From the White House to Hollywood, everyone paused Monday to reflect upon Bob Hope as both entertainer and patriot.
Edward Powell, president and CEO of the USO, stated, “Bob Hope came to symbolize, for every man and woman in uniform, the idea that America cared for and supported its troops.”
Fellow funnymen better known for wisecracking also issued solemn remembrances of the legendary Hope.
“It’s hard for me to imagine a world without Bob Hope in it,” said Woody Allen, who once said “Road to Morocco” was a childhood inspiration.
“He possessed all the gifts I, and all other comedians, could ever ask for or want: impeccable comic timing, an encyclopedic memory of jokes and an effortless ability with quips,” said Jay Leno. “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.”
“He gave a 100 years, and still left us wanting more,” Kelsey Grammer said.
“Bob Hope, like Mark Twain, had a sense of humor that was uniquely American and like Twain, we’ll likely not see another like him,” Dick Van Dyke said.
“Show me the most vicious, sick maniac. They could hate everybody in the world but they could not dislike or say anything bad about Bob Hope,” Jackie Mason added.
Co-stars and colleagues cited his professionalism and selflessness.
“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,” said org prexy Frank Pierson. “America has lost its court jester. We thank you, Bob, for much more than memories.”
“Nobody did what he did. He went to every front line, trench and foxhole in every major war. In the history of entertainment, no one gave back so much,” comedian Sid Caesar said. “There wasn’t anything Bob Hope wouldn’t do for someone wearing an armed forces uniform.”
A champion giver
Mickey Rooney, who appeared in comedy “Off Limits” in 1953 with Hope, called him “a champion.” “Isn’t it strange that he gave everybody ‘hope’ all the time?” Rooney mused. “That meant he was giving himself.”
“It was never a chore for him. It was never nerve-racking,” said Phyllis Diller, referring to Hope’s performance style. “He was always so completely prepared by his tremendous organization that he had put together.”
Not only was Hope an honorary knight, but also an honorary Harlem Globetrotter — only one of six in the team’s 77-year history. “This is a loss that saddens the nation and the world,” said Mannie Jackson, owner of the Harlem Globetrotters. “We have lost a member of the Globetrotters family and a cherished legend.”
Hope had four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for radio, motion pictures, television and live performance, second only to Gene Autry, who also had one for recording.
On Monday morning, longtime friend and Walk of Fame chair Johnny Grant placed flowers on the live performance star, remembering that Hope used to kid, “What am I going to have to do to get that extra star? Am I going to have to learn how to ride a horse?”
“He discovered me when I was a G.I. in World War II,” Grant said. “I think America has lost its most popular citizen. He made it look so easy, everyone thought he could be Bob Hope.”
Paramount producer A.C. Lyles knew Hope since before the comic made his film debut. In 1937, Lyles was a gofer for Adolph Zukor when Hope was cast in “The Big Broadcast of 1938.” He recalled that helmer Mitchell Leisen asked Hope to lunch and asked Hope to act out his comedy with his eyes.
Zukor, according to Lyles, immediately set Hope’s film career in motion, ordering two scripts be written for Hope and Martha Raye.
Lyles said he always used to joke with Hope, whom he described as the “easiest audience in the world.”
Beyond Hollywood and Vine, Hope was also a friend of presidents and politicians.
“Bob Hope was a truly great American,” former President Gerald Ford said.
Nancy Reagan, speaking for herself and husband Ronald Reagan, noted the trio’s friendship spanned 30 years. “Ronnie always said that Bob was one of our finest ambassadors for America,” she said.
“For more than 75 years, Bob Hope has shown the world compassion, goodwill and a uniquely American patriotic spirit. He will be revered and remembered throughout the course of history,” said California Gov. Gray Davis.
Similar sentiments were also expressed by many who did not know him personally.
In offering his thoughts about the comedian, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan summed up a widely held perception: “I never met him, but he was a great man and he made lots of people happy.”
Melissa Goldberg contributed to this report.