Last week was the 100th anniversary of the death of Mark Twain, who most agree is America’s greatest writer. I lived in Missouri, and there were reminders of his legacy everywhere. His birthplace is marked, along with his childhood home in Hannibal, where they even have preserved the houses belonging to the real people who inspired the characters of Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher.
Over in Connecticut, the grand Mark Twain House sees 50,000 visitors a year in Hartford. Even Nevada wants to share the glow by renaming a bay on Lake Tahoe “Sam Clemens Cove,” as he once nearly burned down the forest there before he took the Twain name.
Point is, nobody’s forgetting him. Is that true of Bing Crosby?
You could argue that Crosby is as important to music as Twain has been to literature, but casual visitors to Spokane have to be told of the Bing connection. It’s like we want to keep it a secret.
Thankfully, the Advocates of the Bing Crosby Theater pushed the biggest step yet toward proper recognition — renaming the old Met Theater in honor of Spokane’s most famous son. Really nice work, but I still think our Bing devotion is lacking.
Imagine a Bing Crosby museum, gift shop, maybe a restaurant — all connected to the theater. It would be a must stop for every Spokane tourist. The stars are actually aligned for such a project: There’s an empty building on the same block as the Bing, just to the south of it (you could probably connect them without much trouble); Gonzaga University has the world’s best collection of Bing memorabilia; and there’s already a chain of swanky Bing Crosby restaurants in California. Perhaps the Advocates and theater owner Mitch Silver could pull these threads together to give Bing his due. This, of course, would take money and effort — the community (that’s you) would need to get behind it.
This week, on Monday, May 3, marks Bing Crosby’s birthday, and the Bing Theater is welcoming everyone to celebrate. Starting at 6 pm, you can argue the merits of this column with friends over some cake and punch; at 7 pm, they’ll screen High Society (starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra, featuring Cole Porter songs). They’ll project the ilm right up there on the same stage where old Bing got his musical start playing between silent ilms when it was the Clemmer Theater in the 1920s.
It’s time for a Big Bing Bang.
Ted S. McGregor jr. is the editor and publisher of the inlander.