Make it a triple!

Posted 04/21/04

By Angus McClure

It was in Spain on October 14, 1977 when "the blue of the night met the gold of the day" when Bing Crosby, the famous crooner sang his final song. "Der Bingle" had just finished playing in a golf tournament when he collapsed and died.

It was a couple of days later, and there I was on the ramp at the IAB at JFK awaiting the TWA flight returning Mr. Crosby to the U.S. With me were Kathryn Crosby (a beauty-and-a-half as I recall), and son Harry who was about thirteen. Also on hand were about 25 members of the Fourth Estate including TV and print media types.  I had spent several moments expressing my condolences to the Crosbys, and as we chatted the aircraft appeared on the taxiway, loudly making its way towards us.

Moments before I had met with the foreman of the ground crew that would be off-loading Bing's casket via the nearby conveyor belt that was standing at the ready. We had a considerable audience on hand and I hoped all would go smoothly.

As the engines of the 707 wound down, the ground crew sprang into action and swung open the cargo hold door. Nervous moments passed all too long, and I began to find small talk more and more difficult as the foreman rode the conveyor to the ground and strode towards me making little motions for me to join him half-way.

I excused myself to the Crosbys and anxiously made my way to his foreman’s side, only to hear a whispered, "there's a bit of a problem. Mr. Crosby's casket must have broken loose during the flight and he wasn't in it when we opened the door!"

Without hesitation I replied, "No, it didn't … it's not … he's in it and he'd better be coming off the aircraft in the next five minutes!" With that I spun on my heel, returned to the family, noted some concern on Mrs. Crosby's face, but assured her that all was well.

Thus commenced the longest five minutes in my 16-year career with TWA. I was babbling inanely, I'm sure, about the weather etc., when suddenly the conveyor belt began to move and off came the casket looking (to me), surprisingly shipshape. It was placed on a cart, and the army of TV and still cameras rolled and chattered, as "Der Bingle" continued his journey to his final resting place.

I wish I remembered the name of the foreman for I owe him, big time! As for me, I bid the Crosby family adieu and headed for the Ambassadors Club where, if memory serves, my first words were, "make it a triple!"

Angus McClure (1965 – 198?) served in NYC Public Relations/Corporate Communications.

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