05 December 2019 00:31
Get the biggest celebs stories by email Subscribe Thank you for subscribing We have more newsletters Show me See our privacy notice Could not subscribe, try again later Invalid Email Emerging from between two twinkling, bauble-covered trees in a grand hotel foyer, the daughter of a man who for many people simply was Christmas makes an entrance worthy of her father. He was Bing Crosby, whose festive songs have charmed generations and sold close to a billion. But for Mary he was first and foremost, Dad. And at this time of year, his instantly recognisable voice is unavoidable. Though for a long time after his death in 1977, Mary struggled to hear him warbling the likes of White Christmas. "In the first 10 years after he died, I couldn't go anywhere without hearing his voice during the holidays and it was very bittersweet at the time, because my heart would break," she says.
"But at the same time I was also so happy that he was still being heard. Now decades later, it's just nothing but sweet." (Image: Elizabeth Hirsch) The 60-year-old – best known as Kristin who shot JR in Dallas – will be raising an even bigger smile when she hears his music ring out this year. Not least as her dad this week has made a remarkable entry to the top 10 after 40 years out of the charts. Mary was only 18 when her father died, aged 74, after a heart attack on a Spanish golf course following a concert at the Brighton Centre. "His timing was as always impeccable," she laughs. "He died in full control of his faculties after 18 holes of golf, and shooting under 80. I think his last words were like, 'That was a great round'." Though devastated, she took comfort in the fact he didn't suffer. "He didn't get old, get sick and face all the challenges that happen in later life," she says. "I'm just so grateful for the time I had with him." On the new album – called Bing at Christmas – his original vocals are remastered and the songs rearranged with The London Symphony Orchestra. "Mom and I listened to it together and we both got a little teary," she says. Mum was actress and singer Kathryn Grant, now 86, who had three children with Bing: Mary, Harry and Nathaniel. They were actually Bing's second family. His first wife, actress Dixie Lee, died in 1952 and their four boys were grown up when he re-married. By then, Bing had stepped back from the workaholic lifestyle that helped end his first marriage. "We were very fortunate because for his first family, Dad was at the top of his game and working nonstop," Mary says. "We had a lot of family time and were very fortunate." Though Bing still recorded Christmas shows, which featured Mary and her brothers, life by this time rolled along at a more sedate pace. And it was hard to reconcile the global superstar with the quiet, modest man she knew. "He taught me how to hunt and fish and loved long walks," she says. "He wasn't a man of many words. It was more about being together and being quiet together. Quiet can say a lot. "He loved us deeply despite not being physically very demonstrative. But my mom is from Texas and taught us to crawl all over him." Famous visitors often popped round to their house but she was left starstruck just once. "Fred Astaire came out of retirement to do a Christmas show for dad," she says. "I couldn't talk I was so nervous but I danced with him. He was such a gentleman." She remembers vividly, too, meeting David Bowie who recorded Little Drummer Boy with her dad for the 1977 Christmas show. (Image: Getty) "He arrived wearing a full length mink coat and full make-up and my brother and I we're like, 'Oh my God, how is this going to work out?' "Bowie was a little uncomfortable, a little nervous and him and dad were just sort of sussing each other out. But the minute they sat down and music started to be made, you could see both relax and know that it was going to fly." Included on the new album is the 1942 recording of White Christmas, which holds the record for the word's biggest-selling single with more than 50million copies sold. It was released following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, when the US entered the Second World War. It immediately resonated with American soldiers fighting around the world, and their families. It topped the US singles chart for six Christmases. Aged 38, Bing was deemed too old to fight. But he did his bit spending around 25 weeks entertaining servicemen in Europe. He barely talked about his hundreds of trips – but one story Mary remembers vividly. "He was with a driver and they were in France and somehow ended up behind enemy lines," she says. "The general was like, 'Oh my God, that's German territory.?' And dad said, 'Well it wasn't German for a minute there'." After he died, she found hundreds of letters in a box in the attic that were sent back and forth to troops and their families. "This box was kept in the house because it meant so much to him." He also made a secret visit to a British village that had been bombed. "He never talked about this but I found out he went to the hospital and sang to the kids.. "One of his best friends, the musician Eddie Lang, died because of a botched surgery. From then on they [hospital trips] were really difficult for dad, but he did it anyway. But he never talked about it and never went with press or cameras." "Dad was too young to fight in World War One, too old for World War Two, so he did what he could. It meant more to him than any award."