family, LDS, mental health, Military, rants, rock stars

“Honoring” Alan Osmond’s ego and being “flavor of the month”…

Apologies in advance for this post, since I’ve written about Alan Osmond’s ego before. I’m sure some people wonder why I would write about his ego, given that he’s in his 70s now, and no longer “flavor of the month”. It’s just that I recently stumbled on a video done by his eight sons, The Osmonds 2nd Generation, and I was struck by the egotism of the lyrics in their performance… Behold!

These are Alan’s sons. They have remade Billy Joel’s song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” as a partial ode to family friendly acts, as well as their dad. “He’s our dad; we’re his kids! How do you think we got this gig?”

Maybe it was a combination of finding this video, Father’s Day, and the Donny Osmond birthday video my sister sent me that has me thinking about Alan Osmond this morning. No, he’s not “flavor of the month” anymore. He hasn’t been in many years. There’s no doubt that he has musical talent, as do his sons and other family members, like Donny. Maybe that talent makes them special. Actually, I think Donny is probably the most talented of all of them, in terms of his dance ability, singing voice, and enduring cuteness even in his 60s. I genuinely enjoyed the birthday video my sister sent and was amazed by how charismatic Donny still is, many years after having been “flavor of the month”. But it seems that at least one of Donny’s brothers is still a bit conceited, and thinks of himself as more special than the rest.

As I watched the video above, listening to Alan’s sons praise their dad for realizing his “dream”, I was reminded of a rant I wrote several years ago when I ran across a YouTube video featuring Alan Osmond. He was bragging about how he was a great soldier who was too important to send to Vietnam because he was a show business performer with connections. In the video below, Alan talks about how Heavenly Father basically intervened in keeping him out of a war zone, despite his superior abilities as a soldier.

Um… wow… is he a bit self-congratulatory in this video.

The first time I watched the above video, I got pissed off. Why? Because my father went to Vietnam and suffered from PTSD for decades after he came home. I respect Alan Osmond for doing his bit as a clerk at Fort Ord. That is a valuable service to our country. But in this video, he acts like he was Rambo and was spared the war because he had a “higher calling” in show biz. That’s a bunch of crap.

My dad was forever haunted by his memories of Vietnam. Toward the end of his life, he used to have terrible nightmares. He’d jump out of bed while still sleeping, swinging his fists at imaginary assailants. One time, he hit the wall while fighting in his sleep. He damaged his middle finger so badly that there was talk that it might have to be amputated. My dad also had a serious drinking problem that was exacerbated by being at war, where booze was handed out freely. Nowadays, boozing isn’t promoted in the military like it was in my dad’s day. My dad, who came from a long line of drunks and was raised by a violent alcoholic, was a prime candidate for developing alcoholism himself. The stress of combat, along with the easy availability of booze, was devastating for him. And that devastation had ripple effects on everyone around him, as it profoundly affected him. So, when I hear Alan Osmond acting like Vietnam was a big adventure and he was this hot shot recruit who was deemed “too valuable” for combat, it smarts a bit.

My dad really suffered… and I, as his daughter, also suffered. My dad would have been a better father, husband, friend, and person if he hadn’t been an alcoholic with PTSD. My dad has been gone now for seven years, and I’m still haunted by him. I have some really good memories of him, but I also have a lot of traumatic ones. By the time he died in 2014, I had some complicated and confusing feelings about our relationship. I see all my friends sharing pictures of their dads on Father’s Day. I shared a couple of them, too. But the truth is, as much as I loved him, I didn’t like him very much. And a lot of the reason I didn’t like him was because he was abusive to me. I can’t help but wonder if he would have been less abusive if he hadn’t gone to war and come home with PTSD. I believe he would have been an alcoholic regardless, but maybe the PTSD wouldn’t have been as bad. Maybe we could have had a better relationship. I believe he had it in him to be kinder to me than he was.

I commented on the YouTube video about how “full of himself” Alan is. Some guy named David, who claimed to be a veteran himself, took me to task and told me to STFU. I ranted about that, too, on my old blog. Just because I am not a military veteran, that doesn’t mean I can’t make a comment about Alan Osmond’s service. I am so sick and tired of people trying to shut up people who express themselves. This attitude is especially prevalent in military circles, where it’s very common for veterans to ask anyone who says anything negative about the military if they’ve ever served. Whether or not a person has served should be irrelevant. As Americans, we should be able to express opinions about the military without someone demanding to know if we’ve ever served in the military. As someone who has been in the “military world” since birth, I certainly CAN have an opinion about it. Maybe my views about the military not as informed as Bill’s or another veteran’s would be, but it’s ridiculous and short-sighted to assume that someone who is exposed to the military world, even if they don’t wear a uniform, can’t form an opinion and express it.

If veterans who tell me to STFU really cared about real freedom and what putting on that uniform means, they would cherish the rights of people to share their views, regardless of how “offensive” they may be. I have spent my whole life around veterans, and I have tremendous respect for them and what they do. BUT– I have even more respect for veterans who understand that part of serving honorably is doing so with a pure, unselfish heart. Telling someone to STFU because you don’t think they have a right to an opinion is not particularly honorable. Why should I have more respect for someone who joined the military if they don’t have enough regard for me, as a fellow freedom loving American, to let me speak my mind?

Moreover, one can serve one’s country and NOT be a military veteran. I served my country in the Peace Corps. Others serve by being public servants or even being elected officials, although some elected officials have lost sight of being of “service” in their roles. I took the very same oath that every service member or government employee takes. Like my husband, I vowed to support and uphold the Constitution. Taking that oath as a military servicemember doesn’t make someone “special”. Peace Corps Volunteers also take that oath when they swear in, even though they don’t carry weapons or go into combat.

Someone called “Unknown” left me a comment on that old post about how I shouldn’t disparage Alan for being a clerk. The person wrote:

“There are a lot of soldiers that are on the clerk side. Without them the military would not be able to survive. So you are basically saying unless you were in a combat unit you didn’t serve. There are hundreds of thousands of soldiers that are in the offices as clerks. Doesn’t make them any less important.”

And this was my admittedly irritated response to “Unknown”, who obviously didn’t read very carefully:

It looks like you may have completely missed the point of this post.

I never said and don’t believe that clerks who serve in the military are “unimportant”. On the contrary, I have basic respect for anyone who serves, including Alan Osmond.

My point is that Alan Osmond’s comments about what he did during the Vietnam War are in poor taste. He admits that he only joined the Army because he didn’t want to go on a Mormon mission. He felt that he would have more impact for his church if he stayed home and continued performing with his brothers. So he got a connection in the entertainment business to see to it that he could stay in California and be a clerk. 

Alan Osmond was never in any actual danger, but he brags about how “awesome” his military skills were. I would think that if his skills were so excellent, it would have been more honorable for him to use them in support of his country. But his attitude seems to be that he was too “special” to do that; his job was to be a pop star so that he could spread Mormonism to the masses. 

I am fully aware that there are many “cogs in the wheel” who serve in the military. Each and every one of them has the right to be proud of their service. However, I think bragging about being a typist during the Vietnam War era, especially as you imply that God had bigger plans for you to be a singing star, is very tacky. Moreover, there is a huge difference in simply being proud of one’s service and blatantly bragging about it on YouTube. 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with members of the military who serve in non-combat roles. My husband went to Iraq, but basically had a desk job. There is also nothing wrong with people in the military who never see combat, but perform important supporting roles back home. My issue with Alan Osmond is that it’s inappropriate for him to boast about what he did during the Vietnam War era when so many people, not lucky enough to have family connections, went off to war and either died or came home permanently changed for the worse.

Clear enough?

Alan Osmond on why the Osmonds’ dance moves were so “karate-esque”. Supposedly, these moves also made Alan a hot shot in military training.

Watching and hearing Alan Osmond talk about how he did his bit for the Army and apparently God saved him from the jungles of Vietnam is rather infuriating.  There were lots of loving, sensitive, talented young men drafted and sent off to Vietnam to fight in the war.  A lot of them didn’t come back, and a lot of them were never the same when they did come back.  The same has happened to plenty of people who went to Iraq and Afghanistan, though fortunately those wars have not been as personally devastating to as many people as Vietnam was. We do, at least, have more of an understanding for PTSD. There is more help available now. But it’s still such a real and scary thing that has ripple effects that extend far beyond just the person who has it. When I was a child and a teenager, and my dad would go into drunken rages and lose control of himself, I wasn’t thinking about how PTSD was making him act like that. I was internalizing the idea that he was hurting me because I was a bad person and he hated me. You see?

But our relationship wasn’t always bad. Sometimes, it was lovely, and we could share positive things, such as the dance pictured above, captured at my wedding. We also often shared our mutual love for music. In 1986, my dad bought me a live cassette collection by Bruce Springsteen.  Though I don’t remember being a big Springsteen fan before I got that collection for Christmas, I used to listen to it all the time and really got into Springsteen for awhile.  One of the songs on it is a very poignant rendition of “The River”.  Bruce introduces the song by telling his own story about not going to Vietnam…  But his story is so much more respectful than Alan Osmond’s is…

Fellow former “flavor of the month”, Bruce Springsteen, is famously anti-war, but his story about Vietnam is so much more respectful than Alan Osmond’s is.

When I was practicing social work, I had a client who was a veteran. He used to tell me war stories. I always got the sense that they were probably about 90% bullshit, as was a lot of the other stuff he told me (for instance, he lied to me about having cancer). I’ve been around veterans my whole life. One thing I have noticed is that a lot of them don’t want to talk about war. Even Bill, who only spent six months in Iraq behind a desk, was affected by his time there and what he was doing. The people who actually do things that warrant receiving awards that recognize their valor don’t usually want to talk about it.

When Bill visited my parents’ home the first time, he saw that my dad, who was an Air Force officer, had earned a Distinguished Flying Cross in Vietnam.  It was before Bill had ever been deployed himself.  Bill was impressed by my dad’s award, but my dad didn’t want to discuss it.  He said that the reason he got the award was “bogus”.  I have known my share of military folks.  The ones who are brave and do things to legitimately earn those awards are usually very humble about it… because a lot of times, earning those awards involves doing things that they aren’t proud of or acting heroically in situations that end up haunting them for life.    

And yet, there’s Alan Osmond talking about the “trophies” he won in basic training for being a great shot and fighting with bayonets so well because he could dance.  It kind of makes me want to puke.  If he was really that great, the military would have sent his ass to Vietnam, right?  But no… he was a typist/clerk in California for a brief time.  And he brags about it.  Apparently, the Lord wanted him safely at home in the United States so he could be an entertainer and influence people to join his church.  What self-important drivel!  And Alan didn’t appreciate being called a “draft dodger”.  He even commented on the video with more bullshit about promptings from “the spirit”.  He was special because as a Mormon, God only speaks to and protects him and his ilk.  The rest of the guys who went to Vietnam and came back damaged or dead were not special enough to be typists in California for “the cause”.

Ever since I heard that video with Alan Osmond talking about his military service during the Vietnam era, I’ve had a less than positive opinion of him as a person. But then, when I saw the video with his sons literally singing Alan’s praises in a song ripped off from Billy Joel, I wonder if they came up with the idea to honor Alan themselves. Or were they pressured to honor their father in such an egotistical and ostentatious way? Below is another video in which Alan’s sons “honor their father”, and ask the audience to do the same:

Kudos to Alan for singing with his sons. He is a talented entertainer… and obviously, his sons were taught to “honor their father”.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that Alan’s sons “honor their father” so conspicuously. I remember the original Osmond Brothers honored their father similarly, even though in later years, they’ve said he was abusive and demanding to a fault. In this 2003 era documentary about being Osmond, the brothers talk about how their hopes and dreams were thwarted by the desires and needs of their family of origin.

I appreciated the candid look at the Osmonds in this documentary. However, Alan is not the only one with an ego. At the 36 minute point, Merrill brags about saving people from suicide by allowing them to pay him for a phone call during which he’s talked them out of ending their lives. In 2003, he charged $27.99. Now, he charges $50.

We kind of see the same “father centric” dynamic in the Duggar family, as Jim Bob Duggar is repeatedly described as “someone you don’t say ‘no’ to.” Personally, I think it’s kind of egotistical for people to have so many kids. What makes a person think the world needs so many people with their DNA running around? But I know people have their reasons for having so many kids. In the Duggars’ case, it’s that they believe God is “blessing” them and not that they’re just having sex at the right time of the month and farming their babies out for their older kids to raise. At least in the Osmonds’ case, it looks like Mother Osmond raised her children.

Anyway… I’ve got no qualms about stating that Alan Osmond and his brothers clearly have talent. And, as someone who comes from a musical family, I understand the joy of sharing that gift. I’m grateful to Alan for his military service, too. He did his part, which is more than a lot of people can say. However, I would be much more impressed with him if he showed some understanding of how fortunate he was not to have had to go into combat and potentially get injured or killed, or spend the rest of his life forever traumatized by war. I’d have more respect for him if he realized how lucky his family members are that he didn’t come home in a box or permanently changed by spending time in a war zone. And while I think Alan’s sons are also very talented performers, I think they would do well to realize that their dad has a long way to go before he reaches musical genius status. Hell, I think about Sting, who has also been called “conceited” by some… but I have seen Sting perform and watched him generously share the stage with others… and even remember students he had when he was a teacher.

I can’t imagine Alan sharing a post like this…

Phew… I feel better now. Father’s Day is always an emotional time of year for me for so many reasons.

Well, it’s time to walk the dogs and get on with the rest of the day. If you made it through this rant, thanks. And please do me a favor and don’t miss the point. It’s not that I don’t respect Alan Osmond’s military service. I just think he’s an egotistical jerk. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

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book reviews, celebrities

Repost: A review of Sachi Parker’s book, Lucky Me…

Here’s a repost of my review of Sachi Parker’s book, Lucky Me, which I originally read and reviewed on Epinions.com in June 2013. I previously reposted this review on my original blog when I wrote it for Epinions, but I included some extra commentary. I am including my extra comments in this repost, which appears as/is.

From the Blogspot OH repost in June 2013:

Sachi Parker is the only child of actress Shirley MacLaine and her late ex husband, Steve Parker.  When she was two years old, young Sachi was bundled up and sent off to Japan to live with her father, while her mother stayed in Los Angeles to build her very successful film career.  What Shirley didn’t know back then was that Steve Parker had a mistress, a Japanese woman named Miki who proved to be very Machiavellian. 

Sachi would see her mother sporadically.  She describes their meetings as fun for the first four hours or so.  After that, her mother’s eyes would sort of glaze over and she would be done… ready for her child or anyone else clamoring for attention to go away.  Shirley MacLaine was reportedly stingy with money and compliments.  She expected her daughter’s loyalty and honesty.  She employed draconian methods to get Sachi to do her bidding.  One time, when Sachi lost expensive plane tickets from England to Japan, to get Sachi from her boarding school back to her father’s home, Shirley accused her of cashing them in for money.  She collected her daughter and her friend, Yuki, in London and locked the two of them in separate hotel rooms.  She denied them food until Sachi confessed that she’d been “lying”, even though she’d actually been telling the truth.  When Sachi later told her mom that she’d lied about lying, her mother starved her again, this time in a New York City hotel room.

One time, when Sachi’s school year ended at a Swiss boarding school, she waited in vain for one of her parents to pick her up.  When they didn’t show, she went with a classmate, whose father worked in an Eastern Bloc country.  For two weeks, she tagged along with this family while they were on vacation in Europe, trying in vain to call her parents.  One night, she went out on the streets of Trieste where she ran into an old Italian prostitute who very kindly took care of her and got her back to her hotel.  She tucked her into bed.   

The family took her to Yugoslavia.  After growing tired of sponging off her classmate’s family, she told them she was taken care of.  They left her, believing they had helped her as best they could.  She went into a cheap hotel and started crying.  An elderly Yugoslavian couple that didn’t speak English took pity on Sachi and took her home with them.  She spent two weeks living with this couple, helping them on their farm, all the while trying to call her parents. 

Sachi’s father wasn’t much better.  As a young girl, Sachi was expected to accompany her father when he went out on the town.  He would make inappropriate comments about her body.  He would take her to bars.  One night he took her to a gay bar where all the waiters were nude.  The waiters had an interesting way of serving drinks.  They would stir cocktails with their dicks.  Sachi’s dad actually had to stop one of them from stirring his daughter’s Shirley Temple that way.

Sachi later found out that her father had bilked her mother for millions of dollars.  And yet, Shirley wouldn’t give her daughter any money to help her when she needed it.  When Sachi turned 18 and was done with high school, Shirley presented her with an expensive diamond necklace and told her she was on her own.

Lucky Me is a pretty amazing book.  Some people have said that it’s full of lies, probably because some of Sachi’s claims are so incredibly far-fetched.  And yet, knowing what I do about narcissism, I believe she’s written the truth.  The book is a bit trashy… and parts of it are pretty tasteless.  And yet, I found it fascinating because they really show what a narcissistic mother is like.  If what she’s written is true, Shirley MacLaine is completely lacking in empathy and keeps people close to her on edge at all times.  It’s sad, because even though she was apparently very abusive, I got the sense that her daughter loves her very much… despite airing all their dirty laundry.

I hope Sachi’s book does well.  She’s been through a lot.  Having a narcissistic mother must be a massive mind fuck.  As talented as I think Shirley MacLaine is, I have to say I see her differently now.

Sachi Parker has few terms of endearment for her mom, Shirley MacLaine.

Below is my review, originally published on Epinions.com.

Actress Shirley MacLaine is one of Hollywood’s legends.  She has put out some extraordinary films over her long, illustrious career.  She’s also well known for being very much into new age thinking; spirits, mediums, and psychics have been the subjects of her many books.  Until a couple of weeks ago, I knew nothing about her only daughter, Sachi Parker.  But when I saw that Parker, MacLaine’s daughter with Steve Parker, had written a book called Lucky Me: My Life With- and Without- My Mom, Shirley MacLaine (2013), I had to read it. 

I love a good tell-all, even if it’s kind of trashy.  A lot of people who have reviewed this book have openly doubted its truthfulness, mainly because of some of the wild and occasionally tasteless stories the author shares.  In fact, I think this book is pretty trashy myself… and yet, I do think Sachi Parker has been truthful, even if she hasn’t been discreet.  The irony is, throughout this book, Sachi explains that she grew up in Japan, where society demands decorum, discretion, and maintaining dignity.  She writes that for much of her life, she was like a Japanese woman who looked Irish on the outside.  Culturally, she identified with Japan because she had lived there from the age of two with her father, Steve Parker, and his mistress and later wife, Miki.  Sachi rarely saw her mother when she was growing up.  When she did see her, the visits were a confusing mix of great fun, high drama, and even higher anxiety.  As I finished reading, it occurred to me that if Sachi Parker has written the truth, there’s a good chance Shirley MacLaine has at least one personality disorder.

Make no mistake about it; Lucky Me is full of weirdness.  Sachi Parker writes of situations that are just plain bizarre.  She describes situations in which both of her parents were abusive and neglectful to the point of being very cruel.  She writes of trying very hard to win their approval and stay in their good graces.  Some of her stories are extraordinary.  Being the daughter of a star had its perks; yet once she graduated high school, Parker was expected to take care of herself.  Her mother presented her with an expensive Belgian diamond necklace and wished her luck because as far as Shirley MacLaine was concerned, Sachi was on her own. 

Although she spent her early years with her father in Tokyo, she wasn’t particularly close to him, either.  One time, he called her on her birthday and said he wanted to spend time with her, but alas, he was in Italy on business.  The phone call was complete with the static one would expect in a long distance 70s era phone call and a woman speaking Italian, supposedly the operator.  At the time, Sachi was working at hotel where her father had a suite that was off limits to her.  She managed to con the front desk into giving her a key to the suite.  She went there to check it out and found her father there having a marijuana fueled sex orgy.  He didn’t see her; she was able to bow out quickly.  But he had told her a convincing lie that she would have believed had she not gotten forbidden access to his suite and seen with her own eyes what he was doing.

Sachi writes of her mother turning her emotions off and on as if she had a switch.  She describes Shirley MacLaine as being very mercurial and lacking in empathy.  At times she was generous with compliments, but then her opinions would spin on a dime.  As I read her book, I realized that Sachi Parker was describing someone with extreme narcissistic personality disorder, complete with the crazymaking behaviors that come from a person who has a cluster B personality disorder.  She never outright claims that’s what her mother’s issue is, but having studied NPD extensively, that was the impression I got.  And since Sachi never writes that she thinks her mother has NPD and I recognize the behaviors so well, it makes me think that she’s probably written the truth. 

Unfortunately for Sachi, her father’s behavior wasn’t much better.  From what she writes, he basically used Shirley MacLaine for her money.  The two were married, but she lived in Los Angeles and he lived in Tokyo with his Japanese mistress.  Neither parent was emotionally available to their daughter; she was expected to handle situations as a child that were way beyond what was appropriate.  At one point, Sachi writes about her father taking her out on the town on school nights.  She’d long to go to bed because she had school in the morning and would always be tired the following day, but he insisted that she come with him.  One time, he even took her to a gay bar where the wait staff were all naked men.  Though the food was exquisite, the wait staff had an unusual way of serving cocktails.  Let’s just say at that place, the term “cocktail” was literal.

Sachi Parker writes of many situations in which her parents abandoned her.  From my perspective, she’d been trained from an early age to crave their attention and approval and do everything possible not to make them angry.  When they were angry, it was epic… and she would suffer for it.  On the other hand, both parents would reward her if she did what they wanted her to do.  She craved that reward and kept coming back to them again and again for that rare beam of love that normal loving parents deliver with ease.  Someone who hadn’t grown up craving that love probably would have cut ties years prior. 

Although some readers might find Lucky Me to be distasteful, I find it to be kind of refreshing.  If what Sachi Parker writes is true, then writing this book must have been very liberating.  Children of narcisssistic parents live their lives in chains, constantly monitoring themselves to keep their parents happy and approving.  They are carefully taught not to incur the wrath of the narcissistic parent because when they do, there is hell to pay. 

Writing this book and revealing all the weird, abusive, neglectful stuff that happened to her over the years is a way for Sachi to take control of her own personal power.  Putting it out there for the world to read, I’m sure, was her way of sending her mother a good hearty “fuck you”.  Many people might say she should have “risen above” airing her dirty laundry.  Sachi had done that for most of her life and it hadn’t gotten her anywhere.  Abusive people thrive on other people keeping their secrets and not holding them accountable.  The way to escape abuse it to shine a light on it from a safe distance.  When it comes down to it, abusive people are cowards who are rightfully ashamed of themselves.  And yet, despite the fact that Sachi wrote this very bold, revealing, and damning book, I still get the sense that she still longs for her mother’s love and approval.  Sadly, at age 57, Sachi Parker is probably now considered dead to her mother.

Parker includes photos.  They showed up great on my iPad.

Overall

I suspect Sachi Parker is going to catch a lot of hell for writing this book.  From what I’ve read in other reviews, a lot of people doubt her story.  Shirley MacLaine is a highly respected, extremely talented actress.  Her many fans will not like this book.  Other people who recognize extreme narcissism will applaud Sachi Parker for writing this book.  And some people who don’t care one way or the other will enjoy this book because it’s really juicy… not just for what Sachi Parker writes about her parents, but because Parker has led a life that has taken her to some very strange, exciting, and dangerous places.  Say what you want about Lucky Me’s trashiness;  it is definitely NOT a dull read.

I give it four stars.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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book reviews, celebrities

Repost: A review of Going My Own Way by Gary Crosby…

Here’s a repost of a review I wrote on January 2, 2015 about Gary Crosby’s tell all book on growing up as Bing Crosby’s son, Going My Own Way. It appears here as/is.

For years, I heard about the controversial book the late Gary Crosby, eldest son of the late Bing Crosby, wrote about his parents.  The book, entitled Going My Own Way, was published in 1983 and was considered a “scathing” account of the reality of what it was like to grow up the son of a big Hollywood star who portrayed himself as the consummate family man.  I am a little too young for Bing Crosby, though I do remember the duet he did with David Bowie back in the 70s…

A classic Christmas duet circa 1977…

I didn’t actually see the Christmas special that spawned this version of “The Little Drummer Boy”, but over the years, the video has been replayed during the holiday season.  I also remember Mary Crosby, Bing’s daughter, who played Kristin Shepard on Dallas and was credited with shooting J.R. Ewing.  Aside from that, I only heard about Bing… and Bill has told me that a few years after Gary Crosby’s book came out, the late Phil Hartman, who was then on Saturday Night Live, did a spoof about how when Bing’s sons misbehaved, they needed to go have a “talk” in the library.

I was curious about the book and the cultural references to it, so I decided to purchase a used copy.  I recently finished reading Going My Own Way and, I must admit, it was very interesting.  As “scathing” memoirs go, I didn’t think it was all that bad.  Gary Crosby was Bing Crosby’s eldest son with his first wife, Dixie Lee.  He grew up in a huge house in Hollywood, surrounded by servants, many of whom were black.  Crosby’s mother was a strict disciplinarian and a serious alcoholic who relied on an Irish nurse named Georgie to keep Gary and his brothers, Phil, Denny, and Lindsay, in line. 

Like his wife, Bing Crosby was also a very strict disciplinarian who strongly believed in employing corporal punishment, strict rules, and verbal abuse to control his sons.  Crosby writes that it was difficult for him to have friends because his parents were so strict.  It wasn’t often that he was allowed to bring friends over or go to friends’ houses.  Crosby’s parents were quick to remind their sons that they were not special simply because they were Bing Crosby’s sons.  Though they were educated at private schools, they were not treated differently and didn’t hang out with Hollywood types.  Indeed,  from the time the boys were eleven until they were adults, each summer Bing Crosby sent them to work at a ranch he owned.  They learned how to herd cattle and make hay bales alongside men of much more modest means.  Crosby writes that he hated the ranch work because his father forced him to do it, though he might have enjoyed it a lot more if he’d been the one who chose to go. 

Gary Crosby had a weight problem when he was growing up.  His backside was wide, which caused his father to refer to him as “bucket butt” or “satchel ass”.  According to Gary, Bing would even call his son these names in public, particularly in front of Bing’s friends.  Bing Crosby ordered his son to lose weight and would force him to endure weigh ins.  If he didn’t lose weight, Gary would get a whipping.   Bing used a belt that had metal studs in it and would beat his boys until they bled.  At the first drop of blood, the beating would stop.  Gary writes that he used to hope he’d bleed early.  

Bing Crosby and Gary Crosby perform together…

When Gary became a teenager, he had a strict curfew and would often have to leave social events early in order to appease his father, who would not hesitate to use a belt and verbal abuse to get his point across.  It wasn’t until Gary was 18 years old and had finally had enough that the whippings stopped.  By that time, his father had traded the belt for a cane.  I must admit, reading that part of the book resonated with me.  I had a similar experience with my own father, who was also a proponent of physical punishment and last struck me when I was almost 21 years old.  My father was also one to use verbal abuse…  indeed, reading about some of Crosby’s experiences rang very true to me, since my dad did a lot of the same things to a milder extent.  Crosby also writes about his father’s penchant for womanizing and drinking, as well as holding gifts over his sons’ heads in order to control them.  Gary Crosby had his own issues with alcohol and drugs, which he writes about in the book.  He also was one to get in fist fights when the mood struck.

Crosby uses a lot of slang and filthy language in his memoir.  Personally, I wasn’t offended by it.  In fact, the slang sort of gave the book a 50s nuance, which makes sense, since Crosby was born in the 30s and would have been a young person in the 50s.  I liked that he included photos, which helped me put faces to his stories.  I also got the sense that despite the abuse, he did love his parents, especially his mother.  He even writes a message to his other siblings, products of Bing Crosby’s second marriage to Kathryn Crosby, that the father he knew was not the same man as the father who raised them.  And Crosby even admits that his father passed along musical talent to him and the ranch work gave him useful skills outside of show business.  As one who has a perverse interest in Pat Boone’s career, I liked that Gary Crosby also writes about what it was like to work with Boone.  Apparently, Crosby thought Boone was a nice guy and easy to work with, despite his love of “clean livin’.”  Pat Boone, as we all know, is also a big believer in spankings.

Gary and Bing sing with Frank Jr.

Gary Crosby’s mother died in 1952 of ovarian cancer.  At the time of Dixie Lee’s passing, Gary was studying at Stanford University, where he wasn’t a particularly good student.  I was moved by how he described his father’s pained reaction to his mother’s deteriorating condition.  Yes, he writes a lot about how “the old man” abused him and his brothers, but he also somehow manages to give his father a human face.  That’s why I say the memoir wasn’t that scathing.  Yes, it was probably shocking to those who grew up with Bing Crosby and loved his music, but as someone who also grew up with an alcoholic and occasionally abusive father, I thought Gary Crosby was just being honest.  I think back in the 80s, when this book was originally published, corporal punishment and verbal abuse were much more accepted as normal parenting than they are now.  While I think sometimes Americans are going a little too far in the other direction with how they are parenting their children, as someone who experienced growing up with an alcoholic, I feel like Gary Crosby was very truthful in his account.  He was not just a whiner.   

Gary Crosby died in 1995 of lung cancer. He was 62 at the time of his death and had married three times. You can read a chapter of Going My Own Way here. Here is an article from a 1983 issue of People magazine about Gary’s book.

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