22 October 2009

Der Bingle

On this day in 1952, Bing Crosby was a passenger on the Queen Mary. He is shown here shipboard, signing autographs before departing.

Hopefully this crossing was more pleasant than one he undertook during World War II, while traveling overseas as part of the U.S.O. In his book, Warrior Without Weapons, medic Robert R. Copeland relates a story in which the crooner was reluctant to stick his head above decks:

"During the trip Bing's troupe entertained the soldiers on board, but the Old Groaner was never up in front of an audience on that particular voyage...Der Bingle had a terrible case of mal de mer.

"His ordeal began at Pier 90 when the Queen's 160,000 h.p. turbines started slowly edging the ship out into the middle of the Hudson River, and ended when forward motion ceased five days later...in Scotland.

"Of all the American entertainers who sailed with us...Bing Crosby was probably the most beloved by the British crewmen. About halfway across the Atlantic a two-man delegation, consisting of the ship's butcher and one of the chefs, sought me out to ask if I could come down and "'ave a look" at their hero. I asked if he was ill, and they nodded in unison.

"...I found him perched on the top of a mountain of 100-pound bags of potatoes in the D-Deck working alleyway which was next to the galley. This is where he had been since we left New York, and this is where he stayed for the entire voyage...

"...It was obvious why the ship's crew had become so concerned. His skin color was a ghastly green and he looked severely dehydrated...I had seen and smelled enough cases of seasickness to know that his acute case was complicated by another factor, but I hesitated to ask him about specific symptoms. But I was pretty sure my diagnosis was correct, and it was verified when I glimpsed the neck of a bottle of Seagram's poking up between potato bags.

"...One of the crewmen went back to the hospital with me and I gave him a few APC tablets, a giant can of pineapple juice, and an M-1 Army issue urinal duct.

"Late that evening as I was about to turn in I remembered my famous patient, and thought I'd better check on him before bedding down for the night. I found him sleeping peacefully on top of the potatoes with two sentinels on duty at the foot of the mountain. His color and overall appearance were much improved, but the can of pineapple juice was still too full for my liking, because dehydration is what we worry about most with seasickness.

"'Why won't he drink his juice?' I asked one of the men.

"'Oh, blimey, yes. Matter of fact 'e's been pullin' at it quite often...one of our blokes said 'e keeps fillin' it up with 'is other medikyshon...the one 'e keeps up there between the potato bags.'

"'Has he used his urinal?' I inquired.

"'Oh, my, yes, loike you advised we've been keepin' tracks on that. See the chalky marks on the bulkhead?'

I looked at the bulkhead, and the record seemed entirely satisfactory."

New York Daily News Photo Archive
Copeland, Robert R.: Warrior Without Weapons

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