Bob Hope on the Road Again
Bob Hope on the Road Again
May. 18, 1990
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Bob Hope is sitting in his spacious home, surveying his vast estate, and trying to explain just why, after 50 years of traversing the planet entertaining U.S. soldiers, he still does it.
After a long pause, he finally says, ''It's kind of exciting.''
Must be. At age 86, he has racked up 9 million miles on his frequent-flier account, going from Newfoundland to Greenland, from North Africa to South Vietnam, and stopping at nearly every place in between.
Every place there is a war involving U.S. troops, that is.
Except for this time. On Saturday night, NBC will broadcast ''Bob Hope's USO Road to the Berlin Wall and Moscow,'' marking the comedian's 50th year of entertaining soldiers and the first time he has done such a tour where no combat was involved.
Traveling with Brooke Shields, Rosemary Clooney, Les Brown and His Band of Renown, LaToya Jackson and, of course, Miss Universe 1990, Hope took his show on the road this month to Great Britain, Germany and the Soviet Union.
It was the first time that Hope had been back to Moscow since 1958, when the Cold War was in full freeze and Nikita Khrushchev was in the Kremlin.
With Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost, Eastern Europe turned on its ear and the Berlin Wall crumbling, how did Hope feel viewing it firsthand?
He ruminates on this for a while. ''It's very different,'' he said.
The man with the trademark one-liners, the comedian who has become synonymous with American comedy, is strangely inarticulate when it comes to discussing his feelings about doing these shows.
Rather, he spins funny yarns, one-line anecdotes and recollections about friends, U.S. presidents and generals who are long gone.
''Bing and I had an offer to become lieutenant commanders in the Navy,'' Hope said of the late Bing Crosby. ''But Roosevelt said no. He said we'd be more valuable entertaining all the troops.''
The man has been hauling comedians, dancers, gorgeous women and assorted joke writers across myriad battle lines since 1941. His most recent trip before this one was to the Persian Gulf in 1987, where he performed on rolling battleships.
In 1984, he went to Beirut, a place that made him a little nervous, he admits, ''because you never know when they're going to turn around and throw a bomb at you.''
The Moscow that Hope found this month is very different from the one he left in 1958, when he became the first American comedian to do a show there. In his just-published book ''Don't Shoot, It's Only Me,'' Hope describes his experiences 32 years ago thusly:
''I don't know if the rooms were really bugged, but whenever we entered we'd talk to the doorknob, we'd talk to the chair, and to the pictures on the wall. And when we left, (we'd) face the wall and shout, 'that concludes our broadcast for this evening. Be sure to stay tuned for Lawrence Welk.'''
This time, Hope was more impressed by the growing capitalism in Communism and the long line for the newly opened McDonald's.
''We did a bit at McDonald's,'' Hope recalled. ''I walked up to these people in line and said to one guy, 'How long have you been here?' He answers 'four hours.' The guy behind him says, 'I was born here.' ''