SUN, MON, July 29, 30, 2012

THRONE FOR A LOSS -- Queen Elizabeth officially opened the 2012 London Olympics where she formally welcomed the athletes to the UK and wished them well for the duration of the Games.  Unfortunately, when she was handed the Olympic
torch, she became momentarily flustered and accidentally knighted Mitt Romney.


LATTER-DAY CHARMER -- After setting back Anglo-American relations with his faint praise of the London Olympics, Mitt Romney flew to Tel Aviv where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netyanyahu.  Emerging from their high level discussion, Romney told reporters that he was very impressed by Netyanyahu's "chutz-pah."  

BUGGED -- According to a report issued by M.I.T., the two most germ-ridden airports in the nation are New York's JFK and Los Angeles International, primarily because both are gateways to large cities.  Good luck, tourists.  If you survive the bacteria, then you have to face the the muggers and drive-by shooters.


MAD MEN -- Starting in 2013, NFL players may be allowed to wear small, tasteful ads stitched to their jerseys.  Taking no chances, the Chicago Bulls have hired a grammar and spelling coach to make sure the guys don't try to wear ads that contain errors of syntax or punctuation or conflict in any way with their tattoos.


HOT TOPIC -- According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the hottest man-made substance ever produced is the quark gluon plasma at 7.2 million degrees Fahrenheit.  What good can come from such achievements you might ask.  Well, for one, since the record was set, barbecue mitt technology has been improving by leaps and bounds.



Reaching Critical Mass!

Hope worked hard on his specials, and because he was proud of them, he suffered an acute allergic reaction to television critics who might be less than-
captivated by the end results of our efforts. Now on the leeward leg of a long and iinordinately successful career, he craved acceptance. He had become accustomed to being liked, and criticism of his performances, because it was rare, smarted all the more. By and large, because of his wide popularity and his near icon status, most TV critics had come to treat Hope with kid gloves.  Most, but not all.

In the early 1980s, Hope picked up what would prove to be a persistent and bothersome burr under his creative saddle. The burr’s name was Gail Williams, a television reviewer employed by the entertainment industry trade paper The Hollywood Reporter. She had embarked on what Hope believed to be — judging from his reaction to her reviews — a one-woman crusade to destroy, special-by-special, his television career. This, despite the fact that Williams’s reviews appeared after the shows had aired and couldn’t possibly have affected their ratings. (Hope never allowed pre-screening for the critics for this very reason.)  

Besides, as I’d often point out to him when he’d call in a state of near apoplexy after reading one of Gail’s broadsides, The Hollywood Reporter is strictly an industry publication with virtually no circulation outside of Tinseltown. That made no difference.  "I’m suing them for a million dollars!” he’d scream. After one particularly scathing review, he told me to call the entire staff and have them write anonymous letters to the paper defending him — not unlike Nixon, in the heat of Watergate passion, issuing orders to Haldeman and Erlichman that they would ignore. We did likewise.

While Hope carefully nurtured friendly relationships with most of the major newspaper TV critics across the country — he seldom turned down a request for an interview — he had no control over critics hired by the trade-papers who were not beholden to him. They were free to express their true feelings and Williams did — in spades.

What did Williams write that sent Hope’s blood-pressure into the stratosphere?  Here’s just a sampling:

“. . . Bob ‘dirty old man’ Hope’s latest special was a standard vehicle for the comedian. . . As always, conversations were marred by excessive reliance on cue cards and sketches were broad, featuring Hope in silly costumes, and sophomoric humor.” (Bob Hope’s Spring Fling 1980)

“. . . Hope delivered his monologue with his characteristic expressionless panache.” (Hope For President 1980)

“Everyone read their cue cards reasonably well, and [Loretta] Swit even managed to make her lines sound somewhat spontaneous at points.” (Bob Hope’s All-Star Comedy Christmas Special 1980)

And she was just getting warmed up. By the time the 1982 season rolled around, Williams’ had found the range, and her editorial arrows were beginning to find more and more bull’s eyes. Here are her impressions of that year’s Christmas special:

“Bob Ho-ho-ho-Hope’s Christmas special this year was virtually indistinguishable from any other season’s Hope holiday greeting. The Merriest of the Merry — Bob Hope’s Christmas Show — a Bagful of Comedy (Hope special titles seem to grow larger in direct proportion to diminishing originality) was a hopelessly hackneyed effort, the sort of
inspirationless Yuletide special that brings out the Scrooge in TV critics.”
By the 1983 season, it was obvious that there would be no turning back.  With her eyes wide open, Miss Williams had burned her bridges and effectively took herself out of the running for inclusion in Hope’s will:

"Sometimes the cheap extremes to which Hope’s specials stoop are so low, laughs are generated in spite of one’s better instincts, but they are embarrassed chuckles, not hearty guffaws." (Bob Hope’s All-Star Super Bowl Party)

And — tah, dah — the review of 1983’s Bob Hope’s Road to Hollywood that almost gave birth to the $1,000,000 lawsuit:

"Apparently, Bob Hope gives many viewers what they want because his specials frequently still earn high ratings. It’s a mystery why the formula keeps working. Sure, we all respect Hope as an enduring American institution. But it’s not just because he’s a veteran who has entertained millions for many years. It’s also because he acts like an institution.  When he steps down from his pedestal in his specials, Hope can still be funny. But when he virtually stages tributes to himself. . . it’s just a tad embarrassing. Perhaps Hope’s standard bad sport Oscar jokes are more revealing than one realizes — maybe Hope fetes himself because he really does feel unrecognized. . . One only wishes that this prodigiously talented performer would stop resting on his laurels in uninspired, formula specials and take a few chances. . . At his best in films, Hope was disarming.  Now that his specialty is introducing lineups of guest stars
with insincere-sounding suavity — and starring in his own show’s commercials — he’s not nearly as much fun."

My instincts were correct. She wasn’t even mentioned in the will.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Robert L. Mills  All Rights Reserved
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Compiled from Bob's newsletter "Funnyside Up" published in 2000. This is a yuck and chuckle-filled stroll down memory lane to a time before the Bush administration had inflicted its damage -- a time before the search for WMDs and Osama bin Laden. See what we were laughing at back then, who was in the news and who had yet to enter rehab -- which NFL stars had yet to do time in the Gray Bar Hotel.