terrible news, after which she told Gary that his father, a renowned performer, had died at a golf course in Madrid, Spain.
Actor and Singer Bing Crosby in 1973 | Source: Getty Images
Anomalously, Gary did not seem affected by the news, and after a slight pause, he continued with his game. He would later recount the day saying:
"I thought, 'Am I supposed to act like I loved him all my life?'"
On the day they laid their father to rest, Gary looked down at his father's still body and said to himself that his father was finally in a place where he could understand it all.
Headshot of American entertainer Bing Crosby | Source: Getty Images
PARAGON OF INTROVERSION
Crosby was undoubtedly one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He led in motion picture grosses, radio ratings, and record sales between 1926 and 1977.
He married his first wife, Dixie Lee, a nightclub singer and actress, in 1930. They had four sons, Gary, twins Phillip and Dennis, and Lindsay. Crosby was deliberate about raising his sons and always created time for family.
Bing Crosby poses for a portrait with pipe in circa 1950. | Source: Getty Images
Lincoln Barnett of Life Magazine wrote of the "Swinging On A Star" singer, regarding his love for his parents and siblings and sons:
"Crosby is incontestably the No. 1 Big Family Man of Hollywood. He is engulfed in family."
The world recognized him as a wonderful father and genuinely sympathetic and generous to numerous sailors, soldiers, and even strangers. However, despite his fame, Crosby was a private person.
Bing Crosby (1904 - 1977) with his first wife, Dixie Lee (1911 - 1952) | Source: Getty Images
He was a "paragon of introversion," and those that knew him the longest appeared to know so little about his private life. He was more outgiving with casual acquaintances than with his close friends.
THE HOUSE OF HORROR
It was thus a shock to many when, after Crosby's death, his firstborn son, Gary, brought to light the shadows of his upbringing by posting his father's dark side.
A far cry from his role as a priest in the 1944 musical comedy-drama, where he played Father Charles "Chuck" O'Malley, he ruled with an iron fist at home.
Bing Crosby with his wife and sons Gary, Phillip and Dennis in 1935 | Source: Getty Images
Gary recalls that their parents governed the 20-room Los Angeles mansion with rules, for which violations were harshly disciplined. Despite his White Christmas performances, Best Actor Academy Award, 32 Hollywood films, and over 100 albums, Crosby had zero tolerance for indiscipline.
One thing was for sure. Despite Crosby's long-running career in Hollywood, he did not want his children involved in the business and taught them to "distrust the glamorous life."
The idea was to help them live an ordinary life, but Gary says the problem with the notion of being a regular kid is that they did not have an "ordinary" father. With a dictatorial father, an alcoholic mother, and boisterous young boys, Gary says theirs was a "house of terror."
Actor and singer Bing Crosby with his wife Dixie and their children | Source: Getty Images
With his Catholic upbringing, Crosby ensured he instilled strong marriage beliefs in his children. He said if any of his sons lived with a woman without marrying them, he would never speak to them again.
If anything, the legendary star tried to keep a certain distance between him and his boys. Whenever he wanted to flatter them, he would say "nice going" and leave it at that. He often attributed his methods of raising his children to the Italian proverb that says:
"Never kiss a baby unless he's asleep."
Singer and film star Bing Crosby with his first wife, actress Dixie Lee, and their sons Gary, Lindsay. and twins Dennis and Phillip. | Source: Getty Images
GARY CROSBY'S WAY
While punishment was almost a routine in the Crosby household, Gary had it worse than the rest. The beatings became so frequent that he began to expect it whenever his father came home.
But away from the whippings, Gary says his "methodical" dad would punish him for his weight. Crosby would weigh him once a week, and if the numbers on the scale did not please him, Gary would get a whipping.
And yet, that was only part of his problems. All the boys, save for Phillip, also had to endure name-calling from their father. Gary's nicknames were "Buckey Butt" and "Satchel Ass" due to his weight.
Actor Bing Crosby, his wife Dixie and their firstborn son Gary in 1933 | Source: Getty Images
Dennis' nicknames were "Stupid" and "Ugly," while Lindsay was "Big Head" because their father thought his head was disproportionate to his body. Phillip got off easy with "Handsome" and "Dude."
Even after Crosby sent the three older siblings to a strict, Jesuit-run boarding school south of San Francisco, the beatings continued. However, when Gary was just shy of his 18th birthday, he finally confronted his dad.
Bing Crosby poses for a portrait with pipe in circa 1950. | Source: Getty Images
As his father attempted to hit him with a cane, Gary snatched and broke it over his knee. He then told his father that he'd kill him if he ever hit him again, but surprisingly, the threat produced no perceptible reaction from the crooner. Gary said:
"I was a physical, emotional, mental wreck, and he was fine."
And while the punishment stopped after his explosion, Gary felt that his father's influence carried on into his solo music career. He said of his father: "He still won."
Actor and singer Bing Crosby's firstborn son Gary in 1957 | Source: Getty Images
DIXIE WAS AS COMPASSIONATE AS SHE WAS ABUSIVE
Gary remembers his mother as a compassionate person. However, she was also abusive, and Gary recalled one instance when Phillip hid his eggs and bacon under the rug, and Dixie made him eat it, "dirt, hairs, and all."
Lindsay remembered Dixie being shy and often declining their father's offer to take her to parties. She got so lonely from her husband working all the time and eventually sought solace in the bottle. She would spend most days passed out.
Her drinking allegedly affected her twins as specialists at USC confirmed that they were born with fetal alcohol syndrome. However, when she was not drinking, she was warm and loving to her sons.
Radio singer Bing Crosby and his Wife Dixie Lee | Source: Getty Images
Unfortunately, she drank herself to oblivion, and in 1952, she succumbed to ovarian cancer. Her death, unfortunate as it was, brought the family together for a while.
PHILLIP DISAGREED WITH THE ACCUSATIONS
While some of the Crosby siblings concurred with Gary's recollection of their far-from-perfect upbringing, Phillip disagreed and referred to Gary as a "whining crybaby." And while Dennis subtly agreed with Gary's memories of their father, he named the book "Gary's business."
However, Lindsay, who had been Crosby's favorite son growing up, surprisingly agreed with Gary, saying he was glad that Gary had written the book in a bid to clear up all the old rumors and lies.
Bing Crosby with his second family -- wife Kathryn, sons Harry and Nathaniel and daughter Mary. | Source: Getty Images
CROSBY'S SECOND FAMILY AND THEIR TAKE ON THE ACCUSATIONS
Following Dixie's demise in 1952, Crosby married Kathryn Grant in 1957, and together, they had three children, Harry, Mary, and Nathaniel. But unlike their half brothers, Kathryn's children have a significantly different recollection of their father.
According to Nathaniel, Crosby never once raised a hand at them. Mary and Harry agree with him, and as Harry says, his relationship with his father was one of love, support, friendship, and respect.
Bing Crosby (1901 - 1977) at his home in San Francisco with his sons Nathaniel and Harry and his daughter, Mary. | Source: Getty Images
Kathryn recalls a rosy marriage and says she was Crosby's biggest fan. And despite Dixie's sons having different recollections of their father, one thing they seem to agree on is that they all disagreed with Kathryn. Lindsay clapped back, saying:
"Nobody knows better than us."
THE DEMONS OF THE PAST
The Crosby children who had, just decades earlier, been the subjects of Crosby's affectionate tales to columnists met their fates in the most unfortunate and unusual ways.
Bing Crosby's only daughter Mary on July 23, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. | Source: Getty Images
Ravaged by tragedies and trouble, they all fell in the shadow of their aloof father and followed in the footsteps of their alcoholic mother. Lindsay was the first to go, followed by Dennis. They both died by their hand after pulling the triggers on themselves.
Gary passed on in 1995 from lung cancer, while Phillip died of a heart attack in 2004 at age 69. Even later in life, Crosby's extended family seemed to agree on their mutual dislike for Phillip, who was absent at his twin's memorial service.