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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of July 30 - August 5, 2003

Opinion Columns

Yes, thanks
for the memory

Commentary by Pat Murphy

Measure America’s love affair with Bob Hope this way: count the number of people over 20 years old who never saw or heard Hope perform somewhere and add the number of people who couldn’t stand him.

The numbers would be so imperceptible as to be impossible to read.

No other figure comes to mind whose presence touched so many Americans through so many decades. More about my luck with Hope in a moment.

Bob Hope performed for 80 years in every setting in show biz--vaudeville, Broadway stage, radio, television, movies, on location with the troops, personal appearances in venues ranging from modest hometown charity benefits to glittering White House dinners, and, of course, pro-am golf tournaments he sponsored to raise millions of dollars for health causes.

But it was wartime performances for ordinary troops over 50 years that transformed Hope into a celebrity of extraordinary stature.

Hundreds of thousands of GIs became lifelong fans after seeing Hope on stages within earshot of combat gunfire. Films of his USO tours on TV attracted more millions to Hope’s wholesome one-liner jesting.

He also is the acknowledged father of stand-up monologue comedy.

Hope also carried through life a reputation for decency--a genuine Brit-cum-Yankee Doodle patriot and a husband of 69 years to wife Delores.

Count me among lucky ones with an unforgettable memory of Hope during the Korean War.

Several sergeants in the First Cavalry Division--Chuck Barbour, Bobby Rushing, Archie Ashworth, Bob Sykes and me--were plucked out of the crowd to escort women in the Hope USO show (including blonde actress Marilyn Maxwell) when it flew in to the devastated North Korean capital of Pyongyang in November 1950.

While Hope’s troupe was there, war was forgotten as I escorted Patrice, one of the Taylor Maids singing trio.

(Patrice, a grandmother, widow of a wealthy businessman and a friend since Korea, lives in Pebble Beach, Calif. Beverly, who married a trombonist in Hope’s Les Brown band, lives in Ocala, Fla. Jinny died last year.)

The 1950 show could’ve been a World War II throwback: a stunning movie actress, three glamorous young singers and leggy dancer in skimpy costume that Hope told troops "remind you of what you’re fighting for"; Brown’s band, gags belittling commissioned officers that delighted GIs, one-liners tailored for the locale, and no off-color humor.

But we also saw another Bob Hope.

He wanted to visit wounded soldiers. So, at a nearby makeshift hospital, Hope popped in unannounced to cheer up wounded GIs brought from the front. Their smiles told of their delight.

Hope’s cheery mien quickly dissolved into grimness, however. Tears welled up as he moved to the bedside of a Korean child who’d lost a hand to an exploding shell.

He glanced around, helplessly and wordlessly searching for some explanation that none of us could give—why such a tiny victim of war.

All we could do was to muffle our own anger and shock and hold back tears.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.