Library of Congress Holds Tribute for Bob Hope
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 23, 2003 Several years ago, Comedienne Phyllis Diller asked Bob Hope, "Who would want to be 100 years old?" Bob answered, "Anyone who is 99."
And in six more days, Bob Hope will become a centenarian. Among a slew of celebrations across the country, the Library of Congress held a reception and stage tribute to Hope on May 22. The event was a variety show that explored his life through song, dance and comedy.
Hosted by entertainer Dick Cavett and actor Boyd Gaines, the review featured vaudeville-type skits, dance routines, tap dancing, Broadway tunes, "Ziegfeld Follies" skits, and skits from radio, television and the musical "Red, Hot, and Blue."
Hope's performance in "Red, Hot, and Blue" opened the door to his first major feature film for Paramount Pictures, "The Big Broadcast of 1938."
"The Bob Hope Review" was held in the library's theater, not far from the Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment.
Cavett told the audience that five years ago, the Hope family gave the Library of Congress tons of material from Hope's 80 years of show business, including more than 85,000 pages of Hope's jokes. These comedic holdings have been typed, scanned, digitized and indexed by topic and subtopic. The gallery features a touch-screen kiosk where visitors can read them.
The library's theater was packed with family, friends and well-wishers. One was Fayard Nicholas, 88, who has been friends with Bob Hope since they met in a show in 1936.
"I haven't seen Bob for a while, but we still send each other birthday and Christmas cards," said Nicholas, half of the famous dancing duo "Nicholas Brothers." The other half was his late brother, Harold, who died in July 2000 at the age of 79.
"We appeared in the "Ziegfeld Follies' on Broadway in 1936 and have been friends ever since," Nicholas said. "Every time we see each other, we talk about the old times like when we went to Vietnam in 1965 with the USO show. He'd say, it's been a long time, hasn't it?
"I'd say, 'Yes, we've been friends for a long time,'" said Nicholas, who lives in Toluca Lake, Calif., about five miles from where Hope and his wife Delores live. "He's really a nice guy."
Hope, who has befriended every president since Franklin Roosevelt, has received more than 2,000 birthday cards and thousands of e-mails.
The Library of Congress event was part of a yearlong celebration that started with 2003 New Year's Day Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. It was there that directors of the Tournament of Roses established in perpetuity "The Bob Hope Humor Trophy."
Then Super Bowl pre-game show later in January on ABC TV network paid a tribute. And that was just the beginning of tributes all over the country.
Bob's reaction to all the attention, according to daughter Linda Hope: "He's all smiles." "As for us," she continued, speaking for the family, "we are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, admiration and best wishes given Dad by the American public. The celebration has become quite emotional. Our thanks to all these wonderful people is expressed through tears of joy."
Primarily a comedian, Bob Hope has acted, sang, danced, hosted his own radio and television shows and starred in 60 movies. "Bob Hope's dedication to and love for the American GI is legendary. He traveled around the world to entertain the men and women in uniform during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Desert Storm," states the inside jacket of the book entitled, "Bob Hope: My Life in Jokes," authored by Hope and his daughter, Linda.