December 9, 1995 in City

New Appreciation Gu Student Learns More About His Grandfather, Bing Crosby

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:profile

He doesn’t remember his grandfather, Bing Crosby.

He’s never seen Bing sing “White Christmas” in the movie, “Holiday Inn.”

He was only six when Bing Crosby died.

As a youngster, Kevin Crosby heard stories. Many of them were published accounts of how Crosby’s first wife was an alcoholic and how Crosby severely disciplined his children.

He said he considers those stories sensationalism.

At 25, Kevin Crosby is just now discovering the public side of his grandfather, how fans around the world loved him for his incomparable talent.

His new-found appreciation came, he said, when he enrolled at Gonzaga University this year and discovered GU’s huge collection of Crosby memorabilia and the good feelings people in Spokane still have for the man.

Crosby studied pre-law at GU in the early 1920s, and left the university without a degree in 1924 to pursue his career.

“It’s almost overwhelming at times to see what impact he had,” said Kevin Crosby, a native of Los Angeles. “It’s really a good feeling.”

Crosby said he came to Gonzaga largely because he wanted to attend a small university. His grandfather’s history at GU was a lesser reason.

Crosby doesn’t carry much of a resemblance to his grandfather, although he does have that deep, easy voice that made the great crooner famous.

Bing Crosby was born in Tacoma and raised in Spokane, the fourth son in his family.

Bing had four boys by his first marriage, the youngest of whom was Kevin Crosby’s father, Lindsay.

Like Bing and his father, Kevin Crosby is the fourth son in his family.

Kevin Crosby talked about his grandfather in the Crosby memorabilia room of the Crosby Student Center at the heart of campus. He agreed to the interview under the condition that family problems would not be discussed.

Around him were portraits, gold records and awards, including the Oscar Bing won for his role as Father O’Malley in the 1944 film, “Going My Way.”

The building was dedicated in 1957 as the Crosby Library after Bing Crosby put on a television special to raise money for the library. A bronze statue of Bing stands outside the front door.

The Crosby Library was turned into the student center when the new Foley Library opened several years ago.

The Crosbyana Room, as it is called, contains a small portion of the singer’s memorabilia at Gonzaga.

It’s a little-known tourist attraction in Spokane. In the past year, more than 2,000 visitors from all 50 states and 23 countries signed the guest book.

Many of the 24,000 items in GU’s Crosby collection are kept in archives at the Foley Library, including Bing’s toupees, which are not displayed publicly because Crosby’s widow objected to them being shown.

“This is stuff I’d never seen,” Crosby said.

Crosby works part-time at the library, so he has access to the full collection. He said he was surprised at the variety of memorabilia such as fan scrapbooks and movie scripts.

Kevin Crosby said coming by himself to Spokane was not an easy decision. He’s a serious student, kind of quiet and shy. “It was kind of a scary move,” he said. “I didn’t know anybody.”

He lives by himself in an apartment near campus. He’s majoring in exercise science, and hopes to earn a master’s degree in physical therapy eventually.

Crosby graduated from a Catholic high school in Sherman Oaks, Calif., in 1989, the same year his father committed suicide. He said he took a couple years off from school to cope with his father’s death, and then spent a few years going to community colleges before transferring to GU.

With final exams coming up next week, Crosby said he’s never worked so hard at school, and he’s looking forward to finishing the semester so he can go home to Southern California for the holidays.

“I’m dreaming of a sandy, sunny Christmas,” he said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo


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