Crowd enthralled by ‘Bob Hope’ and Company

By: 
Alastair Baker & Mary Allen
News Editor-Roberts Historian
Thursday, May 30, 2019

Photo by Alastair Baker
Bob Hope (William Johnson) and Phyillis Diller (PaMela Elver) perform at the USO gig.

Photo by Hank Nowak
Bob Hope clowning with Raquel Welch, Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam, Christmas 1967.

The gates to Camp Hope were flung open to the public last Saturday, with the Carbon County USA 2019 show taking center stage at the Roberts High School gym. 

The much-anticipated salute to the Carbon County Veterans’ Memorial Project began with a welcome from General Matthew T. Quinn, Adjutant General and head of the Department of Military Affairs for Montana. 

An energy-filled variety show ensued, paying tribute to Bob Hope and the renowned USO shows for U.S. military troops. 

Featured Las Vegas entertainer William (Bill) Johnson accurately portrayed the legendary “Mr. USO” Bob Hope throughout the two-hour show, utilizing Hope’s symbol golf club as a prop and making numerous attire changes to reflect the timeline of USO tours. 

His comedy monologues helped answer questions for young members of the audience, who were heard asking “Who is Bob Hope?” and “What is the USO?” 

Although never enlisted in the military, Hope is the only individual in history to earn the honor of “honorary veteran for humanitarian services to the United States Armed Forces,” as designated by Congress in 1997. 

Beginning in 1942 during WWII and ending with his final Christmas tour in 1990, when he traveled to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain during Operation Desert Storm, Hope headlined nearly 60 tours of variety show performances for U.S. troops stationed around the world. Those USO tours oftentimes took him to combat zones ranging from WWII Europe and Africa to Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East during the Gulf War.  

That USO (United Service Organizations), a non-profit, charitable corporation founded in 1945, provides morale, welfare and recreation-type services to U.S. uniformed military personnel, providing GIs with “a home away from home” while stationed or deployed throughout the world.    

Just as the original USO shows, the Carbon County USA 2019 show featured singing, skits celebrity appearances and more.   

From the initial song “Don’t say no to the USO” by the Joliet High School Singers to the closing “God Bless America” by the full cast and audience, the afternoon was jam packed with entertainment. Such greats as Mae West and Phyllis Diller (PaMela Elver) provided comedy, while legendary artists Bobby Darrin (Noah Grewell), Patsy Cline (Ann Daniel) and the Andrew Sisters (Malenie Arana, Lyric Fike and Mallory Simons) enthralled the audience. 

The amazing sounds of Homebrewed Harmony, with Marty Clague, Lew Gumper, Steve Hanson, Kalb-Koenigsfeld, Don Redfoot, Alan Schuyler and Howard Young, transported the crowd back to the Civil War era with their rendition of the classic “Tenting Tonight.” Performances by Daniel Kosel singing “American Home” and the exciting new band Roy Buzzard and the Bones (Roy Buzzard, Toby Falcon and Brenden Fritzler) added the final touches to an unforgettable kick-off to the Memorial Day weekend in Carbon County.

Major General Quinn thought the show was “terrific.” Quinn just missed seeing Bob Hope perform during both Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991 as he was always based elsewhere.  

“I thought the way he (Johnson) intertwined the history of Bob Hope's USO tours with the local acts was terrifically entertaining,” said Quinn. “The overall show I thought was incredible and is truly indicative of what small town America is and what a community committee can put on to recognize those who serve and those who have served.” 

“The standout moment(s) for me were the Joliet choir members,” he said. “I understand some have already graduated high school but still wanted to perform in the show.  That is a commitment from our youth that you don't see as often today.  Their voices were terrific and I am sure they will come away from this with a greater appreciation of service to our state and nation.”

“Again, I think the community of Roberts and the surrounding communities have shown what a community can do to recognize service,” he said.  “My wife and I came away again energized by the showing of support for all Veterans.  The audience was engaged and I know Veterans walked away with newfound pride in their service.”  

This event was made possible through generous support of major donors such as the Sibanye Stillwater Mine, Roberts Community Foundation and Cenex (CHS) Refinery, and hundreds of minor donors. The Roberts Activity Committee and the Carbon County USA 2019 Committee would like to join with Bob Hope in expressing their sincere “Thanks for the Memories” to all those who helped make this dream come true.

 

Carbon County Veterans and a resident recall their Bob Hope stories. 

The Bob Hope Experience

*Red Lodge’s Lance Bourquin saw Bob Hope, Ann Margret and Johnny Rivers perform in Chu Lai, Vietnam, during either August or September of 1965. “We were out on patrol and a helicopter came over and said we’re going to take you out of here for a while and we went down to the base and all of a sudden they came out,” said Bourquin. On their flight north to entertain the Marines at Chu Lai, Hope’s plane lost an engine on the way, and they arrived late. Hope then set the mood, opening with: “Other bases here in South Vietnam invited me; this one dared me!” 

 

*Paul Pilati, Troop Director, 8th Army, saw Bob Hope in the fall of 1951 in Korea. Pilati of Red Lodge, said, “He was wonderful, the whole group was wonderful.” Pilati recalls seeing the show from a hillside between Pul-San and the 38th parallel. “We sat on the side of a hill. They had had a temporary stage set up and a bunch of girls dancing and he had his golf club and went through his things like he did. He was the only person who came to entertain us in a combat zone.” Pilati recalls the area being very dangerous at that time. “President Truman wouldn’t give MacArthur the go ahead to take out a bridge over the Yellow River between China and North Korea. As a result 400,000 Chinese came across and joined the North Koreans and pushed the US contingent down to Pul-San,” he said. 

“I appreciate Bob Hope completely, and always admired his acting. In basic training we had Tyrone Power and a few others would entertain us but no body in the battlefield except Bob Hope,” said Pilati. 

 

*Jim Gruber of Joliet saw Bob Hope at a USO show at Camp Eagle near Phu Bai, South Vietnam in 1969.  At the time Gruber was a 21-year-old US Army Combat Engineer. “I didn't meet him but his show was very well received by the troops on Christmas Day as he flew in and out escorted by at least a dozen other helicopters.”

 

* Hank Nowak, of Joliet, saw Bob Hope USO show in Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam, Christmas 1967, at the Robert E. Pugh Memorial Amphitheater. Hope’s opening line this day was “Wonderful to be here in this zillion dollar cat box. I’ve never seen so much sand.”  Nowak was a 22 year-old 2nd class, E-5, Construction Electrician with the US Navy Seabees “He had 4 or 5 women with him but the only one I remember is Raquel Welch.....and boy do I vividly remember her,” said Nowak. “There were thousands of GIs ....as far as your eye could see. Navy, Army and Air Force all had a large base at Cam Rahn Bay and they were all there.  It almost got out of hand when some of the GI's in front row started jumping up on stage and dancing with the girls.  There was a bit of a scuffle with MP's, they called in more before they got it all back under control.”

“It was like dangling fresh meat in front of a hungry lion,” Nowak joked. 

Beneath the jokes and gaiety however there was more to these shows as Nowak explains. “I cannot express in words the loneliness a young man feels when he is on the other side of the globe at war and so far away from family and loved ones at Christmas.  I wish I had taken a picture of the audience, there were thousands, standing, sitting on jeeps, and lying in the sand just to see the show.  At a time when the military newspaper “Stars & Stripes” was filled with the news of the war protests and anti-war demonstrations going on back home Bob Hope filled us with a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation.  He made everyone feel proud to be an American and in the military.  When the show was over and he and his guests sang the song “God Bless America” thousands of hooting, hollering beer guzzling GI’s suddenly sobered up and stood up and proudly joined in.   I’ve never heard anyone sing the song more sincerely and the memory still fills me with emotion.  More than any, entertainer, leader, public figure or politician I mourned the passing of Bob Hope and I think that is true of many GI’s.  He truly, truly was a GREAT AMERICAN !”

 

* Don Hardy, Red Lodge. Hardy did not see any shows but got to interview Bob Hope in 1976 after becoming the new director at KULR 8 TV in Billings. “He was very accommodating and friendly, and sat on the plane’s steps for the interview. I asked about his schedule, and if he could share any of the jokes he would be using at his show that evening. He laughed and gestured toward men carrying large cue cards from the plane.”

“I asked him to describe his life (“Quite acceptable”), and how long he would continue to entertain ("as long as it’s fun"), and covered similar topics. Before leaving, I handed him my notepad and requested an autograph. But in my nervousness to be with such a huge star I gave him my pen upside down. He smiled in a friendly way that said he understood.”

“That evening his show was both hilarious and localized. At one point he mentioned picking up "inside information" through the thin walls at the Northern Hotel. The audience howled.”

“My brief time with him was long enough to see Bob Hope, bright, kind and seriously funny man, both personally and publicly. That night he had his audience in stitches without a single profanity or off-color implication. If only we had him back.”

 

Upcoming Events

  • Friday, June 21, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Rock Creek Group meets Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8 a.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. at Calvary Church, 9 N Villard, Red Lodge.
  • Monday, June 24, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Joliet Group meets at the Community Center Monday at 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, June 25, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Now Group meets at the Bridger United Methodist Church, 222 W. Broadway (west entrance of church) Tuesday at 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, June 27, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Meets every Thursday, 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation, 122 S. Hauser. It is open to all. 425- 1755.
  • Thursday, June 27, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Clarks Fork Group meets at St. Joseph’s Catholic Hall, north end of Montana Avenue, Thursday at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, June 28, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Rock Creek Group meets Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8 a.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. at Calvary Church, 9 N Villard, Red Lodge.

The Carbon County News

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