Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

I had a couple out-of-town friends over about a year ago. After giving an awe-inspiring library program, we grilled up some food and stayed up late into the night discussing important matters.

At some point my wife snuck off and went to bed. Perhaps she didn't really want to know the learned panel's opinion on who was the better Black Flag singer, or hear about '80s skinhead battles or overhear discussions of that girl that in retrospect, I totally could have done it with had I played my cards right.

When we came inside, the TV was still playing TCM. Bob Hope must have been on, because I remember one of my friends exlclaiming, "Man, fuck Bob Hope."
I seem to remember the friend in question had tried to watch some of Hope's old movies, but the casual racism made him turn them off.

Or maybe that's just the kind of controversial comments my friends and I are likely to make.

I was thinking of that outburst a couple weeks ago when I finished up "Pictures at a Revolution," this book about the making of "Bonnie and Clyde," "In the Heat of the Night," "The Graduate" and some others I can't think of right now. At the end of the book, Martin Luther King, Jr. has just been assassinated, so the Oscars are moved back a couple weeks out of respect. Bob Hope was the host, and his opening remarks were pretty much, "I don't see what the big deal was, why would you move these important awards." Then he made a bunch of corny jokes and ranted about the crazy new movies of 1968.

That in turn reminded me of the story of Bob Hope playing Gator Growl. Gator Growl is UF's annual pep rally, and is supposed to be the biggest or longest-running in the world or something. They've had pretty big comedians there - Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, Carrot Top, pretty much everyone has done it.

Sometime in the early '80s Robin Williams was the host. He made a lot of jokes about his penis which scandalized the alumni. I'm making a leap here, but I would assume that gay hairdresser, John Wayne and tough black guy made an appearance as well.
So after that, the committee decides to entertain old school style and bring the comedy stylings of Bob Hope, along with the lady that sang the "Fame" and "Flashdance" song.

So Bob Hope comes out first and makes it obvious he doesn't give a crap about being there. He's filming his appearance for a TV special, and isn't looking at the student audience and repeating his lines over and over.

So the students start booing Bob Hope. This pisses off the showbiz legend, who stops with the WWII-era wisecracks long enough to tell the assembled crowd to shut up, which only increases the booing.

Bob Hope leaves, pissed off, and the "Fame" lady takes the stage. After a couple seconds, it becomes obvious that she is lip syncing. Nowadays, that would be acceptable, but in the '80s, people still expected their live entertainment to be live. So they start booing "Fame" lady who rushes off.

What to do now? The kids have booed Bob Hope and the "Fame" lady, so the people behind Gator Growl have to do something to regain the crowd. So they launch off the fireworks. Which might have worked, had they not been aimed into the crowd.

That firework thing I'm pretty sure has been exaggerated throughout the years, but I know the Bob Hope stuff happened - when I worked in News and Public Affairs at UF we had huge clip files of every time UF had ever been mentioned. On a whim, I looked up Bob Hope's file and found a letter from the PR department that was really, really kissing his ass and begging him not to say anything bad about the school. I really should have copied it.

So where was I going with all that? Oh yeah, fuck Bob Hope. And Bing Crosby, too. Kid-beating bastard.


roland said...

I was in the crowd, up in the bleeds (aka the kill zone) for the Bob Hope/Irene Cara Gator Growl. My dad diverted an incoming chunk of firework that would have brained me, shortly thereafter we watched an evil glowing white phosphorous chain land on a lady about twenty rows DOWN from us. Then dad made the executive decision to unass the AO all quick-like. It sucked, but the Smothers Brothers were worse...

scott said...

Holy crap, so the fireworks story was true? I always sort of thought that was an urban legend or something. How did UF not get sued?

GrandDuke said...

I was a grad student in the stands at this Growl and these comments are true. When Bob Hope came to the stage on the field in his golf cart, they darkened the rest of the stadium so he could be videotaped for some later TV thing. All he did was read from posters and didn't even look at us. He looked really frail to us. The booing was pretty loud. The only funny thing Irene Cara said was "when you say UF do they say FU? Then she sang some stuff we already heard on the radio ten times that day. The fireworks were launched from the small field at the south end bleachers and literally exploded just over our heads. Not funny and definitely very loud. I told my son who is a student now at UF about this and he doesn't believe me. I'm going to shove this article in his face the next time I see him.

BuckWheat said...

just linked to this post. i was there! thnx

Ed Neu said...

I was at the Gator Growl with Bob Hope and the fireworks. My recollection was that Bob Hope wanted the crowd to stop the Orange and Blue Chant (which is pretty much a mainstay at UF) because it was interrupting the TV production. It was pretty lame.

I was hit by a few smoldering waxy pieces of cardboard. I would not say that fireworks were aimed at the crowd, just that the direction and speed of the wind was not adequately taken into account.

Brent said...

I was there, in the student section. This is a true story. all of it.