Los Angeles, May 28 (Reuters): What would Bob Hope Day be without a joke from the legendary entertainer himself'
Out of sight because of his frail health but far from out of mind, Hope turns 100 tomorrow with a new one-liner just for the occasion. “I’m so old, they’ve cancelled my blood type,” Hope is said to have remarked to his family.
Americans tomorrow will turn Hope’s signature tune around and say “Thanks for the Memory” to the comedian now proclaimed in Hollywood as Citizen of the Century.
Hope, whose comic timing over more than 75 years in radio, theatre, television and film made him one of the world’s first superstars, is being celebrated in a slew of tributes, TV specials and reissues of his film classics.
He has been honoured by the US military whose troops he entertained during World War II, the Korean, Vietnam and 1991 Gulf wars, and by the golf world he adopted with such enthusiasm that they named a tournament after him. “Golf is my real profession,” Hope once said. “Show business pays my green fees.”
But tomorrow, as Los Angeles officials dedicate Bob Hope Square at the famous intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, and some 35 US states proclaim it Bob Hope Day, the comedian will mark the day quietly with family members at his suburban Toluca Lake home.
“Yes, there will be a birthday cake with 100 candles,” said Dolores, his wife of 69 years, “with a fireman standing by with a fire extinguisher”.
More than 2,000 birthday cards have already poured in for Hope, who has been out of the public eye since 2000 when he opened the Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment in Washington D.C. He was hospitalised shortly afterward for gastrointestinal bleeding and suffered a bout of pneumonia the following year.
His daughter Linda said earlier this year that Hope now spends much of his time at either his Toluca Lake or Palm Springs home, watching television and listening to music and to recordings by the late Bing Crosby — his partner in the memorable buddy Road movies of the 1940s and 1950s. “We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, admiration and best wishes given Dad by the American public,” she said.
Tomorrow, several US television stations are running old Bob Hope movies or retrospectives and the AMC movie theatre chain will extend best wishes on screens around the nation.
Hope, who was born in England but who emigrated with his family to Cleveland, Ohio in 1907, is also being feted in Britain, where BBC television plans a broadcast in his honor.
Linda Hope said her father, who entertained U.S troops in the 1991 war against Iraq, wished he could have done the same in this year's U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.“He has said, 'The doctors are keeping me down here but my heart is with them,'” she said.
Hope's infectious repartee made him friends with 11 U.S. presidents and last month, a plaque was added to Hope's fourth star Ä one each for radio, television, theater and film Ä on the Hollywood Walk of Fame proclaiming him the“Citizen of the Century.”
”There is so much love and so much appreciation,” said actress Eva Marie Saint, who starred with Hope in several movies.“If you look at a Bob Hope movie when you are down, or have the flu, it's like chicken soup.”