Hope and Army

GOOD MORNING: “I know it’s hard for people to believe a man in my business is normal emotionally and mentally. If they don’t, there’s nothing I can do about it.” It was Bob Hope talking. And it was in 1954, about the first book of many he would autograph for me over the next 49 years. It was “Bob Hope’s Own Story– Have Tux Will Travel.” I had known Bob since 1941, when I was delivering the mail to him at Paramount on the stars’ dressing room row. In 1990 when he (and Mel Shavelson) wrote, “Don’t Shoot, It’s Only Me,” he had entertained troops from North Africa and Europe to the South Pacific, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf — plus hundreds of millions of civilians at home. And I had chronicled him in my columns, so he autographed this latest book to me with, “You know most of this — Hell, you printed it! Hope you enjoy.” I did enjoy it, as I did his earlier war-set book, “Bob Hope’s Vietnam Story: Five Women I Love” — which featured the ladies who toured with him in that war — Janis Paige, Anita Bryant, Kaye Stevens, Joey Heatherton and Carroll Baker. Barbara Eden, who toured with him from the ’60s to the Persian Gulf war, recalled how Bob would stay awake on planes — even when the plane was being refueled in mid-air. “And he’d ask me, ‘Don’t you want to watch?’ “… He was interested in everything.” Eden, a TV vet herself, was inducted into the California Broadcasters Assn. Hall of Fame July 18 … Coincidentally, today at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Tom and Dick Smothers are being honored with the Freedom of Expression Award from the Video Software Dealers Assn. for their stand on First Amendment rights. Tom reminded me, “We (and Bob Hope) were on opposite poles of the Vietnam War. We were dissenters, but Bob had the highest respect for us and had us on several of his shows and his charity golf matches. We watched Bob work ‘live’ many times, and he was always brilliant! We lost a legend.” Also, Peter Fonda receives the first Maverick Award from the VSDA today.

LARRY GELBART AND I WERE REMINISCING about Hope Monday — he recalled waiting for Hope to arrive at the Kimpo, Seoul, airbase in Korea. “I saw a two-seater fighter plane coming in — Hope was sitting behind the pilot. He introduced the young pilot to me: ‘Talk to him,’ he said, ‘He’ll be on our show tonight.’ ” Gelbart wrote some dialogue for the airman and he was indeed part of the show. Having written for Bob in all media — for radio, TV, movies and personal appearances — Gelbart can speak on behalf of the army of writers Bob enjoyed over the years. “Faceless we might have been, but always publicly appreciated by — and always privately enjoyed by — him. Those who know him well know that Bob has never needed a script in his hands to be humorous. His mind was always as swift as his delivery; his offstage, off-the-cuff remarks often far funnier than what we were so handsomely paid to turn out for him.” Larry is well qualified to comment, “Bob Hope was never a sore winner!”

AT THIS YEAR’S EMMY AWARDS, Sept. 21 on Fox, the second Bob Hope Humanitarian Award will be presented. It went to Oprah Winfrey last year. Emmycast exec producer Don Mischer has a long history of doing Hope shows — including the three-hour Hope 80th and 90th birthday celebrations on NBC, on which I also appeared. The latter show won an Emmy. Hope, you recall, won the Oscars’ Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1959 … Don Rickles, who appeared on countless Hope TV shows, laughingly recalled a Royal Command Performance with Hope before Princess Margaret. “I’d never appeared before royalty before,” Don recalls, “and Hope apologized for me before I went on, telling the royal audience not to worry, ‘He’s only kidding.’ But I went on and did my usual stuff — you know — no holds barred. And afterwards some guy in white gloves comes over to me and says, ‘Princess Margaret wants to see you.’ Hope said, ‘What about ME?’ But she only wanted to see me,” Rickles laughed as he retold it to me Monday … In 1963 Hope wrote “I Owe Russia $1,200” (Doubleday). I had only known him 22 years by that time, but he inscribed that book, “To Army, Thanks for all those memories.” You, of course, know my answer to him then — and now.

THERE WERE MORE TEARS IN HOLLYWOOD Monday as Carol Matthau was laid to rest at Westwood Memorial alongside husband Walter, who died three years ago. The service was touchingly finale’d when their son, Charlie, played a recording he’d made of a conversation with Carol just six hours before she died. He’d convinced her to leave N.Y. and return to live here in L.A. Among those on hand was Charlie’s fiancee, Ashley Anderson — they’ll wed Aug. 21, 2004, the anniversary of Walter and Carol’s wedding. Among others there was Jackie Jordan, owner of Matteo’s, a Matthau family favorite — where Charlie had his high school graduation party. Others on hand at the service were Matteo’s maitre d’ Gregg Miller, Felicia Lemmon (Jack is buried near the Matthaus), Norman Lear, the New Yorker’s Lillian Ross, Carol Burnett, Suzanne Pleshette (who told of her early days with Carol on the N.Y. stage), Kenneth Turan, Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin, Neil Papiano, Anjelica Huston and Carol’s son Aram Saroyan … A final thought on Bob Hope from Frank Liberman, who had been Hope’s press agent for 40 years (he retired before Ward Grant). Liberman suggested Hope be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. After all, he was a soldier — in greasepaint.

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