This past November 4th, the Hollywood Museum commemorated Veteran’s Day like never before! Memorializing the 76th anniversary of WWII with all the honor and distinction of the 75th, The Hollywood Museum, made up for missing it in 2020, and then some, with a book signing and lobby unveiling/ceremony like no other!
“And who better to kick off the series than the iconic and legendary actor, from Vaudeville to screen…both large and small, a man who hosted the Academy Awards a record breaking 19 times, and performed for 12 Presidents…and entertained 8! As he once said…he traveled over ten million miles. That’s the equivalent of 400 times around the world, during which he made 700 trips to entertain ten million GIs,” none other than Bob Hope! — according to Hollywood Museum President and Founder Donelle Dadigan.
On the timely heels of the completion of a momentous piece of valiant literature written and collated by Bob’s writer of 15 years, Martha Bolton, and daughter Linda Hope, a book signing would also transpire on the night in question the likes of which there have never been any more sentimental in the history of The Hollywood Museum. The release in question: DEAR BOB … Bob Hope’s Wartime Correspondence with the G.I.s of World War II.
With over 80,000 letters to Bob Hope protected in the Library of Congress, it was not a simple task, but both Martha and Linda were somehow able to pore through the vast collection and select the most arresting ones — a most daunting mission to be sure!
Continuing her impassioned discussion honoring Mr. Hope, Dadigan, a former schoolteacher, gave us all a history lesson and motivational speech all in one:
“Bob Hope entertained our service men and women at bases and hospitals in the United States, North Atlantic, Caribbean, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Pacific, and Southeast Asia. Christmas shows became a tradition which lasted for twenty-two years. He made a tradition of playing ‘Santa Claus’ for the GIs with annual shows at military and veterans’ hospitals throughout the United States. On Easter Sunday 1991, Bob and Dolores entertained 350 Marines and their families from Twentynine Palms at their house in Palm Springs. That same year Bob Hope joined Jimmy Stewart as co-host of the largest parade in Hollywood to welcome home the servicemen and women of ‘Desert Storm’.”
A true example of humor and compassion in the face of war, “Hope was cited by Guinness Book of Records as the ‘most honored entertainer,’ having more than fifteen hundred awards and citations for humanitarian and professional efforts,” Dadigan continued. “including the Medal of Freedom from President Johnson; Congressional Gold Medal from President Kennedy; People to People Award from President Eisenhower; Medal of Merit from the U.S. Government; Peabody Award; a Special Oscar; the Jean Hersholt Award, and three additional honors from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Bob Hope was also initiated into the Entertainment Hall of Fame and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II extended The Honor of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) and earned 56 Honorary Degrees. And somewhere along the way, he found time to make 45 feature films, some 60 Christmas specials, made five royal Command Performances, and wrote 13 books. After all this, Bob Hope was quoted as saying that the greatest honor he ever received was to be made an honorary veteran. It was that unique relationship between Bob Hope and ‘The Greatest Generation,’ by way of the USO, that the museum is currently highlighting in their Lobby.”
That night, the old Max Factor Building, as confirmed by Ms. Dadigan, welcomed entertainers from, “The Silents (and if not exactly the silents, chronologically close to), to Talkies, to Hollywood’s Golden Era, Film Noir, and Television…to the technological 2000s, and the new digital platforms,” many of whom had their bit to say about the prolific and humanitarian entertainer, to speak nothing of having worked with him! The guest list included: Donna Mills, Barry Livingston, Dee Wallace, Petri Hawkins-Byrd, Makita Bond-Byrd, Erin Murphy, Ruta Lee, Rico Anderson, Katherine Cannon, Dean Butler, Alison Arngrim, Rex Smith, Diana Lansleen, Carolyn Hennesy, Geoffrey Mark, Kate Linder, Kassandra Carroll, Jax Malcolm, Conner Dean, Elaine Ballace, Charles Fox, Alice Amter, Tyrone DuBose, Thomas J Churchill, George Paige, Bob Flick, Hank Garrett, as well as Bianca and Chiara D’Ambrosio.
Up first to speak, former USO Board member, and Happy Days’ regular Potsie Weber himself – Anson Williams:
“Years ago…I was on the board of the USO and…in May of 1985, they dedicated the Bob Hope USO Building in Washington DC, and they asked me to Emcee the event… That night there was a reception at the Vice President’s house…and it just so happened that Kris Kristofferson became a member of the board… Kris was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam… And he was there alone with all the board members… So that night we’re at the beautiful event at the Vice President of the United States’ House, and we’re waiting outside…and Kris is telling me, ‘I’m so embarrassed, I’m so embarrassed.’”
“‘What are you talking about?’ And I look down, and he had these boots on that were probably 50 years old; torn, like painters’ shoes with more colors than ten rainbows!”
“And he goes, ‘I forgot to pack my boots. This is all I have!’”
“And I go, ‘Don’t worry about it…Kris. No one’s gonna look at your shoes!’”
“‘Are you sure?’”
“‘NO ONE’S gonna look at your shoes!’”
“So…Kris is going through, first person he meets…Bob Hope! Shakes his hand, Bob looks down, ‘Hey Mister President, look at these SHOES!!!–Look at these boots!’ They all look at the boots! Now Kris…I have never seen that color of red in my life… and everyone’s hysterical! I’m dying!”
“…What a lot of people didn’t know was, before [Kris] became a board member, he was on a 30-day USO tour that he financed himself. He paid for better sound. He paid for the band. He paid for everything… Before becoming a board member [Bob Hope] was thanking him for that.”
“Finally, we all go out. Now we’re to the tent area of the party. Kris is…way away from all civilization. Sitting there…I start walking up to him, and all of a sudden, I hear from behind me, ‘Hey Kris!’ And it’s…Mister Hope, and the Vice President… They come up to Kris and they say, ‘Hey Kris…you know something? I think the president would like to meet you. I’d like to set something up.’ And Kris was like ‘Yeah, that’d be fantastic!’ …And they start walking away and the Vice president turns back and says, ‘But don’t wear those shoes!’ — True story!”
Not able to fathom how anyone would top Anson’s singular story, Ms. Dadigan could only adamantly punctuate Williams’ speech as follows, “Wow! How does anyone go after that Anson? Thank you so much!”
From humor-filled to harrowing, the next stand out tale would come via video, from a former child actor regarding his first two films, also starring Mr. Hope: The Son of Pale Face and Seven Little Foys: None other than “The Beev” aka Jerry Mathers!
“Not only was [Bob Hope] a wonderful actor, but he saved my life! Before Leave it to Beaver, which was the show I was probably most popular for, I worked with him on two movies. One of them, [Seven Little Foys] had a fire scene, and I was supposed to be sitting up [on a catwalk] watching my father [played by Bob Hope], [onstage as a] Vaudevillian. And there was a fire… They had it all planned out. But they put a little too much kerosene [on the impacted areas] … And the next thing I knew, I really was on fire. Now, a stunt man…was supposed to change places with Mister Hope… [and save me. They were] supposed to switch, a jacket…they only had one [of its kind, but the stuntman got pinned to the wall by the panicked extras] and he didn’t do that…[up until then] everything else was going fine except [Bob Hope] knew if that jacket wasn’t changed, no one was coming up to get me. He actually took the jacket, put it over his head, walked up–climbed up actually–into the catwalk, and got me down! And if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be here today. He was a wonderful man…!”
From fire, to uh… “inclement weather” of sorts, another noted sitcom celebrity who could not be present, imparted a harrowing tale via email, read by Ms. Dadigan, of getting stuck in a Hope-Inspired white-out of sorts. Such was the accounting anyway by Loretta Swit:
“Bob and I were filming Silver Bells on the [Christmas Special]. We were dressed as mannequins in a store window, and we came alive when the shop closed. Arm in arm we started walking down a snowy path. The snow falling was cued in. We began to sing. Bob said, ‘That’s the snowfall…? That’s a little bit too wispy,’ and we could see more snow falling. I think the crew decided to have some fun with us. So, the next time we started to sing, we walked out into a terrible blizzard. Everybody on the set was laughing as we tried to sing without swallowing a mouthful of fake flake snow! All of a sudden, we heard ‘cut’, and then there was more laughter!”
A most arresting, and timely story came from, actress, songwriter, and number one jazz artist on the Billboard charts, Jan Daley:
“1971 was my last UO and USO Christmas tour with Bob Hope… Growing up, I never missed a Hope Christmas Special and I dreamed that someday I would be on the stage entertaining the troops. My father was an air force pilot in World War II, and after the war, he was waiting to head home to see his wife and his brand-new baby girl. And he decided to volunteer at the POWs in Germany… Unfortunately, he was shot down [never to return again]. So, for me, doing USO shows not only made me feel close to my father, but gave me the opportunity to support the troops by doing tours and bringing a little home to them in the middle of the war(s).”
“Christmas day… while [on a USO tour] in Vietnam, the drummer and, I who were suffering from heat stroke–it was about 125 (degrees)–were on the way to the Red Cross tent, and we come across Bob leaning against the tent with a sun reflector soaking up the rays!”
“The story that I’ll never forget, and show that I’ll never forget was in Da Nang… We had finished the show, and we came out to sign autographs which we did for every show [but this time], our crew came and dragged us…off the stage. They said, ‘Get in the helicopters!’, and we said ‘’We’re in our gowns!’ (But not Bob Hope of course) ‘No get in the helicopters!’ So we entered our helicopters…and in Da Nang there’s a big hill, so we pulled up…above the hill, and then started off back to our hotel. But just as we got to the hill, we looked down and we were surrounded by Viet Cong. It was a scary reminder that we were in the middle of a war zone.”
Ms. Daley’s last touching sentiments were for Bob’s daughter Linda:
“I want to thank you Linda for sharing in your book, these letters to the military. (tearing up) I hope one of ’em is from my dad because I found a picture of my Dad and Bob Hope when he was stationed in Alaska before he was shipped off to Europe. So, I want to thank you for doing this wonderful tribute, and to you Bob.”
All of the above was followed by one of the most beautiful versions of Thanks for the Memories the LA Beat has ever heard, featuring the smooth, smoky tones of Ms. Daley.
From fire, to snow to the near parting of the seas, another blonde sitcom actress imparted an additional memory fueled by the elements.
According to Joan Van Arc of Knotts Landing fame, via letter:
“I love Bob Hope! Who didn’t? I, likewise, feel the same affection for Linda who continues his legacy with the book and this celebration. I was fortunate enough to be in two of his legendary comedy specials, and my fondest and funniest memory was a skit taped in Bermuda, filmed at the tail end of a seasonal hurricane with its usual powerful, pounding surf. Book-ended on either side of Bob was the delicious Loni Anderson as his mistress, and me as his battle ax wife… As we escaped our sinking ship…wading toward the shoreline in period costumes, I was wearing a 2 story high wig …” (To which Donelle Dadigan could only muse(um) “I wonder if Max Factor did that?”)
“…and in the wind,” continued Dadigan, continuing for van Arc, “it had me fighting to not do a complete face plant into the waves! In the raging waters, with dialogue to boot, it was a real challenge. Take, after take, ensued. Soaked to the bone, we finally got it! And I barely made my flight back to Los Angeles to film Knotts Landing the next day!”
From delighting in the story of Van Arc’s swift but close return to the set of Knotts
Landing, to sitting next to one of its other stars, the LA Beat could only ask Donna Mills herself to compare and contrast her own bookended Hope memories for which she was thankful:
“I did two of his specials. So those are kind of my favorite [memories]… I remember one that was particularly fun where we did a spoof of Dynasty, and I played Joan Collins and Morgan Fairchild played Linda Evans.”
From the same TV show to the same family, both Anita and Ruth Pointer of The Pointer Sisters had some of their own emailed USO tour memories to share:
According to Anita, “Bob is such a generous and kind man. It made it easy to work with him, and to love him. We had Christmas dinner on one of the ships. We also had a chance to visit one of the hospital ships and bring Christmas cheer to the service men. In one experience, being on one of the ships, I was going to sit down, and a soldier said, ‘Don’t sit there!’ I said, ‘Why not?’ He said, ‘Because, it’s a bomb.’ Don’t worry, I didn’t sit there! Ha ha ha! Bob Hope gave me a darling glass vase which I still have, and inside the vase I put Saudi Arabian sand.”
Ruth Pointer’s memories were poignant, and somewhat humorous, particularly considering the editorial commentary by way of the emoji interpretation—as colorful as every emoji itself, by Donelle Dadigan:
“It was an experience I will never forget. I was kind of sick most of the time because I was in the middle of invitro fertilization process TMI — too much information—”
Donelle Dadigan: But she has a very concerned looking emoji next to it that she sent.
“Bob was very gracious and kind, especially when my husband Michael asked if he could have a photo taken with him which we still display in our home…”
Dadigan: …and now she has a smiley emoji.
“Entertaining the troops was especially honorable to me, shopping for gold jewelry was also memorable…”
Dadigan: And here she has a crazy “wow” emoji face.
“Thank you Bob for an experience of a lifetime, Ruth”
Dadigan: …with a heart emoji.
Loni Anderson, in all her ever-youthful, glamorous, yet down-to-earth appeal, regaled us all with memories both humorous and heart felt!
“My dad was a WWII Navy airman, and he was stationed in the South Pacific. So, in our house, Bob Hope was the epitome of success in show business! If you got to be on a Bob Hope special, as far as my dad was concerned, you had arrived… But I do have something really intimate that I think is different from any of the show stories or the travelling stories…”
“One Christmas, [Bob] called me himself, and he said, ‘I want you to go with me to the Veterans’ Hospital in Long Beach…and we’re gonna do a Christmas Show.’ And I said, ‘Oh good. Who else..? Who’s going?’ And he said, ‘Just us. You, me, and we’re gonna take Les Brown!’ And I said, ‘Uh…Okay… Will you send me a script?’ ‘Oh yeah. I’ll send you a script.’ And I said, ‘Okay, what else are we going to do?’ ‘Oh you’ll see…’ And so a limo comes to my house and it’s just Bob and me in a limo, and we’re driving down to Long Beach and I said, ‘So Bob, I never got that script.’ And he said, ‘Well Honey we’re just gonna wing it!’ ‘Wing it?!?’ I’m like, ‘I’m an actress that memorizes lines and stuff!’”
“…And um, so we’re riding down there, and he said, ‘Okay, now this is what it’s gonna be: We’re gonna be in a big auditorium, and everyone who is ambulatory, all the service men and women, and their families are going to be in the auditorium. And then after we do our show, we’re going to go from room to room, and visit every single service man and woman who was not able to leave their room and their families. I don’t care if we’re here all through the night. But we will be doing that. And here’s my other rule,’ he said, ‘here’s what we’re gonna do: We’re not gonna cry. There will be no crying. These are brave men and women, who have battled their way to where they are now and they’re toughin’ it out with their families. They don’t need your pity. They don’t need our tears. They need joy and they need us to bring them laughter. And we need to listen to their stories…how they got like that, and don’t turn away. And so, what we’re gonna do now, it just bring joy. When we get back in the limo on the way home, if you feel like it, you can cry on my shoulder the entire way back, but not while we’re there.’”
“So, we got there, and we go into a little rehearsal room with Les Brown and Bob Says, ‘Okay, so like, what’ll we sing?’ and I said, ‘Y’know, I don’t know.’ I’m just in over my head already, And uh, so he said, ‘Well, we’re gonna do, Its Delightful,’ You know, (singing) It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de lovely… And I said, ‘Okay well, I don’t know that one… do we have sheet music so I can check it out…?’”
“And he said, ‘Oh yeah, we have sheet music right here…And here’s the joke…Here’s what’s so good… You’re gonna sing the whole song, and then I’m just gonna do “It’s’’.. and you’re gonna sing…You’re just gonna hand me the sheet music and you’re gonna say, “Okay Bob, I’ll point to you when it’s your turn to sing!” And he said, ‘But on my sheet, it’s only “it’s” and then of course, you sing the whole song, and then you just point to me!’ And I said, ‘Uh, okayyy??’ And…of course he set it up… No one paid any attention to me at all… ‘Cause he had all the laughs… Then we just start talking and he knows all these incredible jokes, and I’m supposed to, like, slip in and fit in somehow, and I am feeling flop sweat all over the place! And I think…’Oh my God,’ and I’m just grateful to have gotten through it [for] these lovely people and their families, and there are gurneys with people with IVs and everything…’ So, we got offstage, and Bob said to me, ‘Well, that went great didn’t it?!’ He was always so comfortable and happy and knew what he was doing.”
“So, then we did go room to room. And we did hear every body’s story. And it was amazing, amazingly emotional, and hard to keep yourself in check… But what I learned most from that trip, and I learned so much from Bob, but I learned bravery from him. He taught me how to be brave, and uh…and now I’m crying. I didn’t cry in the car on the way home. I just thought about all the [vet’s] stories, and we talked about them all the way back. I love him for that. I love him for giving me strength, and making me tough, for making me brave… And then I got to work with Linda on every one of those specials. You were the right hand. You were there. You made it all happen. Even doing that last Christmas Special for NBC. I love you, and I’m so glad you’ve written this book!”
At a certain point, Ms. Dadigan could not help but observe that even James Bond would be bested by the amount of beautiful women surrounding Bob Hope on his multiple USO tours: This, of course, all in introduction to the written message relayed by, none other than – wait for it now… Raquel Welch!
“Bob Hope brought so much joy to so many, but none so appreciative as our troops who are put in harm’s way to protect this country, it’s institutions and the liberties and freedoms we all enjoy; and we still enjoy them today. Bob’s humanity and concern for uplifting the spirits of our men and women so far from home, and loved ones was passionate, and real, and infectious. We swam out to the wave time after time, to let our troops know they were appreciated, and give them a moment to escape from the horrors of war. The gift of laughter and the talented performers he bought was therapeutic. I was truly honored to be asked to go on tour with Bob. I have happy tears every time I recall the experience. Thanks for those memories Bob and all that you did. You are the best of Hollywood, and you set the bar for how we should all be! God bless you and Dolores, wherever you are strolling, and toting that five iron in your hand!”
Martha Bolton, Bob Hope’s longtime writer, and the book’s author, along with Bob’s daughter Linda, gave interesting insight on what it was like to put the book together, to speak nothing of how fast-paced, yet amusing it was writing for Mister Hope:
“I really appreciate Linda giving me the opportunity to write this book. We started it when Bob was alive and so it’s been in the works that long and it was a true love story between Bob and the GIs and if you ever wondered why Bob was so committed to the GIs, these letters will explain all of that. You get a real sense of his heart when you read these letters. At the height of the war, Bob was receiving 38,000 letters a week! And so that was our challenge to go through and pick which ones would be in this, but we’re very excited that it’s here, and we hope he’s looking down and very pleased with tonight!”
“This is bringing back so many great memories that I had in working with him, and I was with him in the 80s and the 90s… He did a lot of fast writing… One of the fastest assignments we had was uh… He was going to a psychiatrists’ convention which is a comedy writer’s dream assignment! But when we got to the venue, he discovered that it wasn’t a psychiatrists’ convention, it was a chiropractors’ convention. So, we had about 15 or 20 minutes to re-write an entire routine!”
“And he would call us at all hours of the day or night as well. And he would be in different time zones, so it could be 7 o’clock in his time, but it’s 3 o’clock in the morning your time… So, this was like a common occurrence. One of my favorite stories… He called one of the writers late and night and he was asleep and his wife answered the phone and Bob said, ‘Is your husband there?’ and his wife just didn’t have the heart to wake him up yet again, so she thought quickly and she said, ‘Well, no, he told me he was going to be with you tonight…’ So there was this pause…and Bob said, ‘Oh yeah, here he comes now!’
Last but certainly not least, it was Linda Hope who rounded out the evening with sentiment, steadfastness, in celebration!
Martha did Yeoman’s work on this book, and she pulled everything together, gave real life
to those times which are so different from these times. And I think it gave her a great picture of what the world was like, and what people were like, what this country was like: Because people worked together…isn’t that something…? Men, boys…left the comforts of their homes and their lives. They left…to go to terrible, terrible conditions and Dad kind of realized that, and was a bridge between what was going on at home, and the lives people left, the wives, and families that were left without husbands and fathers. And I remember growing up, I used to say, to my mother, ‘Where’s Dad? Why isn’t he here?’ ‘Cause he was great fun growing up… He was like…another sibling… I think my mother had the most incorrigible of her children in my dad. But he was that bridge, and he knew what home was for these guys, and he also experienced what they did in times of war, and in the conditions that they had to suffer through.”
“I think that really compelled him, and propelled him, and what gave him the energy was the laughter, and the applause that he experienced with these huge, huge numbers of troops… When he started out with this, he was at NBC and he was doing a show from a very small room, very close to this museum… He was used to being in a small studio…starting out…in radio…he didn’t have huge audiences. [But] he would see the Edgar Bergen show. Now imagine this country, being captivated by a ventriloquist!”
“Dad would try to get the audience as it came out from Edgar Bergen’s show, to come into his show! So, to have a huge audience out-in-the-open was a mind-blowing experience for him, and he used to always talk about the laughter and the sound, and the huge crowds that were there and I think that’s what really drove him!”
“…Often times, they did five shows. And, in those days, you have to realize, there were no big jets to get them over there in a couple of hours to one place or another. These were long, long arduous trips on puddle jumpers. And it was an astounding feat! And for the women, I used to talk to Frances Langford about this, and she said, ‘You can’t imagine what it was for women in those days,’ and there were two of them, Frances Langford and then a young dancer Patty Thomas…and those two women faced unbelievable circumstances! I mean, the guys cold kinda rough it…but the girls were expected to come out and look pretty, and like nothing has happened, and… it was an amazing challenge. [But] she said she wouldn’t have traded those days for anything. But it was the same story that you heard here about visiting the troops that were wounded. And dad would say to them always ‘It’s not about you. You can feel whatever you want to feel after you’ve done your thing. But they want to be entertained, and… entertain he did, and they did! And I thank everybody that’s here that was part of his life, and part of his shows, and part of the lives of so many GIs and people that served in all the different theaters of war over all the…years and… Those are the memories!”
In grand tradition of the song for which Mister Hope is most affectionately known: ‘Twas a night of profound gratitude and heartfelt remembrances all around!
For more information about Dear Bob . . . : Bob Hope’s Wartime Correspondence with the G.I.s of World War II Please visit:
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