By Ken Zurski
In September of 1977, a popular British model and actress named Twiggy appeared on Bing Crosby’s annual Christmas television special. The family holiday staple was being filmed in London that year because the 74-year-old Crosby happened to be in Great Britain for a concert tour.
Crosby recruited several British entertainers as guests on the special titled “Christmas in England.”
The London-born Twiggy was one.
Considered the “face of the 60’s” with a rail thin figure, short hair and strikingly large eyes, the teenage Twiggy was arguably the most recognized model in the world. Now in her late 20’s, Twiggy remained a multi-talented performer who picked up two Golden Globes for her work in The Boy Friend, a movie based on a musical set in the 1920’s about a theater group in England whose stage manager Polly (played by Twiggy) gets her big break when the leading lady literally, “breaks a leg.”
In the Christmas special, Twiggy and Crosby sing a tender version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Twiggy is refined, relaxed and clearly star struck. Crosby takes the lead on the song but the two trade verses and sing portions of the chorus together. Twiggy also appears in a sketch with Crosby and British actor Ron Moody, best known for his role as Fagin in the movie Oliver.
It was both unusual and memorable and those who worked on the special had no idea at time it would be Crosby’s last. Only a month after filming, in October, Crosby died from an apparent heart attack. The posthumously aired British-themed Christmas special would be his last. When the show was broadcast later that year, in December, viewers watched with a heavy heart.
In retrospect, Crosby’s duet with Twiggy is a bittersweet tribute to the late crooner. It’s done with class and professionalism, a trademark of Crosby with any singer. In this case, a British model, 40-plus years his junior. Twiggy’s performance is equally sentimental and tender.
But the performance is forgotten today.
However, another well-known British star – and an even more unlikely choice than Twiggy – would make a mark on the show that would last for years to come.
David Bowie initially turned down the request to be a guest on the special because he didn’t like the song choice of “The Little Drummer Boy.” He eventually agreed after Crosby’s musical arrangers wrote a new part of the song for him to sing, titled “Peace on Earth,” which he liked:
Peace on Earth, can it be
Years from now, perhaps we’ll see
See the day of glory
See the day, when men of good will
Live in peace, live in peace again
The two voices soared together.
“Ah, that’s a pretty thing, isn’t it?” Crosby remarked after the two superstars finished the song.
Today, their version of “Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy” is a holiday favorite.