Bob Hope died today (July 27) in 2003 at age 100. One of the most popular, and recognizable entertainers in the world he performed in vaudeville, on Broadway, was a huge movie star, was a fixture on television for 50 years and performed 57 USO tours across the world in front of American soldiers. And yet, he went out of his way to spend three minutes with me in 1978.
I was a student at Francis Marion College in Florence, SC and working part-time on the campus grounds crew. It was a Saturday morning in late September and I was mowing the grass around the Smith University Center – Bob Hope was performing later that night. As I was mowing a large tour bus pulled up to the Center (200 feet away) and several people got out, including Mr. Hope. Everyone else entered the building, except Hope. He shaded his hand over his eyes and walked across the parking lot to where I was mowing.
As he approached I switched off the mower. He stuck out his hand, “Hi, I’m Bob Hope. Are you a student here?” he asked. When I said I was, he asked me, “What are you studying?”
Over the next few minutes he asked me “Where are you from?” and “What are your plans after graduation?” Then he said, “Whatever else you do, make sure you travel and see some of the world and America. Good luck, young man.”
As he turned to leave I managed to say, “Mr. Hope, it was an honor to meet you.” He stopped and said, “Well, I thank you, but I’m just an entertainer who got lucky. I’m not that important.”
“Mr. Hope,” I called out, “who’s the sexiest woman you’ve ever performed with?’
Without a pause he called out, “Ann Margret!” and he waved and strolled inside the building.
About five minutes later one of his staff people came out and brought me a bottle of Coke. “Mr. Hope said to make sure you got this,” the staff member said.
Not only was Bob Hope an American treasure, he admitted what every American man knows … Ann Margret is smokin’!