The legendary entertainer Bob Hope will turn 100 next month, and friends and fans gathered in Hollywood Tuesday to celebrate his career. The comedian was named Hollywood's "Citizen of the Century" for his work as an entertainer, and his work entertaining U.S. troops overseas.
Bob Hope has been making people laugh since 1909, when the six-year-old immigrant from England mimicked comedian Charlie Chaplin in front of a Cleveland firehouse. As a teenager, he entered talent contests, where he honed his skills as a song-and-dance man. He went on to the Broadway stage, where he found his calling as a comic, and later gained fame on radio, in movies and television.
To mark his 100th birthday, friends and admirers gathered on Hollywood Boulevard to recall his career. Bob Hope has already received four plaques on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, and this time received another proclaiming him "Citizen of the Century"
The entertainer is frail and did not attend, but many who know him did. Comedienne Phyllis Diller is a friend who sometimes worked with him on television and in movies.
"We are all indebted to this wonderful man whose body of work will never be touched - 200 movies, 60 years in television, all the way back to vaudeville. What a guy, what a guy. And he's lived to be a century old, and any honor isn't big enough for him," she said.
Phyllis Diller was part of Bob Hope's troupe of entertainers who travelled to southeast Asia during the Vietnam War to boost the morale of U.S. troops. That was an annual Christmas tradition begun in the Second World War, which continued through wartime and peacetime for nearly six decades. Bob Hope's last trip overseas was at Christmas, 1990, when he entertained the troops of Operation Desert Storm stationed in Saudi Arabia.
Comedian Kelsey Grammer said he attended the tribute because of Bob Hope's work in bringing the country laughter. "And for my own sense of admiration that he did the job so well, laughter that has helped us through some very difficult days and has helped us to relish the good ones. Bob Hope's contribution to this country and to our society is invaluable," Mr. Grammer said.
Actress Eva Marie Saint is one of many performers who has appeared with Bob Hope on the screen, most notably in the 1956 film That Certain Feeling. An admirer of his comedy skills, she said his work in cheering the troops is what was really important.
"And through this war of late, I thought what those boys really need is Bob Hope. Happy Birthday, Bob," Ms. Saint said.
Dennis Miller is a popular comedian who has never met Bob Hope but has admired him since his childhood. He recalled Bob Hope's theme song, Thanks for the Memory.
"I want to thank Mr. Hope for the memories. I know he'll be here in 2103. I hope the rest of us are, so that we can sing his praises once again," Mr. Miller said.
The U.S. Congress has honored Bob Hope five times, including once when it named him an honorary veteran of the U.S. military. He is the only person in history given that tribute. He has also received an honorary British knighthood.
The NBC television network will offer its own tribute later this month with a two-hour special called 100 years of Hope and Humor. Bob Hope will turn 100 May 29.