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IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF
Tribute to Bob Hope

By Martha Bolton

We've had to say goodbye to an incredible talent, a great American, and a genuinely nice man‚ Bob Hope.

Bob left each of us with our own special memories, whether it be from our experiences of watching him on television, seeing him perform during a USO show, or knowing him personally. If you don't mind, I'd like to share a few of my own memories of the best boss any comedy writer ever had the pleasure of working for.

When my son was in junior high, he had to write a paper on a famous person. He chose Bob Hope.  After doing the research, he asked me if I thought Bob Hope would let him interview him. I didn't want to disappoint my son, after all, Bob Hope was Bob Hope. He was far too busy for junior high school reports. So  I told my son to call the office and ask the secretary, figuring she could handle the request gently and tactfully. To the surprise of all of us, Bob ended up taking the call and let my son interview him for fifteen to twenty minutes for a junior high school report. That's the kind of man Bob Hope was. He was kind. And he loved an audience.

Another day when I was dropping off material at Bob's house, his beloved dog Snowjob bit me on the foot. Bob was already on his way to the airport, but during a layover en route to his destination, he took the time to send me a telegram that said, "Dear Martha, please come back soon. I'm ready for another hors douvre. Love, Snowjob."

That's the kind of man Bob Hope was. He loved making even  his writers laugh.

When I was working on a project where I had the  privilege of reading thousands of letters that Bob Hope had received from  World War II soldiers, I got to know a lot about the heart of Bob Hope. Bob wasn't just an entertainer to these men and women. He was their friend. They loved joking around with him, and he joked right back in  the letters that he wrote to them. One soldier even shaved off his goatee and mailed it to Bob! And yes, there were all those letters from mothers of soldiers who were writing to thank him for calling and letting them know that he had seen their son or daughter during one of his USO tours. Many of those kids never made it home.

One letter that was especially moving was  from a soldier who had marched with his company for miles and miles to see the Bob Hope show. By the time they got there, however, it was so crowded that they couldn't get close enough to see or hear him, so they started marching back to their camp. Word of this reached Bob, and after the show, he gathered some of the stars together, they piled into a jeep, drove out and met them on the road and put on a private show just for them.

That's the kind of man Bob Hope was. He loved the soldiers.  Each and everyone of them.

Bob Hope once remarked, "If I  had my life to live over again, I wouldn't have the time." It's no secret Bob led an incredible life. He entertained presidents, kings, queens, four-star generals, and performed with nearly all the major  stars of the last century. Bob Hope rose to the top of every facet of show business, vaudeville, Broadway, radio, television, and movies.

That's the kind of man Bob Hope was. He was an unparalleled, irreplaceable talent.

In more than fifteen years of  having written for Bob Hope, I can honestly say that he never once spoke an unkind word to me. I'd venture to say that most of America can't report that about their bosses. That's the kind of man Bob Hope was. He was easy going.

And after watching Bob during our hundreds of meetings at his house, the dressing room conferences at NBC, dinners, banquets, birthday celebations, and whatever else popped up on his crowded calendar, I learned a lot about the "behind the  scenes" Bob Hope. I saw his eyes tear up whenever he talked about his  memories of entertaining the troops, and visiting all those sick bays on his USO tours. I watched him interact with lifelong friends he loved and respected Lucille Ball, George Burns, Phyllis Diller, Jimmy Stewart, Milton Berle, Danny Thomas while being equally at home with today's young stars. I watched him joke with presidents and international dignitaries.

But what intrigued me the most about Bob Hope  was how he never took his own good fortune for granted. His excitement for  show business, his passion for life and laughter never once waned.

One  afternoon while I was again dropping off some material at his house, Bob was eager to give me a tour of his newly remodeled office. His beloved wife, Dolores, had done a beautiful job designing the changes and Bob wanted to show it off.

As he pointed out the various pictures hanging on each wall -- the one of him with four living presidents, the one of him  with the late John F. Kennedy, numerous photos of him with celebrities, I noticed something interesting. It was almost as if he were  on the outside looking in, as though he himself couldn't believe where his career had taken him and how much living he had packed into his life.

Then, after Bob had described the final photo and we started to make our way down the hallway, he paused. Glancing back at the memory-filled walls, and in genuine awe and sincere appreciation for the life he had been  blessed with, he flashed that famous Bob Hope grin and said,  "It's something, isn't it, Martha? It really is something."

Yes, it was something. The life Bob Hope was blessed to lead was something the world won't ever see again.

That's the kind of man Bob Hope was. He was one of a kind. We all loved him, and he will be greatly missed.

Copyright 2001-2005 Martha Bolton. All rights reserved.09/24/12 09:36 AM
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