By Cindy Whitehair
Recently, Front Row Reviewers Utah was invited to review “Bob Hope: An American Treasure” (produced by the World Golf Hall Of Fame and Museum) when it made its stop at West Valley City’s Utah Cultural Celebration Center. If you grew up in a certain era (as I did), Sunday night was spent with one man: Bob Hope. “The Bob Hope Show“, on radio and television, was a ubiquitous part of growing up in the ‘50s through the ‘70s His holiday specials were much anticipated – the origins of “Must See TV” – not just for Bob and Jack Benny and Bing Crosby but for the cavalcade of stars, new and old that joined him. So I had to jump on this assignment.
If you have never been to the Utah Cultural Celebration Center (I had only been once before and it was at night so I missed half of the space), it really is worth exploring. They have indoor and outdoor performance spaces along with the indoor gallery space. Going later in the morning, I pretty much had the whole space to myself to explore the gallery and the outdoor spaces (they were setting up chairs in the indoor theater).
This traveling show is something of an anomaly, according to Michael Christensen (Visual and Performing Arts Manager for the center). Normally, they do gallery type exhibits, not archival ones—and you really should attend their gallery exhibits. However, bringing this traveling exhibit in was a move that really adds to their repertoire and will enhance their local reputation.
The exhibit itself is multi-media. There are photos and mementos galore, some really funny golf clubs, but there are also multiple videos that tell different aspects of Hope’s life, from growing up in Cleveland, to his theatrical career, golf, and of course, his USO shows. If you have an iPod or iPhone, there is a free app that you can download to get even more details about some of the pieces in the exhibit.
While golf is featured heavily in this show (since it was sponsored by the World Golf Hall Of Fame and Museum), this exhibit really is a great slice of television, movie, theater, political, golf and American history. While much of the exhibit covers things people know about Hope, there are many snippets that aren’t common knowledge. Most people know that Hope grew up in Cleveland, but not many outside of Cleveland know that he was a part owner of the Cleveland Indians and as owner, he had a World Series ring. The Indians beat the Boston Braves four games to two in 1948. While Hope famously quipped about never getting an Academy Award, Oscar and Emmy do put in an appearance in the exhibit.
Be sure to spend a little extra time with the part of the exhibit that talks about the USO tours. It touches on some of the behind the scenes parts of the tours that never made it to television. Also, be sure to check out the part about his Utah ties. This is the only part of the exhibit that changes. The producers try to make the exhibit relevant to each state it is in. Did you know that Hope has an honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Utah State University?
There were two quotes in the exhibit that really resonated with me. The first was from Hope himself and comes from his book Dear Prez, I Wanna Tell Ya! (1996 edited by Ward Grant, published by General Publishing Group). He said: “…Laughter is non-partisan – a great leveler. And maybe that’s the one thing all 11 presidents have in common. As long as it’s funny, you can say almost anything to them and get away with it.” The last is from Barbara Walters who reminds us all that Hope “was not just a great comedian, he was a great hero”. That is how I will always remember Leslie Townes “Bob” Hope…a great entertainer, hero, and American.
The Utah Cultural Celebration Center presents “Bob Hope: An American Treasure”
Now-April 24, 2018 9:00 AM-7:00 PM Monday-Thursday, Friday-Saturday 9:00 AM-4:00 PM
The Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 W 3100 S, West Valley City, UT 84114
Tickets: Not needed–Free
West Valley City Utah Cultural Celebration Center Facebook Page