Thanks to Businessman Bob Hope

Ray Keating
©2003 All Rights Reserved

On Monday morning (July 28), I was saddened to hear that Bob Hope had died the previous evening. But who could complain about the 100-year run that Hope had as a multifaceted entertainer, sportsman, American patriot and successful businessman.

While growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, Hope’s television specials made no real impression on me. However, after my grandfather instilled in me a love for the game of golf, I found out that Hope had his own PGA Tour stop (still around today as the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic). Hope also was an accomplished golfer himself, actually competing in the 1951 British Amateur. So, I was hooked as a fan.

My appreciation for Hope only grew along with my own interests.

A blossoming fascination with old films exposed me to Bob Hope the movie actor. He was excellent in a wide range of comedic parts, but also surprised in some straight roles, as in “The Seven Little Foys,” and in “Beau James” where he played former New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker. However, my personal favorites remain those glorious romps with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour in the “Road” movies. If you’re looking for some fun, light banter, a few gags and some tunes, you’ll always find them on the road with Hope and Crosby.

But my fondness for Hope was sealed due to his love for the men and women who have served in our military. Hope sacrificed a lot personally in order to entertain U.S. troops at home and abroad from May 1941 through Operation Desert Storm a half-century later. And unlike so many others in Hollywood, Hope never abandoned the U.S. military even when it was quite trendy to do so, as in the Vietnam War and for many years thereafter.

Finally, as the chief economist for a small business group, I most recently gained respect for Hope as a businessman. In the “Road” movies, the characters played by Hope and Crosby always seemed to be trying to con people out of their money, rather than actually working for a living. In real life, both were quite the opposite.

Hope had to be a good businessman to achieve such wide-ranging success. Just think about the various mediums in which he excelled – starting in Vaudeville, succeeding on Broadway, becoming a huge star on radio, earning big box office numbers at the movies, and becoming an institution on television.

His model for business success was straightforward. First, understand and improve upon your own talents. Seize opportunities, and be willing to take risks. For example, most people had advised him not to take the plunge into television because it was too risky. Surround yourself with good people – Hope had a staff of great joke writers – and treat them well.

Hope also was a savvy marketer. At his best on radio, in the movies and on television, he brilliantly hawked his sponsors’ wares with humor – basically making fun of shameless advertising by using shameless advertising.

Oh yes, and Hope had one other lesson for both business and life in general – keep your sense of humor and have some fun.

At a conference I attended last year on the life and career of Bing Crosby, I heard that Bob and Bing were planning to cut an album together and make another “Road” movie before Crosby’s death in 1977. Would another “Road” film have recaptured the old magic or just fallen flat? We’ll never know. With the death of Bob Hope, though, I now picture a lush, incredibly green, seaside golf course in heaven with Hope and Crosby hitting balls and serving up some wonderful laughs for all to appreciate.

Thanks for the memories, Bob.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business Survival Committee, and co-author of U.S. by the Numbers: Figuring What’s Left, Right, and Wrong with America State by State (Capital Books, 2000).

Category: Work-Life, Balance
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