Nearly two months after he turned 100, legendary comedian Bob Hope — who entertained the public and Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bill Clinton — has died of pneumonia.
Hope died Sunday night at his home in Toluca Lake, Calif., where the British-born entertainer (who came to America when he was 3) was surrounded by his family at his side, Hope’s longtime publicist, Ward Grant, told the Associated Press Monday.
Hope was part of the nation’s cultural landscape since the early ’30s, when, after having proved himself a seasoned vaudeville and then Broadway force, conquered radio and then the movies. In 1939, he was also the first entertainer to appear on a fledgling medium called television.
President Bush said Monday that “the nation lost a great citizen. … Bob Hope served our nation when he went to battlefields to entertain thousands of troops from different generations.”
Indeed, Hope, beloved by servicemen, worked tirelessly to entertain troops during times of war and peace. His World War II shows boosted morale, and a tireless Hope — who said he would never retire and take up fishing, “because fish don’t applaud” — was still at it in the early ’90s, visiting fighting men and women in the Gulf War.
As always, he made them laugh. A sample (from his reputed library of 600,000 gags): “I want to tell you, I was built like an athlete once — big chest, hard stomach. Of course, that’s all behind me now.”
His accomplishments are truly too numerous to mention. He holds the record for hosting the Oscars, and once delivered what may be the best line ever uttered at the ceremony: “Welcome to the Academy Awards. Or, as it’s known at my house, Passover.”
His house — there were two, actually, the second being a massive, modern spread in Palm Springs — was first built in 1938 and expanded over the years, until the land covered seven acres. It was there that his wife of 69 years, Dolores, saw to the rearing of the Hopes’ four adopted children: Tony and Linda, born in 1936, and Nora and Kelly, born in 1939.
The five survive him, as do millions of fans.