By AUDREY FISCHER
When the Library of Congress honored 78 “Living Legends” as part of its Bicentennial celebration on April 24, 2000, Bob Hope was included among the notables who were recognized for their contributions to America’s diverse cultural, scientific and social heritage.
On May 9, 2000, the Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment opened in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building with a visit by the legendary comedian and his family (see Information Bulletin, June 2000). The inaugural exhibition, “Bob Hope and American Variety,” celebrated Hope’s contributions to vaudeville and other aspects of American entertainment. The exhibition, which can be viewed online at www.loc.gov/exhibits/bobhope/, featured items from the Bob Hope Collection, which was donated to the Library beginning in 1998, and additional materials from the Library’s vast holdings.
The Library of Congress celebrated Bob Hope’s 100th birthday in May 2003 with “The Bob Hope Revue,” a specially written variety show featuring some of the songs, dances, skits and comedy routines with which Bob Hope entertained millions during his extraordinary 75-year career.
Made possible by a special gift from the Hope family, the program was emceed by Dick Cavett, a comedian whose own work was strongly influenced by Hope. Cavett was joined by three award-winning performers from the Broadway stage—Sally Mayes, Kirby Ward and Danny Gurwin. The trio performed many of the great songs first introduced by Hope and renditions of a few of the lesser-known songs written for him by some of America’s greatest songwriters.
In a special segment planned by the American Folklife Center’s Veterans History Project, son Tony Hope—with famous dancers Fayard Nicholas and Patty Thomas, as well as director Jack Shea—shared with the audience memories of the tours they made with Bob Hope to entertain American armed forces during World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Hope’s commitment to public service for nearly 50 years on behalf of the men and women in the armed forces earned him many honors, including the U. S. Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Following Hope’s death on July 27, 2003, at age 100, fans flocked to the Library’s Bob Hope premiere exhibition to pay their respects and remember his legendary career (see Information Bulletin, July/August 2003).
The Library’s latest exhibition, “Hope for America: Performers, Politics & Pop Culture,” which opened in the Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment on June 11, 2010, is appealing to old fans and will introduce the beloved performer to a whole new generation.