On Bob Hope’s deathbed in 2003 the Very Reverend Jesse Jackson was ministering to the 100 year old comedian. And as the good reverend turned his dusky gaze skyward he beseeched God to, “Keep Hope alive! Keep hope alive! God Almighty we must keep hope alive!”
That evening all the clocks in Bob’s hometown of Toluca Lake were set ahead 1 hour so Bob could fall forward one last time. As death’s shadow lurked nearby, Mr. Hope beckoned his physician to come close. The doctor placed his ear near Bob’s mouth and heard him haltingly express in a raspy voice, “Hey Doc…that Murine Ear Wax Removal system – you really should use it. Seriously Doc. Yuck.”
Later that same evening Bob summoned Tony Danza who arrived fresh from a dinner theater engagement at The Velvet Turtle. The former Taxi and Who’s the Boss? star revered Mr. Hope and Bob had something of great importance to tell the streetsmart entertainer. Mr. Danza leaned over and placed his ear close to Bob’s mouth while Bob unburdened himself with a death bed confession of sorts:
Tony Danza: What is it Mr. Hope? What can I do for you?
Bob Hope: Thank God you came Tony. And just in time too.
TD: (tearing up) How can I help?
BH: First Tony, you can knock off that phony Brooklyn accent.
TD: Yes, Mr. Hope. Anything you aks.
BH Come close.
TD: I’m right here.
BH: (examining Tony’s ears) I see you got the word on the Murine Ear Wax Removal system. Good job son.
TD: Aaah, maybe I should leave now. I’ve got a second show to do.
BH: No. No. Tony. What I have to tell you is bigger than ear wax. Much bigger. I have to share it with someone who’ll understand. That’s why I asked for you.
TD Yes of course Mr. Hope. Well what is it then?
BH: It’s the Earth. I must tell you.
TD: What? What about the Earth Mr. Hope? Tell me what?
BH: It (the Earth) is in parentheses.
Regular Nap Time
By now (it was later than earlier, but before “a little later that evening”) Mr. Hope was exhausted and his wife Diamante insisted he nap. Whenever he took one his famous 15 minute restorative catnaps, Diamante would facilitate Bob’s slumber by rearranging the letters of her name so Bob could fall asleep. No one understood how this process worked or where this alphabetic reordering took place, but it worked. And just before Bob awoke, Diamante would hurry to reconfigure her name back to its original spelling so he’d awaken refreshed and animated, which of course is an anagram of Diamante.
Dirt Nap Time
A little later that evening Mr. Hope was no more. After thanking his wife for the memories, he peacably expired. Friend and fellow screen legend Bing Crosby (who’d been waiting years for Mr. Hope’s passing) ambled by to escort his now deceased partner to their final “Road” picture – The Road to St. Peter’s Gate. Dorothy Lamour was scheduled to escort them but was unavailable due to a contractual dispute with Warner Bros (The studio system may be dead on earth, but in heaven it thrives).
In no time (actually it took some time) the centenarian and Der Bingle arrived at the pearly gates and St. Peter explained the itinerary. “Mr. Hope. You’re looking well – I mean considering. By the authority vested in me by you know who, I’m here to convey the plan He has set forth for you. Do you understand this?”
BH: Ahhh sure Pietro. Say Bing, would you help me with something?
Bing: Why certainly, what’s that Robert?
BH: Bing, would you re-convey to this USO Private that nobody tells Bob Hope where he does and doesn’t work. Nobody. Tell him I had a contract with NBC for 60 years – back when he was known as Little Petey Vobiscum from Padua. So neither on earth nor in the netherworlds will some one stripe manager do my bookings. Comprende. How does he expect me to take him seriously? I mean for Pete’s sake, it’s almost 2:00 pm and he’s still wearing his robe.
Bing: Why of course, Mr. Hope. I’ll be happy to re-convey same to Pvt. Vobiscum. (to St. Peter) Say GI Pete would you…
SP: (Interupting) Guys this isn’t a movie. You’re here at the Pearly Gates not Paramount’s gates.
BH: Now listen here your clergyness. Allow Bing and me to present our feelings on the matter:
BH & Bing: Patty cake Patty cake. Baker’s man.
Take me to Pebble Beach as fast as you can.
BH: Now stick your plans in Zamfir’s pan flute and smoke’m! We’re off on the Road to the Old Crosby Clambake.
SP: Yes my son. The final desperate gasps of a deceased comedian. Look, you have to realize, although it doesn’t yet seem that way, you’re not Bob Hope any more. You’ve been stripped of his clothing and his clubs. You’re just another beautiful soul scheduled for reassignment. Now we’ve gone over your sparkling career and except for 1966’s Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number with Elke Sommer, you did some great work and brought happiness to millions of servicemen in the forms of Ann Margaret and Raquel Welch. Just one more reincarnation and you’re free to enter God’s Kingdom.
BH: Hold on, hold on here Petey. My agent didn’t say anything about a repeat performance. Show’s over. I’m done. It’s back to Palm Springs for Bwana.
SP: No Bob I’m sorry but Karmic law is exacting for everyone. You’re returning to earth for one more lifetime.
BH: Really. Is it sponsored by Texaco? What’s my percentage? And who will I be in this next life?
SP: This is the toughest part of the job. There’s no sponsorship or percentage. You’ll be returning, and for the last time I might add, as Shirley MacLaine’s teacup chihuahua.
BH: Warren Beatty’s sister’s dog! Now c’mon pops. I don’t know if that’s a punch line or a straight line. No it’s a punch line because it just knocked the wind out of me. Bing? Bing? Oh there you are Bing. Quick, bring me a tall cool glass of Connie Stevens.
Bing: Right away rapid Robert. (he returns shortly ) Ah sorry no can do Squire Hope. Universal says Connie is unavailable. Another contract dispute, but they say you can have Joey Heatherton for 6 weeks
BH: Six weeks. What are you talkin’ about six weeks. I only want her for about half an hour – Rurrrr (trademark lecherous growl). Listen St. Pete. Do I really have to come back to earth?
SP: Don’t worry Ӂ (symbol for the artist formerly known as Bob Hope). We’ll see your soul back here very soon. As you know, Ms. MacLaine is highly aware of past lives and even though you’re only a little teacup chihuahua, she recognizes you as Bob Hope. Maybe it’s the nose.
Ӂ: Boy, did I get a wrong number.
As Ӂ begins to fade away into his next incarnation we hear him muttering, “Elke, Elke? Is that you?”