View From The Middle
Now This "Secret" Bob Hope Story Can Be Told
There have been wonderful testimonials, to be sure, along with hours-long treatises and biographies and more testimonials to Bob Hope, who died at the age of 100 last week. Now that so many of those wonderful eulogies have been said — with laughter and with tears — I feel it’s time I added my own.
Indeed, my own little story has to deal with a "secret," if you will, I shared with the comedian and, according to Mr. Hope, only a few other people. Mind you, he told me to keep his secret quiet, asking that I promise to do so, which I did. Frankly, I didn’t know whether he was being serious or just gibing me, as he was prone to do, tongue in cheek, with others on many occasions. However, I kept my promise until now. I think he’ll understand.
NBC, with whom I was working at the time, was divided into separate divisions, News and Entertain-ment. Every once in awhile, the divisions would join, especially when the entertainment group was featuring a show using news division correspondents or anchors.
When Bob Hope was doing one of his specials for the entertainment side, I was assigned to the show as a coordinator with the news section (I had just joined NBC News as a production assistant and I guess they didn’t know what else to do with me!). For the most part, my visiting the Hope set was a token post, and, frankly, I was privileged to just stand around looking as important as I could.
Anyway…to get back to the "secret"…
Bob Hope slept standing up!
I caught him and he caught me catching him and made me make that big promise.
While enmeshed in a conversation with some of the production staff and writers on the show, I happened to look across the room to see him standing against a wall. He was all alone, and staff members who had been associated with him seemed to tone down their conversations as they passed. Since this was the first time I had seen this giant among giants in my industry in person, I jumped at the chance to walk over and at least shake hands with him. Let’s face it, you can be sophisticated just so much, but seeing this icon was something special!
I started to approach him and one of his assistants said, "Ya better not. That’s not done." That stopped me, of course, about three feet from him.
I muttered, "Sorry," and, in a flash, Bob Hope opened one eye and looked at me and said, "He’s right. Ya better not!" Then he smiled and said, "Good morning, I had a great sleep."
After I introduced myself, he told me that "a few times a day" he would find a quiet corner where he could lean against a wall and close his eyes for about ten minutes. "It’s what keeps me going and working these long hours," he said. "I only wish I could lock my legs like a horse while I sleep." He did note that I was being privileged to his secret. "Only a few of my friends know about this," I remember him saying. "You’ll keep my secret, right?"
Thanks for the memory, Mr. Hope.