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Bob Hope and the fountain of youth.

We were off on the road to see the fountain of youth in the flesh--Bob Hope. Maynard Good Stoddard and I wanted to discover this octogenarian's secret for staying young and exuberantly healthy. But it was not to be easy; give Bob Hope an audience of two and he'll never be serious.

After having him in our living rooms for so many years, being in his room seemed as natural as an afternoon chat with a neighbor over the backyard hedge. Without make-up or cue cards Bob Hope looks and talks like--well, Bob Hope. No two adjectives could better describe him. That impish twinkle in his eyes is not generated by footlights alone, nor, as we would learn, does he owe his keen wit to a battery of writers.

While we were trying to pick him apart, he was more interested in regaling us with one-liners. But somehow in between we would learn that among his several secrets for good health and going gungho at age 80 are a high-fiber breakfast, a daily multivitamin, daily exercise, having the good sense to stop smoking 40 years ago and making every day a blast with the laughter of his work.

Ser Vaas: How do you look so great at your age? How do you stay so healthy? We want the secret. Bob Hope tells all. We heard a rumor that you have a massage every day. Is that true?

Hope: I have masseurs. I used to have my own masseur with me, a young Mexican fella who was awfully good. And then he walked across Ventura here, and a car hit him and smashed him all up. He lived for a couple of years and then he died. Since then I've had masseurs staked out in every city in the country. When we get to Cincinnati, I just turn to Cincinnati in my book and I call a masseur.

I think it's also the diet thing that's so important. I never eat after dinner, and I don't drink after dinner. I used to take a drink. Nothing that would get me excited enough to keep me awake. And then I walk every night. I take my two guard dogs and walk around here three or four times, which is a little over a mile.

Stoddard: Bing said that he talked you into a vacation once and you never forgave him. He said you came back with shingles, hives, ulcers and a spastic colon.

Hope: It's not true. There's a lot of jokes that I went fishing and I left because I said the fish don't laugh, and a lot of things like that. I go up in Alaska seven to ten days at a time. I went up there last year and had a marvelous time fishing for salmon, and I've got another date now somewhere at the end of June, when I'm going up for another seven or ten days.

Ser Vaas: You've been always healthy, right?

Hope: I've been damn healthy. I've been lucky, very lucky. I play a lot of golf every chance I get. I get fed up around three o'clock just answering the phone, and I get in the car and zoom, right to the golf course.

Stoddard: Do you play every single day?

Hope: If I can make it, absolutely. Every day. I live only five minutes from Lakeside, right on the corner down about four blocks and over three, and I step right in the golf cart.

Ser Vaas: What was your handicap at its lowest?

Hope: Four. And now I'm a 20.

Ser Vaas: That's darn good.

Hope: Before I had my eye problems. I've had a lot of eye hemorrhages brought on by pressure, moving a little too fast.

Ser Vaas: It's all right now?

Hope: It's something I have to be very careful of. I wanted to go to Lebanon a year ago Christmas, and they wouldn't let me go.

Stoddard: You have risked your life both overseas and playing golf with Gerald Ford. You've had some fairly narrow escapes?

Hope: No, I'm pretty smart. When I play golf with Jerry I stand in back of him. That's the safest place on the whole golf course.

Stoddard: Do you train pretty much like the athletes?

Hope: I have to. I keep up a pretty good routine. I've got to make sure that I feel good when I walk up those stairs. That to me is a kick. When I can run up those stairs.

Ser Vaas: When do you run?

Hope: Whenever I go up stairs I go up fast. I do it just to see how it feels.

Ser Vaas: You don't take the elevator? You deliberately don't take the elevator?

Hope: Only here. I'm only talking about one flight. I take the elevator anywhere else. I'm not going to walk if I can ride. But I do walk.

Ser Vaas: But on the golf course you ride most of the time?

Hope: I ride all the time. There's enough exercise between.

Stoddard: Getting out of bunkers?

Hope: Trying to get out of that trap, right. There's a lot of walking it off. You park the cart over here and you walk over here and over there. You get out of the cart. . .you walk a little bit. . .you hit a little bit.

Ser Vaas: I just thought of something. Do you know what you ought to do?

Hope: Quit show business?

Ser Vaas: No, no, I just hope you stay around a long time and so do other people. Do you know how to do CPR?

Hope: How to do what?

Ser Vaas: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. You should make sure that everyone around you knows how to do CPR--just in case. My husband had his secretaries, his wife and his best friend take the course. He's smart. Nelson Rockefeller might the alive today if he had taught Meagan what to do. She was trying to resuscitate him on the couch when she should have gotten him on the hard surface of the floor and pushed on his chest and blown in his mouth while holding his nostrils closed. It wouldn't help to get his heart going if he wasn't breathing. You have to circulate the air in the lungs, too.

Hope: Of course.

Ser Vaas: You never know when you'll need to know CPR on the golf course. Like in Bing Crosby's case. Did you know he was sick?

Hope: No, but the doctor told him in London not to play over nine holes, so he must not have been in tip-top shape.

Ser Vaas: Do you want me to tell you the basics in a hurry? You pinch on the nose, and you blow in the mouth, and then you bang on the chest. [demonstration]

Hope: You do that!

Ser Vaas: If someone just plain drops over as though dead and you want to resuscitate him and his heart stops beating, he's going to die if his blood doesn't circulate within five m inutes. So there's no use waiting for a doctor if there isn't one on the golf course, but you pound right on the sternum, hard like that.

Hope: Where? Right on this bone here?

Ser Vaas: right on that bone. Two fingers up from the tip of the sternum. The bottom of the sternum.

Hope: I had a great agent from New York, charle Yates, who booked me in a lot of places ever since I started. I knew that he had some problems, some heart problems. I was on the sixth hole down there at Palm Springs, and he fell out of the cart dead. I tool my sweater off and put it on him and sent the caddy in to try and find a doctor. If I'd known that, I would have jumped down and tried to do something.

Ser Vaas: External cardiac massage.

Hope: I called his widow, Reggie, that night, and I said, "Gee, I'm so sorry." She said, "You know something? He wanted to die with you on the golf course." She said, "You probably knew hehs had hardening of the arteries." I didn't know that.

Ser Vaas: Do you know what they think causes that now? The latest thing? A herpes virus.

Hope: Come on!

Ser Vaas: Yes, it's true. They took some coronary artery segments out of bypass surgery patients, and the segments had herpes in them.

Hope: (after some hesitation) Can I tell you a naughty joke?

Ser Vaas: Yes.

Hope: This girl and this fellow are making love, and she says, "Wait a minute, do you have herpes?" He says, "No." She says, "Thank God, I wouldn't want it again."

Ser Vaas: (also after some hesitation) Do you eat meat every day?

Hope: I eat chicken, fish, steak. I mix it up pretty good.

Ser Vaas: But you don't have any health foods, or you don't go out of your way to find any?

Hope: No, I don't go out for health foods. But about 25 years ago I had a little stomach ache, and I went to my doctor and he said, "What do you eat in the morning?" I said, "Ham and eggs and coffee." He said, "I want you to eat stewed fruit every morning. I don't care what it is, stewed pears, stewed prunes, stewed apples." So I have orange juice or apple juice and stewed fruit. Today, I had rhubarb, apricots, bananas and pears, all stewed. That's my breakfast. And NEscafe decaf.

Ser Vaas: No caffeine, good. What about fiber? You're not on to fiber or bran? Dietary fiber is considered important now.

Hope: No, I haven't been on that.

Ser Vaas: It's really very valid that the Africans don't get all the things that we get. They don't get diverticulosis, heart attacks, colon cancer or hemorrhoids. And fiber is the secret. There is really good research on it. You should start eating a little bran every morning with your fruit. Any good gastroenterologist will tell you it's really a protective thing. The fruit is giving you some fiber.

Hope: You know what I do when I get into a town? Most of the hotels don't carry stewed fruit. So when I get into town, I say to the limousine dirver. "Where's the supermarket? And he says, "What do you want?" And I say, "Just drive me to the supermarket." And I go in and I pick up four or five cans of stewed fruit. Figs, so they'll be fresh. You've got to be very careful with figs especially, because they do spoil fast.

Ser Vaas: Figs are very good fiber.

Hope: Are they?

Ser Vaas: Yes, they have lots of fiber in them.

Hope: I love figs. I had some figs this morning, by the way. Strawberries and rhubarb, that's pretty good living.

Stoddard: Berries are good. They've got a lot of fiber in them.

Ser Vaas: You know, that's in the back of the Bran and Fiber Cookbook. It's got everything about fiber. . . .

Hope: (appealing to Stoddard) She's going to get me healthy.

Ser Vaas: I want you to stay healthy until you're 105. This has a chart of the things that are high in fiber. You can see unprocessed wheat bran and wheat-bran cereals, figs, raspberries, and it goes all the way down. (showing chart)

Hope: I've got to look at that. That's wonderful.

Ser Vaas: You can soon see that if you eat enough fiber, then you won't have to work hard at keeping your weight down. It just happens naturally.

Stoddard: What is your weight right now?

Hope: My weight runs between 174 and 177.

Stoddard: Is that where it's been for quite a few years?

Hope: I watch it pretty carefully. Tonight it'll be maybe 175, because I didn't have lunch. Maybe a little more is good. I feel better when I am about 176.

Ser Vaas: You mean you feel better morale-wise?

Hope: Every way. I had a little stomach trouble a few weeks ago. After the doctor took my blood and everything, he said, "You should be in the Marines." That sends you out dancing, believe me.

Ser Vaas: The only thing I can say is that if you eat more fiber, you might not have that stomach trouble.

Hope: When you say fiber, I've got to let my cook play with that.

Ser Vaas: Yes, you really do. We're talking about lots of whole-wheat bread, potatoes, but mostly cereals.

Hope: Bran flakes, huh?

Ser Vaas: Right, and oats. There's a new Oat Bran out that will help keep you from getting hardening of the arteries. It really helps keep your cholesterol down. You'd have to eat five times as much oatmeal to do the same amount of good as one helping of Oat Bran as far as lowering your cholesterol.

Hope: I'm going to try a little of that. I like oatmeal and every once in a while I have Raisin Bran cereal.

Ser Vaas: That's good, but there's not much fiber in that. But All Bran has more fiber. I'm going to send you some Oat Bran. Do you take vitamins daily?

Hope: Yes. I bought a vitamin on Madison Avenue about 40 years ago, and I've been taking it ever since. It got so popular that the drug store over here put it in. And now they order it for everybody. They think it's some kind of a big secret.

Ser Vaas: Well, that secret is what we're looking for. I'm not telling tales out of school because he didn't say not to repeat it, but President Reagan told me his father-in-law told him to take a multivitamin every day. He looks great, like you do. And his father-in-law, who was a doctor, the late Dr. Loyal Davis, said just in case you're deficient in a mineral or something, take one every day. Well, do you take just one vitamin every day?

Hope: I take two vitamins every day. I don't take anything else.

Ser Vaas: Is it a multivitamin?

Hope: Yep. It's got everything. I'll show it to you. It's called Surbex T.*

Ser Vaas: You never smoked cigarettes, did you?

Hope: Yes, I did.

Ser Vaas: How long?

Hope: Oh, for too long. In fact, I used to go to a Dr. Deffing on 54th Street in New York. I'd wake up and I could hardly breathe. Used to sit around in clubs smoking, very society, you know. I used to go so he could open my throat to get me on stage, and finally, after a couple of years, he said to me, "I'm not going to be responsible for your throat any more." I asked why and he said, "Well, the way you are going you'll develop throat cancer."

Ser Vaas: You were lucky to have that doctor.

Hope: That's right.

Ser Vaas: It's a good thing you overdid.

Hope: That's right. Quentin Reynolds, I don't know if you remember him, the newspaper guy? Just had this horrible thing happen to him, and with my mother and father and everything happen to him, and with my mother and father and everything, I just said, "Oops," and I haven't smoked since. And if my wife was here and you lit a cigarette, she'd say, "Would you please go outside?" She was the worst.

Ser Vaas: Smoker?

Hope: Yes. The only way we could get her to stop was for about six of us to bet her $100, like in August, that she couldn't stop until Christmas. She used to have a thing where a hat with any kind of a feather would shake. She had a little tremor like this, and then she had a nasal thing, and she would not stop smoking. I had stopped for ten years or something like that. She would not, and finally she made the bet. I think she really wanted to, but she needed just that little edge. She bet about $600 between all of us, and she collected the money and stopped smoking.

Ser Vaas: Those servicemen you entertained during World War II, Bob, the military gave them free cigarettes, and now they're all dying in the veterans hospitals.

Hope: Did you see where they wanted to take out the smoking on the short plane rides? Did you see that?

Ser Vaas: They have to do that. It's so miserable for people with handicapped lungs. They can't breathe in those plane cabins. People can do without smoking in church; why can't they on airlines?

Hope: Last night I got on the plane in Phoenix to come back, and the pilot said, "You want to come up front with us?" and I said O.K. After we started, I went up front. He lit a cigarette. He didn't puff on it very long, but he lit it, and I talked to him for about 30 minutes, and he lit another one.

Ser Vaas: Perhaps you owe your longevity to good genes. How old were your parents when they died?

Hope: My grandfather lived within a month of 100. My mother didn't because she developed cancer, and my father lived a little while after that. He lived to be 70.

Ser Vaas: And your mother's cancer was where? What organ?

Hope: Down in the lower section.

Ser Vaas: All the more reason you should eat bran, because that helps keep you from getting cancer of the colon. It's an accepted medical fact.

Hope: Hers was the neglect of herself from taking care of seven kids. My brother had another thing where he should've gone in for an operation, and he neglected it and died from it.

Ser Vaas: What kind of operation would he have had?

Hope: A cancer problem. The doctor could ave saved him, but he just neglected it and thought maybe God would take care of it or something, and he died.

Stoddard: You seem to be always full of fun and so on, but you must have some serious thoughts. You talk about the Man upstairs quite a bit; do you have a deep faith?

Hope: Yes, I think so.

Ser Vaas: Are you Catholic?

Hope: No, I'm not Catholic. I'm a Presbyterian now. I was Episcopalian until my father came to Cleveland from London and Build Euclid Avenue Presbyterian Church and brought us all over a year later. We saw the church, and we liked it so much we turned Presbyterian. I was back there last year, saw that church. It's going to be there for 900 years, the Euclid Avenue, the most beautiful thing you ever saw. My wife is Catholic--really Catholic. She wants me to go to church with her Sunday because it's our 50th anniversary.

Stoddard: Are you going to do anything else special on your wedding anniversary?

Hope: You know that I wanted to invite about 500 people, and Dolores said no. In fact, I had already invited a few couples over, and I had to call them back. She said, "No, I want to have dinner with you, and I want to go see a show or something, and the next day I want you to go to church with me, and you can give me my gift," I don't know why she assumed. . . .

Ser Vaas: And you're going?

Hope: I'm going to be right there.

Ser Vaas: What do you do for exercise besides golf? Do you like ballroom dancing?

Hope: I did a dance routine with this fellow who is the biggest builder of apartments in the country, Alex Spanos, who lives in Stockton. And this came about in a funny way, because he was flying me to Denver, and he's a dear friend of mine. I was doing a little two-step in the airport, this was during the air traffic controllers' strike and he couldn't get his plane out. So I walked over and did a little two-step, and he said, "How do you do that?" And I taught it to him and he decided that we should do a dance routine at his next big benefit in San Francisco, which is now for the Betty Ford Rehabilitation Center and two children's hospitals. We put together a "gimme the old soft-shoe, I mean the old soft-shoe" routine. The next two years, we did another routine and another routine. This is the sixth year. This is a businessman who would rather dance than build apartments or anything. So I danced with him, and that's when I feel the best, when I dance. Nobody looked at me, they just looked at him.

Stoddard: You were a song-and-dance man originally, no comedy. "Roberta" was your big number, your first big hit?

Hope: Yes.

Stoddard: And that was strictly song and dance?

Hope: Yes, I taught dancing, too. I was taking lessons for about a year and this fellow, John Root, the teacher, had to come to California for his health, and I took over his school and taught dancing. And so I taught Alex Spanos. He can get up there and do a buck and wing, do a soft-shoe, do eccentric dancing, everything; he is marvelous.

Stoddard: Did you campaign for President Reagan?

Hope: Yes. Nancy called me the last couple of days of the campaign and asked me. So I went to Cincinnati and then Peoria with the President. And we found out that we both go to the same ear doctor, Dr. House, down here. And I said, "I have to get up in the morning and take my niacins." He said, "You take niacin too?" And I said, "Yes, every day."

In the morning they sent this man over to get me down to his suite, and when I walked in he was talking to Meese, eating a banana and having Sanka. That was his breakfast.

Ser Vaas: That's great. Better than eggs and bacon.

Hope: Right.

Ser Vaas: President Reagan has an all-in-the-ear kind of hearing aid. Those are marvelous. They can put them all the way in. You can't really see it.

Hope: Really? (laughing) You know I do a whole routine about Jimmy Stewart, and one night on the Carson show, I said, "You've got a hearing aid. What kind is it?" He said, "7:30." If Reagan wears one, I am glad to hear that, because when I saw that thing in his ear I thought he was bugged. He wears it in his right ear because he doesn't want to hear from the left. [laughter] A hearing problem is a terrible thing. The wife of a friend of mine has a hearing problem, and every night they'd go to bed, he'd say, "You want to go to sleep or what?" and she'd say, "What?" They had 18 kids before she had her ears fixed. [laughter] These jokes all came out of this show I do for Dr. House.

Ser Vaas: A fund raiser?

Hope: Yes. And we've been doing that for about five years. And so I have a lot of those jokes. He's a marvelous man, Dr. House. He does so many great things. He and his brother Bill. They show these things on the screen of a kid getting his hearing for the first time. It makes you cry. Knocks you out.

Ser Vaas: Do you have a whole battery of doctors? i mean, do you have a cardiac man and a gastroenterologist?

Hope: [Laughing] I have the Eisenhower Medical Center. And I have a doctor over here, Dr. King, who handles any problems I have. Then I have doctors at Palm Springs. They're all good.

Ser Vaas: Have you ever had a test of your lung function where you blow into a spirometer, the new kind with a computer on it? You put in your age and your sex and your height, and it tells you exactly what your vital capacity is and what it ought to be.

Hope: I had everything in the New york hospital last year. I never dreamed that they'd give you an examination like that.

Ser Vaas: But you blew hard into a spirometer and you did all that?

Hope: All that stuff. Every bit of it. I never dreamed that they could do it. How you could watch the heart on a screen too. Like a calf's liver pumping. It scared me. You're looking right at it. And what's the other thing they do with your head that they put this whole thing on your head and they twist your head?

Ser Vaas: An electroencephalogram to look at the brain waves?

Hope: They never stopped and the only thing they could find wrong was this hemorrhage in my right eye. The blood man came to me one night at the New York hospital and said, "You go, you go to Lebanon, you're in fine shape."

Ser Vaas: Your cholesterol's great? You don't have high cholesterol?

Hope: I kind of watch that a little bit, you know?

Ser Vaas: You don't eat shrimp?

Hope: Not much. I don't eat pork, but I love roast beef.

Ser Vaas: It has a lot of hidden fat in it.

Hope: Dolores is on the board of Mutual of Omaha. And they give her those Omaha steaks. They are the greatest things. They jump up and bite you. Nothing that good could be that bad for you.

Ser Vaas: Oh, well, bob, if you don't eat them too often.

Hope: Why do they give a fighter thick steaks?

Ser Vaas: They don't any more. The smart ones eat lots of potatoes and carbohydrates.

Hope: C'mon now.

Ser Vaas: They carb up.

Hope: Now, really?

Ser Vaas: Oh, yes, I hear athletes don't go for steaks anymore. They carb up.

Hope: Let me tell you about these guys at the All-American teams. And let me tell you about Michigan and UCLA. They go to this roastbeef place here and eat five or six helpings of roast beef. I do gags about them--that the players bit the waitress and the doorman on the way out.

Ser Vaas: Steak at the training table is supposed to be on its way out. It stays in the colon too long. To really get good energy, these runners and Olympians are now going for high carbohydrates and less meat.

Hope: That's heard to believe. I do the Big Ten every year. Great group at the Paladium. They have like 2,000, and Pat O'brien and I were regulars until he passed away last year.

Ser Vaas: You drink at night before dinner but not after dinner, right?

Hope: Just a little wine at dinner, maybe. I don't drink. I used to drink quite a bit, they they took me off of it. I used to mix a daiquiri with fresh lime and pineapple. The greatest you ever had. Six drinks and you walk right up the wall. Just marvelous. Really.

Ser Vaas: At 80, do you start missing some friends? Bing and some of your close friends?

Hope: Jack Benny.

Ser Vaas: But you have a lot of new friends.

Hope: Yes, but it's hard to replace those cats. Ser Vaas: If you were going to put a cover line on the Post for this definitive article about Bob Hope, how would you describe yourself in three words?

Hope: You can't say it in three words.

Ser Vaas: We'll say it in a lot more than that on the inside, but on the cover say. . .O.K., six words? Hope: I'd say, "Which way is the golf course?"

Ser Vaas: Starting the interview, we thought of the fountain of youth and we would get all your secrets for health, but you haven't done anything a lot of other people haven't done.

Hope: I have more fun because I'm lucky. You know my business is a fun business. I'm around people doing humor, writing humor. I'll call them up and they'll tell me the latest joke, and this joke and that joke. And if I had saved all the jokes that I've been told over the phone over the past 25 or 30 years, I'd have 19 books out. I don't think you could print them but I'd have them. I think the positive side helps your stomach, helps your everything. It's got something to do with the juices. You know how good you feel when you go into a party and people laugh with you. Medical science is finding that out. I get up every morning at ten because I work late at night. So I don't have the phone bothering me. And I sign things and all that kind of stuff. That's my schedule. Then I'm on the phone, zoom, zoom and then, like today, I have to run down to dubbing and check a lot of things. If I'm on that phone and talk to one of my writers, we get into a laugh thing. It really starts the day. You feel much lighter about everything. You're in a more positive mood about everything. I think that's the big secret.
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Author:SerVaas, Cory
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Interview
Date:May 1, 1984
Words:4855
Previous Article:A genius for discovery.
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