For Bob Hope, old age also has its advantages. For one, it provides the master wisecracker with new material for his monologues. America's perennial comedian with a nose like a parenthesis and a basset hound deadpan has been laying his droll one-liners on audiences for more than six decades. He has worked in stage, radio, movies and TV, entertained nine Presidents, more than 10 million servicemen and is the most decorated civilian in the U.S. To celebrate his 82nd birthday and his 35 years in television, NBC will air Bob Hope's Happy Birthday Homecoming—A Royal London Gala on May 28, a day before the actual event. Our own contribution to the festivities is an anthology of Hope's gags and scripted witticisms over the last 35 years.
May 27, 1950 (shortly after his Easter Sunday television debut):
It's amazing how many people see you on TV. I did my first television show a month ago, and the next day five million television sets were sold. The people who couldn't sell theirs threw them away.
March 29, 1953 (during Sen. Joseph McCarthy's hearings on alleged Communists in government):
"It is wonderful in the spring to watch the birds teaching their young to fly...and I saw my first robin bluebreast the other day. They changed from redbreast out here...they were afraid they might get investigated."
Nov. 15, 1955 (after Dwight Eisenhower's heart attack):
"The President is getting wonderful care at the hospital, but he suspects one nurse of being a Democrat. Every time she makes his bed, she says, 'It's time for a change.' "
Oct. 21, 1956 (during the Eisenhower-Stevenson campaign):
"Nixon says every family will have two cars, three TV sets and only work four days a week. But Stevenson's gone him one better...he's trying to fix it so the Republicans won't have to work at all."
March 10, 1957:
"Yul Brynner was nominated for an Academy Award for The King and I...Yul really deserves an award. He's worked hard at his craft...just think of the nights he's sat up with nothing but a magnifying mirror and a tweezer."
Oct. 3, 1960 (during the Kennedy-Nixon presidential campaign):
"Everyone's talking about how young the candidates are. And it's true. A few months ago Kennedy's mother said, 'You have a choice...do you want to go to camp this year or run for President?' "
Feb. 24, 1962 (after John Glenn's orbit in space):
"The flight made history. Imagine, an American going around the world without a checkbook...and it was also quite an advance in medical history. We found out what happens when a capsule takes a man."
Oct. 25, 1963:
"The [proposed U.S. wheat deal to Russia] nearly fell through. Khrushchev agreed to $375 million but tried to back out when he discovered we didn't give Green Stamps...two more books and he can get Stalin into Forest Lawn."
Feb. 14, 1964:
"I see the Beatles have arrived from England. They were 40 pounds overweight, and that was just their hair."
Jan. 18, 1967 (with American troops in Vietnam):
"Very happy to be here at Tan Son Nhut [airbase] once again. Tan Son Nhut, better known as 'Twitch City.' Every time a Jeep backfires, so many people jump in the air you have to take a number to get in the landing pattern."
Nov. 29, 1967:
"It's a thrill to be speaking here at UCLA, which only proves how liberal our universities have become. A few years ago the only way they'd have accepted me would be in a jar."
April 15, 1973:
"It's April, that wonderful time of the year when you put your hand in your pocket and find another hand already there...Uncle Sam's!"
April 8, 1975:
"I have a wonderful tax man, but it's getting hard to work with him. Every time we're making some headway, the guard says, 'Visiting time is up.' "
Oct. 29, 1976:
"I think CB radios are great. How else could grown men get away with calling each other Rubber Duck and Teddy Bear?"
May 22, 1982:
"That's America for you. They won't let kids pray in school, but they put Bibles in motels."
Dec. 19, 1983:
"Howard Cosell has a fitness video coming out. After eight weeks you'll be able to lift a 50-pound barbell with your tongue."
Dec. 16, 1984:
"Everyone in Washington is talking about the President's $12 million inauguration. Only in America would we spend $12 million to honor a man dedicated to cutting spending."
May 14, 1985 (at the taping of his 82nd birthday show starring Brooke Shields
and Charlton Heston):
"I think it's wonderful you all could be here for the 43rd anniversary of my 39th birthday...we decided not to light the candles this year...we were afraid Pan Am would mistake it for a runway."
Being 82 is getting up in the middle of the night as often as Burt Reynolds. But not for the same reason.