Age for Hope Is a Rather Large Number
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 22, 2003 The Library of Congress now has Hope among its many precious holdings Bob Hope, that is, the entertainer who turns 100 May 29.
Tourists and other visitors to the nation's capital should make sure they see the Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment in that library, advises Ward Grant, Hope's longtime director of public and media relations.
"It's a permanent exhibit, and you're going to find laughter in there," he noted.
Bob's daughter, Linda, was in town also May 21 preparing for a special reception and stage tribute to her father hosted by entertainer Dick Cavett and actor Boyd Gaines at the library May 22. Hope did not travel
She reflected on her father's life and his love for America's men and women in uniform. Hope has made more than 700 trips to entertain more than 10 million GIs at bases and hospitals in the U.S., North Atlantic, Caribbean, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, Pacific and Southeast Asia.
Linda said it all started on May 6, 1941. "I guess it was serendipitous," she noted. "He was looking for good audiences for his radio shows and one of his writer's brother or cousin was stationed at March Field (Calif.). That person mentioned, 'Wouldn't it be nice if we got the Bob Hope Show to come entertain the guys here.'
"So dad went to March Field and it was love at first laugh because the huge laughs that he got there were not to be equaled in the studio," said Hope, who produced her father's television specials for more than 25 years. "He loved the spirit and he got to know some of those people and he was hooked."
Hope noted that she produced a few overseas shows and recalled the one she did in China, which was the first variety special done there. "Then I did the show that turned out to be his last USO-type show (in 1991), which was in conjunction with Operation Desert Storm," she said.
"Dad called me on the phone and said, 'I've got to get over there!' Hope said.
"I said, 'What are you talking about dad?'" she said, adding, "And he was 87 at that stage."
Bob Hope told his daughter, "I spoke to the prez (president) and told him I wanted him to get me a plane. So you'd better get some people booked because we're going to go over there for Christmas this year."
"I said, Dad, are you sure you want to do that? It's a long trip," she said.
His response was, "Are you kidding? Those guys are over there and they had to take the long trip too. I'm over there!"
Linda Hope went to work and helped put a show together featuring Ann Jillian, Marie Osmond, the Pointer Sisters, Johnny Bench, Aaron Tippin and Khrystyne Haje.
"We made the journey with Dad and my mother (Delores Hope) and both of them were amazing," Hope said. "They were climbing up ammo boxes to get onto the backs of trucks and using sort of primitive microphones to talk to the guys out in the middle of the sand."
Delores Hope was singing "White Christmas," when she stopped singing and asked the Marines, "Where are you fellows from?"
They shouted out, "29 Palms."
"It turns out that 29 Palms is the base closest to Mom and Dad's home in Palm Springs (Calif.)," Hope said.
Her mother told the Marines, "When you fellows get finished over here, you come to our house. We want to entertain you."
A few months later, a bunch of Marines showed up at the Hope's home on Easter Sunday 1991. "They had a great big yellow ribbon coming home party for about 350 Marines and their wives and kids," Linda Hope said. "There were Easter baskets for the kids and everybody had a nice Easter dinner and they put on a show for them."
It was called "Bob's Yellow Ribbon Party," which aired on television on April 6, 1991.
Asked what role did her mother plays in her father's career, Linda Hope said, "I'd hate to be corny about it, but, as the song says, 'the wind beneath the wings,' was her role. She supported him in all he did. She was by his side as often as she could be. It gave her a chance to sing, which she loves to do. Just recently she did a couple of albums. Becoming a recording star at age 84 gives her a lot of pleasure."
Grant pointed out that Delores Hope was the only woman allowed to entertain in Saudi Arabia. The other women entertainers had to go to Bahrain to perform.
"Dad's life was compartmentalized into a couple of areas. One was television. The first love and his true love were his personal appearances," Linda said. "Ward (Grant) had a lot to do with his personal appearances and scheduling those."
He interjected, "First of all, you had a man who didn't do one thing, he did two things or three things at the same time. He's going from a personal appearance to entertaining some veterans or GIs in the hospital, to doing a television show, to writing a book. He did between 150 and 250 public appearances a year."
As an example of Hope's love for GIs, Grant said, one day, they were heading home from taping a show in Los Angeles, and an actor on a talk show said he didn't need publicity, promotion or anything else because he did it all on his own.
Grant turned to Hope and asked, "Was there ever any time in your life where no one could cut your coat tails?
It was a surprising moment because Hope turned down the radio and said, 'Yes. I was No. 1 in the box office in the movies. My radio shows were top in the ratings. I was selling out at all of my personal appearance. No body was as good as I was.
"Then I started entertaining GI audiences and realized that their contribution compared to mine left me behind," Hope told Grant. "
Grant said, "besides being a great audience and the patriotic statue, the men and women in services put a normal head on his shoulders to really address the world in a different way. And he was eternally and is eternally grateful."
One time, Hope told Grant that it's nearly impossible to go into a hospital ward with wounded GIs and be entertaining. He said, "We used to yell things like, 'OK, everybody up, or were you sick before you saw our show?'"
Hope said, "We yelled to keep from showing the lump we had in our throats."
Grant said it affected everybody he took with him Phyllis Diller, Patty Thomas, Ann Margaret or whomever. "They would go into hospital wards with tears in their eyes and Bob would take them aside and say, 'Don't you cry,'" Grant noted. "That's not what we're hear for."
Calling Hope "the post positive man in the world," Grant said "he could defuse any crisis with humor. But he was positive and he wouldn't allow people around him to be negative or exhibit any negative actions. He was dedicated to the cause he was there for and that was to make these men and women forget the war, to laugh and have a good time.
"He was totally dedicated to these people, and still is," Grant said. "So it's another dimension of what the troops have done for him."
Linda Hope said there have been some scary times for her father trying to entertain the troops. For instance, one time his cue-card man's tardiness caused the group to arrive in Saigon behind schedule. When they arrived, they saw a lot of smoke, commotion, people running and fire engines racing to an emergency.
"I guess they told Dad through walkie-talkie that the hotel where he was going to stay had just been blown up," Hope said. "Had he arrived a few minutes before, that would have been it.
"He has had plane crashes, but he has been blessed," she said. "People that work for him who used to go on these trips used to tell stories about how it would be raining -- lousy weather -- and for some reason, the rain would stop and the sun would come out. It used to be a joke that it used to never rain on Bob Hope's show."
She said people are always asking, "What do you have to remember him by? Items for Bob Hope fans include a DVD collection, 'Bob Hope, the Ultimate Collection,' which is seven hours of the best of his shows, including some of the overseas shows. There's also a collection of Bob Hope's best radio programs that is available at the local bookstores. And Universal Studios has come out with a collection of the best of Bob Hope films.
"I have a book called, 'Bob Hope: My Life in Jokes,' which is kind of a fun, easy read," said Linda, who co-authored the book with her father. "It's a look at his life divided into different decades and the wonderful jokes told, which are also kind of a history lesson."
When Bob Hope's 100th birthday rolls around on May 29, Linda said, "We've gone through every possible kind of birthday party. So we're going to keep it simple and have the close family and a few close friends and cerebrate at home."
However, she said earlier in the day people who worked for him are going to get together and lift a glass of champagne. The Hollywood's intersection of Hollywood and Vine will be dedicated as Bob Hope Square.
As to the centenarian's health, Linda said, "He's hanging in there. He has good days and bad days. At 100 I guess you can expect that sort of thing. But he's determined to be 100 and looking forward to it."
She said, "In knowing the man, I'm sure he'd like to leave a legacy of laughter -- that he made people laugh and he loved his country, and certainly the men and women that served their country. I think that's what he probably would love to be remembered for."
Grant added, "It makes you stop and think. Somebody said Bob Hope is uncommonly a common man. He's the last American icon who speaks for the common man."