CORONA DEL MAR — William Francis Tait Markas, whose career included a stint as a drummer for singer Bing Crosby and later became a prominent realtor in Orange and Los Angeles counties, died Monday of heart failure. He was 86.
The longtime Corona del Mar resident began his professional career at 19 as a substitute drummer for Jimmy Greer's big band, then playing at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. After five years with Greer's band, Markas played for Bob Hope and Bing Crosby on the Kraft Music Hall radio show and, after service in World War II, for the Burns and Allen radio show.
Markas eventually left show business for real estate and, with his wife of 51 years, singer Denny Wilson Markas, moved to Orange County in 1962. He was an early sales manager for Leisure World and also worked for Signal Hill Landmark.
A member of Alcoholics Anonymous for 47 years, Markas attended his first meeting with his wife at a gathering of 12 people in Los Angeles. Half of those in the room had been scooped up from Skid Row by the other half, Denny Markas recalled.
"I quit drinking when he did," she said, "and we had a wonderful life because of it."
Locally, he was known as "the guru of AA," said his daughter, Holly Tait Markas.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Markas is survived by a son, Robert Stephen Tait Markas, all of Newport Beach, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
A memorial is scheduled for June 20, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Balboa Bay Club. The family requests that any donations go to First Step House of Orange County, c/o the Bank of Newport in Newport Beach.