Veteran: Bob Hope
Artist: Ron Travisano
Writer: Judith Lichtendorf
Start with the basic truth: Bob Hope loved an audience. There’s a famous story about him – in his later years, on a rare vacation, he took a cruise through the Caribbean. He couldn’t stand it, cut it short and came home early. His reason: “Fish don’t applaud.”
But oh, how loudly and how often his favorite audiences did. Hope loved to entertain United States soldiers, and they loved him back. No other entertainer has ever done anything close to his efforts for American service troops.
He may have been an applause seeking ham, but he was the hardest working one. He played his first U.S.O. show on May 6, 1941. By 1966, he estimated he’d traveled over two million miles and entertained more than 11 million servicemen. And he was nowhere near his finish line.
A lot of Hope’s humor was inspired by ‘his boys’. Example: “Valley Forge is a sentimental place for me. One of the toughest Christmas shows I ever played”.
One of his band leaders accused Hope of prolonging World War ll because there were six Army camps he hadn’t yet played.
Think of it this way – Bob Hope entertained the sons and daughters of World War ll veterans in Vietnam. And perhaps he was applauded by their grandchildren when he made his last tours in the 1990s to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf war.
Hope always would ad-lib topical humor into his show. Example: he arrived in Saigon the horrifying day Vietcong blew up an American officers billet. Several hours later, he told the audience “I was on the way to my hotel and I passed a hotel going in the opposite direction.”
Bob Hope lived to 100. He was given so many awards, honorary Oscars and medals honoring his service to the U.S.A. troops. On his 94th birthday, the House of Representatives made him an honorary veteran, saying Hope “has given unselfishly of his time for over a half-century to be with United States service members on foreign shores, working tirelessly to bring a spirit of humor and cheer to millions of service members during their loneliest moments”.
How do you make war funny? Ask Bob Hope.