The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that Bob Hope’s principal home in Toluca Lake in the San Fernando Valley is up for sale. That brought back memories — not of the silver dollars they use to give out at the house at Halloween making it a must stop location for even outside the neighborhood kids — but for a couple of political dinners I attended there.
Hope, who famously kidded presidents from both political parties and was warmly greeted by all of them from Franklin Roosevelt on, did have some favorites in the political world.
One, of course, was his late son, Tony, who made an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1986. I was on hand at an event the old man put on for his boy. There was plenty of room in the backyard. The famous golf addict, who sponsored his own golf tournament and famously carried a golf club on stage in many of his USO performances entertaining the troops around the world, had a full-length par 3 golf hole and green in the back yard.
A much larger event occurred two years later on behalf of then vice-president George H. W. Bush. Bush was running to succeed Hope’s friend, President Ronald Reagan. Hollywood seemed in support of Bush’s opponent, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.
Hope wanted to show that the vice-president could count on support from Hollywood as well, so he hosted a shindig in the backyard at his Toluca Lake home. The event occurred about one week before the presidential election. Somehow, I got an invitation, too.
Hollywood stars did turn out, but this was not young Hollywood. Most were veterans of Hope’s era. You may have to be of a certain age to recognize the names: Danny Thomas, Buddy Ebsen, Shirley Jones, Telly Savalas, Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam to name a few.
Despite Hope’s political preferences no one was above his barbs and he didn’t let an opportunity pass to ridicule the powerful. Of his friend who became president, Hope once remarked: “Ronald Reagan is not a typical politician because he doesn’t know how to lie, cheat, and steal. He’s always had an agent do that.”
With the sale of the house, a piece of California and national political history drifts to memory.