Bob Hope dead at 100
As theme song said, 'Thanks for the memory'
(CNN) -- Bob Hope, the legendary comedian whose quick wit, daring personality and ski-sloped nose made him an icon of 20th-century entertainment, has died. He was 100.
Hope died at 9:28 p.m. Sunday (12:28 a.m. Monday ET) at his home in Toluca Lake, north of Hollywood, his publicist, Ward Grant, told CNN. His death came less than two months after his 100th birthday, which was celebrated May 29.
"Dad had an amazing send-off. All of the family was together with him and he died very peacefully last night, just about 9:30," his daughter Linda said at a press conference. "I don't think you could have asked for a more peaceful, beautiful death. And I think all the good vibes that he put out during his lifetime came back to take him up."
"Making people happy, bringing joy to whatever room he came into -- I think that was his goal in life, and he shared that with his family as much as he shared that with the world," his granddaughter, Miranda Hope, told CNN Monday morning. (Hope remembered)
Hope's career covered almost every example of mass entertainment of the 20th century. He first earned fame on the vaudeville circuit, starred on the Broadway stage, moved over to movies and radio, then made generations laugh with five decades of television specials.
Moreover, he was a tireless stage performer, particularly when it came to military audiences. Hope was synonymous with entertaining U.S. troops, putting on shows during World War II, Korea, Vietnam and on through the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Hope's efforts earned him the monikers of "Mr. Entertainment" and "The King of Comedy." He appeared in more than 75 films, starred in more than 475 TV programs and 1,000-plus radio programs.
Most of all, he was a master of the one-liner -- and he was often his own best target.
"I want to tell you, I was built like an athlete once -- big chest, hard stomach. Of course, that's all behind me now," went one of his jokes.
And, referring to his frequent Oscar duties but lack of success at winning, one year he welcomed audiences to the Academy Awards -- "or, as it's called at my house, Passover."
Even presidents -- many of whom he counted as friends -- weren't immune to his barbs. "I bumped into Gerald Ford the other day," went another gag. "I said, 'Pardon me.' He said, 'I don't do that anymore.' "
"Bob Hope made us laugh, and he lifted our spirits," President Bush said Monday.
The president also issued a proclamation calling Hope one of the nation's "great treasures" and declared that flags at U.S. government buildings, installations and military posts around the world would be flown at half-staff on the day of Hope's interment.
"By tirelessly entertaining America's troops, he demonstrated his extraordinary love of country and devotion to the men and women who have served our military," Bush said.
Entering the business
Bob Hope was born Leslie Townes Hope on May 29, 1903, in Eltham, England. He was the fifth of seven sons of William Henry Hope and Avis Townes Hope.
His family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, when he was 4. He received his first taste of show business in 1915 when he won a Charlie Chaplin imitation contest.
As a child, Hope had a variety of jobs, including selling newspapers and working in a shoe store. He also worked as a caddy and developed a lifelong fondness for golf.
He boxed for a time under the name Packy East -- "I was on more canvases than Picasso" -- and also tried a semester in college before devoting himself to show business. He quickly veered from song and dance to comedy patter, and his monologue routine was born.
He took to vaudeville by the 1920s and started using the stage name "Bob" in 1928. By the early '30s he was on top of the vaudeville world and moved over to Broadway with the 1933 musical "Roberta." During "Roberta," he met nightclub singer Dolores Reade and invited her to the show. They married in 1934.
Hope made it to the silver screen with "The Big Broadcast of 1938." He teamed with Shirley Ross on the Oscar-winning song "Thanks for the Memory." The tune became a signature theme for Hope.
Hope's film career really took off with the highly popular series of "Road" movies with Bing Crosby -- among them "Road to Singapore," "Road to Morocco" and "Road to Rio."
Many critics believe his finest performance came in 1948's "The Paleface," in which he starred as a dentist, "Painless" Potter, whose persona was summed up by the double-edged line, "Brave men run in my family."
Being of service
But movies were just the tip of the iceberg in Hope's career as an entertainer. He also created and starred in an NBC radio show that went on for 18 years and 1,145 programs.
In 1941, he began visiting U.S. troops. He had tried to enlist but was told he could be of more use as an entertainer. He played his first camp show at California's March Field on May 6, 1941, seven months before Pearl Harbor.
In 1948, Hope held a Christmas show in Berlin, Germany, for troops involved in the Berlin airlift. Being on the road for the troops became a Christmas tradition for the comedian.
He headlined in so many war zones, The Associated Press noted, that he had a standard joke for the times he was interrupted by gunfire: "I wonder which one of my pictures they saw?"
So often was Hope away entertaining, and so little did he see his wife and their four adopted children, that he once remarked, "When I get home these days, my kids think I've been booked on a personal appearance tour."
"It's as if every one of [the soldiers] was his kid brother," Dolores Hope once said.
By 1953, he had performed before nearly 1 million servicemen at some 400 camps, naval stations and military hospitals around the world.
His 1966 Vietnam Christmas show, when televised, was watched by an estimated 65 million people, the largest audience of his career.
Hope at first was hawkish on Vietnam. Later, he said he was "just praying they get an honorable peace so our guys don't have to fight. I've seen too many wars."
In 1990, he traveled to the Persian Gulf to entertain troops preparing for war with Iraq. Because Saudi Arabia bars female entertainers, he had to leave Marie Osmond and the Pointer Sisters behind in Bahrain.
"They have their religion and their beliefs and you have to kind of abide by it," he said. "What bothers me is they don't want any entertainment and they still invited me."
Master of many media
Television was not immune to Hope's charisma, either. In 1950, he signed a deal with NBC that eventually turned into 40-plus years of TV specials -- more than 475 programs and specials, many of which swept the Nielsen ratings.
Late in his career, Hope spoke to new generations of television viewers through his annual song, dance and comedy Christmas specials on NBC.
Hope also became one of America's most famous amateur golfers. "Golf is my real profession," Hope once said. "Show business pays my green fees."
Each year he hosted the Bob Hope Classic; the tournament, still played by tour pros, is now called the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
He freely acknowledged that many of his jokes were written by his writing staff -- but was shrewd enough to hold onto almost all of them. He had filing cabinets full of the one-liners, and he used them for decades.
In 1997, Congress named Hope an honorary U.S. veteran, citing his decades of entertaining troops around the world. He was the first person to receive that extremely rare distinction.
When informed of the honor, Hope was uncharacteristically serious. "I've been given many awards in my lifetime," he said, "but to be numbered among the men and women I admire the most is the greatest honor I have ever received."
Hope made a fortune investing in southern California real estate. In 1983, Forbes magazine estimated his wealth a $200 million, a figure Hope denied.
He was a generous man as well. Over the years he donated more than a billion dollars to hospitals, charities and civic organizations.
Hope's awards included scores of honorary degrees; special Oscars for humanitarianism and service to the film industry; the George Peabody Award; the National Conference of Christians and Jews Award; and the Medal of Freedom from President Kennedy. He received honorary knighthood in England in 1998.
He was the author or co-author of 10 books, including "I Owe Russia $1200" and his 1990 autobiography, "Don't Shoot, It's Only Me."
Hope is survived by his wife, Dolores, their four adopted children -- Linda, Anthony, Nora and Kelly -- and four grandchildren.
His family will hold a private burial and an August 27 funeral Mass for relatives and close friends. A memorial for the entertainment community will follow that service.
For all his honors and awards and fame, noted Linda Hope at the Monday press conference, he lived for the joy of laughter.
"I think the things that brought him most joy was laughter and applause," she said. "He loved to make people laugh and make people happy, forget what was going on in their lives for a little bit of time. And that brought him a lot of satisfaction."
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