Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Remembering... Bob Hope

Bob Hope is someone with whom I have always had something of a love-hate relationship... On the one hand, from an early age I've enjoyed his shtick, whether on one of his many TV specials, talk show appearances, on radio or in films; whether being sardonic, self-deprecating, or wry, he only ever was so in the most assured manner, without having to go over the top to get the laugh, and to observe him at work was to witness a master at the top of his game. On the other hand, Hope had a very antediluvian sensibility, whose act (at least when the cameras weren't running) could be homophobic in the extreme; so much so, in fact, that late in life Hope was required by court order to record a series of public service announcements against homophobia.

PhotobucketHe said afterward in an interview that he learned from the experience; even if all he learned was to watch what he said in case any professional homosexuals were listening, it would prove that at least he'd learned something. Then again, everything he'd ever achieved had been because of his ability to read an audience and give them what they wanted, so his aplomb in this instance was very much to be expected.

For all that, no one could ever deny Bob Hope's immense humanitarianism; beginning in May 1941 Hope had a long and fruitful relationship with the USO, and in that capacity visited military bases in wartime and peace around the world. He was one of the few who did what he could to provide comfort to soldiers fighting the Vietnam War; for fifty years of service to that organization - which included sixty tours, often to war zones - President Bill Clinton awarded Hope the title of 'honorary veteran', which he later said was the greatest honour he'd ever been given when, to be quite honest, it was the greatest honour he'd ever earned.

Bob Hope died on this day in 2003, one of the few Hollywood entertainers to have achieved his hundredth birthday. He faced his death with the same comedic sense he used to face life; when his daughter asked him where he'd like to be buried, he said 'Surprise me.'
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