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Bob Hope

Leslie Townes Hope (May 29, 1903 - July 27, 2003), best known as Bob Hope, was a famous entertainer, having appeared in vaudeville, on Broadway, on radio and television, movies and in army concerts. Hope became famous with several Broadway musicals including "Say When," the 1936 Ziegfeld Follies and "Red, Hot and Blue." Before becoming an actor, Hope boxed professionally under the boxing nickname of Packey East.

Hope was born in Eltham, England, as fifth of seven sons. His English father, William Henry Hope, was a stonemason from Weston-super-Mare and his Welsh mother, Avis Townes, was a light opera singer. The family lived in Weston-super-Mare, Whitehall and St. George in Bristol before moving to Cleveland, Ohio in 1907. He became a United States citizen in 1920.

According to biographer Arthur Marx, Hope married his first wife, Grace Louise Troxell, his vaudeville partner since 1928, on January 25, 1933; they were quickly divorced. He married his second wife, reportedly on February 19, 1934, Dolores DeFina, a Bronx-born nightclub singer professionally known as Dolores Reade. They had met two months previously, at The Vogue, a Manhattan nightclub where Reade was performing. Dolores and Bob Hope had four children - all adopted from the same Evanston, Ill., orphanage - and remained together until his death.

In his 1938 film The Big Broadcast Of 1938, he introduced the song that became his trademark: Thanks for the Memories.

Hope starred in several one-reel comedies for Warner Bros. and from there his movie career accelerated quickly. As a movie star he was best known for the "Road To..." series of pictures in which he was paired with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, as well as the movie My Favorite Brunette. He never won any Oscars for these, though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, honored him five times—with two honorary Oscarss, two special awards and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. As host of the Academy Awards - a role he filled numerous times from the 1950s to the 1980s - he once joked about Oscar time, "Or as it's known at my house, Passover."

Hope made big money performing live: An eight-week tour in 1940 took in a then-record $100,000 in receipts, according to newspaper reports. The next year, he did a show for free.

Bob Hope, Lackland Air Force Base, 1990
On May 6, 1941 at California's March Field, Hope performed his first USO show. He continued entertaining troops for the rest of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War all the way until the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War. He took the matter to heart when entertaining and was almost always seen in army duds, just like his audience, as a sign of support for the troops for whom he performed. Hope's USO career spanned six decades, during which he headlined approximately 60 tours.

Hope was also renowned for his passion for sports. He boxed professionally, was a pool hustler, watched football and even owned part of the Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Rams. Hope is mostly remembered for his passion of golf, and even played in a few PGA tour events. In honor of America's most beloved entertainer, there's even the Hope/Chrysler Classic named after him, which is now in its 44th year. He also golfed with nearly every President of the United States from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush.

In 1997, Hope was honored by the United States Congress with the title "Honorary Veteran of the United States Armed Forces" during an October 29 tribute. It was given him in recognition of the entertainment he provided US troops during war and peacekeeping missions.

Hope celebrated his 100th birthday on May 29, 2003, and might rival Irving Berlin or George Burns as the most notable entertainment centenarian. In honor of Hope on his birthday, the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in Los Angeles, California was christened Bob Hope Square. His centennial was declared Bob Hope Day in 35 U.S. states. Hope celebrated his birthday privately in his Toluca Lake home where he had lived since 1937. Even at 100 years of age, Hope maintained his sense of humor, quipping "I'm so old, they've canceled my blood type." And according to one of Hope's daughters, when asked on his deathbed where he wanted to be buried, he told his wife, "Surprise me." He died two months later of pneumonia at 9:28 PM July 27, 2003 at his home in Toluca Lake, north of Hollywood.


USNS Bob Hope (T-AKR-300), one of the few naval vessels to be named for a living person, was named in his honor.

On 3 November 2003 the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority voted unanimously to rename that airport to "Bob Hope Airport." Hope had joked with his family that he wanted an airport named for him after hearing in 1979 that Orange County officials renamed their airport after Hope's friend John Wayne. On 18 November 2003 the Glendale and Burbank city councils voted unanimously to approve the change, and Pasadena followed on 10 December. The process of changing the name began immediately, though the FAA-given, three-letter designation, "BUR," most likely will not change. A gala rededication is planned (as of 11 December) for 17 December, which is the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first powered flight.

In 1965 the PGA renamed an existing tournament the Bob Hope Desert Classic in recognition of the comedian's lifelong passion for the game.

Bob Hope Square is a landmark in Hollywood, California.

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