1968 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Laughter is therapy-not only for those who laugh, but also for those of us who try to make others laugh."
The fifth of seven sons, Bob Hope, whose real name is Leslie Townes, was born in London, England. His father was a stonemason who immigrated to America in search of a better life. Hope was four when he arrived in Cleveland, and remembers his childhood as one that, while there was little money, was filled with love and laughter.
He tried out several early careers as a dance instructor, a clerk, a newspaper reporter, and an amateur boxer. It was boxing that propelled him into show business. He was in Ohio's lightweight championship fight, trying to decide between a career as a star athlete and one as a brilliant entertainer. "That first punch knocked me right into dancing school," he once said.
His show-business debut was in vaudeville as a partner in a dancing act in a Fatty Arbuckle review. His first Broadway show, "Sidewalks of New York," came in 1927. He made his radio debut on Rudy Vallee's "Thursday Night Show" on NBC in 1934, and then began doing the "Pepsodent Show" for NBC. "It was the first time millions of people had a chance to turn me off at the same time," Hope quipped. From the roof of the New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street in New York in 1950, Hope broadcast his first television appearance. Since then, his hundreds of television specials and guest appearances have made him one of America's most popular television stars. In 1948 in Berlin, Hope did his first overseas Christmas show. Entertaining U. S. troops at Christmas became an annual tradition that took him to military bases all over the world and won him an Emmy. Hope's motion-picture career spanned nearly four decades, from "The Big Broadcast" (1938) to "Cancel My Reservation" (1972), and included the famous Road pictures, in which he starred with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour.
Bob Hope received more than 50 honorary degrees and more than 1,000 awards and citations for both humanitarian work and professional performance, including the Medal of Freedom. Theaters, hospital wards, schools, halls, a bridge, and a rose have been named for him.
An avid golfer, he developed and hosted the annual Desert Classic, a PGA tournament that has raised millions of dollars for charity. Bob Hope said his Horatio Alger Award always meant a great deal to him. "Perseverance is the key to success," he once said. After all, if he hadn't persevered in vaudeville, the world may never have known "The King of Comedy."* Deceased