Wednesday, December 14, 2022

12 Days of Christmas Watching 2022 Day 2: Der Bingle and Family

One of the forgotten great variety shows of the 1960s is The Hollywood Palace, an old-fashioned program that often featured mega star power. The most frequent of the various guest hosts during its 1964-1970 run on ABC was Bing Crosby, who trotted out his family for some holiday shows, including this 1968 edition I watched:

Der Bingle welcomes Glen Campbell, John Byner, and the Lennon Sisters for an hour of music, fun, and comedy--or two out of three ain't bad. OK, I'm a little un-festive there. Byner is a talented guy who scored better on other episodes and shows. Here I don't think his stuff hit the mark quite as much, but, hey, it's Christmas! There's something cool about seeing Bing and his young son just off to the side in silhouette, watching Byner do a stand-up routine on stage.

There is plenty of music, and I do think it's fun! Campbell sings Wichita Lineman, natch, and some other tunes, and the Lennons do some charming holiday numbers that sound just like you would want Christmas carols sung by the Lennon sisters to sing. Campbell interacts with Crosby, even giving him the White Album as a present ("John wears clothes on this one")!

One thing that kind of makes me cringe when watching these Crosby specials (apart from the obvious thing; see the italicized note below*) is that some of the kids seem a little less talented than their parents, and I can't help but wonder if they really want to be out there performing. The parents have no such problem; Bing and wife Kathryn's breezy "When the Kids Are Married" is one of the best numbers.

Hey, did I mention there is a dude juggling on a horseback? The segment was recorded elsewhere, which is a shame. I'd love to see Bing and his kid standing off to the side reacting to that one. It's still a remarkable part of the show and an exciting change of pace from the songs.

It's an unapologetic old-fashioned stage show, and I like that. The stage (and the halls) are all decked out with seasonal decorations. The massive tree looks good. Everyone seems to be happy to celebrate together, and the Christmas cheer is off the charts here. Bing is at that stage where he begins to look as old as Bob Hope always joked he was (Bing is about 65 here), but he still has that amiable cool aura. He comes off as a good sport, too, when he "catches" Byner impersonating him. And of course Crosby gets in a few digs in at the absent Hope.

I enjoy the Bing Crosby specials, and this episode of Hollywood Palace delivers a big jolt of Christmas fun of the old-school variety. Oh, and this version has some ads dedicated to people smoking like the chimneys Santa slides down on Christmas Eve!

*There is an unfortunate circumstance that accompanies any vintage special like this: The allegations made by some of Crosby's kids that he beat them. Just look at the comments on this YouTube video. Many may find it tough to watch. I have read conflicting information, but regardless I watch these and think of Bing the character and set aside the "real world" possibilities of troubled family life off camera.

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