Bob Hope, the elder statesman of comedy whose
extraordinary career spanned vaudeville, Broadway,
radio, television, movies, books and makeshift concert
platforms in war zones, has died. He was 100. Hope died
at 9:28 p.m. Sunday at his home in Toluca Lake of
complications from pneumonia, his publicist, Ward Grant,
announced Monday. His wife, Dolores, and other members
of his family were at his bedside when he died.
An increasingly frail Hope marked his 100th birthday
quietly on May 29 with well-wishing from the famous and
not so famous from around the globe. Hope's home was
inundated with birthday cards and flowers. An intimate
party attended by close family members was held with
cake and a 100-candle celebration.
President Bush led the nation in mourning Monday for the
beloved comedian, saying, "The nation has lost a
"Bob Hope served our nation when he went to
battlefields to entertain thousands of troops from
different generations," the president told
reporters before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air
Force Base. "We extend our prayers to his family.
God bless his soul."
Bush also issued a proclamation ordering all U.S. flags
on government buildings lowered to half-staff on the day
of Hope's funeral.
One of the world's most enduring comedians, "Rapid
Robert" outlasted hundreds of briefly popular
political satirists, social-comment comics and
television sitcom stars who flared and faded.
From his early days in radio to the television specials
that would endear him to subsequent generations, Hope
became synonymous with the comedy monologue, striving to
be topical but not offensive, cocksure but not arrogant.
"He possessed all the gifts I, and all other
comedians, could ever ask for or want,"
"Tonight Show" host Jay Leno said in a
statement Monday: "impeccable comic timing, an
encyclopedic memory of jokes, and an effortless ability
with quips. His monologues — which were always so
topical — had an enormous influence on me. In
fact, they established the paradigm for me, and for all
of us in this business. We are all blessed to have had
him as our standard-bearer."
With his wisecracking manner and trademark sneer, Hope
was the quintessential populist comedian, his humor
fueled by the legions of joke writers for whom he was a
"He had such a strong comic persona that all the
writers got to know it," said Gene Perret, who
began writing jokes for Hope in 1969. "It was a
confidence that bordered on arrogance. Hope could always
boast about himself, but it [would] normally turn itself
around where he's the brunt of the joke."
"If they had coed dorms when I went to school, you
know what I'd be today?" Hope once quipped. "A
Presidents, too, were a favorite target of his humor,
including Gerald R. Ford, a golfing buddy known for his
erratic play. Hope once joked that there were "86
golf courses in Palm Springs, and Jerry Ford never knows
which one he's going to play until his second
Hope was a friend of, and honored by, presidents for
more than 50 years starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt,
and he was an acquaintance and occasional golf partner
of celebrities around the globe.
His face was known to millions of Americans spanning
three generations, perhaps especially those who served
in the military during World War II and the Korean and
The comedian began entertaining servicemen and women at
U.S. bases in 1941—starting at California's March
Field near Riverside — and in 1948 began annual
Christmas shows at American bases overseas.
Hope was never a member of the military. But on Oct. 29,
1997, when he was 94, he became the first American
designated by Congress as an "honorary veteran of
the United States Armed Forces."
Hope appeared for the presentation in the Capitol
Rotunda looking, as one observer noted, "as fragile
as a sparrow's egg." Many thought his visit to the
Capitol would be the increasingly deaf and weak
comedian's final public appearance.
And it was just eight months later that he was mourned
on the floor of the House of Representatives. Then-Rep.
Bob Stump (R-Ariz.), working from an erroneous release
of a prewritten Associated Press obituary on the
Internet, rose to announce that Hope had died. Tributes
to the comedian followed from other congressmen, but at
his home, Hope was having the last laugh.
"They were wrong, weren't they?" Hope told
friends who called to offer condolences to his family.
Half a Century of
His shows for the troops — with an entourage
of other comics, singers, dancers and pretty girls
— lasted for half a century, often not far from
the fighting, earning Hope praise for his patriotic
efforts and criticism for his hawkish stance during the
He once said — either exaggerating for effect or
on the level — that he had traveled almost 10
million air miles entertaining American service
personnel around the world. He ended his regular
Christmas shows in 1972 during the difficult days of the
The hiatus lasted 11 years. In 1983, at 80, Hope once
more hit the road, this time traveling
to Lebanon, where a peacekeeping force of U.S. Marines
and ships of the 6th Fleet had gathered to attempt,
without success, to stem the internal bloodshed in
The comedian entertained first aboard the naval ships
off the coast and then, to everyone's surprise, went
ashore to give the Marines his special brand of humor.
He got out a scant 30 minutes before the compound at
which he appeared came under shell fire.
"If this is peace," Hope asked the cheering
troops, "aren't you glad you're not in a war? I was
told not to fraternize with the enemy, and I won't ...
as soon as I figure out who it is."
In 1990, the octogenarian Hope was in the Middle East
cheering troops in Operation Desert Shield and then
Operation Desert Storm, the first U.S.-led campaigns
against Saddam Hussein.
Queen Elizabeth II recognized the native Briton's
entertainment of British troops during World War II by
granting him a knighthood. His official title was Knight
Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British
"Seventy years of ad lib material and I am
speechless," Hope said from his Palm Springs home
when the knighthood was announced by British Prime
Minister Tony Blair during an official visit to
Washington in February 1998. The knighthood was
officially presented at the British Embassy in
Washington on May 17, 1998, shortly before Hope's 95th
Periodic charges, especially during the turbulent 1960s,
that he was a "war lover" stung Hope, and he
once fired back in uncharacteristic public anger:
"How can anyone who has seen war, who has seen our
young men die, who has seen them in hospitals, possibly
love war? War stinks!"
Even after the wars ended, Hope continued visiting
veterans hospitals, as if to underscore his concern for
those who served in the American military.
He also continued a hectic pace of personal appearances
across the United States, often booked a year in advance
at colleges, universities, conventions and charity
Donated and Raised Millions of Dollars
His own contributions to charities, either donated
through the Dolores and Bob Hope Foundation or raised
through free performances, amounted to millions of
dollars. He donated 80 acres for the Eisenhower Medical
Center in Rancho Mirage, and raised money over the years
for its expansion and operation.
Dolores Hope, whom he married in 1934, managed their
donations, and even she declined to estimate how many
millions her husband had given or raised for charity.
But she did say most of it involved young
people—in hospitals or colleges and universities.
The multimillionaire (Hope's fortune has been estimated
at as much as $500 million) had oil wells in Texas, was
once part-owner of the Cleveland Indians baseball team
and had a variety of other business ventures under Bob
Hope Enterprises. But most of his money was in property.
He was thought to have owned about 8,500 acres in
California, most of it in the San Fernando Valley,
bought when it was fruit orchards and vacant lots.
By his own estimate, he was one of the largest
individual property owners, if not the largest,
in the Golden State.
He was able to reach that status, he said, when he and
crony Bing Crosby — neither of whom knew anything
about oil wells — invested in one in 1949 that
"It was a fluke," he said once, "but a
good one. I took the money and bought land."
He disliked talking about his wealth. Once, just before
a tour of Vietnam, he was asked if it was true that he
was worth $50 million. Hope snapped back, "If I had
$50 million, I wouldn't go to Vietnam; I'd send for
He was born Leslie Townes Hope on May 29, 1903, in
Eltham, England, the son of stonemason William Henry
Hope and Avis Townes Hope, a former concert singer.
He was the fifth of seven brothers, and when he was 4
his family moved to Cleveland, where he attended grade
school. ("I was an all-around student. I flunked
everything.") He became a U.S. citizen in 1920.
After high school, Hope tried various jobs —
including boxing under the name Packy East — and
then began dance lessons. He was a natural.
At 19, he was teaching dance classes, and two years
later he was booked by Fatty Arbuckle into a show called
"Hurley's Jolly Follies." It was the
Hope sang, danced, did comedy bits and doubled on the
saxophone, an experience, he reminisced years later,
that gave him the poise that was his trademark in
From "Follies," he went on to vaudeville in
Detroit and then to a part in the show "The
Sidewalks of New York." After it folded in 1927,
Hope, until then not a soloist or comedy specialist,
discovered that he was both.
He had a dance act with partner George Byrne, and they
were doing a vaudeville show in New Castle, Ind. Hope
was asked to introduce the next week's act, a Scot named
Marshall Walker, and he did so with humor.
"I know Marshall well. He saves everything. He got
married in his backyard so the chickens would get the
rice. He had a sunstroke playing golf and counted
The audience loved it, and Hope became a solo act. He
went back to Cleveland for a year to develop the comedy
style that varied little over the years — topical
one-liners fired with a pixie leer — and then
tried to sell it in Chicago.
Hard Times for
They weren't easy times. He lived mostly on coffee
and doughnuts and once got by on a nickel's worth of
beans a day for four weeks, an experience he recalled
later when he was making up to $50,000 for an hour's
"I was in debt and had holes in my shoes," he
said. "When a friend bought me a steak, I'd
forgotten whether to cut it with a knife or drink it
from a glass."
Finally, through a friend, Hope was booked into
Chicago's Stratford Theatre for three days—a
booking that stretched into six months. He was a smash.
From there, it was back to New York and Broadway. There
was "Ballyhoo" in 1932, but the show that
ultimately put Hope on the trail to international
stardom was Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach's
"Roberta" the next year.
Then he was invited to appear on "The Rudy Vallee
Show," a radio network variety program, and that
was followed by other guest appearances even as Hope
performed on Broadway in "Ziegfeld Follies of
1936," in which he introduced the standard "I
Can't Get Started," and "Red, Hot and
Blue!" in which he and Ethel Merman sang "It's
He appeared in "Smiles" in 1938.
That was Hope's breakout year. Pepsodent gave him his
own radio show, which began his six-decade association
with NBC, and he made his feature film debut in
"The Big Broadcast of 1938."
"Big Broadcast" more than anything else
elevated the comedian to stardom and gave him his theme
song, the Academy Award-winning "Thanks for the
Memory," which he had sung in the movie.
He really hit his stride in movies with 1939's horror
comedy "The Cat and the Canary."
"I turned into box office," Hope told The
Times in 1991. "When 'Cat and Canary' came out,
[people] started running into the theaters. Then
Paramount came to my dressing room with a contract for
seven years. So I signed for seven years."
Hope kept the NBC radio show for 18 years, and his guest
stars read like a who's who of the entertainment world:
Al Jolson, Jimmy Durante, Eddie Cantor, Tallulah
Bankhead, Bette Davis, Red Skelton, Fibber McGee and
Molly, Lum and Abner, Amos and Andy.
A Lasting Friendship
With Bing Crosby
He met Crosby playing golf, a game both loved almost
as much as entertaining, and invited him to appear on
his radio show.
A lasting friendship grew, barbed in public and warm in
private. Crosby gave Hope the name "Ski
Snoot," and Hope liked to needle Crosby about his
wealth by saying, "Bing doesn't pay income tax. He
just calls the government and says, 'How much do you
boys need?' "
They turned their mock feuds and personal friendship
into a winning combination in seven road films,
beginning in 1940 with "Road to Singapore" and
ending in 1962 with "Road to Hong Kong."
In all of the "Road" films, they played two
carefree buddies out to make it big but invariably
running into trouble. Always along for the fun was
actress Dorothy Lamour, who played the object of their
affections. The best-loved of the series was 1942's
"Road to Morocco."
Hope was devastated when Crosby died of a massive heart
attack while playing golf in Spain in October 1977 and,
for one of the few times in his career, canceled a
Hope made 58 movies in all, including such classics as
"The Ghost Breakers," "The
Paleface," "Monsieur Beaucaire" and
"Fancy Pants." He even went dramatic with good
results as Eddie Foy Sr. in 1955's "The Seven
Little Foys" and as the colorful New York mayor
Jimmy Walker in 1957's "Beau James."
He made several films with good friend Lucille Ball,
including 1949's "Sorrowful Jones," 1950's
"Fancy Pants," 1963's "Critic's
Choice" and 1960's "The Facts of Life,"
which was nominated for several Oscars.
Although he never won an Oscar for acting ("At
home, we think of Oscar week as Passover"), he was
honored four times by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts
and Sciences for his contributions to the world of
entertainment. He also received the Jean Hersholt
Humanitarian Award in 1959. He began emceeing the Oscars
in 1940, and for years hosted the televised Academy
Award presentations, opening his first in 1953 with the
line "Television. That's where movies go when they
die." His final turn hosting the program came in
1978, the 50th anniversary of the awards. In all, he
hosted or co-hosted the Academy Award show 18 times.
"Maybe Bob never won a competitive Oscar, but he
won the hearts of the members of the Academy, the
governors of the Academy and the hundreds of millions
who watched the Academy Awards presentations,"
Frank Pierson, the president of the Academy of Motion
Picture Arts and Sciences, said in a statement Monday.
Hope began his television career on Easter in 1950. He
had a weekly program from 1955 to 1964, and hosted 285
highly rated specials. He made guest appearances on many
"Bob Hope: The First 90 Years," his three-hour
birthday special in 1993, included Johnny Carson in his
first public appearance since retiring from "The
Tonight Show" and featured one of the last hurrahs
for George Burns, who died in 1996 at the age of 100.
Hope still had the power to pull 25% of the nation's
Friday night TV audience, and the show won the Emmy for
In ads after his final special in 1996, "Bob Hope
... Laughing With the Presidents," he formally and
amicably ended his association with NBC, declaring
himself "a free agent."
Was Author or
Coauthor of 10 Books
In addition to his screen career, 10 books of humor
or autobiography were either written or co-written under
His first book, "They Got Me Covered," was
designed as a marketing tool for Pepsodent, which was
then the sponsor of Hope's radio program, and Paramount
Pictures. The cost of the 95-page paperback was 10 cents
and a box top from a tube of Pepsodent, which paid for
the book's printing. Paramount helped promote it to tie
in with the Hope movie "Nothing but the
Truth," which was just being released.
The book sold 3 million copies.
While he was building a career, Hope was also busy
raising a family. He had married singer Dolores Reade
while he was appearing in "Roberta" on
Broadway. She survives him as do their four children,
sons Anthony and Kelly, daughter Linda Hope and Nora
Somers, and four grandchildren.
Funeral services will be private for immediate family
members only. Public memorial services are being
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that masses or
donations be made to the Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable
Foundation, Toluca Lake, Calif. 91602.
Homes at Toluca Lake
and Palm Springs
He moved to Toluca Lake in 1938 and maintained his
home and office on the six-acre site, although in 1979
he also built a multimillion-dollar estate in Palm
Until his final years, Hope was almost constantly on the
road, playing shows and benefits in the United States
and on military bases in far-flung corners of the Earth.
He gave five command performances in London and two
shows in the Soviet Union. "I appreciated the
Russians' 21-gun salute," he said. "I just
wished they'd waited until the plane had landed."
He televised one show from China and marveled:
"They have 900 million people, and none of them
know who I am."
Honors were heaped on Hope throughout his career. The
Guinness Book of World Records cited him as the most
honored and publicly praised entertainer in history,
with more than 2,000 awards.
Among his citations were a Medal of Merit from President
Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Congressional Gold Medal from
President John F. Kennedy (he was only the third
civilian to be so honored), the Medal of Freedom from
President Lyndon B. Johnson, the National Medal of the
Arts from President Bill Clinton, the George C. Marshall
Award, the Navy's Distinguished Service Medal and the
Distinguished Public Service Medal of the U.S.
Department of Defense, the highest award the military
can bestow on a civilian. The Air Force named a C-17
transport jet for him. And in 1998 he was awarded a
papal knighthood by Pope John Paul II.
Schools, streets and plazas have been dedicated in
Hope's honor. In addition to the honorary Oscars and the
Emmy, he won radio's Peabody Award and in 1975 was
initiated into the Entertainment Hall of Fame. In 1985,
he was given a lifetime achievement award from the
Hope could, and did, joke about all of the honors he
received (they filled two warehouses) because he
couldn't resist a funny line. He said once: "I've
got so many doctorates, I'm beginning to resent
In 1967, when he became the first honorary member of
Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Theatrical Society,
he told a packed house:
"I've been given a medal by my country for leaving
it, an Oscar in a year when I didn't make any movies,
and a B'nai B'rith Award for being a Gentile."
But he never took any of the awards lightly, saying once
that it was not so much the receiver that mattered, but
the giver. "What's important is not what an award
means to me, but what it means to them."
His Toluca Lake office was filled with mementos ranging
from a 9-foot replica of an Oscar to a doll handed to
him by a child at an airport. He had a dollar bill from
comedian Jack Benny and a silver set from the queen of
England, along with trophies, plaques, medals, silver
cups, keys to cities, state declarations from around the
world, military patches, autographed artifacts from
global leaders and celebrities, and thousands of
When he turned 95, the comedian donated his personal
papers, recordings of radio and television broadcasts,
prints of movies, scripts, photographs, posters and
100,000 jokes to the Library of Congress, along with
several million dollars to preserve the collection.
Considered a political conservative, Hope was still one
of the first comedians to take aim at Sen. Joseph
McCarthy during the red-baiting days of the 1950s. He
also maintained a warm friendship with the nation's
Democratic presidents, especially Kennedy, whose sense
of style and wit he greatly admired, and with Harry S.
The entertainer was proud that Truman kept under the
glass on his Oval Office desk the one-word telegram Hope
had sent him when, against all odds, Truman won election
in 1948 over Republican Thomas Dewey. The telegram said:
Hope continued his friendship with Richard Nixon even
after the president resigned in disgrace, and the
comedian was a Palm Springs neighbor and frequent golf
partner of Ford. But Ronald Reagan, the former actor,
was his special friend, and Reagan was prominent in a
three-hour television special that saluted Hope's 80th
birthday in 1983.
Golf was more than a hobby or pastime with Hope. He
liked to say it was his vocation and comedy his
avocation. A golf club was often his prop on stage, and
golf clubs filled his Toluca Lake home.
His Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in Palm Springs, an annual
golf tournament that began in 1960 under a different
name and took Hope's name in 1965, has raised tens of
millions of dollars for charity.
Agonized Over Time
Away From Children
But more than golf, Hope loved his family, and in
private he would agonize about the years on the road
that kept him away while his children were growing up.
Once, during a private interview, as he sat by a window
overlooking his lush gardens in Toluca Lake, he
reminisced about how the children would sit at the
dining room table as he read his radio routines, with
wife Dolores, a devout Catholic, admonishing him when
his jokes were too risque for family consumption.
"I learned to temper my humor in those years,"
he said. "I discovered which jokes were for
matinees and which ones for the night crowds in Vegas.
Dolores was a tough critic."
"He was gone a lot and we missed him, of
course," Dolores Hope said, "but we always had
quality instead of quantity.... When he wasn't home,
he'd call almost every day, except when he was in a
combat zone. Even then, he'd try."
Theirs was a happy marriage, she once said, and she
would not have traded it for anything. "We are
normal, imperfect people trying to be perfect. We have
been blessed with humor and with a respect for each
other," she said.
Then she added with a smile: "If it hadn't been a
good marriage, I'd have never stayed."
Despite the reports of his many infidelities over the
years, she was a patient but not docile wife to the
hyperactive comedian. When they were together, he often
deferred to her.
Once, aboard an airplane to St. Louis, she responded
tartly to a churlish comment by her husband: "Let's
try that tone of voice again!"
"Dolores takes care of me," Hope often said,
and as a result he watched his diet, slept well and
exercised, keeping himself fit and trim.
Actress Eva Marie Saint, who appeared with Hope in two
movies, "That Certain Feeling" and his last
feature, "Cancel My Reservation," credited his
wife with being a stabilizing influence in his life.
"He took care of himself and he was very
disciplined," Saint told The Times on Monday.
"I think the fact that he had this lovely talented
lady beside him, Dolores, added to his longevity. They
were so supportive of each other and, my goodness,
wouldn't you have to be understanding to be married to
someone who loved being on the road and just enjoyed
Into his 60s, after personal appearances, sometime as
late as 2 a.m., Hope would walk, a habit that worried
his aides when they were playing crime-plagued cities.
To placate them, he sometimes carried a golf club with
him, and the comedian striding through the predawn
streets of towns across America became a familiar sight.
He was able to make occasional public appearances well
into his 90s.
He made a special appearance on the Emmy telecast in
September 1998 and earned a strong ovation from the
Academy. The next month, he and Dolores showed up at a
black-tie tribute to Rosemary Clooney.
As for his children, they would voice wistfulness at the
father they never quite knew well enough.
In a profile of Hope by John Lahr in the New Yorker in
1998, his daughter Linda, who ran Hope's production
company, noted: "I don't feel that I really know
him. That's a kind of sadness for me because I would
have liked to know him better."
Hope, by almost all measures, was an up person; his
attitude was positive, his enthusiasm immense. His rare
flashes of public anger were usually aimed at those who
questioned his motives.
Asked once if his charity donations or performances were
simply a way to beat the tax man, the comedian flared.
"Hell no!" he said. "I do it because it
gives me pleasure! I've been doing it for years. Benny
and [Milton] Berle and I used to play benefits on
Broadway Sunday night.
"Giving is a joy when you're lucky enough and
healthy enough to do it. In fact, it's a ...
At times, the comedian had as many as 13 writers working
for him, and into the 1990s he employed three full time
— along with four secretaries, a publicist, a
business manager-agent, an accountant and household
staffs at his Toluca Lake and Palm Springs homes.
Hope's file of jokes, kept in two large vaults, was
immense, and covered everything from apples to zebras.
The material fed not only his shows, but also his books
and for many years a column for the Hearst newspaper
More than 100 filing cabinet drawers were filled with
one-liners and sketches, jokes numbering in the millions
— and there were those who thought that Hope, even
in his later years, kept them all in his head.
During a one-hour show, he would use about 150 jokes
and, except for television, never used cue cards. He
constantly updated his material to suit the social and
political climate of the day and the city or country in
which he was performing.
Jokes came not only from his writers but also from
friends and caddies, hotel bellmen and fans.
"There's a straight line lying around in everyone's
head," Hope liked to say. "All you've got to
do is reach in and lift it."
As he grew older, he admittedly mellowed in his style
and slowed slightly in the pace of his delivery,
realizing that he didn't have to hammer a joke home
anymore: "The audience and I know each other now.
We've built up a relationship."
Even so, he never ceased updating and refining his
material or watching the front rows to see who was
laughing and who wasn't.
Hope's mastery of audiences never lessened over the
In an interview with Playboy Magazine in 1973, Hope was
asked the secret of his comedy.
"Material has a lot to do with it, but the real
secret is timing," Hope replied. "Not just of
comedy but of life. It starts with life. Think of
sports, even sex. Timing is the essence of life and
definitely of comedy. There's a chemistry of timing
between a comedian and an audience. If the chemistry is
great, it's developed through the handling of the
material, and the timing of it — how you get into
the audience's head."
"The great ad-libbers are the ones with the best
timing, like Don Rickles.... Timing shows more in
ad-libs than anything else."
For his part, Rickles, who was on many of Hope's
specials in the 1960s, recalled working with Hope as a
lot of fun.
"He was also congenial but a real technician,"
Rickles told the Los Angeles Times on Monday. "When
we did sketches they had to be exactly the way he
thought of it. Of course, he was always right."
Hope called his success luck but couldn't help adding:
"The harder I work, the luckier I get." His
favorite joke, he used to say, was one on former
President Ford: "I played golf with Ford today. He
had a birdie, an eagle, an elk, a moose and a
And while older generations of Hope's fans stayed loyal
to the end, over time a gap developed with younger
audiences who might have been mystified at his enduring
In the biography "Bob Hope: A Life in Comedy,"
late night show host Conan O'Brien reflects on that gap.
"I don't think a lot of people in my generation saw
his best work ..." O'Brien told author William
Robert Faith. "If you go back and look at his
movies ... like "Son of Paleface" or any of
the Road movies, you're just amazed at his talent. He
was so smooth and so precise."
O'Brien also noted that Hope's character development in
these films was also unique.
"I think he was the first guy to master the
fast-talking coward, the cowardly wise guy, the one who
has a lot of bravado but when the tough guy sneaks up
behind him, he's suddenly saying, 'Oh you've been
working out, haven't you?' "
As fate would have it, Hope lived longer than all his
great contemporaries — George Burns, Lucille Ball,
Bing Crosby, Milton Berle and Jack Benny. He even lived
longer than the congressman who announced his death
prematurely on the floor of the House. He died Sunday on
the 50th anniversary of the armistice that ended the
For his 100th birthday in May, NBC aired a two-hour
special called "100 Years of Hope and Humor,"
which did well in the ratings and has been nominated for
On Sunday night, family members as well as longtime
caregivers and a priest gathered at his Toluca Lake home
as the comedian slipped away.
"I can't tell you how beautiful and serene and
peaceful it was," his daughter Linda told a news
conference Monday. "The fact that there was a
little audience gathered around, even though it was
family, I think warmed Dad's heart."
"He really left us with a smile on his face and no
last words.... He gave us each a kiss and that was
it," she said.
MSNBC, co-owned by his longtime employer NBC, first
broke the news of his death Monday morning.
Approachable by Public and Press
For all his fame, he was approachable by both public and
press, arranging interviews during busy schedules and
never turning away a request for an autograph.
But it was during the war years that the indefatigable
comic made himself the most available — to the men
and women on the fighting fronts and to the wounded in
Novelist John Steinbeck, writing for the New York Herald
Tribune in 1943, described a Hope visit to a hospital
during World War II:
"Probably the most difficult, the most tearing
thing of all is to be funny in a hospital.... In the
long aisles of pain the men lie, with their eyes turned
inward on themselves....
"Bob Hope and his company come into this quiet,
inward, lonesome place, gently pull the minds outward
and catch the interest, and finally bring laughter up
out of the black water."
Steinbeck wrote about the efforts of Frances Langford to
sing in one hospital and how, when one of the wounded
soldiers began to cry, she broke down and couldn't go
"Then Hope walked into the aisle between the beds,
and he said seriously: 'Fellows, the folks at home are
having a terrible time about eggs. They can't get any
powdered eggs at all. They've got to use the
old-fashioned kind you break open.'
"There's a man for you," Steinbeck concluded.
"There is really a man."
Times staff writers Paul Brownfield and Susan King
contributed to this report.
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