Neil Oliver "Bing" Russell (May 5, 1926 – April 8, 2003)[1] was an American actor and Class A minor-league baseball club owner. He was the father of Hollywood actor Kurt Russell and grandfather of ex–major league baseball player Matt Franco and actor Wyatt Russell.[citation needed]

Bing Russell
Neil Oliver Russell

(1926-05-05)May 5, 1926
DiedApril 8, 2003(2003-04-08) (aged 76)
Occupation(s)Actor, owner of the Portland Mavericks
Years active1951 (1951)–1990 (1990)
Louise Crone
(m. 1946)
Children4, including Kurt Russell
RelativesMatt Franco (grandson)
Wyatt Russell (grandson)

Early life edit

Russell was born in Brattleboro, Vermont, the son of Ruth Stewart (née Vogel) and Warren Oliver Russell. He always wanted to become an actor and studied drama at Brattleboro High School. He grew up around the New York Yankees' spring training camp in St. Petersburg, Florida, in the 1930s and 1940s, where his father ran a floatplane service. As a result, he was an unofficial mascot of the New York Yankees, and became friendly with players including Lefty Gomez and Joe DiMaggio.[2][unreliable source?] When Lou Gehrig was weakened by illness, he gave Russell the bat he used to hit his last home run before retiring.[2][unreliable source?]

Russell graduated from Dartmouth College with a business degree.[3]

Career edit

Russell made his debut in the film Cavalry Patrol, and had some uncredited roles in his early career.

Best known as Deputy Clem Foster on Bonanza (1959)[4] and Robert in The Magnificent Seven (1960), he guest-starred in episodes of many television series, including Playhouse 90, Highway Patrol, Wagon Train, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, The Loretta Young Show, Johnny Ringo, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, The Rifleman, Maverick, Zane Grey Theater, Route 66, Rawhide, Ben Casey, The Untouchables, Hazel, The Andy Griffith Show, The Twilight Zone, The Donna Reed Show, The Munsters, Gunsmoke, Combat!, Branded, The Fugitive, The Monkees, I Dream of Jeannie, Ironside, The Big Valley, Death Valley Days, Adam-12, The Virginian, Alias Smith and Jones, The Mod Squad, Mannix, The Rockford Files, The Streets of San Francisco, Emergency!, and Little House on the Prairie.

In 1963, he was cast as John Quigley, a Chicago mobster, in the episode "Five Tickets to Hell" of Jack Webb's CBS anthology series, GE True. In the storyline, Quigley travels to Chihuahua, Mexico, where he robs the mint of $500,000 and kills seven men in the commission of the crime. Police Lieutenant Juan Garcia (Carlos Romero) tracks down Quigley and his three accomplices. BarBara Luna also appears in the episode.[5][unreliable source?]

Russell appeared in the original pilot (filmed in November 1965) for The Monkees TV series as Rudy, a record store owner and the group's manager; after the show was greenlit by NBC, the concept of a manager was discarded and Russell's character was not retained. An edited version of this pilot, in which Russell appears, was broadcast as a regular episode of the first season, and is part of the show's syndication package to this day.

Russell much later played Vernon Presley to his son Kurt's Elvis Presley in the television movie, Elvis (1979). Kurt, as a child actor, had appeared with the real Elvis in the film It Happened at the World's Fair, and in a later interview recalled the singer-actor, professing to be a fan, asking to meet Bing, who had accompanied his son to the set.[6]

Russell owned the Portland Mavericks (1973–1977), the only independent team in the Short Season Northwest League. Russell kept a 30-man roster because he believed that some of the players deserved to have one last season. His motto was fun. He created a park that kept all corporate sponsorship outside the gates, hired the first female general manager, Lanny Moss[7] in professional baseball, and named the first Asian American GM/Manager. His team set a record for the highest attendance in minor league history, but lost the 1977 pennant to the Bellingham Mariners. Subsequently, Major League Baseball regained interest in Portland. The Albuquerque, NM franchise relocated to Portland (for nine years) and resurrected the Class AAA Portland Beavers name. The Portland area was recovered but was forced to pay $206,000 to Russell after he took the matter to arbitration; it was the biggest payout in baseball history for a minor league territory. Ex-major-leaguers and never-weres who could not stop playing the game flocked to his June try-outs, which were always open to anyone who showed up. The team and archival footage of Russell were featured in the documentary The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014).

Personal life edit

In 1945, while working at Teddy's Restaurant in Newport, New Hampshire, a coworker introduced Russell to his future wife, Louise "Lulu" Crone.[8] Russell and Crone married in 1946 and had four children together, including actor Kurt Russell.[9]

Death edit

Russell died from complications of cancer on April 8, 2003, in Thousand Oaks, California.[10]

Recognition edit

In 1974, the Sporting News named Russell minor league executive of the year.[3]

In 2020, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.[11]

Filmography edit

References edit

  1. ^ Lentz, Harris M. III (2008). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2003: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-5208-8. Retrieved September 2, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Hoffarth, Tom. "From Gehrig to Bing to Kurt to Matt: A bat, and the story that went with it". Farther off the wall (blog). Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Bing Russell: A 53-Year-Old Maverick". Los Angeles Times. August 3, 1976. p. 33. Retrieved September 2, 2019 – via
  4. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  5. ^ "GE True". Classic Television Archive. Archived from the original on October 5, 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  6. ^ "Campus Insiders: Kurt Russell Recalls Encounter With His Dad And Elvis Presley". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021.
  7. ^ "Sports Illustrated vault: Scorecard: Lanny Moss". CNN.
  8. ^ "Alfreda L. Couitt of Unity, New Hampshire Obituary 1922 - 2016". Stringer Funeral Home. January 27, 2016. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  9. ^ "Louise "Lulu" Russell's Obituary (1928 - 2021) The Oregonian". Retrieved November 21, 2022.
  10. ^ Willis, John (2005). Screen World. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. p. 364. ISBN 978-1-55783-638-0.
  11. ^ "Hall of Great Westerners". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved August 21, 2021.

External links edit