LOS ANGELES — A foot-high cowboy hat from the movie “Paleface.” An autographed photo of Lucille Ball with some teeth blackened out. A money clip from Jack Benny. These were a few of Bob Hope’s favorite things.
Nearly 800 items of Hope history, from foolishness to fine art, will be sold to fans and dealers alike at a mid-October charity auction in Los Angeles commissioned by the family of the famed comedian, who died in 2003 at age 100. The auction will be televised live and online by the Auction Network, allowing viewers worldwide to participate in real time.
“Dad was a pack rat,” daughter Linda Hope told The Associated Press. “He loved to collect things. Even when he wasn’t conscious of collecting, people would give him things. They would be brought home, listed, photographed and placed in storage. There are 11,000 items in his memorabilia collection.”
Now keeper of the family flame, Linda Hope, 68, made the first public announcement of the Bob Hope Estate Auction on a recent sunny morning at the comedian’s longtime compound in North Hollywood — 7 acres of mansion, office building, swimming pool, greenery and short-hole golf course. A selection of the items to be auctioned were spread atop two large tables.
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“A lot of the things will go to the Library of Congress,” Linda explained in a lounge where her father gave many an interview over lunch. “Most of the paper goods will be going there, scripts and photographs and other things that Dad donated before he died. The Library isn’t interested in three-dimensional items.”
The sale, which will benefit charities and causes that were important to Hope, is being organized by Darren Julien, president of Julien’s Auctions, who has arranged sales for Cher, Barbra Streisand, Ozzy Osbourne and other celebrities. He’s now staging a benefit auction May 31 in New York for Music Rising, co-founded by The Edge of U2.
Hope’s widow, Dolores, was recovering from a fall and not in attendance at the unveiling. Yet at 98, going on 99, she still keeps a close eye on the family business. “Mother agreed that (the auction) would be the thing to do and we got an agreement from the Library of Congress,” Linda said.
“We decided that after giving important gifts to museums, there was still a lot of wonderful stuff that people could enjoy,” Linda Hope said.
Julien devised the idea of sending some of the auction items to Hope’s native England on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, departing New York for London on Sept. 4, so passengers — and prospective bidders — can get an advance look.
The items will then be shown at a press event in London, followed by a 10-day display at Newbridge Silverware’s Museum of Style Icons in County Kildare, Ireland, one of Hope’s favorite countries to visit. All items will be returned to Los Angeles for the actual auction in October.
For those who can’t make the QM2 cruise or get to County Kildare, the collection will be displayed online and proxy bids taken beginning Sept. 1.
Hope’s connection with the Queen Mary dates back to the late 1930s, Linda Hope explained.
“Dad took my mother to England on the first Queen Mary so she could meet his grandfather, who was just shy of 100 years old,” she said. “They were scared to death on the trip back because the Germans had started torpedoing English ships.”
In the years that followed, Hope sailed to Europe aboard the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth 2 on numerous occasions, performing in the ships’ lounges and even practicing golf drives from their upper decks.
Linda, who will be aboard the September cruise of the Queen Mary 2 to explain the auction items, offered the AP a preview of her preview. Predictably, the collection is heavy on Hope’s beloved golf:
- A pair of red-and-white golf shoes marked “Made for Bob Hope.” (“I don’t know who would have the courage to wear those,” Linda quipped.)
- A golf bag jammed with clubs given to Hope by various pros. (“It seemed that every time he met a golf pro with golf clubs, they would send them to him.”)
- A huge golf cap the size of a large pizza. (“He enjoyed having fun with golf and had pretty outlandish outfits.”)
- A cap signed by President Ford and some golf pros. (“This is from the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, Va.”)
Hollywood, too, gets star billing in the Hope collection:
- A letter from then-actors Ronald and Nancy Reagan, thanking Hope for appearing on a March of Dimes event and congratulating him on winning the Jonas Salk humanitarian award.
- A letter from Bette Davis during World War II thanking Hope for entertaining GIs at the Hollywood USO.
- A large sign for Hope’s parking space at NBC in nearby Burbank.
And then there’s just the stuff of Bob Hope:
- A set of small knives and forks once belonging to Queen Elizabeth II, which yes, Hope bought at a charity auction.
- A large metal suitcase with signs of where it had been. (“Now you couldn’t use anything like that because of the weight,” Linda explained. “It ended up in a little sitting room next to his bedroom. When he came home from trips, he would put things in it.”)
- A desk plaque that reads: “Bob Hope. Thanks for the Memories.”
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