It was sometime late in the year 1992 that we at Kelly Air Force Base were alerted to the fact that our base would host the Bob Hope Christmas Special that year.
As long as I could remember, the Bob Hope Christmas Special was one of the highlights of every Christmas season, featuring comedy routines, musical entertainment and plenty of variety, but especially featuring the famous comedian himself, one of the Hollywood greats who had been around practically since the invention of the wheel.
It meant a lot of work. A hangar was the site for the production. Throughout his life Hope had been a great friend of the military services, so the Air Force was honored to help make this production possible.
Over several weeks, the production came together. The stage would be two flat-bed trailers parked side by side. A C-5 Galaxy airplane would be parked in the hangar, and the main part of the hangar floor would accommodate the audience, a large number of basic trainees from neighboring Lackland Air Force Base.
The day of the production shoot was bitterly cold—mid- November. Dick Cheney, who was then the Secretary of Defense, was among those present and he also was a speaker at a ceremony to honor Hope for his years of support to the Armed Forces.
It was called a “Four- Star Salute to Bob Hope.” Representatives from each military service presented a star, honoring him for his support of the Armed Forces. General (Retired) William Westmoreland, former Army Chief of Staff, was one. The thencurrent Air Force Chief of Staff, General Merrill McPeak was another. A retired Navy admiral and a retired Marine Corps general represented their services. It was the highlight of the show.
Hope was 89 years old and needed help getting to the stage. Following a short comedy routine, he retired to the warm offices in the hangar.
Weeks later I saw the finished product, his final Bob Hope Christmas Special, featuring—among others—Clint Black, who sang a current hit. Several years later Bob Hope died at age 100. This show marked the end of an era. I was honored to play a small part in that production, mainly escorting some of the production people and media who were present. It made for a wonderful memory. “Thanks for the memory,” Bob.
WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.