Bob Hope dies at 100; comedian had advocated against antigay violence
Comedian Bob Hope, who parlayed an uncanny sense of timing and ability to toss off one-line jokes into a legendary show-business career, has died peacefully at age 100 with his family at his side, a family spokesman said on Monday. Hope died of pneumonia on Sunday night at 9:28 p.m. at his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Toluca Lake, spokesman Ward Grant said.
Although the spot never aired, Hope had recorded a public service announcement for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation decrying antigay violence. The 1988 PSA can be viewed at www.commercialcloset.org.
In a statement issued to reporters outside the family home, Hope's wife of 69 years, Dolores Hope, asked friends and fans to celebrate his life, not just mourn his passing. "While we mourn the passing of such a wonderful and remarkable man, we ask that his friends and fans celebrate his life, a life that Bob loved and lived to the fullest." Hope is survived by his wife; two sons, Anthony and Kelly; two daughters, Linda Hope and Nora Somers; and four grandchildren. The family said the burial would be private and for immediate family only and that details on a permanent memorial would be announced at a later date.
Hope, who was born in England, was the ultimate comedian, a master of timing who turned the one-liner into an art form and became a national institution. His career, which included stints as an amateur boxer, minstrel in black face, and dancer, spanned seven decades in which he starred in five mediums: vaudeville, radio, stage, movies, and television. Virtually running his own joke factory by employing almost 100 writers, Hope was able to draw on a collection of hundreds of thousands of jokes that specialized in sexual double entendres, gags about his ski-slope nose, and lines that paid homage to his decided lack of humility and willingness to con anyone.
Hope was one of the first superstars and one of the 20th century's greatest comedians. He also pioneered with Bing Crosby one of Hollywood's most enduring film genres--the buddy movie. Crosby and Hope became one of the screen's great couples in a succession of Road movies beginning with 1940's Road to Singapore, which was originally a serious drama called The Road to Mandalay that was turned into a comedy first for George Burns and Gracie Allen and then for Jack Oakie and Fred MacMurray, all of whom turned it down.
During the Vietnam War, Hope was criticized for being a "hawk" who supported the conflict. But he said he was really a middle-of-the-road supporter who wanted the war to end and even tried twice to visit Hanoi and arrange prisoner releases.