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HOPE TAKES ONE LAST BOW FRIENDS PAY FINAL RESPECTS TO FAMED ENTERTAINER.

Byline: James Nash Staff Writer

NORTH HOLLYWOOD - Show business royalty gathered Wednesday to pay final respects to Bob Hope - in speech, in song and with the brand of wisecracking humor that Hope perfected in more than seven decades as an entertainer.

In memorial services at a North Hollywood church and at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, friends of the show business legend remembered Hope - who died June 27 at the age of 100 - as a man as quick with a kind word or gesture as he was with his famous one-liners.

``He taught me so much about comedy and about life,'' said actress Brooke Shields, who appeared on Hope's television program in the 1980s and accompanied him on morale-boosting visits to U.S. troops overseas. ``He taught me not only about comedy, but about the value of laughter.''

Organizers of the two invitation-only memorial events estimated that nearly 800 people were at St. Charles Borromeo Church in North Hollywood for a morning Mass and about 600 attended the afternoon tribute at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Many of Hope's Hollywood colleagues said show business is unlikely to produce another talent like Hope, who performed in mediums from vaudeville to radio, television and motion pictures. And they said Hope's comic wit was matched only by his graciousness and humility.

``He was one of the sweetest, dearest human beings you've ever met in your life,'' said Mort Lachman, a writer and producer whom Hope plucked from obscurity in the 1940s. ``He was a somebody who cared about nobodies, and I was one of those nobodies.''

Phyllis Diller, a comedienne whose biting wit sometimes rivaled Hope's, said the two used to trade good-natured insults. Her favorite barb from Hope: ``A peeping Tom threw up on your window sill.''

The morning Mass at St. Charles was more solemn, but occasional flashes of Hope's humor were on display.

Guests at the service included former President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty; former first lady Nancy Reagan; U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein; business tycoons Lee Iacocca and Alex Spanos; and actors Tom Selleck, Raquel Welch, Angela Lansbury and Barbara Eden.

Other guests included Mickey Rooney, Dixie Carter, Hal Holbrook, Julie Newmar, Marie Osmond, Ed McMahon, Gary Owens, Norm Crosby, the late John Wayne's son Patrick Wayne, retired Gen. William Westmoreland, former California Gov. Pete Wilson, and Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles prayed for God to ``lead Bob, your servant, to eternal joy.''

While Hope was not devoutly religious, he converted to Catholicism late in life, said his longtime publicist Ward Grant. Hope's wife, Dolores, regularly attended Mass at St. Charles Borromeo Church, near the family's Toluca Lake home.

Hope charmed audiences with his seemingly spontaneous wit and affably laid-back personality, but in private he was extraordinarily disciplined and focused, said his son, Tony Hope.

His father spent hours on the phone with newspaper columnists and other friends honing his jokes and trying to keep his humor fresh and topical, Tony Hope said.

``I've never met anyone who derived more satisfaction from the practice of his profession,'' said Tony Hope.

Larry Gelbart, a veteran comedy writer who penned some of Bob Hope's most memorable lines, said Hope had a natural ease and affinity for audiences.

Gelbart recalled a 1986 interview with Hope in which the entertainer was asked if he might retire and take up fishing. ''Fish don't applaud,'' Hope replied, according to Gelbart.

Celebrities leaving the memorial service - which was closed to reporters but broadcast on a closed-circuit television nearby - told a clutch of television cameras that the service blended humor and poignancy in a way that would have pleased Hope.

``There were so many touching moments today,'' Raquel Welch said. ``(Hope) was one of the all-time great American entertainers. He just felt it was a great, great privilege to entertain people.''

James Nash, (818) 713-3722

james.nash(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

7 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Dwarfed by a giant photo of Bob Hope, family and friends sing a special version of his theme song, ``Thanks for the Memories.''

Michael Blake/Pool

(2 -- color) A portrait of Bob Hope sits at the altar at the memorial service in his honor at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in North Hollywood. A special memorial at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences followed the Mass.

(3 -- color) Dolores Hope, Bob Hope's widow, greets well-wishers inside St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church before the memorial Mass for her husband.

(4 -- color) Former President Gerald Ford listens during the memorial Mass for Bob Hope.

Nick Ut/Associated Press

(5 -- color) Actor Mickey Rooney waves to the crowd as he enters a memorial Mass for Bob Hope on Wednesday.

(6 -- color) Actress Barbara Eden, who often accompanied Bob Hope on USO tours, talks with reporters before Hope's memorial service.

David Sprague/Staff Photographer

(7 -- color) Bearded comedian Sid Caesar arrives for the memorial tribute at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

John McCoy/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 28, 2003
Words:841
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