Over the course of his long life, Bob Hope gave the gift of laughter to millions and millions of people. From vaudeville to Broadway, radio, films and television, he cracked the whole world up and we loved him for it. But no group loved him more than America’s servicemen and women. For more than five decades, Hope took his USO show on the road over 700 times, jumping country to country – even continent to continent – to entertain the troops, make them laugh and give them a touch of home. Hope once said, “I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.” That’s exactly what he did for the troops during terrible times.
The respect and admiration between Bob Hope and America’s military men and women started before WWII at March Field Air Force base near Riverside, Calif. With several blockbuster films and a hit radio show to his credit, he was already a household name. In fact, it was his Pepsodent radio show that took him to the base to perform in front of a live audience. “How do you do, ladies and gentlemen. This is Bob ‘March Field’ Hope, telling all soldiers they have to shoot in the swamp or march in the brush, but if they use Pepsodent, no one will ever have to drill in their mush.” And with that silly joke, a 60-year plus love affair was born.
“My romance with the G.I.s started in May 1941 at March Field and I still remember fondly that first soldier audience. I looked at them and they laughed at me and it was love at first sight.” It sure was. Soon after, Hope embarked on a world tour of military bases and installations throughout Europe, the South Pacific and the U.S., putting on shows with his group of talented USO “troopers.” Leaning on his golf club, making fun of politics, himself and even war conditions, Hope had a wonderful, easy rapport with his audiences. He spoke their language, he connected with them and of course, it didn’t hurt that he brought along pretty girls. Before long, he was dubbed “G.I. Bob.” By the end of World War II and after hundreds of shows abroad, G.I. Bob was beloved not only by the troops but by everyone on the homefront, too. Unbelievably, Hope’s military journey was just beginning. He was 42 years old.
WWII may have ended but the ensuing Cold War kept thousands of American troops a long way from home. In December 1948, the Secretary of the Air Force asked Hope to hit the road again, this time to entertain airmen involved in the dangerous business of transporting vital supplies to West Berlin, blockaded by the Soviet Union. Flying under harrowing conditions, Hope and his USO gang of renown took the stage on Christmas day in an old Berlin music hall and proceeded to bring down the house. At the end of the laughter-filled night, Hope’s wife, Dolores, sang “Silent Night”in her beautiful voice, bringing poignant memories of home. That show was the very first Christmas Show and would be followed by scores more, all over the world, until the “Last Christmas Show” in Saigon in 1972. But it was hardly the last. Each Christmas that followed, he was somewhere in the country, performing at a military base or a veterans hospital and he continued to crisscross the globe entertaining troops wherever they were. In 1983 the call came from Beirut and Hope went. Then, four years later, it was the Persian Gulf and bases and installations in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Finally, in December of 1990, Bob Hope put on his show for the last time, performing for the troops of Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia. He was 87 years old.
For 49 years, Hope made America’s troops forget their troubles, if only momentarily, and inspired in them the idea that everything would be alright, even in the face of wartime devastation and tragedy. They came away from his performances stronger, prouder, braver. He had a powerful weapon and he used it to fight fear and loneliness and inspire joy and peace. That weapon was humor. With it, he was a great warrior and a weapon of mass morale. The man named Hope personified that very word for American troops and the nation is grateful.
Over the course of his 50 years of commitment to America’s servicemen and women, Hope was showered with honors, awards and tributes including the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award. He had everything from airports to ships named after him and he was even made an Honorary Knight by the Queen of England. But the honor that most touched him was when Congress made him an Honorary Veteran of the United States Armed Forces in 1997. Hope was the first American of only two to be so honored. Upon receiving the award, he said, “I’ve been given many awards in my lifetime but to be
numbered among the men and women I admire most, is the greatest honor I have ever received.”
Some of Bob Hope’s military memorabilia and awards are on exhibit at the Library of Congress or with the World Golf Hall of Fame traveling exhibit. However, it was Bob and Dolores Hope’s wish that those military items not on exhibit, should go to auction so that fans and friends could enjoy them. Julien’s Auctions is proud to announce the exclusive auction of Property from the Collection of Bob and Dolores Hope to take place on Sept. 20-21 at Julien’s Auctions’ Beverly Hills gallery.
The auction will include Hope’s treasured military memorabilia from trinkets given to him during the USO shows to an American flag that flew on the moon on the last lunar landing of Apollo XVII. Other Hope memorabilia includes signed Presidential books and photographs, award plaques, trophies, figurines and novelty items from political luminaries, celebrities and fans. All proceeds from the sale of Property from the Collection of Bob and Dolores Hope will go to the Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation to support America’s veterans and to help feed the poor.
All of the property in the auction will be featured in a full color limited edition catalog available for purchase at www.juliensauctions.com or the catalog can be viewed online at the same site.
Property From The Estate of Bob and Dolores Hope Exhibition Dates:
Monday, Sept. 9-Thursday, Sept.19
(10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Daily – Closed Sundays)
Property From The Estate of Bob and Dolores Hope Auction
Friday, Sept. 20
Session I: 10 a.m. P.S.T.
Session II: 2 p.m. P.S.T.
Saturday, Sept. 21
Session I: 10 a.m. P.S.T.
Session II: 2 p.m. P.S.T.
Exhibition and Auction Location
Julien’s Auctions Beverly Hills
9665 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Registering to Bid: Registration is required to bid in this live auction and can be done in person at the exhibition and auction, or online before the sale at JuliensAuctions.com Registration page to bid by phone, proxy or in person, or online at JuliensLive.com to bid live online, or by calling (310) 836-1818.