Millions of men in and out of uniform felt a connection to Bob Hope unlike that with any other performer of his time.
Actor/Director Carl Reiner described Hope as a charming coward -- a character he played on stage and in many of his films that I think personifies a lot of us men.
Truth be told, most men struggle with feelings of inadequacy and worry about living up to the expectations we place on ourselves, influenced by family, society, or Hollywood. We want to be brave and get the girl, but we don't always feel like we have what it takes to be a hero or a knight in shining armor. Hope's humble characters showed us that we could.
But as he entertained soldiers and movie-goers across the world, it wasn't just the characters he played that connected us to him, it also was his good character -- the integrity and respect he showed shined through that famous smile.
As a young father, I had taken my children to see an animated film featuring the voice of a popular comedian. Some time after the film was released I happened to see that same comedian on television performing his stage act. I was shocked to hear this man -- who my children considered a hero -- spewing out a continuous stream of sex jokes and filthy humor. I wondered why someone so talented would feel the need to drop so low for a laugh, especially when comedians like Bob Hope, Red Skeleton and Dick Van Dyke proved that true performers didn't need filth to entertain. I started using these comedians as a standard by which to measure true comedy, knowing that I could share any of their films with my children. Whether he was aboard a ship at sea with pirates, or atop a camel in the desert, I knew Bob Hope would be true to his good character.
After Bob Hope passed away Sunday, July 27, 2003, President Bush said, "The Nation lost a great citizen." But Hope showed us we could all be great citizens, and have fun doing it.
For that, I will always be grateful.
Thanks for the memories.