Bob Hope, legendary comedian and star of radio, stage, and screen — not to mention a man who once played third billing to Siamese twins and trained seals — had a really, really soft spot for U.S. troops, especially those who deployed to combat zones. It's an amazing thing, especially considering that he was British.
For more than 50 years, the "One-Man Morale Machine" spent time away from his family and his comfortable Hollywood life to visit American troops during peacetime and at war. He performed on Navy ships and Army bases, often close enough to hear the sounds of combat. To him, that didn't matter.
Bob Hope and his USO troupe arrived in Sicily three days after Gen. Patton and the Seventh Army took the key town of Messina. (USO)
"Imagine those guys thanking me," he once said. "Look what they're doing for me. And for you."
Today, Bob Hope's legacy lives on in the Bob and Dolores Hope Foundation, whose mission it is to support any organization that seeks to bring hope to anyone. For veterans, the foundation supports the EasterSeals of Southern California through the EasterSeals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which helps veterans gain meaningful employment after their service to our nation ends.
No joke: It's not a handout for veterans, it's a real hand up. Check it out: it may be just what you or a loved one needs. In the meantime, learn a little bit about the legend himself.
1. Bob Hope was British
Hope was born Leslie Townes Hope in 1903 in Well Hall, Eltham, County of London, England. In 1908, the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, passing through Ellis Island on the way.
The Hope Family in 1906.
(Library of Congress)
2. He has a lot of medals. A whole lot.
Among them are the Congressional Gold Medal, Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Air Force Order of the Sword, Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great, and Pontifical Equestrian Order of Saint Sylvester Pope and Martyr.
There are more honors. A lot more, including Admiralty in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska. It's a thing.
Bob Hope receives the Congressional Gold Medal from President Kennedy.
(Library of Congress)
3. He was a Harlem Globetrotter.
Along with Henry Kissinger, Nelson Mandela, Pope Francis, and a few others, he was named an honorary member of the team.
4. He did the "Russian Reversal" joke 30 years before Yakov Smirnoff
You knew he was a visionary. So did Yakov Smirnoff, who pretty much made his whole career on the, "In Soviet Russia, TV watches YOU" series of jokes. This is now known as a "Russian Reversal" and was first used by Hope at the 30th Academy Awards in 1958.
You can hear the joke 47 seconds into the video below.
5. You can thank Bob Hope for 'The Brady Bunch'
A struggling biology student in Southern California got a part-time gig writing jokes for Hope to earn extra money. Sherwood Schwartz would later go on to create Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch. Schwartz described his rise in Hollywood as an accident his whole life.
6. He spent 48 Christmases with American troops overseas.
From 1941-1990, Hope spent most of his Christmases with U.S. troops rather than at his home in Toluca Lake, California. His daughter Linda described Christmas at the Hope house:
Dad was gone. Holidays for the Hope kids took on a new meaning.
"I remember saying, 'Why does Dad always have to be away? All these other families have their dads home for Christmas," Linda said. But she is quick to add that Mom would put it in proper perspective for her.
"She said, 'No, not all have them are home for Christmas. Think of boys and girls who don't have their dads for years and years because they are serving overseas. Remember the boys and girls whose fathers may never come back.'"
7. Bob Hope played golf with Tiger Woods.
When Tiger was two years old, he squared off against Hope on The Mike Douglas Show in a putting contest in 1978. Actor Jimmy Stewart was looking on.