The Crosby Family home
The Crosbys lived here with much laughter, and many dreams, and a gracious ease. These are the first pictures ever taken inside their house. They may also be the last.
They’ve been living in their Holmby Hills home for ten years — that’s a lot of memories.
They moved in when Gary was only seven, the twins were four, and Lindsay was two. (The pictures below show how the boys and their folks look today.)
The kids grew up there: they played baseball in the living room, left for school and vacations, but always came back. There were good times, funny times, sad times, and the house grew mellow with them.
Now some say that the Crosbys are separating. Only the Crosbys know what their immediate future holds. [The couple did not divorce, but his wife, Dixie Lee, died from ovarian cancer in 1952.]
The house may remain as it was with the same people in it; the house may be changed, but already it has a history, a history of family life.
Bing Crosby always took kidding about a lot of things — his hair, or lack of it; his clothes; his singing — “Do some work this week, Pop, or Gary won’t give you an allowance,” his oldest son might tell him.
But there’s one subject that Bing doesn’t like to have ribbed — that’s his home. Even his scriptwriters know that the house is forbidden gag territory.
So much of the Crosby life has been made public property that the house represents their last bit of privacy. The Crosbys don’t give many parties and very few people have actually been inside the place.
The pictures on these pages may surprise some readers. Unlike Bing’s flamboyant wardrobe, his home is simple, unaffected and comfortable.
From the very beginning, it was equipped for a family of four fun-loving boys and their comfort-loving father.
With the professional help of George Hall, one of Hollywood’s finest decorators. Dixie worked long to make the house livable and lovable. It’s a never-ending job.
A year ago, for example, the boys decided that they must have a television set. Little Lindsay, the youngest, claimed, “We need it for professional purposes.”
“Have you gotten your father’s okay?” Dixie asked.
Lindsay smiled. “Not yet, but we’re working on it.”
A few weeks later, Lindsay was asking again. “Pop says we need one, too.”
That was enough for Dixie. She went to work. She had a television set installed in a cabinet that she knew would match the other antique pieces in the living room.
As a result, the Crosby TV set is cleverly concealed in a functional and extremely handsome Welsh dresser. The dresser contains all the media for an evening’s entertainment. In addition to a TV set, it boasts a radio, phonograph, and motion picture screen.
(If you own a large cabinet or breakfront in your own home, you might very well adapt the idea. Rather than get a new piece of furniture for your TV set, perhaps you can build the set or have it built into something you’ve already got. Such a device will not only save you space but also money, since TV sets without cabinets and tables are fairly reasonable.)
Dixie runs her home to please her men. When Bing says he’d like a lot of horse prints around the house — horse prints are what he gets. Dixie takes him at his word, and that’s why practically every picture in the house features an equestrian study of sorts.
The boys are getting older and if they ever decide to throw parties in the living room. Dixie’s ready. The wall to wall carpeting there is actually three rugs that can be rolled back promptly for dancing.
Naturally, Dixie has a whim or two of her own. For example, she’s always liked early American and English pewter. She set around collecting some The rarer pieces are kept in cabinets, but most of the collection is scattered around the place in the form of ashtrays, flower vases, and fruit dishes.
The first impression you get as you step into the large entrance hall is one of limitless space. In this day of high construction costs where every square foot costs money, the mere existence of unused floor space is a luxury.
In the Crosby pre-war house, there’s a lot of this sort of luxury. The halls are unusually wide: the doorways have double doors; the ceilings are over eleven feet high. The windows stretch from floor to ceiling, and the circular stairway (with a banister fit for sliding) extends for two dozen steps.
Bing claims that when you have boys, you either farm them out or get a house where they can grow and expand. “I’ve managed to do both,” he explains.
During the summer, the boys work on the cattle ranch outside of Elko, Nevada, and they really work regular cowboy hours and regular cowboy duties. They’re paid small salaries.
The rest of the year, they go to school, and spend what spare time they have in Holmby Hills.
Bing loved antiques
Next to comfort, or maybe because of it, Bing loves old, beautiful furniture. In fact, he collects antiques. He’s not a stickler for any particular period or country. He simply buys what’s pleasing to his eye.
“After all,” he says, “I’m the guy who has to live with the stuff, and I’m the guy who pays for it. Dixie and I buy what we like, even though the experts might not classify the stuff as exactly correct. Who cares, anyway?”
All the bedrooms are furnished in 18th century English pieces. The living room, however, is a harmonious mixture of French provincial lamps, a Louis XVI desk, a Queen Anne card table and modern fabrics.
If anyone tells you that you shouldn’t mix period furniture, just refer them to the picture of the Crosby living room, as well-furnished and eye-pleasing a room as ever you’ll see.
Dixie prefers antique pieces to modern, because, as she says, “If the tables get scratched or the pewter gets dented, it doesn’t matter too much. I just polish over the spot, and the piece looks better than new. Part of the beauty in antiques is the used look.”
The used and useful look is what the Crosbys like. They appreciate the fine workmanship and graceful appearance on antiques, but they also insist that the furniture be functional.
Bing hates floor lamps. His chronic complaint is that they’re always in the way: so Dixie has worked out several solutions to the problem.
She’s taken decorative old pieces and changed them into table lamps and housings for indirect lighting; Provincial wine kegs, a French coffee maker, and two hurricane lamps have been wired for electricity and light up the living room.
Over the piano there hang a French lavabo, which is both plant holder and light fixture. Above the Queen Anne card table is a Jacobean cabinet that contains a curio collection as well as an indirect light for the game table.
Not long ago, Dixie admired a Sheraton breakfast table that she’d seen in a decorator’s shop. Bing told her to go ahead and buy it.
Although it was hopelessly small for the kind of farmhand’s breakfast that’s served in the Crosby household, she did. It seemed a little extravagant and impractical to her at the time, when suddenly she got the bright idea of cutting it down to coffee table height.
What was too small for a six-person breakfast setting became a spacious coffee table on a scale with the eight-foot sofas.
Bing, of course, approves of this wonder, fully uncluttered surface as a fine residence for his books and magazines. (The moral of this is to never throw out an old kitchen or dining room table. You can make it do wonders by altering the top and shortening the legs.)
Bing Crosby’s foyer
The spacious foyer with its antique lowboys is used as an addition to the living room on the rare occasions when the Crosbys throw a party.
Few people can afford a 14-room house with a forty-foot living room, or even one share in the Pittsburgh Pirates. But in one respect, many of us can live luxuriously — by making every part of our home serve us.
If you love antiques, for instance, don’t treat them like sacred cows. Make them work for you, as the Crosbys do, and you’ll cherish them even more.
“When I get married,” little Lindsay says, “I’m taking the television set with me.”
“He can’t kid me,” says Dixie. “It’s the Welsh dresser that the set’s in that my boy really loves.”
Since Lindsay’s only twelve, Dixie can hang on to it for a while. And the house, whose future may hang in the balance, she can hold, too — hold tight with, memories.