Jewish World Review August 1, 2003 / 3 Menachem-Av, 5763

Greg Crosby

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It's All In The Timing | In comedy, as in life, timing is everything. Bob Hope always had great timing in both areas — and that timing was evident right up until his death on Sunday. No comedian, with the possible exception of Jack Benny, had comic timing as impeccable as Bob Hope had. Hope delivered punch lines and straight lines with equal precision. He had the dexterity of a well-trained boxer — set up, set up, then wham! — the punch. His performance timing was flawless. His timing in life was equally perfect.

Bob Hope's entry into show biz in the early 20's couldn't have been better timed for the energetic, fast-talking, young performer. Appearing on the Broadway stage when he did, in the show that he did (Roberta), was great timing, too. Meeting Dolores (who would be his wife for more than 69 years) when he did proved to be excellent timing for Bob Hope at that stage in his life.

Then came radio, movies, and television. He jumped into each of those with both feet at just the right time and became a success in every one. Hope was there for our troops in service at just the right time — giving our armed forces what they needed to keep their spirits up. And could there have been a better time for Bob Hope to start the USO?

And Bob Hope's timing was with him to the end of his life. Because celebrity is such a fleeting thing and because it needs to be constantly nurtured and revitalized, there's always the reality that an entertainment giant, even an icon such as Bob Hope, can fade from public consciousness if out of the limelight for a few years. This is especially true with the segment of the public who are under 30 years old — the MTV attention span gang.

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Before his 100th birthday celebration kicked off last April, a lot of people in that younger age group really didn't know Bob Hope. Oh sure, they 'd heard the name, but many had never seen a Hope picture or watched him perform when he was at the top of his game. They certainly didn't realize the breadth of the man's lifework. The "100 Years of Hope and Humor" TV special changed all that. Suddenly there was Bob Hope all over the place again.

Loving tributes filled magazines, newspapers, and television. His life story was recounted in every country on earth in dozens of languages. Many of his old pictures were released on DVD. Classic clips from Bob Hope movies and TV specials were broadcast on stations around the world. Young kids who'd thought a road picture was some animated video they'd watch while riding in the back seat of the SUV on family vacations discovered the funny man with the ski nose for the very first time.

Thanks to all the hoopla surrounding his 100th birthday, Bob Hope was once again in the forefront of world-wide celebrity — even among the under thirty crowd. Youngsters who might not have know him before, now had an awareness and an appreciation for the man who defined show business in the 20th Century. Had he passed away a year or even six months earlier it wouldn't have had quite the impact. Had he left us a year or two later it wouldn't have been the same either.

Bob Hope made his final exit just two months after his 100th birthday — when the world, which had always loved him, became recently reacquainted with his work, his life, and the man himself. Bob Hope's star never shone brighter than it did last Sunday and Monday. His celebrity status was red-hot — as hot as it ever was. In the end he played for a cheering, world-wide audience. He knew how to finish big and he knew when to get off. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is timing.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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