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On the Road Again : Comedian: Bob Hope delights 400 fans at a record-store CD signing.

October 28, 1994|ISAAC GUZMAN and SHAWN HUBLER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The line started forming hours in advance, snaking down the alley behind Sunset Strip. It was longer than those for the Moody Blues and Dead Can Dance, way longer than the one for Weird Al Yankovic.

But the doors opened a full 10 minutes early, and the man did not disappoint. Oh, he could have dressed like the others--hair extensions, leather pants--but you don't need the trappings when you're really big.

You can coast when you're . . . Bob Hope--Unplugged.

In what has to have been one of the most piquant cultural exchanges since Nixon hit Peking, the 91-year-old, ski-nosed, conservative comic made a rare personal appearance Thursday night in the head-banging heart of rock-and-roll. Plugging his new video-and-CD boxed set, "Bob Hope Remembers . . . World War II--The European Theatre," Hope greeted some 400 fans at the Tower Records store on Sunset Boulevard.

Although Sunset has lost its innocence since Hope started out, and the comedian's eyesight and energy seemed on the wane, both the venue and the vaudevillian lived up to their reputations, as Hope traded wisecracks with a decidedly eclectic crowd.

There were middle-aged women from as far away as Great Britain ("I'm English," Hope quipped to one fan. "We were too poor to be British. ") There was a comedian who did his Bob Hope impression and then asked Hope to autograph a poster that said, "We love you, Bob." ("What should I write?" the trouper cracked. " 'I do, too?' ")

A Simi Valley couple stopped by on their way to their night jobs as Santa and Mrs. Claus. A U.S. Marine gave Hope a ration of corned beef hash.

And, of course--this being the Strip--there were the requisite rockers. "I love Bob Hope," gushed Robert Green, 20, of Bellflower, who sported a purple earring, a goatee and a shark tattoo. "He's a legend. I've been wanting to meet him all my life."

*

Todd Meehan, the 28-year-old manager of Tower's Sunset store, said he was skeptical when Hope's publicists suggested that the entertainment legend make an appearance there. Tower--while more mainstream than, say, the punk-oriented SST Records down the block--is known, among other things, as the place where Slash of Guns 'N' Roses used to work. Megadeth is scheduled to show up there this weekend for a promotional Halloween bash.

"At first, I thought it was kind of strange," acknowledged Meehan, young enough to be Hope's great-grandson. "But then, the more it came upon us, the more I started thinking, 'Hey--this is cool!' People love to meet an icon--somebody from the old school who has been around for so long, and is still here."

Still, some customers noted, Hope is not exactly on the road to a Tony Bennett-style renaissance with the MTV crowd.

"Yeah, he's pretty cool," allowed Eddie Robison, 26, a Hollywood tattoo artist with multiply pierced ears who was browsing in a nearby aisle. "But he's a little old for me. I'm here to get the new Stone Temple Pilots and Nirvana Unplugged CDs."

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