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Hope's things eternal

The late entertainer's items will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to veterans.

October 14, 2008|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

One last chorus of "Thanks for the Memories" echoed across Bob Hope's battered office desk and joke-writers' table Monday.

Mementos from his 70 years of showmanship went on display in Beverly Hills as Hope's family gathered the entertainer's favorite golf clubs, hats, signed presidential letters and thousands of other personal items in preparation for a weekend auction.

Proceeds will be turned over to veterans' organizations by the Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation, said daughter Linda Hope, who was the producer on his TV specials for the last two decades.

"It's a bittersweet kind of thing," she said as she settled into the worn-out leather office chair her father used for several decades and refused to have reupholstered because it was so comfortable just the way it was.

"Dad never liked to throw anything out. He was a bit of a pack rat," she said. "If he were here, he'd have something to say about everything here."

The trove is on display this week at the Beverly Hilton's old Trader Vic's restaurant -- one of Hope's favorite places, according to his daughter. "He'd get a kick out of the fact this is occurring here," she said.

Hope died five years ago at age 100. The souvenirs being sold this weekend are from his sprawling office at his Toluca Lake estate.

Auctioneer Darren Julien said the Saturday and Sunday sales will be streamed on the Internet and could raise as much as half a million dollars for veterans.

One display room is devoted almost exclusively to Hope's golf clubs, golfing attire and other items related to his love of the links, Julien said.

There's a collection of golf-themed neckties that could fetch as much as $600. Golfing plaques, badges, buttons and caps could go for hundreds of dollars. More than two dozen novelty putting irons -- in the shape of whiskey bottles, several depicting Hope's signature facial profile, with bent shafts -- could bring in thousands, according to auctioneers' estimates.

A polished golf bag made of red, black and white leather filled with 14 of Hope's favorite clubs is expected to sell for about $6,000.

A golfing ensemble comprising pants, a sweater and a shirt that Hope wore in 2001 for the Foster Brooks Pro-Celebrity golf tournament could go for as much as $1,500.

Display shelves and walls at Hope's office were lined with other sports objects: an autographed baseball from Yankee Don Larsen's perfect World Series game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956, signed basketballs and footballs from professional and college teams, even a mounted king salmon caught by Hope in 1991.

Among those inspecting the collection Monday was Hope's former makeup artist, Mary Gaffney. She pointed to a red leather boxing glove autographed by Julio Cesar Chavez.

"That has the most meaning to me," Gaffney explained. "He kept that glove in his makeup room. He would say, 'My old makeup man, Don Marando, used to do it this way or that way,' and I'd tell him if I had to I was going to put that glove on and do things my way.

"He'd always laugh at that," she said.

Show-business souvenirs naturally make up much of the collection.

There are personalized directors' chairs, numerous cowboy hats used in films and TV skits, costume clothing, show posters, autographed photos and programs, and a Native American feathered headdress Hope wore in the cover photo of a 1962 Life magazine report on "Bob Hope at the Merry Peak of His Career."

Copies of two 1931 items -- a script for a vaudeville routine and a contract for a week's performance in a Detroit show for a salary of $1,250 -- are among the oldest items in the collection.

Many pieces of memorabilia are related to Hope's famous USO tours. Grateful servicemen showered him with military patches, customized uniform jackets and jungle fatigues, medals and inscribed pictures of generals.

"I think Dad would be thrilled to know these things are going to help veterans," Linda Hope said of the personal effects as she rose from the sagging office chair (which could fetch $700) and stood over her father's desk (which might raise as much as $7,000). "There's no group more important to him."

Her mother, 99-year-old Dolores Hope, has retained some personal items for herself. And Linda Hope has saved some of her father's clothing and "a raggedy bag" that carried his jokes and scripts when he performed on TV.

"It's such fun seeing these things."

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bob.pool@latimes.com

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