01/12/2014 9:07 pm  #1

"Bing Crosby - The Hollow Man" by Donald Shepherd and Robert E. Slatze

I was in my local independent used book shop, perusing the music section as I often do. I came across the book in the title. I just thought I'd share as I was taken aback at how salacious it seemed.

In searching around I found this excerpt from Publisher's Weekly write-up on Gary Giddins' book. Gary read this long ago.

Ironically, Giddins's second reason for thinking a Crosby biography might be interesting proved to be based on misinformation. "I believed the hatchet job," he says, referring to Donald Shepherd and Robert F. Slatzer's controversial 1981 book, Bing Crosby: The Hollow Man. "I assumed that he was an SOB in private life, and this fascinated me: how d s someone who's cold, remote and disagreeable in private create the public illusion that he's the soul of warmth? I thought that was a valid subject. I find so many show business biographies distasteful because they feel like they were written by a puritan tribunal: they take people to task for being philanderers or whatever, and this interferes with the way they see the work. I wanted to connect the two." With this in mind, Giddins wrote a proposal, and his agent, Georges Borchardt, got "a pretty good advance" from Morrow, where Bresnick was an editor. But when he began conducting interviews for the book, Giddins remembers ruefully, "Everybody I talked to said they loved him! It turned out that nothing in The Hollow Manstands up. Their primary source, Al Rinker [Crosby's piano-playing partner in vaudeville and for many years after], was so offended by the book that he wrote a private journal to correct it." Rinker's daughter gave Giddins a copy of the journal, one of the many invaluable primary sources that turned up in those serendipitous, unexpected ways every nonfiction writer cherishes. Crosby's nephew casually handed over a decade's worth of correspondence and legal papers that clarified the singer's fraught business relations with his brothers. A massive cache of letters discarded by Crosby's first wife, Dixie, not only provided a detailed picture of his finances but also gave a much more favorable impression of his behavior toward her as their marriage foundered. Giddins first heard about those letters when they were owned by a collector who declared he would burn them before he'd let Giddins see them. A Pocketful of Dreams was in page proofs when Giddins learned that the collector had given them to the editor of a Crosby fanzine with whom he had a cordial relationship. An impassioned phone call and "the most diplomatic letter I've ever written" persuaded the fanzine editor to send them along. "It was one of those miracles that makes you really believe there is a Being looking out specifically for you--and this is a major concession for an atheist," jokes Giddins. The letters will be a major source for volume two, but a couple were relevant to the final pages of volume one. Little, Brown delayed printing so that Giddins could rewrite; the new passages were completed so close to publication they aren't even in the advance galleys.


And here are pictures of the front and back sleeves. You can click to enlarge.

And further repudiation by knowledgeable folks such as Carroll Carroll, chief writer on Kraft Music Hall, Terry Teachout and one other.

While it might be misleading and downright untrue, I figured I could amass some of the info in one place for anyone who comes across the book in the future. If you have any experience with or memories of this book, please join in.

Last edited by Azteca (02/12/2014 1:55 am)


01/12/2014 10:40 pm  #2

Re: "Bing Crosby - The Hollow Man" by Donald Shepherd and Robert E. Slatze


I have a copy of this book only because I purchase any book about Bing that I can get my hands on—the good and the bad; the hagiographies and the slandering accounts of his life. From what I've been able to find out, The Hollow Man was written to debunk what the authors believed to be myths about the Crosby persona, arguing that, as the title very unsubtly implies, Bing was a hollow man beneath the shallow surface of the persona he created for himself. They wanted to prove that there was a dark side to his everyman attitude towards life. However, it sounds like its authors set out to criticize Bing and to slander his name from the very first page. Unfortunately, I haven't read it yet (only the first chapter) so I can't give you my opinion about it. There are simply other books about Bing I haven't read yet that interest me more, so this one always winds up at the bottom of the pile. I am as galled by the biographies that treat Bing as a saint as by those that want to show he was an evil person. Like most of us, he was probably neither one nor the other. Like I said, it's the collector in me that made me buy this book, but one day I'll read it and then I'll give you an honest opinion about it. Thanks for reminding me of the existence of this book, though, because I usually forget that I even have it! http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/happy.png


02/12/2014 3:20 am  #3

Re: "Bing Crosby - The Hollow Man" by Donald Shepherd and Robert E. Slatze

I have refused to read this book after hearing items etc from the book, which did a lot of damage to Bing and he is still trying to recover from the stuff written.
One bloke I know back in Australia commented that Bing was a child beater etc. I told him it wasn't true and the boys were treated just like other kids. I got the strap from my dad when it was deserved as that was the way things were done then. Discipline was the way things were carried out, not like today. We got the cane at school as well.
I met Bing a few times and he even rang me once (haven't heard that about big stars ringing a fan, except Bing). Always dropped him a note and if I did meet him he always remembered receiving it.
Just hope Vol.2 comes out soon and have more people believing that he was a good bloke and that Gary only did it for money.
Now for Tuesday night and the PBS TV show of the latest on Bing.


02/12/2014 12:50 pm  #4

Re: "Bing Crosby - The Hollow Man" by Donald Shepherd and Robert E. Slatze

Dead personalities are easy prey. 
Say what you like, make it sensational.
Because they were well known you'll get the sales - make it sensational, you'll increase the sales. You don't have to care too much about accuracy - there is no chance of being sued by the dead. 

I suggest you relegate your copies to the bin. There are some worthwhile biographies about, so you don't have to rely on this trash - and trash it is - there is enough evidence from others who knew Bing and came to his defence to testify to that.

As to the "strictness" with the sons, I think that it is overblown in importance. You cannot re-interpret the standards of 70 plus years ago by the standards of today. My father, born 1896, regarded the strap as standard punishment for transgression. It had been used on him and his brothers so it was used on me and my brothers.  

And it was not unusual - take a look at British and American domestic film dramas/ comedies with stories set in the earlier part of the twentieth century, where there are frequent story lines with the son of the family getting the strap or the cane for some transgression. And in a 1940s South African rural school I would get the strap across the hand for not learning my set overnight spellings or times tables. Standards change with the times.



02/12/2014 6:11 pm  #5

Re: "Bing Crosby - The Hollow Man" by Donald Shepherd and Robert E. Slatze

It's a shame because Mr. S survived "His Way" and hardly anyone talks of that stuff much anymore. Bing's "stuff" seems to just keep hanging around. I am hoping the PBS special helps clear much of this up! 

All the best,
Paul M. Mock

02/12/2014 7:53 pm  #6

Re: "Bing Crosby - The Hollow Man" by Donald Shepherd and Robert E. Slatze

My favorite books on Bing- A Pocketfull of Dreams, Call Me lucky, Kathryn's books, Carolyn's books[Bing's Neice] and the book by Bing's brother Ted. The Hollow Man I read years back-what Garbage! Through the years I spoke to many people who knew Bing personally so I value their opinions and facts more than a book like the Hollow Man.

Peace and Love! http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/happy.gif

03/12/2014 5:05 pm  #7

Re: "Bing Crosby - The Hollow Man" by Donald Shepherd and Robert E. Slatze

The Hollow Man, first and foremost, is a terribly written book.  It makes wild claims, hardly any of which are actually supported.  What they offer as evidence or proof, could by any reasonable person, be taken to indicate any number of theories, some of which would seem more likely than what they conclude.  Each chapter begins by telegraphing all sorts of negative conclusions about Bing, but just try to track down in the remaining pages where they actually pin down clear details!  Also, they seem to frequently contradict themselves by offering evidence that undercuts what they are trying to say, as when they try to show how irresponsible Bing was as performer because he missed some of his own performances, for either Whiteman or Arnheim, to drive a long distance to hear Louis Armstrong perform.  Instead of proving their point, they emphasize how dedicated Bing was to jazz, and the Hollow authors are completely oblivious to having done that!  The overarching contradiction of their book is that they contend that Bing was an inept and irresponsible drunk who didn't deserve his career, while at the same time he was supposed to be capable of intricately manipulating everyone anywhere near him.  It is a completely bogus book, and the authors couldn't pass an a freshman college English 102 class with their brand of very poor analysis and argumentation.

Last edited by Steve Fay (03/12/2014 11:14 pm)


03/12/2014 6:08 pm  #8

Re: "Bing Crosby - The Hollow Man" by Donald Shepherd and Robert E. Slatze

I must say the conclusion  regarding the twins in the new PBS documentary was really eye-brow raising! 

All the best,
Paul M. Mock

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