September 26th I came home, from an engagement out of town, to have a message from the Bob Hope people. They asked me if I would like to close the Tribute with “Thanks for the Memory.” I had already received my invitation to attend the Mass and Tribute and felt honored just to be invited, let alone sing his signature song. They faxed me the new lyrics and told me there would be a TelePrompTer.
The next day I left my house at 8:50 A.M. to attend the 10 A.M. Mass at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, in Toluka Lake. All the streets connecting were closed off and I arrived with my red pass on the dashboard, just like President & Mrs. Gerald Ford, Nancy Reagan, Ex Gov. Pete Wilson, General Richard B.
Myers, Chairman of the Joint chief of staff, Senator Diane Feinstein and, of course, all the military and Entertainment Industry (Tom Selleck, Rachel Welch, Mickey Rooney, Phyllis Diller, Angela Lansbury, Sid Caesar and Larry King, to name a few). It was like I was being transported back in time, seeing so many people I had worked with in my youth. It was a beautiful Mass. The choir sang like angels. After singing beautiful hymns, America the Beautiful, Taps, and Thanks For The memory, a lady in front of me said, “If they keep this up, I’m going to have to use my sleeve.” After two hours we all traveled to Lakeside Country Club for lunch, which was wonderful.
Then at 2:15 P.M., I left for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, in North Hollywood (for the Tribute), which lasted 3 1/2 hours. I felt so grateful to be a part of this historical day.
They sat me front row center, next to Brooke Shields and Florence Henderson. Ronda Flemming came up to me and gave me a big hug. It felt like old times. Speaking of old times, this was the first time I’ve ever felt so young. Mort Lachman, Bob’s producer/director for years, and whom I got to know on the trip to Viet Nam had the best line of the day. He must be pushing 90. Mort’s words; “They said I have 3 minutes and it just took 5 minutes to get up here” (to the podium)
We all laughed and cried together. These great stars represented so much history in the entertainment field, and as I watched them struggle to get up on stage, it amazed me that once they were handed the microphone, the energy, timing and voice was just like I had remembered from my childhood. “Youth” is truly in the heart. And these people had lots of it.
Thanks for the Memory ended the show and by the way, no teleprompter. It didn’t really matter since everyone joined in singing the special lyric, printed on the back of the program. The most important fact was that we were all friends singing one last time to our beloved Bob!
Bob Hope was an American Treasure. Thanks for this Memory and all the years you gave us, Bob!