Bob Hope performed, campaigned here in '78

July 29, 2003|by JESSICA DAVIS

Bob Hope, who died of pneumonia at the age of 100 late Sunday, will be remembered fondly by some local veterans for his performances both in the United States and overseas.

On Sunday, Oct. 29, 1978, Hope took the stage at The Maryland Theatre and kept the near-capacity audience of 1,350 laughing with his singing, dancing, and quips on life and politics, according to Herald-Mail archives.

Hope was in Hagerstown as part of a political fund-raiser for Jacob Berkson, a candidate for Washington County Circuit judge.

Berkson said Monday that his campaign motto was "With Berkson There's Hope" and he thought that bringing Hope to Hagerstown would emphasize those words.


The politics surrounding the performance did not seem to bother Hope, who joked that he "liked to see politicians pray. It keeps their hands out where you can see them," according to Herald-Mail accounts of his performance.

Hope was the first act to perform at the theater after it was refurbished and opened to the public following a fire there in 1974, according to the Pat Wolford, the theater's executive director.

"It was a wonderful, wonderful evening. Everyone who attended was very happy," Berkson said.

Berkson, a veteran of the Korean War, also saw Hope perform in San Francisco while he was waiting to go overseas during World War II in 1945 and later, in Saipan.

U.S. Air Force Air Commandos veteran Ray Linebaugh saw Hope during the Christmas season of 1965 while stationed in Korat, Thailand.

Linebaugh described Hope as "dedicated" and "a great showman" who succeeded in raising the spirits of troops stationed so far from home.

He said the jokes that Hope cracked about world situations and his personal life "kept everyone on the edge of their seats."

Hope rode a camel onto the stage and was "full of himself" for the show that lasted more than an hour, he said.

"He will be sorely missed, especially by U.S. military personnel," Linebaugh said.

"If you can find any military person who can say anything derogatory about Bob Hope, I'll buy you lunch for a year," he said.

Jack Staley, owner of Barnwood Books in Hagerstown, shares a bittersweet anniversary with Hope. Hope died on July 27, Staley's birthday.

The timing was oddly appropriate, Staley said, because not only was he a fan of Hope's but a look-alike of the comedian who started his career as a vaudeville performer.

When he was a national sales manager for M.P. Moller pipe organ company, Staley said people he encountered in his travels often commented on how much Staley resembled Hope.

"It became fun to follow his career and see what he was doing," Staley said.

Although Staley never managed to catch a performance by Hope during his duty in World War II, he did see him at The Maryland Theatre, as well as at the Fox Theater in Atlanta and at a fund-raiser for a cathedral that was gutted by fire in Topeka, Kan.

"It's the end of an era, but he'll never die as long as they keep those movies around," Staley said.

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