Leaving a Legacy


Northern Nevada was home to Bing Crosby's seven ranches. His Las Vegas legacy was The Church That Bing Built.

Responding to a priest's desperate plea, Crosby, best known for his 100 million-selling song "White Christmas," agreed to perform at a church fundraiser on the Strip less than a year before he died.

Las Vegas resident Carolyn Schneider recounts the story in her second book -- currently unpublished -- about her famous uncle, the legendary crooner who won an Oscar for "Going My Way" in 1944 and teamed up with Bob Hope in seven "Road to" films.

The concert took place Nov. 26, 1976, at the Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts.

"Without a proper church and no money to build one, the priest had been saying Mass in the Sundancer Western Saloon on Boulder Highway," she writes in "Bing: On the Road to Elko."

"With the help of the crew from the MGM, scenery was constructed to transform the interior into a chapel on Sunday mornings.

"When the saloon was sold and turned into a topless disco, it was too much for Father Benjamin Franzinelli," she wrote.

"The alter boys had to get the (boa) feathers off the bar before they could light the candles," Franzinelli, now a monsignor, told Schneider.

That was the last straw. Franzinelli made an appeal to Crosby, a devout Catholic.

The church that Crosby helped build is Holy Family at Mountain Vista Street and Harmon Avenue. A stained glass window commemorates the history, including a nod to the disco with the risqué reputation.

The window features Mary, Joseph and infant Jesus. In the four corners and one center bottom are five small images: the outline of a building with "Sundancer" on it, the next is the outline of the Aladdin, then a shield (symbol of the Las Vegas Diocese), a storefront image with the date "1905 Ed. Von Tobel" Lumber Co. and lastly is the front view of the completed church.

Crosby died 11 months after his Las Vegas appearance at age 74 after a round of golf in Spain.

Crosby's only daughter, Mary, will be appearing with Desi Arnez Jr. in the play "Love Letters" on Jan. 24 at Desi's Boulder Theatre. The event is a fundraiser for the Boulder City Ballet Company operated by Desi's wife, Amy.

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY...

Dec. 19, 1967: Luxor headliner Criss Angel was born as Christopher Sarantakos in East Meadow, N.Y.

Dec. 19, 1946: Robert Urich, who starred as detective Dan Tanna in "Vega$" for three seasons, would have been 62. He died April 16, 2002.

Dec. 20, 1957: Elvis Presley receives his draft notice from the U.S. Army while spending the Christmas holidays at Graceland, the rock 'n' roll star's newly purchased Tennessee mansion.

Dec. 22, 1949: Robin Gibb of the singer/songwriting trio The Bee Gees was born with twin brother, Maurice.

Dec. 23, 1979: Holly Madison was born in Astoria, Ore. She was a roller-skating waitress at Hooters in Santa Monica, Calif., before spending eight years in the Playboy Mansion with Hugh Hefner.

Norm Clarke can be reached at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com.

 

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