Brushes with Greatness - Bob Hope

Memories of Bob Hope
Bob Hope's Sex Advice

As you may know, I worked on several Bob Hope specials in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I learned a lot and although I didn’t make much money, I got a great story out of the deal.

Bob Hope is remembered as perhaps the most revered and beloved comedian of the twentieth century. The first time I met him I remember thinking, this is the hand that has shaken every important hand in the world. He was a friend to presidents, kings, and every lonely G.I. What was he like? Brilliant, powerful, funny, and the cheapest guy I ever worked for. There was no such thing as negotiation. Take it or leave it. I once told his producer, “We’re only a couple of thousand dollars apart, that money has to mean a lot more to me than to Bob”, His blunt reply, “If you think that, you don’t know Bob Hope”. Every piece of clothing I ever saw him in was a “freebee” with the name of some golf tournament stamped on it, he drove a free Chrysler, he used free Texaco, he also owned half of Burbank.

His comedic timing was a product of 70 years of telling people jokes and he had a card catalog room where he saved every joke anyone had ever written for him so he wouldn’t have to buy new ones. In his later years when the laughter stopped, he’d just pause in silence reacting to the laughter he would add later in audio sweetening. He knew how long they should have laughed. In the radio days, he would walk in, read the script and go home. He treated a TV show the same way, He’d walk in, read the cue cards, and go home.

Hope was a night owl, one night he came to see an edit at midnight and sat on the hood of his car parked on Vine Street talking to his producer until 3 AM. None of the night urchins bothered him. It was still “his street”.

The only annoying thing about working for a night owl is that he wants to have a meeting every night. By the mid-eighties, he’d play golf in the afternoon, have dinner, and go to the office. Once there he’d summon his writers, these were fun meetings, because everyone was out to make him laugh. One night we were sitting around and there was nothing to do. There was nothing new to write, they hadn’t booked anyone new, I hadn’t edited anything new. After about 5 minutes it was painfully obvious we didn’t need to be there. “Can we go now?” asked one of his ancient writers. “Wait a minute, let me make a call”. Now the writers began speculating out loud “Who are you calling Bob, Miss America 1912? I heard she died!” As the razzing continued and the familiarity in the room grew, I chimed in “What’s sex like when you’re over 80?” (I later found out, he was only 79) The room stopped, Bob turned and glared at me across his big desk. What had I done? Why had I opened my mouth? With the great man’s steel gray eyes burning through me, he finally spoke, “Phil, do you like to fuck?” My head was swelling with blood. What could I possible answer? After an eternity of stomach churning anxiety, I finally choked up an answer. “Yes sir, I do”. “Then go home and do it while you still can!” The room erupted into laughter, then after a few seconds, the writers started in again. “Didn’t you write that joke?” “No, I didn’t’ write it I think Milton Berle’s brother wrote that one” I felt relieved it was over, but for one inglorious moment, I had been Bob Hope’s straight man. All Rights Reserved 2012