The Bing/Bowie Christmas Mystery – The Will Ferrell Angle

Okay, we’ve been having fun with this one. The slightly famous (let’s say “underground famous”) clip of David Bowie dropping in on Bing Crosby on an old Bing Crosby Christmas special. They eventually deliver a beautiful, soaring version of “Little Drummer Boy.” If somehow you’ve never heard this, don’t miss the song. Bing’s down-low crooner’s rhythm and Bowie’s pristine melody truly make the song soar. (Was the melody written just for this show? It makes the song so much better!)

Before the song begins there is some awkward patter – well, to call it awkward doesn’t really do it justice. It should be awkward – it’s Ziggy Stardust meeting Bing Crosby, for crying out loud – but somehow it is less awkward than you might think. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. It reminds me of the times when I dropped by a friend’s house only to find his grandparents there.

And you make some small talk, and it’s excruciating because all you want to do is get to the basement and play video games, and the grandparents are telling you about life in the Depression or something. Except then they say something funny, and you have a kind of loyalty toward them as your friend’s grandpa, and you wind up getting through the conversation and giving each other a dose of cross-generational respect. Right? There’s some of that going on in this too. Along with all the awkward.

So anyway, one of the mysteries we’ve been tackling in the comment section is just what David Bowie jokes about at the 1:27 mark. He says [somethings] are coming down the chimney. It sounded to me like “agents,” which didn’t make sense to me. What kind of agents come down the chimney? How is that a joke? And worse, it was close enough to “Asians” to make me worried. (No, Ziggy! Don’t tell me this is some kind of jingoistic humor! Stay in space!)

Here comes Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, who – dammit – live life better than I do. I wish I had talent, and friends who would make videos like this! Well, all I can do is appreciate these two for making my life a little better. Because I’m convinced that videos like this help me to live longer. Will Ferrell! That look in his eye when he’s fully immersed in his character…good lord, this is a delicious video.

And – did you hear it? – he says “agents.” I’m going to use that as confirmation that it’s not Asians. He’d get it right, I’m sure. He may have had a script to work from. At the very least, someone at Funny or Die must have watched this video over and over in order to get it right.

One mystery solved.

Onto the next one!

What kind of agents could these be?

We’ve had three guesses so far.

  • Government agents.  I guess this would be some tie-in to the government pursuing Ziggy Stardust. For drugs? Immigration violations? Protests? Obscenity? Maybe he’d had some legal trouble, and agents were arresting him… something like that. It’s clearly some kind of in-joke, though I don’t know if it’s an in-joke historically or an in-joke based on something that happened earlier in the special. I thought it might be a post-Watergate thing, or a James Bond thing. The “I just got arrested for drugs, it’s in all the papers” seems more likely. But that too is just a guess on my part.
  • Show biz agents. Maybe the joke here is that Bowie’s career is on the rise? And Bing has trouble getting an agent? Maybe Bing complained about it earlier in the episode?
  • Christmas agents. This was a reader’s idea, which I love. Maybe it’s his way of describing elves, or reindeer, or some other tool of Santa. This seems a little strange, but then again, it’s a strange comment. Maybe Bowie is giving us a little tongue-in-cheek slant on Christmas?

Hmmm. I might need to raise the stakes on this….

Okay, let’s do it.! A free copy of one of my books will go to anyone who can figure this out! And good ideas will be in the running, too, no matter how wild. Let’s get the creativity flowing here!

9 thoughts on “The Bing/Bowie Christmas Mystery – The Will Ferrell Angle

  1. I think it has to be an ‘infectious agent’ as in the disease that spreads during Christmas often resulting in overdecorated houses, anarchy in the supermarkets, overzealous friends who seem to catch the disease around October time and scathing inlaws that look for error even in the way you’ve hung your tinsel on the tree. 😀


  2. It’s a bit late for hunting down a mystery of this scale, but maybe I can finish looking in the morning. I did find a wikia page that confirms the “agents” line.

    And I found another link to an old article from ’76, the year prior to this special in ’77, that reports on a felony marijuana possession charges. But that arrest reportedly took place in a hotel, not that that necessarily rules that incident out as the root of the joke. The timing is there, though.

    That narrative makes the most sense to me, given the era and that it was supposed to be a family special, wasn’t it? Make a joke, get people laughing about it, and they’re more likely to keep watching, instead of turning it off in disgust.

    I don’t know. I’m going to look more tomorrow, see if I can’t find a behind-the-scenes story behind it.


    1. Great finds! Jeez, that article made me want to dig into David Bowie’s life. This description of his court appearance is extraordinary:

      The blue-and-black Lincoln Continental limousine had been ticketed for overtime parking, but a plainclothes policeman took the ticket, and put it in his pocket.

      Bowie had remained silent throughout the morning but granted a five-minute interview to newspaper reporters in Leonardo’s office. Leonardo, however, wouldn’t allow any questions directly concerning the arrest, saying it was the first criminal charge he’d ever faced. He complimented city police, though, for the protection they provided him yesterday.

      “They (city police) were very courteous and very gentle,” Bowie said. “They’ve been just super.”

      Quiet and reserved, Bowie answered most of the reporters’ questions with short answers, shaking hands with them when they entered and left.
      Asked if the arrest would sour him on returning to Rochester, Bowie said “certainly not, absolutely not.” He also said he was “very flattered” by the fans who turned out for this arraignment.

      “I felt very honored,” he said.

      Now I’m back to the “show biz agents” theory. He seems to have been well treated by the fuzz!


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