I saw an interview on PBS with Richards Zoglin, the author of a new biography about Bob Hope, “The Rise and Fall of Comedian Bob Hope.” It reminded me of some ups and downs I experienced with Hope many years ago.
It was our first charity golf tournament in the early 1980s. I was waiting at the doorway of the exclusive Lakeside Country Club in Toluca Lake, California, when the fire engine red Mercedes SL convertible roared up with its top down. Bob Hope was behind the wheel, arriving to play in President Gerald Ford’s foursome. Bob and Dolores Hope lived in a beautiful home overlooking the fairway. Bob always referred to it as, “his country club.”
We were thrilled that both Ford and Hope had agreed to help us with this event. I was also extremely anxious. As the CEO of the agency, I had a vested interest in making sure that nothing went wrong.
Unfortunately, the tournament got off to a bumpy start. At tee time, I learned President Ford’s caddy appeared on the first tee wearing a football helmet. Ford’s reputation for an erratic golf swing, made famous by comedian Chevy Chase, preceded him. His caddy’s friends had bet him $100 that the caddy wouldn’t dare wear it. He won the bet.
I nearly came unglued. I stomped up to the tee and said between clenched teeth, “Take that thing off your head this minute!”
President Ford, in his usual gentle way, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Judy, it’s not a problem. I’ve run into a lot worse things.” He stepped up to the tee.
Still rattled by the tee off mishap, I stood at attention as the driver turned off the car’s ignition. Hope had phoned earlier saying he would be late and asked for someone to meet him with a golf cart to drive him out to the hole where Ford was playing. No one else stepped up to be the driver, so I volunteered. Hope leaped out of his car and looked around. I beckoned him over to the golf cart I had waiting, and he jumped in the passenger side.
“Go like a bat out of hell,” he said.
A little explanation here: I am not a golfer and I had never driven a golf cart. Neither was I a veteran used to dealing with celebrities of Ford and Hope’s stature. On top of that, I did not know the course. After about three minutes of my driving, Hope yelled, “Stop this thing!”
At least I knew where the brake was. I eased to a stop. He got out and came over to my side.
“Move over. I’m driving.”
I have no clue how fast bats fly out of hell, but I doubt they could have won a race with Bob Hope flying across his golf course. If I hadn’t hung on, I would have been dumped out. We screeched up to the green where Ford was about to putt, and I came close to falling out again. He grabbed his clubs, walked towards the President without so much as a look back.
When the tournament was over, there was a celebratory cocktail party, and I joined President Ford and Hope at the head table. Ford welcomed me graciously, and Hope just looked me up and down and shook his head.
“Mr. President, do you know how this young lady spells GOLF?” Ford shook his head. “F-L-O-G!”
And he left to mingle with his fans.
A great stroke of luck connected me to Waterford Crystal before the tournament. They donated crystal trophies for both Ford and Hope. Ford expressed great gratitude in his speech for the crystal saying that his wife, Betty, collected it, and it would be easier for him to go home with this in tow.
As Hope was leaving, I heard him say to one of his staffers. “They sure gave us a lot of loot at this thing. Hope they ask me back next year.”
We did—and he came. Before the next tournament, however, I signed up for a course in both spelling and how to play golf!