Saturday, July 27, 2013

Remembering Bob Hope May 29, 1903 - July 27, 2003

Leslie Townes Hope was born near London, England and immigrated to Cleveland, Ohio.  His father was a stonemason and his mother, a cleaning lady and an aspiring opera singer.  He was the fifth of seven sons.  Word has it that he changed his name to Bob in grade school because he was teased for the name Leslie.

Bob Hope would become the most honored entertainer and the entertainer with the longest running contract with a single network (NBC) for 61 years.

Bob Hope could do it all. He was a vaudevillian, comedian, singer, dancer, author, athlete and appeared on Broadway, movies, television, radio, and even on the golf course.  He is, of course, mostly recognized for his longtime commitment to the military having entertained the troops for over 40 years.  He made 57 tours for the USO between 1942-88.  The United States Congress made him the first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces signed by President Bill Clinton.

Hope appeared in over 70 films including a series of "Road" movies that also included his friend, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour.  He hosted the Academy Awards fourteen times and was the author of fourteen books. He also previously was a minority share owner of his hometown baseball team, the Cleveland Indians.

He got his start in the entertainment industry at the age of 12 when he earned pocket change by "busking" on a streetcar.  He entered dancing and amateur talent contests (as Lester Hope) and once won a contest for his impersonation of Charlie Chaplin.  When working as a butcher's assistant, he aspired to become an entertainer and prepared himself by taking dance lessons.  Silent film comedian, Fatty Arbuckle is said to have been an important part of getting Hope his start.  It all started on stage and then he moved into radio in 1934 and finally television in the 50's.

His first film was comedy called "Going Spanish." He then joined Paramount Pictures and starred with W.C. Fields in "The Big Broadcast" that featured his trademark song "Thanks for the Memory."

Other films include "My Favorite Brunette" "Road to Singapore"and "The Road to Hong Kong." His final film was "Cancel My Reservation" in 1972.

Over the years, Hope did many television specials and was one of the first entertainers to use "cue cards." His Christmas specials, in particular, were very popular and some were filmed in war areas like Vietnam.  His 90th birthday special won an "Emmy Award."  His final television special was "Laughing With the Presidents" and Hope made a brief appearance on the 50th Primetime Emmy Awards in 1997.  His final television appearance was on a K Mart commercial.

In his personal life, Bob Hope was an avid golfer and founded the "Bob Hope Classic" in 1960 and the classic made history in 1995 when Hope teed up with three US Presidents Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.

He was very passionate about "Fight For Sight" having raised and donated $100,000 to establish the Bob Hope Fight for Sight Fund.

He celebrated his 100th birthday on May 29, 2003.

Two months after his 100th birthday on July 27, 2003, Bob Hope died in his home in Toluca Lake, Los Angeles.  Supposedly, when asked on his deathbed where he wanted to be buried, Hope told his wife, Dolores, "surprise me."

Bob Hope was buried in a private funeral mass (attended by about 150 family members and friends) at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church that was held at dawn and followed by a procession to the San Fernando Mission Cemetery where he was laid to rest.

A month later on August 27, 2003 a memorial mass was held in the St. Charles Borromeo Church (funeral program pictured) that included eulogies by Senator Diane Feinstein, General Richard Myers and television writer Larry Gelbert.  He said of Hope "like the best of his breed, Bob knew life without laughter is life without parole.  And the ability to provide laughter was forever at the tip of his fingers-to say nothing of his tongue."

Later that evening, another tribute to Hope was held at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences that included tributes by Phyllis Diller (items photographed belonged to her and now part of the Famous Endings collection) as well as comments by Angela Lansbury, Tom Selleck, Tony Orlando, and Larry King to name a few. The program (pictured) includes Hope's own words "I consider myself a pretty lucky guy. I've been blessed with a loving and understanding wife, a wonderful family, good friends and the ability to make people laugh. (All I have to do is demonstrate my golf swing) But I think that the luckiest break I've had in my life is to be an American.

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