The Laugh Makers was chosen a "Top 20" Year End 2010 Pick by Leonard Maltin who says...
"Having spent twenty years writing for the indefatigable Bob Hope, and traveling all over the world, Bob Mills is well qualified to salute the famous corps of gagmen who kept the comedian knee-deep in jokes. These first-hand recollections summon up the final phase of Hope’s career—and the end of the trail for an entire brand of show business."
BREITBART poll shows 97.83% of potential voters stand by TRUMP on impeachment while 2.17% favor it. Of course, to qualify, you had to be white with an IQ in double digits, uneducated, married to a close relative, and be an unemployed NRA member wearing a MAGA ballcap.#Breitbart pic.twitter.com/Jz32D0CWNM— Robert L. Mills, JD (@TheLaughMakers) October 1, 2019
The book is also available on KINDLE at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0041D9EPO.
The photos were taken between 1977 and 2003, many of those behind-the-scenes by the author using a 35mm Asahi Pentax Spotmatic and Takumar lenses. All are from the author's collection.
Beginning at March Field in California at the start of World War II, BOB HOPE's mutual love affair with the military extended through the war in Europe and the Pacific, the Korean War, Vietnam and the Middle East.
Also included are excerpts from a BBC special tha includes commentary by PHYLLIS DILLER, ALAN KING, JOHN LAHR and MILLS himself as they recall Hope's lifelong dedication to America's service men and women at home and overseas. The show concludes with a Q&A.
Watch a recently taped video excerpt at: http://dai.ly/x2gcd9s
Book your show at: TheLaughMakers@GMail.com
Bob Hope is a household name. However, as Richard Zoglin shows in this revelatory biography, there is still much to be learned about this most public of figures, from his secret first marriage and his stint in reform school, to his indiscriminate womanizing and his ambivalent relationship with Bing Crosby and Johnny Carson. Hope could be cold, self-centered, tight with a buck, and perhaps the least introspective man in Hollywood. But he was also a dogged worker, gracious with fans, and generous with friends.
Hope is both a celebration of an entertainer whose vast contribution has never been properly appreciated, and a complex portrait of a gifted but flawed man, who, unlike many Hollywood stars, truly loved being famous, appreciated its responsibilities, and handled celebrity with extraordinary grace. (Photo Credit: http://www.doctormacro.com/Images)
Don helped launch my career as a comedy writer delivering lines and routines I began sending him while still practicing law in Palo Alto. And he often praised the showcased material from bits like “You Know it’s Gonna Be One of Those Days,” to “Great Inventions that Never Quite Made It,” to comedy dialogue in sketches like “Letters to Uncle Don,” written for Don and sidekick/newsman Aaron Edwards, complete with organ intros and bridges. (Aaron: Here’s a letter from a Walnut Creeker. Don: Lucky he’s not from Tuantepec.) Invariably, the lines were followed by Don's patented "dirty ol' man" laugh.
In 1974, Don recommended me to his talent agent Charles Stern and I was soon off to Hollywood to embark on a mid-life career change at age 40 that would change my life forever. Don retired from radio in the late seventies, lived on his houseboat in Sausalito, and died on November 6, 1983. He was only 58. Herb Caen wrote "The muck and mire of commercial radio produces a rare species like Don Sherwood once in a lifetime, and the lifetime is over." Tributes from friends, colleagues and fans poured in from all over the country. Don's son Greg Sherwood works on air for National Public Radio on KQED in San Francisco and is often seen hosting fund drives there and on Los Angeles' KCET.
A veteran of 30 years on Hope's staff, Gig Henry (whom Hope called “Igor” after his Quasimodo-like crouched walk) with Hope in Toluca Lake. This may have been the Christmas party in the late 70s when Hope leaned down to pet his guard dog’s week-old puppies and got nipped on the nose. “Snow Job” was granted a pardon and grew up to succeed his mother on the security detail.
Gig and I working on the script for my first Hope special, "On the Road With Bing." in September, 1977. Gig was very helpful in acclimating me to Hope’s workaday foibles and idiosyncrasies. Soon, I would travel with him to Perth, Australia; Peking; and London. Prior to my arrival, he had been paired with another Hope veteran, Charlie Lee, who didn’t care much for travel so my bags were always packed.
Zero-Mostel-like Jeffrey Barron was a bachelor who slept all day and wrote at night. He had his own table at Lowry’s House of Prime Rib; and while with SCTV in Montreal, lived in a hotel for two seasons “... for the room service,” as he explained it. Jeff was a shrewd investor who owned several houses in Beverly Hills, though he lived in a small apartment. One evening, while collecting rent, he was questioned by a couple of Beverly Hills cops. “What are you doing here,” they demanded. “I own that house,” Jeff replied. “Next time take a cab. Nobody walks in Beverly Hills."
Seaman Jacobs and Fred Fox had been together for several decades. Fred, a UC Berkeley grad, had worked as a radio disc jockey despite a stuttering problem that mysteriously disappeared when he spoke into a microphone. Si, a graduate of Syracuse University, had been a press agent in New York and knew almost everybody in show business. They worked on "I Love Lucy" for many seasons and contributed scripts to shows including "F-Troop" and "The Addams Family." (Si was the proud creator of "Hand.") They wrote scripts for "The Love Boat" and worked with George Burns on his act and several of his books. They worked for Hope on a "per special" basis, never joining the permanent staff.
Gene Perret, Jeffrey Barron and Martha Bolton would help staff the specials beginning in the mid-eighties. Gene, who had begun his career submitting jokes to Phyllis Diller while in middle management in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, began contributing to Hope’s monologues in 1969. Later, he and I would travel with Hope to London, Stockholm and Tahiti. Martha was from Arkansas, was married to a sergeant in the L.A. Police Department and showed up at just the right time. Considerably younger than most of us, she brought a softer, more Norman Rockwellian, Readers Digest sensibility to the material that balanced the edgy, smart-alecky tone the old-timers thrived on and that seemed less and less suitable for a comedian who was, by then, 83.
I join Freddie and Gig in the green room at NBC for a rare photo of gag writers wearing neckties. They had been the standard uniform for writers in radio, but the practice had long been abandoned by their successors in television. The picture was taken around 1980 by Barney McNulty.
And here is some of our handiwork from selected monologues taped during the 1980 television season. The monologues were delivered before live audiences on location or at the NBC studios in Burbank -- always the final segment taped. The 30-35 jokes ultimately viewed at home were edited down from approximately 100-150 actually delivered by Hope. He would then edit himself, choosing what he believed to be the most effective lines. The writers provided about a thousand to fifteen hundred lines for him to pick from, using topics he had approved. The monologue was Hope's favorite segment and was never "phoned in" to use a phrase common among writers today.
We parodied the first Oscar winner, Wings, which we called Thighs. In our version, Hope and the captain are sweet on the comely flight nurse, Polly, played by Ann Jillian. When Polly continues to display an obvious preference for her ski-nosed lieutenant (She asks him “Where did you ever learn to kiss like that?” and Hope replies, “In civilian life, I blew up blimps for Goodyear.”), Captain Marvin decides to increase his odds of winning the fetching Florence Nightingale by sending his competition on a death mission to capture the dreaded German pilot, Baron Von Shtickhoven, better known as “The Red Baron.” Of course, complications ensue and Hope not only locates the German ace (George Burns), but befriends him and brings him back to meet his “fiancée” whom Burns, of course, immediately steals. “Come, my dear, and we’ll strollarm-in-arm through the Black Forest!” The two American lads win the war but lose the girl.
George Burns, appeared in many specials during the seventies and eighties. He and Hope even did a personal appearance tour together with Hope, in drag, performing the role of Gracie. Asked once if he would ever retire, George replied, “I’ve been retired since my first day in show business.” He had dropped out of the third grade to form the Pee-Wee Quartet that sang and danced for coins on the street corners of New York. Like Hope, George had a strong work ethic and remained a star his entire life, rehearsing his act daily (though it hadn’t changed in decades) with his longtime pianist Morty Jacobs. George Burns died in 1996 at age 100.
THAT'S THE WAY IT WAS IN VAUDEVILLE
HOPE/BURNS: Hat, cane, trunk, train... that’s the way it was in vaudeville... (Softshoe) Song cue, softshoe, that’s the way it was in vaudeville... They loved us in the cities, they loved us in the sticks, we didn’t mind the vegetables, but when they threw the bricks...Laughs, frowns, tank towns, that’s the way it was in vaudeville...
BURNS: Mamaroneck, Saranac, Scranton and Canton...
HOPE: Austin and Boston, Racine, yes I mean...
HOPE/BURNS: That’s the way it was in vaudeville...
BURNS: Ashville and Nashville, Nogales and Dallas,
HOPE: Detroit and Beloit, Kankakee, don’t you see?
HOPE/BURNS: That’s the way it was in vaudeville.
HOPE: (Speaks) Vaudeville... what an era.
BURNS: But it wasn’t all fun and games. Bob.
HOPE: I know what you mean. Remember some of those small town we had to play?
BURNS: You remember Zyszx, Nevada?
HOPE: Do I remember Zyszx? Just saying it used to clear up my sinuses.
BURNS: That town was so small, the trains only stopped there
once a week... just to laugh.
HOPE: It was so tiny, the electric company was four batteries and a jar of fireflies.
BURNS: But what made vaudeville worthwhile was some of the unusual acts we worked with.
Like The Great Maurice... half-man and half-woman. It was fine until one night he was arrested for making a pass at himself.
HOPE: I remember the case. At the last minute, he dropped the charges. But the most unique act of them all was Knock-
Knees Needleman, the original one-man-band.
BURNS: Yeah, nobody could follow him.
HOPE: He had a pair of cymbals strapped to his knees, a harmonica in his mouth, base drums on both hips, mallets on his elbows, and if that wasn’t enough, he tapped danced on a Wurlitzer to the tune of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.
BURNS: That kid had to belong to about six unions.
HOPE: (ad-lib) That’s the longest straight-line I’ve ever had. But in his prime, the poor guy was struck by a bolt of lightning and died in the key of F.
BURNS: I remember his last request was to be buried dressed in his instruments. And while they were lowering him, a windstorm came up and he played at his own funeral.
HOPE: Where else but in a free America?
HOPE/BURNS: (Sing) The act was a dilly in Cleveland and Philly... we rocked ‘em in Brockton and Troy...What a joy, they went batty in old Cincinnati... They screamed in Moline, Illinois...
BURNS: We had ’em in Chatham...
HOPE: We killed ’em in Wilton. They raved in New Haavden...
BURNS: (Speaks) Hold it! Where the hell is New Haav-den?
HOPE: Somewhere near Conned-id-did-icutt.
HOPE/BURNS: That’s the way it was in vaude...Listen every son and daughter... Aren’t you glad that you have bought a... ticket to a good old vaudeville!
BOB HOPE DOWN UNDER
Returning home with symptoms of travel bug-itis, he immediately laid plans to take the show to the land Down Under — Australia. He put the two-hour special in the hands of an experienced, Australian-born producer named Chris Bearde — again, bowing to his sponsor, Texaco, who preferred he hire separate producers for each special. The critically acclaimed tour which included stops in Auckland, New Zealand; Sydney; Adelaide; Brisbane; Melbourne and Perth would prove to be a major turning point for the Bob Hope Show, which suddenly acquired wings and could turn up at just about any spot on the globe.
Over the next decade, we kept our passports current for trips to England for Bob Hope at the Palladium: A Lifetime of Laughter in 1979, and for 1985’s Bob Hope’s Happy Birthday Homecoming: A Royal London Gala. Then we were off to Stockholm in 1986 for Bob Hope’s Royal Command Performance from Sweden, Bob Hope’s Tropical Comedy Special from Tahiti in 1987, Bob Hope’s Christmas Show from the Persian Gulf in 1988, Bob Hope’s Easter Vacation in the Bahamas in 1989, Bob Hope’s Road to the Berlin Wall & Moscow in 1990, Bob Hope’s 1990 Christmas Show from Bermuda, and 1991’s Bob Hope’s Christmas Cheer from Saudi Arabia.
BOB HOPE'S WICKY-WACKY SPECIAL
On the eighty-five specials between 1977 and 1992, the occupant of the Oval Office enjoyed more monologue exposure than any other single topic, save maybe celebrity scandals or taxes. Scarcely a one was delivered without several references — more commonly four or five — to the chief executive, his family, his trips, his state visitors, and his ongoing hand-to-hand combat with Congress. Here's a sampling.
The Carter Years (1976-80)
"The biggest problem at the White House right now is Billy’s mouth, and they’re really getting desperate. Yesterday, they hired Mr. Whipple to come in and stuff it with Charmin."
"Brother Billy will play Santa again this year, and I hope he gets it right this time. Last year, he climbed down the chimney and hid eggs in the White House lawn."
U.S.-Soviet relations were strained so Carter decided to boycott the 1980 Olympic games being held in Moscow.
"Boy, that took a lot of guts. Without the Olympic Games, this country will have to face the future without Wheaties."
With the November election looming large, Hope commented:
"Hey, did you watch the debate between Carter and Reagan or, as it was otherwise known, Ultrabrite versus Brylcreme?"
But the election’s outcome was never in doubt. The voters were ready for “Morning in America.”
"Talk about Santa arriving early. Ronald Reagan woke up one morning and found the whole country stuffed in his stocking."
The Reagan Years (1980-1988)
"Why not an actor in the White House? LBJ was a rancher, Jimmy Carter was a farmer. I think it’ll be refreshing to have someone in the Oval Office who’s not handy with fertilizer."
But the Reagans barely had time to unpack when the former 20-mule team cowpoke caught John Hinckley’s real-life bullet. As soon as it was certain that he was out of danger, we demonstrated that it’s possible to put a fun spin on a deadly serious topic.
"Can you believe all the jokes Reagan’s been cracking since the shooting? The latest theory is that the bullet passed through Henny Youngman."
A spring visit to the colonies by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth provided the Reagans their first opportunity to show off a film couple’s version of Hollywood-style pomp and circumstance.
"Queen Elizabeth stopped by the Reagans’ ranch during her visit, and there was some confusion about bowing, which I thought was ridiculous. I know Nancy, and she doesn’t care if the Queen bows or not."
With his new hearing aid, Reagan had a volume control he could use to turn down the din coming from Fritz Mondale, Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson as he prepared to face his bid for reelection in 1984.
"Reagan says if he’s not reelected, he’ll return to acting. Boy, if that’s not a surefire way to get votes, what is?"
Fritz Mondale and running-mate Geraldine Ferraro spent most of the campaign looking for the beef; and on Election Day, the votes seemed to be missing, too. With no help from the William Morris Agency, Reagan’s option was picked up for another four years of foreign policy headaches and Pennsylvania Avenue Christmases.
"The Reagans have a beautiful Christmas display on the White House lawn designed by Justice Sandra Day O’Conner. It’s their first Nativity scene with three wise women."
By this time, Ronnie had developed a close relationship with conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that would last well after both were turned out to pasture.
"They have a lot in common. They’re both conservatives, she still refers to the U.S. as ‘”The Colonies,” and he still remembers when they were."
Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev was emerging as a new style Communist-Bloc leader — handsome, well-dressed and possessed of a Kremlin first — a wife who could hold her own in Vogue Magazine. Naturally, the Reagans were captivated by the Iron Curtain’s mirror image of themselves, and before long, Ronnie and Gorby were exchanging nuke intel between toasts.
"Gorby asked Reagan how Star Wars was coming along, and Reagan said 'I think the Joan Collins divorce is almost final'."
As Reagan’s eight-year run of top billing at the Oval Office was drawing to a close, and his hand-picked successor, George H. W. Bush, was anxious to take over for the star. Bush’s choice of a running-mate didn’t help much. Dan Quayle, an obscure senator from Indiana whose privileged background matched Bush’s, had the look of a Boy Scout still collecting merit badges.
"He’s only forty-one. I have golf balls older than that. I don’t know where he’s been, but last month, more people spotted Elvis."
The Bush Years (1988-1992)
From day one, Bush the Elder proved to be a whirlwind of activity. When not flying
to meet with foreign leaders (he’d later regurgitate on the Japanese prime minister), he could be found working up a sweat playing horseshoes, getting in a round of speed golf (18 holes in an hour and a half ) or terrorizing the staid Kennebunkporters in his ocean-going speedboat. Hope observed:
"Did you see that picture of Bush in the paper piloting his speedboat? I didn’t know Barbara could row that fast."
Having witnessed Reagan’s two Supreme Court misfires, George was determined
that his first nominee would be so bland and colorless, people would think he wasn’t there. Judge David Souter, a lifelong bachelor who lived with his mother and read a lot, fit the requirements to tee.
"David Souter was so proud to be nominated, he told reporters he felt five feet tall."
"Of course, the FBI has been investigating his past life, and, so far, they haven’t turned up any evidence that he had one."
Souter was confirmed without objection, but the following year, Bush would nominate a federal judge with a somewhat less than stellar legal record — he was rated “unqualified” by the American Bar Association — Clarence Thomas, whose confirmation hearing would have Americans glued to their TV sets. The term “sexual harassment” crept into the national consciousness as Thomas’s former law clerk, Anita Hill, tried to block the nomination of the sharecropper’s son from Pinpoint, Georgia, but failed by a hair’s breath. Republican Sen. Arlen Spector would later admit that he’d been duped into approving Thomas, which he termed “the biggest mistake” of his political career. As of this printing, Clarence has yet to speak from the bench during oral arguments. Maybe that’s not part of the job description.
But despite his nomination woes, things looked rosy for Bush. For a while, it seemed as if “Operation Desert Storm” would mean “Operation Second Term.” Hope said:
"Every time one of Saddam Hussein’s Scuds went up in flames, George Bush went up in the polls."
Ironically, the exact opposite would be the fate of George’s son some sixteen years later. Go figure.
But somewhere between the sand dunes and the voting booth, Americans became distracted by an ex-governor of Arkansas who didn’t know “Stormin’ Norman” from a Florida hurricane, and the Bushes would spend their final Christmas in the White House, evicted by William Jefferson Clinton.
Thus ended Hope’s parade of presidents. He would refer to the Clintons on several of his farewell specials, but his Oval Office barbs had dulled, and the jokes had lost their bite. Hope’s presidential jousting had begun with F.D.R. ("The only thing we have to fear... is your act.") and spanned an incredible nine administrations, a remarkable achievement by any standard. Since the founding of the republic, no humorist had mined so much laughter from the foibles of her leaders over such an extensive chunk of her history, Will Rogers notwithstanding. It’s a record that Hope could rest assured would never be broken.
BOB HOPE "ON THE ROAD TO CHINA"
In 1974, soon after Richard Nixon opened relations with the People’s Republic of China, Hope began a behind-the-scenes campaign to become the first American entertainer to tape a television special there. He spent the next five years cajoling the State Department and the Department of Defense — at the start of every new season, I’d say, “We doing China this year?” and he’d say, “Any day now. Stay packed.” Leaning on a raft of influential government pals including Henry Kissinger and calling in markers he’d been collecting from the government since World War II, he finally received permission to take our show there as part of a cultural exchange program dubbed “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” by the press.
On June 16, 1979, after a four-hour flight from Narita, Japan, a Chinese Airlines 707 filled with our merry band of mirth makers eager to get their first look at this hotbed of Communism, touched down at the Peking Airport. The group included Bob and Dolores Hope, their daughter, Linda, her co-producer Jim Lipton — with whom Gig Henry and I would share writing credit — Jim’s wife, Kedakai, director Bob Wynn and a support crew made up of pretty much the same gang who had earned their Hope Squadron wings on our trek to Australia the previous year.
The historic 3-hour special would feature guest stars Mickhail Baryshnikov, Crystal Gayle, mimes Shields & Yarnall, Big Bird from Sesame Street and a disco duo (popular at the time) Peaches and Herb.
An admitted sweetsaholic, Hope became a frequent flier at the hotel’s ice cream bar which featured one of his favorites, chocolate mocha with sprinkles. But he had to pay a steep price when he got back home — six weeks at the Betty Ford on a non-fat yogurt drip.
As a condition of being allowed to tape in China, Hope had agreed to deliver a “hands-across-the-oceans” speech extolling the newly found friendship between the two nations. Wielding a golf club and standing near the entrance to the Forbidden, he said:
"Peking China — amazing, isn’t it? Ten years ago, who would have dreamed that an American comedian would be standing here in Tiananmen Square saying whatever he pleased and photographing anything he pleased. In those days, the People’s Republic was the Red Menace, a stern and implacable enemy who ridiculed our way of life and pictured us as wallowing in decadence. But in this fast-moving world, radical changes can occur overnight. So here I am, and in the words of Oscar Hammerstein “getting to know you — getting to know all about you, getting to like you, hoping that you like me.” I guess that’s what this trip is all about. Getting to know each other — talking and laughing and singing and dancing together, like good friends should. And liking each other. The Chinese are easy to like, ready to smile, courteous and helpful. And they make every effort to understand us — and with a troupe of actors, that’s not easy...(points) Behind that gate is the Forbidden City, which is not forbidden to anyone anymore... "
Unless, perhaps, you were Chinese and didn’t toe the party line. Fifteen years later, on the very spot where Hope had stood to deliver this speech, unarmed student protesters were shot by soldiers of the Chinese Army.
Hope never refused autograph-seekers anywhere in the world. Having attained icon status, Hope wasn’t treated like an ordinary megastar. He was on another level — not just a celebrity, but an American institution. Note Barney McNulty over my left shoulder.
Inside the Forbidden City
we were given a guided tour of the ancient structures located just a hop,
skip and fortune cookie from the hotel. Directly across from the now-infamous
Tiananmen Square, in the days of the emperors it was — and remains today —
real estate as hallowed as Buckingham Palace or Taj Mahal. Forbidden indeed it was. Only royalty and senior bureaucrats were allowed through the ancient turnstile: and the loftier their title, the deeper into the low rows of buildings they were allowed to proceed. As we were escorted from one chamber to the next, each more ornate than the one before, even Hope, who had seen just about everything, was impressed.
As we arrived at the very center of the complex, the emperor’s living
quarters, we stood for a long time in silence, inhaling the musty smell
of ten centuries and drinking in the royal opulence. Finally, Hope broke
the silence. Examining the intricately carved and bejeweled throne which
had cradled royal derrieres from every dynasty, he turned and whispered
just out of earshot of our guide, “When does Yul Brynner show up?”
Right: A friendly game of Texas Hold ’Em with (right to left) Gig, Ron Tom and Don Marando with yuan that we received as per diem. But there was nowhere to spend it — no bars, clubs, pool halls, bowling alleys, or fitness centers. Not even a Starbucks, a McDonald’s or a KFC. Not so today, however. When I returned to China in 2007, I found a country as Americanized as Cleveland.
Co-producer Linda Hope stops by to make sure the assembly line is running smoothly. Linda, the eldest of four children, is the only one who opted for a show business career. She had to work in a broad shadow and her relationship with her dad was sometimes contentious — she jokingly referred to him as “The Ayatollah.” Today, she manages Hope Enterprises, overseeing the comedy empire her dad built.
Here I am hard at work in my room at the Peking Hotel. Note the manual typewriter we brought along in case the Chinese hadn’t discovered electricity. My complementary Thermos of hot tea sits on the table. At night, the rooms were deathly quiet, and being alone in a country that boasted a higher execution rate than Texas, one felt somewhat adrift. My bill for collect calls home was $700, but it was cheaper than hiring a psychiatrist.
Hey, we’re off on the road to China
With fun and adventure in mind
The seventh Wonder of the World
Is here beneath our feet
Compared to this the road to
Mandalay is obsolete
We’re off on the road to China
Who knows what we’re going to find
Like Marco Polo long ago
We enter starry-eyed
Ready to be Peking-eed
And hot to be Shanghaied
We’ll meet on the road to China
If you’re into foreign affairs
And since there is so much to see
From sea to shining sea
We’ll sample one from column A
And one from column B
It’s neat on the road to China
We’ve nothing to lose but our cares
We’re half a world away
From old New York and London Town
We’re doing pretty well for people
Standing upside down
It’s time for the feast to begin
Our table’s set with China
So let’s all dig in
Following the taping that took about three hours to set up and shoot, NBC photographer Ron Tom realized that he had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shoot members of the cast posing with the host of the special with an empty Great Wall as a background. The captive tourists would soon be released from the towers and the chance would be lost. So working fast, he took this shot of about ten cast and crew members who were lucky enough to have been within earshot. I'm grateful that I was one of them.
Right: Here I am returning from my trek to the un-restored section of the Wall that doesn’t appear in the guide books. The towers have openings in all directions so anyone attempting to sneak in would be spotted immediately. Think maybe they were designed by an ancestor of Lou Dobbs? It snows in this part of China so Great Wall sentry duty in the winter must have been the Chinese equivalent of the Russian Front. To get a shot like this today, sans hoards of tourists, would be impossible as the Great Wall has become one of the world's most popular memorials to man's skill and persistence.
The Foreign Correspondents
As soon as Hope learned that he’d be allowed to visit China, he made an arrangement with King Features Syndicate to send back weekly reports of his impressions of the mysterious Orient. As each deadline approached, Hope would say something like “Isn’t it time I had a few more impressions?” and while he took his afternoon nap, we’d tap out the columns. Then, after he approved them, we’d run them through a teletype machine — a cast-iron monster that looked like a church organ and had to date back to the days of gunboat diplomacy. The columns were later condensed in the October 1979 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Here’s a sampling of Hope’s impression of the Great Wall:
"Separating sky from jutting mountain crests as far as the
eye can see, it snakes its way across Northern China like
a giant ribbon on a Christmas package — a present that
was gift-wrapped twenty-five centuries ago. They say that
high walls make good neighbors, but as you experience the breathtaking grandeur of this one — stone laid upon stone, millions and millions of them — it’s hard to believe that it all began centuries ago when an unemployed brick mason whispered into the emperor’s ear, ‘But what if they show up from the north at night wearing sneakers?’"
When I was a lad I tapped my feet
For nickles and dimes on a Cleveland street
I sang at picnics to the crowd’s delight
And came in second at an amateur night
I came in second so frequently
That now I am the ruler of the Queen’s navy
I knew I’d never get rich that way
So I took my act on the two-a-day
After six short months in vaudeville
I worked my way to the bottom of the bill
When vaudeville died, I was all at sea
So now I am the ruler of the Queen’s navy
When Broadway beckoned one lucky day
My career was launched on the Great White Way
The critics rose with a mighty roar
And heatedly announced I wasn’t Barrymore
So many shows sank under me
That now I am the ruler of the Queen’s navy
My next adventure was radio
At last I was captain of my very own show
It pleased my family and it paid the rent
And it also sold a tube or two of Pepsodent
I sailed the airwaves for NBC
So now I am the ruler of the Queen’s navy
So here I stand in my navy blue
On a marble boat with a Chinese crew
When I give commands they stand and stare
If I say “Let’s go” they reply “Go where?”
This boat hasn’t moved since the Qin Dynasty
And neither has the ruler of the Queen’s navy
The Peking Opera
We set aside a full day for our visit to Peking’s Chinese Opera School, which can best be described as the New York School for the Performing Arts — with barracks. Hand-picked by the government, kids from all over China are given free room, board and training to someday take their place in the cast of the Oriental version of the Met — the Peking Opera. I take that back. Compared to the Met, this ensemble is a Green Beret unit. With more centuries under their belt than they care to admit, the Opera combines tumbling, juggling, gymnastics, slapstick comedy, fencing, acting, dancing and singing. The entire company consists of a first string unit as well as a number of road versions that constantly tour the provinces. Sort of AAA-Opera. The kids, who range in age from about eight to twelve, gave us a heart-pounding demonstration of calisthenics that seemed to transform them into prepubescent pretzels. Afterward, Don and I asked if we could pretend we were one of them.
The Military Academy Specials 1980-81-82
We wrote a sketch in which Hope played a cadet who's discovered to have been enrolled at the academy for 26 years. The commanding general (Kenneth Mars) summons a a special intelligence agent from Washington to handle the problem.
LONI: I guess I’ll have to take care of this problem myself (winks) if you know what I mean. I assume that even after twenty-six years, he still likes girls.
KEN: We’re not sure. For the last ten years, he’s been sleeping with his parachute.
LONI: You really can’t blame him. I hear it’s the only nylon cadets ever come in contact with.
A line like this delivered by Loni Anderson — sausaged into a dress that looked like a blister-pack — to a crowd of eighteen to twenty year-old males with hormones in a state of higher alert than S.A.C. was as close to a guaranteed scream as comedy writers ever get. We weren’t disappointed.
At West Point the following year, most of the cast and crew were assigned rooms in the Hotel Thayer, a comfortable, old, ivy-covered building on the Academy grounds that’s used primarily to house visiting family members. There was a gift shop in the lobby that offered academy-themed items. I bought this poster-sized print of an oil painting of a black, fur-plumed drum major’s parade helmet. I carried it around with me all week, collecting the autographs of our guest stars, George C. Scott, Bob Urick, Mickey Rooney, Mary Martin, Brooke Shields, Glen Campbell, Marie Osmond, David Merrick, Sugar Ray Leonard and VP George Bush. I managed to nail them all and didn’t realize until later that I might have a collector’s item. It’s no doubt the only document in existence signed by a Bush and George C. Scott.
We wanted to give the plebes the opportunity to meet a real movie general, so we invited George C. Scott who had recently captured an Oscar nomination for his spellbinding performance as General George Patton, the Paderewski of the pearl-handled pistols. In real life, George was a certified pussycat, about as warlike as a battalion of Quakers. Despite his well-known objections to the war in Vietnam, he had become so identified with the gruff, private-slapping Patton, when he walked across the quadrangle, the cadets would salute him — in civilian clothes yet.
George was a fabulous actor and a lot of fun to work with. During a rehearsal, we were sitting beside each other on metal folding-chairs in the middle of the stadium. He was dressed in full feathered regalia as chief of the Indian tribe that sold the land on which West Point now resides. I leaned over to him and said “George, would you have guessed in a million years that we’d be here getting paid to entertain future generals?” He looked at me, smiled and said, “Marvelous, isn’t it?”
For our third and final academy special in 1982, we set our sextant on Annapolis, Maryland and the United States Naval Academy, accompanied by an able-bodied crew that included Bernadette Peters, James Coburn, Roger Staubach, Brooke Shields, Christie Brinkley and to deliver the now obligatory USO tribute, Secretary of State Alexander Haig.
In our barracks sketch Hope has been harassing Brooke and Christie when Bernadette Peters, the commandant, enters. The girls snap to attention, but Hope doesn’t see her,)
BERNADETTE: Midshipman Cruikshank!
HOPE: (still oblivious) Pull in your bowline. I gave at the Officers Club. . . (turns around, sees her and snaps to attention) Yes, sir — I mean ma’am. . .
BERNADETTE: Well, which is it?
HOPE: (thinks) Spam?
BERNADETTE: Try again.
HOPE: (more thinking) Saran Wrap?
BERNADETTE: (exasperated) You’ll address your new commandant as “ma’am” — is that clear?
HOPE: (salutes) Yes, sir!
(Photo L to R) Bob Hope, Gig Henry, the author, NBC exec March Fong and makeup man Don Marando. We're at the University of Southern California to tape Bob Hope on Campus.
Frequent Guests on The Bob Hope Show
Brooke Shields made her first appearance on the Bob Hope Show in May 1981 at West Point, co-starring with Marie Osmond, Glen Campbell, Mickey Rooney, George C. Scott and Robert Urich in the second in a series of three specials in which Hope saluted the three military academies. In a sketch, she and Marie Osmond, as freshman cadets find themselves, billeted with with a local hilbiilly named Luke Festus (Hope) who has been trying to sneak into the cadet corps for years. Brooke says to Hope, "This just wouldn't work. You might walk in on us while showering." Hope replies, "I guess that's just the chance I'll have to take." Marie says, "Com'on, you wouldn't want to have stockings hanging up to dry, would you?" Hope says "Hey, if it bothers you, I'll hang my stockings somewhere else." Brook went on to guest another 14 times during the eighties and early nineties, playing roles from Becky Thatcher opposite Hope's Tom Sawyer at the World's Fair in New Orleans, to a riverboat singer opposite Placido Domingo's Gaylord Ravenol in a takeoff of "Showboat." She became very close to Hope and spoke at his memorial service in 2003.
Glen Campbell was, along with Sammy Davis, Jr., Hope's most frequent male guest. He was a consummate sketch player (a skill Hope attributed to a singer's innate sense of story-telling) and before becoming a star of his own variety show, had been a sought-after studio musician and a world-class guitarist. At West Point, we wrote a sketch with Hope, Glen Campbell and Robert Urich as West Point’s first class of 1802 with Mickey Rooney their first commandant. Mickey conducts roll call:
ROONEY: All right, men, count off!
CAMPBELL: Count off? What’s that?
ROONEY: You count off, using your number.
URICH: What number?
ROONEY: The number you were assigned. For instance, (points at Hope) he’s one.
CAMPBELL: (looks down the line at Hope) Boy, you sure can’t tell nowadays, can you?
RICKLES: (to Hope) Don't look now but your seams are crooked.
HOPE: I'm not wearing stockings!
Along with Audrey Landers and Lola Falana, Ann successfully exposes the plot before Hope can date team owner Merlin Olsen who is suddenly smitten with"her."
MERLIN: Tell me, do you go all thew way?
HOPE: Well, I've been as far as Eagle Rock.
Along with appearing as a guest on Hope's TV specials, she often opened for him on the road as a singer. She topped the charts with her hit single "Wind Beneath My Wings" and married her former bodyguard (a Chicago policeman).
Of the hundreds of guest stars we were privileged to work with over the years, Sammy was pound-for-pound the most talented and versatile — bar none. He was such a natural, not even two recent knee replacements could prevent him from rocking the deck of the aircraft carrier Lexington with a song-and-dance number from A Chorus Line called “I Can Do That” and finishing with a buck-and-wing with Hope that had the sailors on their feet. Once, we were shooting a song-and-dance routine with Sammy and Hope dressed as vaudevillians. About two bars into the number, Sammy was supposed to say “You dance like Fred.” Hope says, “Astaire?” And Sam says, “No, Flintstone.” Sammy could read his first line printed on Barney’s card, and did. But by the time Hope got his line out, the pair had shuffled halfway across the stage and out of Barney’s range. Sammy knows he must have a line, hasn’t a clue what it is, so he falls to his knees (his old ones), and starts laughing uncontrollably. The audience, of course, joins him. Hope looks down at Sammy and says, “What happened?” Sam replies, “I got one eye and it was lookin’ the other way!” Sammy Davis, Jr. -- he was really something.
Among Don Knotts' numerous guest appearances was as a near-sighted helicopter pilot aboard the USS Iwo Jima on a 1979 special and as "Moose Terwilliger," an N.F.L. official on our tribute to the league's 60th anniversary in 1981. (Guest Star pull down menu) I once asked Don Knotts about his early training as a ventriloquist. He told me he practiced so diligently, the Army put him in Special Services to appear in camp shows. During a USO visit by Edgar Bergen, his childhood hero, Don was assigned to escort him around the base. Sitting beside him during a rehearsal, Edgar, who was holding Charlie McCarthy on his lap, turned to Don and said, “I have to visit the mens' room. Here, hold this.” He dropped Charlie on Don’s lap like, Don recalled, “a large beanbag.” Don froze. He was holding Charlie McCarthy! But Charlie’s head hung lifeless, and his arms and legs were twisted grotesquely. Then Don slowly realized that he was holding a prop that Bergan used to create Charlie — just a cleverly arranged pile of sawdust, carved wood and cloth — nothing more. Don claimed he had learned a valuable show business lesson, but he still choked up a little telling this story.
One of the most uniquely talented performers to appear on our show was “Mr. Warmth” himself, Don Rickles. In a sketch on our Super Bowl show, Hope and Don — in drag — address the rising cost of Rams’ tickets by auditioning for jobs as cheerleaders. They not only bamboozle the head pom-pommer, Ann Jillian and assistants Lola Falana and Audrey Landers, but Hope catches the eye of team owner Merlin Olsen who asks “her” out. In 1999, my wife and I sailed with Don and his wife, Barbara, to South America aboard the Crystal Harmony. I was there as a lecturer, and Don took me to task for not inviting him to my show that included a clip of the cheerleaders sketch. His anger was feigned, of course — I told him to go have a cookie.
Hope and Milton Berle shared a strong mutual respect for the lofty positions both had achieved in the NBC network's hiararchy. "Mr. Tuesday Night" had dominated the airwaves in the 1950s and signed a long-term contract with the peacock network that was a record at the time. Hope had been with NBC his entire career in television and designed the studio in Burbank when the net moved to the San Fernando Valley from Hollywood and Vine Street. Hope had guested on Milton's "Texaco Star Theater" many times and Berle reciprocated throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, playing in sketches including a role as a senator (with Danny Thomas) in a sendup of the Iran-Contra Congressional hearings. Fittingly, after Milton's weekly show ended, Hope replaced him as the commercial spokesman for Texaco, a relationship that endured until Hope's TV specials wound down in the mid-1990s.
Best-known to TV viewers as Felix Unger on "The Odd Couple" (with Jack Klugman), Tony Randall appeared on many Hope specials in the 1980s. He had worked on his TV series -- a one-camera filmed show -- without an audience and said he enjoyed working with Hope because it allowed him to return to his roots in theater. He was an excellent sketch actor and his roles on our specials included a medical examiner in a sketch entitled "Coroner to the Stars." He played Hope's campaign manager in a two-hour special entitled "Hope For President" and a hung-over alcoholic in a parody of schlocky TV rehab commercials in which his wife reports "You got drunk again last night and painted the car with 5,000 bottles of nail polish." On a special taped in Pensacola, Florida, he joined Hope to repriese the Hope-Crosby duet "Apalachicola, FLA."
Barbara Mandrell had everything Hope sought in a guest. She could sing and dance, she had impeccable comic timing and — perhaps most important of all – she was a good sport. She obviously held Hope in high regard but could, at times, seem almost motherly toward him. She had been in a tragic auto accident that had killed another occupant in her car and was a firm believer in seat belts before they became mandatory. She would refuse to ride in a limo with Hope until he buckled up. Over the years, she played Hope's love interest in sketch-after-sketch -- as hillbilly Cindy Lou who "loves sparkin' so much, she's on her third lip retread" -- to Bonny Sue, girlfriend of "Crazy Nose" Hope, early NFL quarterback -- to a lieutenant commander aboard the USS Lexington who's caught in a torrid affair with an enlisted man -- Hope. It's no wonder she was a Hope favorite.
Howard Cosell carved for himself a unique niche as a television personality in the 1980s. The longtime co-commentator of "Monday Night Football" (along with Frank Gifford and Don Meredith), he became a sort of character actor in his own right appearing on TV and in movies ("Bananas") as his curmugenly self. He had been an attorney but turned to sports commentating after being asked to call play-by-play of his son's Little league games. He became closely associated with Mohammed Ali as the former Casius Clay climbed the ranks as a heavyweight. Howard was irrasible and short-tempered and did not suffer fools well. Hope invited him to guest on many of our sports specials because he added such an air of authenticity to them. For a sampling of his acting skills, check out his interview with Hope in the drop-down menu above.
While he appeared as a guest on Hope specials infrequently, Johnny Carson and "The Tonight Show" were integral to Hope's promotion strategy. On the Friday preceding a special's air date, Hope would join Johnny (or the guest host) to hawk the upcoming extravaganza, noting the slate of guest stars as well as the show's content. After several decades of this, Johnny had understandably become a tad resentful of Hope's use of his show as a billboard. We always knew what the topics of the interview were since we wrote "ad-libs" to cover them, but Johnny would steer Hope into other areas, much to the latter's discomfort. When Johnny did appear on our show, usually in short cameos, he was always terriffic. For a sample, check out the "Steve & Eydie" tab on the drop-down menu.
Betty White was one of TV’s most versatile stars, equally memorable as “The Happy Homemaker,” Sue Ann Nivens, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rose Nyland on The Golden Girls, on which she had been offered the lead but declined, fearing she’d be typecast. On a 1981 special honoring the 60th aniversary of the NFL, Betty played Dr. Freud Rice treating four stressed-out coaches played by Weeb Ewbanks, Hank Stramm, George Allen and Hope. They're patients at the "Shady Glen Rest Home for Coaches."
WEEB: Doctor, why do we have to stay here?
BETTY: Well, you’re suffering from a rare form of neurotic paranoia
evidenced by severe manic-depression and sociopathic
WEEB: Could you put that in laymen’s terms?
BETTY: Certainly. You’re all cuckoo.
Betty is now active in animal rights causes and is a major financial supporter of the Los Angeles Zoo, donating $100,000 in 2007 alone. She appeared on several Hope specials over the years.
Phyllis Diller was a frequent guest and another Hope favorite. he had spotted her as an early standup comedian with a style much like his. (She claims he was always her role-model.) He encouraged her at every step of her comedy career and rewarded her with roles in three of his movies — "Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number" (1966), "Eight on the Lamb" (1967) and "The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell (1968)." Among Hope’s show biz pals, Phyllis was his most rabid fan and has a large oil portrait of him in the living room of her Brentwood, California mansion. She's a personal friend of both Bob and Dolores Hope.
In 1976, we taped a promotional album for the U.S. Bicentennial At the Capitol Records recording studio in Hollywood. On the record, Karl Malden as Benjamin Franklin, Bob Hope as George Washington and Fred Travelena as Paul Revere reenacted scenes of our nation’s founding. Here, Phyllis Diller as Betsy Ross attempts to convince a color-blind George Washington (Hope) that red, white and blue are more suitable for a flag than puce, mauve and loganberry. Hope would return to the microphone in the mid-eighties to record a long-play, two-record album entitled Bob Hope and Friends, which included clips and tributes by radio and TV stars including Amos ‘n’ Andy, Eddie Cantor, Fibber McGee & Molly, Georgie Jessel, Al Jolson, Jack Benny, George Burns, Jimmy Durante, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, Jimmy Stewart, and George C. Scott, among others. Because of the rare clips included on the album, it’s now a sought-after collector’s item that occasionally turns up on e-Bay.
Hope and the Muppets enjoyed a mutual admiration that came across on the screen every time they appeared on one of our specials or he guested on their syndicated series. They taped their weekly show at Elstree Studios near London, and whenever we were in England, Hope was sure to drop in. He also appeared in a cameo role as an ice cream vendor in their feature film, "The Muppet Movie." Their creator, Jim Henson, spoke of them as though they were human,and, after working with them, I was convinced they were, too. They guested on many Hope specials and always added a delightful touch to the festivities. Hope's friendship with them had to be the warmest comedian-puppet relationship since W.C. Fields and Charlie McCarthy.
Whenever Jonathan Winters was booked on a Hope special, we had learned to expect the unexpected and were never disappointed. Jonathan's comedic genius knew no boundries, least of all those on the pages of a script; so we always provided him with the barest outlines of the story and turned him loose. In 1986, we spent a week in Tahiti taping a special in Papeete and Cook's Bay. We wrote a parody of "Mutiny on the Bounty" starring Hope as Captain Bligh, Howard Keel as the ship's doctor, John Denver as Fletcher Christian and Jonathan as a tribal chieftan with whose daughter Fletcher has fallen in love. On each take, Jonathan would deliver a different version of the role sending his co-cast members into hysterics. When our Quantas 747 was delayed in New Zealand for repairs, we were put up for an extra night. A representative of the airline said, "Don't worry, we'll pay for a call home to notify your loved ones." Jonathan, weary from the day's shooting and frustrated by the delay replied, "Great. I'll call my brother. He's dead." He constantly entertained Hope between takes, so he was called back often. Anyone in the comedy business considered themselves blessed for being given an opportunity to work with one of the funniest men of all time.
Roseanne Barr and Burt Reynolds appeared on one of our specials in the late 80s. We had written a parody of the Robin Hood saga in which Roseanne played Maid Marian to (then husband) Tom Arnold's Robin. (Hope was the Sheriff of Nottingham.) Roseanne took a run-of-the-mill sketch and turned it into something better than what she had been handed. She had a remarkable ability to improve scripted material, literally extracting laughs from lines we didn’t know were there. She displayed a talent for comedy that had distinguished her own top-rated sitcom. I took this shot backstage at NBC following a rehearsal.
"Take my wife... PLEASE!" Gig and I clown with a pal and colleague of Hope's who went back to vaudeville. Henny Youngman and his wife stopped by for a visit aboard the USS Iwo Jima which was docked in New York Harbor. We were taping a 1979 special that would become a yearly tradition -- a military-themed show to celebrate Hope's birthday. Guests included Don Knotts, "The Village People" and 14-year old Sarah Jessica Parker who was starring in "Annie" on Broadway. Drop-ins on the Hope set were common. Dick Cavett visited whenever we taped on the East Coast and Art Buchwald dropped by in Peking. John Ritter and Liberace came by in New Orleans along with David Letterman. I once saw Andy Kaufman backstage at NBC secretly watching us tape. That’s the Marine Band behind us playing “New York, New York.”
Diminutive Dallas star Charlene Tilton was discovered by a casting agent selling T-shirts in a Malibu surf shop. Her role on Dallas gave her scant opportunity to sharpen her comedic chops, but she made up for it while guesting on one of our specials, literally rewriting the sketch she appeared in by adding her own, obviously genuine glee in delivering her lines. Unable to deliver her lines straight (as Hope advised all guests to do), she continually broke up, sometimes rolling on the floor. Hope told the director to keep tape rolling, realizing he was getting some delicious "outtakes." Her unique approach won her appreciation from Hope and extra exposure on "The Tonight Show," on which Hope regularly appeared to promote his specials (much to Johnny's displeasure).
Although my first network variety show was The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, I never got to meet Dean. He just wasn’t in the habit of dropping by the production office in Burbank. We attended the tapings at the M.G.M. Grand in Las Vegas, but Dean dealt only with our head writer, Harry Crane. Ten years later, when Dean appeared on a special entitled "Bob Hope Salutes the Super Bowl," he sang a parody duet I had co-written on the players’ strike called “Waiting in the Wings.” I finally met him! Good things come to those who wait.
Audrey Landers worked with Hope both on television and on stage, opening for him as a singer. Best known as Afton Cooper, a role she played on "Dallas" for nine years, her salary eventually eclipsed that of clan leader, Larry Hagman. As a Rams cheerleader, she accuses Hope of being a “hussy” when she discovers he’s landed a date with her boyfriend played by Merlin Olsen. Audrey told me she enjoyed appearing on Hope specials because it gave her a rare chance to do comedy. Audrey could sing and act and looked sensational doing both. .
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton appeared on several Hope specials in the late seventies and throughout the eighties, once together (see the drop down menu for a "General Hospital" parody) and as solo guests. Richard guested on a 1979 special from the London Palladium playing the head butler at Buckingham Palace in a parody we'd written on "Upstairs, Downstairs," a PBS hit series at the time. Elizabeth played the first female commissioner of the N.F.L. on a special titled "Stand Up and Cheer for the N.F.L.'s 60th Year" in 1981. Both were big fans of Bob Hope and rarely appeared on TV. They were consummate professionals and a joy to work with. Hope made many guest appearances for Liz at Wolftrap, an annual fundraiser she hosted to find a cure for AIDS.
Bob Hope and Danny Thomas went back a long way. They were good friends and Danny heeded Hope's call whenever he was invited to guest on the show. Hope asked him to help open the Gerald Ford Museum and Library in Grand Rapids, Michigan in October, 1981. The special would highlight Hope's career as he welcomed more international dignitaries -- including the Reagans and presidents of Mexico, France and Japan -- than he ever had. Along with Danny (whose talent as a story teller was tailor-made for black-tie events) Hope's guests included Pearl Bailey, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gordon MacCrae, Tony Orlando, Glen Campbell and Mark Russell. Danny appeared in plenty of Hope sketches, too, including as a senator in a parody of the Iran-Contra hearings and as a Golden Boy along with Hope and lee Majors in a take-off on the "Golden Girls."
Hope and Lucille Ball shared a mutual respect and admiration that was evident whenever Lucy guested on the show. They were both "hands-on" performers who knew every facet of production from the camera angles to the lighting to their special brand of comic delivery. The only thing they didn't share was a love of rehearsing. Lucy preferred lots of rehearsals while Hope thought they dulled the spontaneity that he believed good comic delivery required. Nonetheless, they co-starred in hit films including "Fancy Pants," "Critic's Choice" and "Facts of Life." Lucy made her last televised appearance with Hope as presenters at the 1989 Academy Awards.
Dick Cavett not only guested on Hope specials but was a true fan who always enjoyed spending time with the writers whenever the show was taping in New York or on the east coast. He dropped in to lend a hand with material when we were in New Orleans to tape a special during the World's Fair. Dick had begun his career as a writer for Jack Paar on the Tonight Show in the 1950s and, though he later had his own talk show and performed as a stand-up comic, he never lost his love of writing comedy material for others. I asked him once why he didn't just apply for a writing job on a late night talk show and he said, "Who would hire me? I'm known as a host now."
Jack Lemmon warbles with Hope in a special called "Stars Over Texas." Jack told us a story. While visiting Washington, he received a personal invitation from Reagan to have lunch in the family quarters. Jack was astounded since he and his wife, Felicia, were well known Democrats. Nonetheless, they spent the better part an afternoon with the Reagans, and Jack noticed that not once was the commander-in-chief approached or interrupted by any member of his staff — no phone calls or emergency messages. As the four reminisced about the golden days of Hollywood, Jack described the experience as slightly surreal, not to mention unsettling. It was as though the world’s problems had suddenly ceased to exist. “It made us wonder,” said Jack, “who was running the country.”
Dorothy Lamour completed the triumverate that made the "road" pictures such hits although she admitted years later that she resented the boys allowing their radio writers to suggest lines between takes. She recalled an incident on the set that took place after the cast had broken for lunch, during which Bob and Bing had huddled with their writers for some last-minute script revision. When they resumed shooting, Dorothy said she didn’t recognize a word and thought she was in the wrong movie. At this point, according to Dorothy, Bing turned to her — with the camera still rolling — and said, “If you see an opening, Dot, jump in!” She lived near the Hopes in Toluca Lake and remained friends with Dolores and Bob throughout her life.
I was hired by Hope in August 1977 and was working on my first Hope special on which Bing would guest star. In October, he suffered a fatal heart attack while playing golf in Spain. The news stunned Hope since both were the same age, and, while not the pals the Road pictures had led the public to believe — they seldom saw each other socially — they had been inordinately successful business partners and shared a deep mutual respect. The scheduled special was scrapped and we began working on a tribute produced by former Paramount president Howard Koch called "On the Road With Bing." Bing's death also scrapped a planned road picture which was to be called "The Road to the Fountain of Youth." Bing's widow, Katherine, would appear on numerous Hope specials throughout the 1970s.
Buz Kohan and Bob Arnott. (Photos taken during dress rehearsal)
(The set is a mad scientist’s laboratory with bubbling beakers, flashing lights, etc. Stage right is a large metal chamber with a sealed door. Pat Boone, in smock and white fright wig is at work. Stage left, his nurse, Debbie Boone, is at desk. She answers the ringing phone.)
DEB: (into phone) Doctor Mad Doctor’s office. May I help you? I’m sorry, but he can’t be disturbed right now... (Off: maniacal laugh) On second thought, the doctor’s already disturbed.
PAT: I’ve done it! My dream has come true! After tomorrow, I’ll control the whole world! (maniacal laugh)
DEB: Gee, you don’t look like an Arab.
PAT: Laugh if you will, but this time I’m going to — (aside to
audience) Listen carefully. This is the plot — I’m going to make an exact duplicate of Superiorman, and soon I’ll have a whole army of Superiormen to do my bidding!
DEB: Gee, and I thought it was going to be something silly. But, Doctor, how will you get Superiorman to come here to be duplicated?
PAT: I’ve promised the investigative reporter from the Daily Meteor, Lois Inane, an exclusive interview.
PAT: There she is now.
(Pat answers the door and Debbie Reynolds enters.)
DEBBIE: Hi. I’m Lois Inane and you must be Dr. Mad.
PAT: Yes, but if you prefer, you can be Mad and I’ll be Lois. But I warn you, if I’m Lois, I’ll be mad.
DEBBIE: What a scoop! I’ve stumbled into the cuckoo’s nest!
(She points to a large button on her jacket that reads:
PAT: (pointing finger at it) Do I dare?
DEBBIE: I’ll have you know I’m a respected member of the Fourth Estate. I’m honest, fair minded, impartial and never ask loaded questions. Now, let’s get started. When did you first become a Commie, a Fascist, a pinko and a weirdo?
PAT: (grabs her) Enough of this chit chat! I’ve got you now! If you try to escape, I’ll tell everyone that you type with one finger!
DEBBIE: You call that a threat? I’ve been threatened by better men than you. Howard Cosell tried to bore me to death. He failed. Monte Hall tried to make a deal with me. He failed. Mork tried to na-nu-na-nu me. He failed.
PAT: You’re right, I must be mad. But we settled that earlier,
didn’t we? (to Debbie) You may leave us alone now, Nurse.
(Debbie Boone exits)
PAT: My dear, will you join me in a drink?
DEBBIE: (takes glass) Do you think we can both fit in there?
DEBBIE: (takes a sip) Umm, that’s good. What’s in it?
PAT: Three parts gin, two parts vermouth and ninety-nine parts nitroglycerin.
DEBBIE: (gulps) You mean?
PAT: Yes! Tap dancing is definitely out! You are mine now!
DEBBIE: Where, oh where, is Superiorman when I need him?
(Suddenly, Hope, dressed in tights and cape crashes through the wall.)
PAT: (indicating) Look what you’ve done to the wall. Didn’t you see the door?
HOPE: (looks) Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll try again.
(He goes back out through the hole he has just made and crashes through the door, splintering it.)
HOPE: Lois, what seems to be the problem here?
DEBBIE: The doctor made me drink nitroglycerin against my will and now I’m completely in his power.
HOPE: Well, what am I supposed to do about it?
DEBBIE: (to audience): I ask for Superiorman, and I get Truman Capote.
HOPE: (to Pat) Why don’t you get on with your diabolical plan, and I’ll foil it in the nick of time as is my custom.
(Debbie Boone enters with a clipboard.)
DEB: (Hope) You’ll need these forms filled out. Do you have
HOPE: Surely you’re kidding. I’m a perfect physical specimen. I’m Superiorman.
DEB: (doubts) You’re Superiorman?
HOPE: Of course. Don’t you see my big “S”?
DEB: Have you tried jogging it off?
HOPE: (to audience) This kid’s got spunk.
(to Pat) Release Miss Inane immediately!
PAT: I’ve got her now and you’ll never get your hands on her!
HOPE: Big deal. I wasn’t doing very well even before you came along.
HOPE: Okay. I know when I’m licked. Let her go, and I’ll do
anything you want.
PAT: Anything? Could you get them to re-release "April Love" on that planet of yours?
HOPE: Are you kidding? Up there, nostalgia is a felony. Is there anything else I can do for you?
PAT: Yes. You can get into my duplicating machine.
HOPE: My super powers are powerless when it comes to saving the woman I love.
DEBBIE: You love me? I could jump for joy!
HOPE: (grabs her) Careful or we’ll have an early Fourth of July. (to Pat) Okay, I’ll be duplicated, but remember, Dr. Mad, the forces of good will always triumph over the forces of evil, although I must admit you’ve got a pretty good package of evil going here.
PAT: (opens door of chamber) This won’t take long.
HOPE: (gets in) I’m not wearing my drip-dry suit so be sure to put me on a lukewarm rinse cycle.
(Pat closes the door and begins madly pressing buttons.)
PAT: Imagine,my very own Superiorman!
(After several seconds of violent shaking, Pat opens the door and Hope steps out with Sammy Davis, Jr., dressed in an identical costume.)
PAT: It’s a bird... it’s a plane... it’s Little Richard!
HOPE: Incredible! It’s me right down to the last detail!
SAMMY: What’s shakin’, Bro? Slip me a high-five, Jack!
HOPE: And he even talks like me.
DEBBIE: Wait! How can we be sure which is the real Superiorman and which is the copy?
PAT: You’re right. I can’t tell which is my arch enemy and which is my arch support.
SAMMY: You mean you can’t tell which one is the cloner and
which is the clonee?
HOPE: Well, obviously, I’m the real Superiorman.
DEBBIE: Look at his big “S.”
SAMMY: (whining) I’ve got a big “S,” too.
HOPE: I’m the real Superiorman and I can prove it.
SAMMY: Oh, yeah? Can you do this? (He performs a soft-shoe, tapping madly.)
HOPE: He must have been in the rhythm section while I was in line to X-ray Lois. (He tries to duplicate Sammy’s dance and fails.)
SAMMY: You call that dancing?
HOPE: If you spent years leaping from tall buildings, you’d have flat feet, too.
HOPE: (to Sammy) Let’s test your vision. (Points) Tell me the
contents of that wall safe.
SAMMY: (squints) I see. . . five Twinkies. . . seven tubes of white shoe polish. . . and — (Pat throws himself in front of the safe)
PAT: No! No!
SAMMY: — a copy of Playboy Magazine!
DEB: I don’t believe it! You degenerate!
PAT: Enough about me! Which one of you is the real Superiorman?
HOPE/SAMMY: We both are! And we’re taking you to jail! (They each grab a leg and start pulling.)
HOPE: Make a wish!
SAMMY: Wait! Why don’t we duplicate the doctor so we can both take him in!
(They open the door, stuff Pat inside and slam the door shut. Sammy presses some buttons and after several beats, Hope opens the door revealing a giant bottle of milk.)
HOPE: Gee, it looks just like him!
Pat, Debbie and Deb rehearse the song-and-dance number they'll perform on the show. Sammy soon joins them. Pat and Sammy were frequent guests on Hope's specials, having the triple threat capabilities (they could sing, dance and act) that Hope appreciated and took full advantage of. He observed once that he thought singers made such good sketch players because of their innate sense of story and emotion that's necessary to sing well. Singers who appeared frequently included Glen Campbell, Steve Lawrence and Edyie Gorme, Barbara Mandrell, Reba McEntire, Mac Davis and Ann Jillian.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Aware from long experience that a happily married writer writes funnier, when possible, Hope would invite our wives to accompany us on the overseas trips. We were in London to tape "America Salutes the Queen" in 1978, ensconced at the Churchill, within walking distance of Hope’s usual suite at Claridge’s. Since this was a “wives welcome” trip, Dolores had come along, too. Here she helps me show off my Yves St. Laurent jacket that Hope said made me "look like a Hungarian Freedom Fighter."
It's 1980 and Shelley and I are behind the infield stage during a rehearsal at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. What makes this shot unique is the photographer -- former astronaut Alan Shepard. I figured if he could handle weightlessness, he wouldn't have any trouble with a Pentax Spotmatic. Not bad composition, Captain!
My wife, Shelley, with Don Marando backstage at the London Palladium. One of the producers of our special, Hope pal Sir Lew Grade, hosted a party for the entire company at the Pink Elephant on the Thames, an exclusive private club for show-folk. The cigar-chomping, ex-American vaudevillian put his checkbook in overdrive for this soiree, providing limos for each couple and a buffet-dinner dance menu that included salmon flown from Scotland, Kobe beef, Beluga caviar and truffles, With music provided by several of Soho’s top bands, we dined and danced into the night.
Shel and I with my employer who's welcoming Shel's sister, Pat, and brother-in-law, Ned Dozier, in from Washington D.C. to watch a taping in Burbank. If you pointed out relatives in the studio audience, Hope would introduce them during his pre-monologue warm-up. You can't get any more family-friendly than that, can you?
THE CURTAIN FALLS
The last fully-staffed regular season special entitled Bob Hope’s America — Red, White and Beautiful, aired on May 17, 1992, and based on the physical discomfort that he was obviously experiencing, the assumption of those close to him was that it would be his last as host. In 1993, NBC honored him with a three-hour special entitled BobHope, The First Ninety Years hosted by Johnny Carson. Hope played a passive role on the show, mostly applauding the acts that had come to pay him homage — George Burns, Milton Berle, Angela Lansbury, Whoopi Goldberg, Chevy Chase and Walter Cronkite among them. During 1993 and 1994, NBC aired several specials, compilations of clips from past shows. Hope’s final television special, Laughing With the Presidents, was billed as his “farewell to NBC.” and aired on November 26, 1996.
Shown in photo standing from left: Gene Perret, Si Jacobs, the author, Seated: Barney McNulty, Bob Hope, Hal Kanter. Hal wrote the Hope movies Off Limits, Here Come the Girls, Casanova’s Big Night, and Bachelor in Paradise.
Bob Hope was buried at the Mission San Fernando Cemetery, Mission Hills, California.
Hope’s birth at the turn of the last century couldn’t have been more fortuitously timed. It allowed him to take advantage of a “perfect storm” of American popular entertainment that’s unlikely to recur. When vaudeville died, he was ready to move on to radio. When radio died, he conquered television — all the while making successful movies. His unprecedented, decades-long tenure as the elder member of TV’s royal family may have ended sadly, but nothing could detract from the real joy of his truly remarkable career captured in the lyrics of a song he sang at the conclusion of a 1978 tribute to vaudeville’s Palace Theater. Sitting on a stool backstage, he dedicated the song — written by Sol Weinstein — to the memory of the performer he credited with inspiring him to become an entertainer — Charlie Chaplin — who had died several weeks earlier. As the footlights slowly dimmed, he sang:
Off comes the makeup
Off comes the clown’s disguise
The curtain’s falling
The music softly dies
To play the Palace
When vaudeville reigned supreme
Made up for bad times
Brought glad times
’Twas every trouper’s dream
We’ve shared a memory
And as the evening ends
I’ve got a feeling
We’re parting now as friends
To a performer
There’s nothing warmer
Than taking his curtain calls
If I had this to do again
And the Palace were new again
I would play it for you again
But now the curtain falls
Your cheers and laughter
Will linger after
They’ve torn down these dusty walls
People say I was made for this
Nothing else would I trade for this
And to think I get paid for this...
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