A Quiet 95th For Bob Hope

In his later career, Bob Hope celebrated significant birthdays with television extravaganzas. Not this time.

Burdened by the weight of his years, the comedian plans to mark his 95th birthday Friday night with a quiet dinner at his Toluca Lake estate.

"We'll have some family and a few friends at the house," said Dolores Hope, his wife for 64 years. "Our grandson, Andrew, will probably barbecue some lamb. Bob loves lamb."

On Saturday morning, the Hopes will be grand marshals in a parade marking the 75th anniversary of Toluca Lake, a wealthy enclave in the San Fernando Valley.

On a visit to Washington last week, the British-born Hope was given an honorary knighthood, presented by Ambassador Christopher Meyer on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II.

But he caused concern when he skipped a dinner marking the donation to the Library of Congress of the personal papers, joke files, photographs, and other memorabilia from his 70-year career.

"We went out to dinner the night before with a lot of Bob's relatives who came in for the event," Mrs. Hope explained. "Everybody ate too much, and something didn't agree with Bob." After a day of rest, he went fishing on Chesapeake Bay.

Hope has attended banquets, book signings, and other events during the past year, and he appears interested, even entertained. Yet his trademark one-line quips are no longer there, and his hearing and sight are impaired.

"He's hanging in there. He looks great. His blood pressure and other things like that are fine," Mrs. Hope said.

She said her husband plays a little golf, enjoys the scenery around their hilltop home outside Palm Springs, and watches the news on television.

"He was saddened by Frank Sinatra's death. He couldn't quite believe it," she said. "He asked a couple of times: 'What did he say? What happened?' We said, 'He's gone.' He said, 'Oh'."

While Hope's career has ended, his wife's has revived. Mrs. Hope, who turned 89 on Wednesday, was a cafe singer when they met. She gave it up to raise their four children.

In recent years, she has made record albums and appeared with Rosemary Clooney. Last Saturday night, they sang at New York's Rainbow and Stars.

"I'll be 90 next year, and my career is just beginning," she said with a laugh.

Written by Bob Thomas