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Bob Hope Down Under: "Put Another Shrimp on the Barbie, Mate!"

(Ed. note: The author was a script-writer for Bob Hope between 1977 and 1992.
In 1978, Bob Hope decided to take his television show Down Under -- to Australia and New Zealand. Our critically acclaimed tour which included stops in Auckland; Sydney; Adelaide; Brisbane; Melbourne and Perth would prove to be a major turning point for the Bob Hope Show, which suddenly acquired wings and, for the next 15 years, could turn up at just about any spot on the globe.
Our flight from Los Angeles to Perth would take twenty-three hours, and on board our Quantas 747 were guest stars Barbara Eden, Florence Henderson and Charo as well as twenty Hope staffers that included Les Brown's musical arranger, Bob Alberti , makeup man Don Marando and Hope's longtime cue card wizard, Barney McNulty.
Eighteen hours after lifting off at LAX, we touched down in Sydney for a two-hour refueling stop beforepleting the five-hour hop to Perth. The Aussies' welcome was as warm as the water of the half-mile wide Swan River that flows through the pristine city's center. "I Dream of Jeannie" and "The Brady Bunch" were still in their first runs on Australian TV, so from the moment they stepped off the plane, Barbara and Florence were stalked by screaming, autograph-seeking fans.
Armed with one of the longest monologues he'd ever deliver, and with 8, 300 Aussie fans cheering wildly, Hope strode on stage dressed in a crisp, beige linen suit.
* "I can't tell you how happy I am to be here in Perth, the most isolated city on earth. Now I know why you didn't send a man to the moon - you're on it.
* Perth is strategically located - between nowhere and nothing.
* It's such a long flight from Los Angeles, by the time we got here, I was starting to look like my passport picture.
* I love to fly, but I have a terrible fear of being hijacked to a country where they never heard of me.
That line was strangely prophetic. A little over a year later, along with his wife, Dolores, Gig and me, Hope would carry his own luggage from a China Airlines 707 that had just touched down at the Peking Airport. Thanks to a welcomingmittee that had been delayed, one of the most recognizable faces in the world would belong to just another visiting American.
* And Perth has to be the friendliest city in the world. Yesterday, I saw two lobsters propositioning a kangaroo.
Perched on the far western edge of Australia's vast Outback, the city is a demarcation point between that dusty red desert and the Indian Ocean and supports enough indigenous wildlife to keep Crocodile Dundee in business indefinitely.
* And you have such clean air here. My lungs aren't used to it. This morning, they got up two hours before I did.
* The water here is so clear, I hear the shark from Jaws has to swim all the way to New Guinea just to change his shorts. Is that right?
* And there's no air or water pollution in Perth. Where have you gone wrong?
* I can't tell you how happy I am to be standing here on the stage of the biggest theater in the world, with eighty-three-hundred seats. The last twelve rows are in Indonesia.
Though maybe not as far away as Jakarta, the uppermost rows were a good 300 feet from the stage which meant that, for our sketches to be seen and understood by the entire audience, we'd have to use simple sets and readily identifiable props.
* These audiences are great, but Australians drink so much beer, you're talking to more people in the aisles than in the seats.
* No, I love the beer here. One sip and you don't feel old anymore. Two sips and you don't feel anything anymore.
These were not exaggerations. Down under, beer is the oil of industry. Our rooms at the posh Parmelia Hotel were equipped with small refrigerators in which daily appeared twoplimentary quarts of Swan Lager, an Aussie favorite. Like clockwork, at around nine, in would pop a jaunty bellman who'd grab a bottle and ask, "Can I uncork one for you, mate?" To decline would have been ungracious toward our hosts. Wouldn't it?
* I've never seen so many beautiful girls. Perth wasn't only the first city the astronauts saw from space - it was the first one they looked for.
* And the beaches here are so safe. The life guards give every girl mouth-to-mouth resuscitation - whether she needs it or not.
Aside from its gorgeous women, Australia boasts the best-trained lifeguards in the world. While shooting segments for the show on the beach, crack teams of them could be seen drilling nearby, racing through the surf in longboats. Matching the Aussies' love of the water is a great respect for its power.
Of course, Hope wasn't about to spend two weeks in a foreign land without his sticks.
* I love your golf courses. Yesterday, I had a great caddie. He was carrying my clubs in a pouch.
* On the third hole, my ball was okay, but my caddie took a bad hop.
* But it worked out great. He could run faster than I could hit.
Following the monologue, we set the stage for our obligatory customs sketch - always surefire in a foreign country - featuring Hope, Barbara Eden and Florence Henderson as themselves confronted by an ultra-suspicious customs officer (Charo).
(Up on busy airport lobby) ANNOUNCER: "Will the Bob Hope party please report to Customs.")
(Hope enters dressed in an Australian safari outfit: bush jacket, shorts, long stockings and a hat with the brim turned up on one side as is the Australian custom)
HOPE: Okay, mates, billy me bloke, let's go pick up a cobber and a jackeroo and catch us a dinkem boomerang, huh!
FLORENCE: Bob, what are you saying?
HOPE: I don't know, but five stewardesses thought it was hilarious. (bangs on table) How about some service here!
BARBARA: Oh, look, he's doing his David Niven impression.
HOPE: Now let me do the talking. I know how to handle these Australian accents. (calls out) What say in there, cobbers? How about some service!
(Charo enters dressed as a customs officer: short shorts, white blouse with the buttons unfastened. She looks gorgeous)
CHARO: What's going on out here? (to Hope) What are you, a hooligan? I am Inspector Charo. I will inspect your bags, look in your socks, feel in your shoes, open your shirt...
HOPE: Keep going. I may stay at the airport.
CHARO: I must fill out this form. Please indicate the province, state, kingdom, territory, principality or protectorate from which the applicant originally immigrated. (deep breath)
HOPE: Could you read that again?
CHARO: What's the matter, you don't understand my inflections?
BARBARA: That's just the problem. He can't take his eyes off of them.
HOPE: I was born in England.
CHARO: Now I must examine your passport.
HOPE: Here you are. (hands it to her)
CHARO: (looks at it) Wow! It's not every day you see something signed by Queen Victoria!
HOPE: Isn't that incredible? She was dead forty years at the time.
CHARO: (looking at it) This is a very good likeness.
BARBARA: It should be. It's by Michelangelo.
HOPE: Wouldn't you help a starving art student who needed the work?
CHARO: I must examine your luggage. Please place your suitcase here on the table.
(Hope tries to lift the bag and it doesn't budge. He tries two hands with no success.)
HOPE: Some wise guy nailed it to the floor!
FLORENCE: Bob, stand aside. (She easily places the suitcase on the table)
HOPE: Sure, it's easy when you've been on all those vacations with the Brady Bunch.
CHARO: (opens bag, removes jar): What's this?
HOPE: Wrinkle cream.
CHARO: (with tube): And this?
HOPE: My mascara.
CHARO: (with bottle): This?
HOPE: Grecian Formula.
FLORENCE: (to Charo): Keep going. There's more of him in there than there is out here!
HOPE: How would you like to be attacked by my "Waterpik?"
The items removed from Hope's bag were small, but they were quickly identified so they would be instantly understood by the entire audience. Otherwise, to get laughs, the objects had to be large enough to be seen by everyone, like these:
CHARO: (removes an orange life-preserver) This?
HOPE: Don't pull that string! (She does and it inflates. On the back is printed: HELP!)
BARBARA: He's been carrying that with him ever since he saw Jaws.
CHARO: (removes a bra with three size EEE cups)
HOPE: (to audience) I'm warning you guys. Never date anyone in the cast of Star Wars!
The sketch concluded with Charo discovering a live girl hidden in Hope's steamer trunk whom he explains is his tennis instructor. As they stroll off together, Charo decides she'd better accompany them "to make sure there's no ‘coochie coochie'."
Next, we took the special out-of-doors, put Hope and Florence in a rowboat on the Swan River and provided them with someedy dialogue to go along with their duet of "Cruisin' Down the River."
For numbers like this, the music is pre-recorded so the performers can lip-synch the lyrics. The dialogue was on cue cards held aloft on the shore by Barney and his assistants. The problem was that neither Florence nor Hope, both nearsighted, could make them out. Barney tried larger lettering. Still no luck. In desperation, he decided to hold the cards above his head while walking in chest-high water just out of camera range and ahead of the rope pulling the boat just below the waterline. He took three or four steps and promptly submerged more quickly than Humphrey Bogart in "The African Queen."
The following day, Perth's morning paper featured huge, front-page photos of one of Hollywood's most experienced cue-card men going down for the third time, his cards floating aimlessly like rectangular lily pads toward the Indian Ocean. It was an incident the affable Irishman - whose sister, by the way, played Blondie in the movies under her stage name Penny Singleton - would never be allowed to forget. At least not as long as Hope was around to remind him.
The two men had a close relationship that went back thirty years. Barney had started as a teenage page at CBS in New York. One day during a rehearsal of the Ed Wynn Show, Ed came over to him and said, "I'm having trouble remembering my lines. Could you run over to Woolworth's and buy me some cards to print them on?" (This was amonplaint of radio veterans transplanted to television where they had no scripts to read.) Barney ran across Times Square, picked up some Bristol board, india ink and broad-tipped pens and ran back to the studio and into a career he'd spend the rest of his life pursuing.
Barney had been with Hope since World War II, and over the years, the service he named "Ad Libs, " handled cue cards for scores of variety shows, sitcoms and dramas, including Murder, She Wrote; M*A*S*H; Cheers; NYPD Blue; The Rockford Files; and Hart to Hart. He worked in movies, too, including It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the Grumpy
Old Men films with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Barney became such a fixture on the backlots of Hollywood, he was welcomed through the front gate at every studio with a wave and a smile.
Before reaching the land down under, Hope made a quick pit stop in the land under the land down under - New Zealand. His first monologue of the tour would be delivered to a crowd of 2, 000 Aucklanders.
* I'm happy to be in New Zealand I hear has more sheep than people. I believe it. When I got off the plane, all I heard was one, loud "baaaaaa."
* I've never seen so many sheep. I feel like I'm visiting next year's Christmas sweater.
* This is the time of year all the sheep are fleeced. Back home, we call it "April 15th."
* New Zealand is the land of the Kiwi, a bird that doesn't fly and lays an egg bigger than itself. I feel a certain closeness to the Kiwi bird. I can't fly either, and I often lay an egg bigger than myself.
In the weeks before we arrived, a five-year-old-girl from Melbourne that the press had nicknamed "Mouse" had been getting lots of play on Aussie radio singing a song called "Tell Me a Story." A disc jockey friend of Hope's in Sydney suggested she would be a cute addition to our show.
Hope agreed, although he was concerned that a child that age might be overwhelmed by the size of the audience. We were assured that she'd been interviewed on the radio numerous times since her novelty record had hit big and had shown no signs of stage fright. Of course, we were making a TV program, but show business is show business, right?
So Mouse was booked. She would chat with Hope for a few minutes and then sing "Tell Me a Story." She knew the ditty by heart, but since her reading ability was limited, Barney and his cue cards wouldn't be of much help - besides, he didn't know how to print like a five-year old. But Hope had always had a nice rapport with kids whenever we used them as extras on our specials, so it didn't occur to anyone that he might have a problem with this one.
The little girl was brought to rehearsal by her parents, and Hope gently asked her a few questions that she responded to without appearing at all nervous or fearful. That was at rehearsal with no audience. When she was introduced on the show and entered to music by Bob Alberti and the boys, she still appeared self-confident. Then she looked up and saw the
Entertainment Centre crowd and suddenly went mute.
She took another look and started to sob. Gently, Hope began reassuring - "Do you know how pretty you are? "These people would love to hear you sing."-"You wouldn't want to disappoint them, would you?" The Mouse-tears continued, but Hope wasn't about to let a five year-old get the better of him. If Art Linkletter could do it, so could he.
"You know, you're so pretty, and I have an opening in my act for a girl singer. Would you like to go on the road with me?" Mouse stopped mid-sob, looked at Hope and said, "What's the
money?" Hope was laughing so hard he almost couldn't introduce her song which went like this:
MOUSE: Tell me a story, tell me a story
Tell me a story, and then I'll go to bed.
You know you promised,
You said you would,
You said you would if I'd be good,
Tell me a story and then I'll go to bed.
Musical numbers by Barbara, Florence and Charo as well as performances by several Australian pop chart favorites (including a singer from India named Jamal) completed a bill of a show that set a high standard for the foreign specials Hope would produce throughout the eighties, topping a list that would be highlighted by a three-hour tour de force taped in the People's Republic of China just sixteen months later.
The Laugh Makers: A Behind-the-Scenes Tribute to Bob Hope's Incredible Gag Writers was published by Bear Manor Media and was named one of Leonard Maltin's "Top 20 Year-End Picks." To order: bobhopeslaughmakers.weebly " Laugh Makers bobhopeslaughmakers.weebly
Kindle e-book $2.99: amazon dp/B0041D9EPO amazon dp/B0041D9EPO
View photos from the book: bobhopeshowbackstage.weebly" Photos bobhopeshowbackstage.weebly A native of San Francisco, Bob Mills served in the Navy after high school, graduating from San Francisco State University in 1962 and the University of California Hastings Law in 1965. He practiced in Palo Alto, CA for ten years before moving to Hollywood to write for television. He worked on the Dinah Shore Show, the Steve Allen Show and the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts before joining Bob Hope as a staff writer in 1977. He traveled the world with Hope for the next seventeen years. In 2009, his book The Laugh Makers: A Behind-the-Scenes Tribute to Bob Hope's Incredible Gag Writers was published by Bear Manor Media and was named one of Leonard Maltin's "Top 20 Year-End Picks." To order: bobhopeslaughmakers.weebly" Laugh Makers bobhopeslaughmakers.weebly

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