MAY 29, 1903-JULY 27, 2003

By Phyllis Diller
December 26, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Farewell: Phyllis Diller pays tribute to Bob Hope

I first met Bob in 1959, at a dive in Washington, D.C., where I was booked. It was a Chinese restaurant, and I was working to salesmen and hookers. Bob made a big effort to come see me, and here I was, bombing. I tried to sneak out, but he ran over and said, ”You’re terrific.” It was a turning point in my career — he was my idol.

He was such fun. One time there was a dinner at his friend’s house in Philadelphia, and at the end of the table the butler was holding up cue cards for Bob. That was the joke, because everyone made so much fuss about how he used cue cards. He loved good old American food: spinach and mashed potatoes, beef and corn. That’s how he connected with the entire country; he never became a king. He was a down-home person.

Two things he did are legendary: When Truman was in the White House and the early headlines came out about Dewey beating him, he wrote Truman a one-word telegram that said: ”Unpack.” When his secretary went on her honeymoon, he sent a telegram to her hotel: ”Act surprised.” I copied so much from him. I learned how to enter a party, how to leave a party. He handled it all well, with grace and charm. (Hope died of pneumonia in Toluca Lake, CA.)