ABOARD THE USS OKINAWA IN THE PERSIAN GULF — Bob Hope gave his 31st Christmas concert before about 2,000 sailors and Marines on the flight deck of this helicopter carrier Friday night.
Troops on holiday break from escort and mine-clearing duties wildly cheered the 84-year-old entertainer. They hooted at his rapid-fire delivery of one-liners and wolf-whistled through his playful banter with a number of attractive women in his troupe.
The roar the crowd made when his "Super Bowl Dancers" came on stage rivaled the noise the big minesweeping helicopters make when they lift off the deck to patrol tanker lanes.
"We've been doing it for so long, we know pretty well what they want," said Hope, who brought along a gag writer to help him tailor his humor to each ship he has visited in the region.
"I've never been to one of these shows before, and I wanted to see what it was like," said Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Doug Miller, 24, of Swords Creek, Va. "I love it."
Connie Stevens Appears
Hope was joined by actress Connie Stevens, who performed with him during his Christmas visits to troops during the Vietnam War, and country singer Lee Greenwood, who said he wrote his ballad "Proud to Be an American" with the servicemen in the Persian Gulf in mind.
Stevens brought her two daughters, who at 19 and 20 are the same age as many of the enlisted men. Hope's granddaughter Miranda, 16, held his cue cards.
"So we've got a little family" here, he told a small group of reporters before the performance.
Hope said he started performing for troops in 1941 and continued because "the audience was so sensational."
" . . . Of course, in December the war started and then it became dramatic," Hope said.
Organized by the nonprofit United Services Organization, Hope's concert will be broadcast on television in January.