Herbert W. Armstrong Hosted Bing Crosby’s Dramatic 50th Anniversary Performance

Historic tribute drew Hollywood entertainers to Ambassador Auditorium.

Famed vocalist and actor Bing Crosby videotaped a 50th anniversary television special on March 3, 1977, at Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, California. The 90-minute performance was broadcast by the cbs network on March 20, from 9 to 10:30pm.

The performance honored his five decades of accomplishment in the entertainment industry. The Worldwide News reported: “Celebrating with him, besides Bob Hope, were Paul Anka, Pearl Bailey, Rosemary Clooney, the Joe Bushkin Quartet, the Mills Brothers, Bette Midler, Bing’s wife, Kathryn, daughter Mary Frances, son Nathaniel and others.

“The presentation … sponsored by Kraft Foods when televised, was also a benefit performance to aid waif, a child adoption agency founded by actress Jane Russell, and the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation’s scholarship fund for international students. Miss Russell was in the audience, O’Connor, Martha Raye, Frank Capra, Phil Harris and others” (March 14, 1977).

At the time, J. Walter Thompson was the largest international advertising agency, and the firm was not only tasked with the job of managing the Bing! tv special, but also promotional guidance of the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, of which Mr. Armstrong was founder and chairman.

The special opened with a video sequence of Crosby outside Ambassador Auditorium singing “Of Bing We Sing” while greeting his co-stars as they entered the acclaimed performing arts building. Buz Kohan and Ray Charles collaborated on the writing and music for the tribute. In addition to a variety of medleys, other numbers performed were “Glow Worm,” “Everything Old Is New Again,” “Tenderly,” “I Surrender Dear,” “Just One More Chance” and “Blue Hawaii.”

According to the same edition of The Worldwide News, Crosby told the audience of 1,200 during taping that it was his “pleasure to perform in such a beautiful theater,” while Bob Hope expressed to the packed house that they were in a “beautiful auditorium.”

With construction of the 45,000 square foot facility completed a mere three years earlier, the unique performing arts center featured a spiraling egret sculpture fountain at its entrance, while the interior boasted a glass-encased foyer with teak from Africa, onyx from Iran, carpet from India, stunning gold overlay, and a concert hall punctuated by acoustical clouds enhanced tenor and tone. Ambassador Auditorium had been catapulted into the minds and hearts of not only Los Angeles concertgoers, but the Hollywood film and television elite.

During his final comments of the musical special, Crosby said, “I hope it won’t be another 50 years before we can celebrate like this again.” As the audience honored him with a standing ovation, he turned the wrong way to exit the stage and fell into the orchestra pit.

Mr. Armstrong who attended the performance and was just rows away from the incident said, “It was obvious that Bing was very tired and was probably vastly relieved to have finally arrived at the final scene. He had been working hard for several days in advance and had actually been in the auditorium doing his own stand-ins in rehearsal since about 8 a.m. that morning. You can imagine how tired he would have been, at age 72, and, perhaps, turning to the crowd and waving one more time, simply did not realize he was taking a step in the wrong direction.”

Crosby was rushed to Pasadena’s Huntington Memorial Hospital and admitted for a few days treatment and recovery of the trauma—a cut to the head and some bruises. Days later, the hospital spokesman told the media Bing was “in very high spirits.”

Within seven months of the anniversary concert’s conclusion, Bing Crosby died. Perhaps in the quieter moments at home or abroad, perhaps those who performed, attended or watched the March 20, 1977, concert recall not only that special event, but also its patron Herbert W. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong was internationally recognized as an unofficial ambassador for world peace and preached the gospel message to world leaders in all corners of the globe (Matthew 24:14).

Bing Crosby’s accolades of Ambassador Auditorium’s grandeur are similarly expressed by performers in its successor concert hall, Armstrong Auditorium.

Armstrong International Cultural Foundation founder and chairman Gerald Flurry has followed in Mr. Armstrong’s footsteps. Having taken the time to review the exterior, interior and acoustical blueprints of Ambassador Auditorium, he instructed the architects of Armstrong Auditorium to use Ambassador’s design as a model for its $25 million successor.

Now in its fourth year, performers from around the globe grace Armstrong Auditorium’s stage, enjoying the peaceful environs and one-of-a-kind hospitality of the Foundation. This “polished jewel lifting the human spirit” is adorned with Swarovski-trimmed crystal chandeliers, Baccarat crystal candelabra, American cherry wood veneers, Spanish marble and Azerbaijani onyx. The hall’s superb internal acoustics and the soaring “Swans in Flight” sculpture, designed by Sir David Wynn, whose sculptured egrets fronted Ambassador Auditorium, combine to set Armstrong Auditorium apart in a class of its own.

Visit our home page to learn more about the charitable and humanitarian endeavors of Armstrong Foundation, its performing arts series schedule of events, and its international activities.