Bob Hope Memories & Letters from the WWII Troops featuring Martha Bolton
Bob Hope brought so much more than entertainment when he travelled the globe entertaining our troops. In a time before technology he provided healing, home and yes, hope. In return, Bob Hope received hundreds of thousands of letters of gratitude from the soldiers, nurses, spouses and parents sacrificing so much and longing for comfort and peace.
Moved and inspired by their letters, Bob wrote back often and a deeply moving collection of these exchanges is featured in a new book by Martha Bolton and Linda Hope called Dear Bob: Bob Hope’s Wartime Correspondence with the G.I.’s of World War II.
Martha wrote for Bob Hope for fifteen years and it is her great honor to share this compilation. She joins us for a heartwarming conversation.
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Fritz Coleman (00:05):
Welcome to Media Path. I'm Fritz Coner,
Louise Palanker (00:07):
And I am Louise Palanker.
Fritz Coleman (00:08):
You know, there's so many new media offerings every day and every week between broadcast television cables, streaming podcast books, social media. You don't have time to even pick options, let alone sit through options that end up wasting your time. So here on Media Path, we do the pruning. We select content we think you'll find interesting, and we offer them up. And then we get to the best part, our interesting guest. I can't wait for you to meet my friend Martha Bolton. She's a comedy writer and an author she wrote for Phyllis Diller. She was the first full-time female staff writer for Bob Hope. And we're gonna talk to her about her latest book. Dear Bob, Bob Hope's wartime correspondent with the GIS of World War ii. It's a very touching book and interesting from an historical standpoint. Martha will be here in just a minute. Wheezy, what do you have for us? Oh,
Louise Palanker (00:59):
I've been watching things. Fritz. The last movie Stars is a six part documentary from CNN Films and H B O that chronicles the iconic and interwoven careers of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. This is a perfect pandemic project, blending introspective zoom calls with reenacted, archival interview voiceovers, and Woodward and Newman film footage, which the filmmakers have carefully crafted to support the documentary storytelling. Director Ethan Hawk uses his pandemic isolation as fuel to bond with friends and family. Over a discussion on the humanness that made and affected Newman and Woodward as individuals, as a couple, and as artists. As Ethan moves through this process and the pandemic with the assorted whatever hair days in which we all indulge, he seeks clarity and creates connections with the children, friends, and grandchildren of Paul and Joanne, while daring to dive deeply into the alcoholism, depression, drugs, suicide, infidelity, and career family balance, which so dramatically impacted the Woodward, Newman's, and so many of all of us, you will find the last movie stars on H P O.
Fritz Coleman (02:04):
That sounds really awesome. It's good. Well, my selection this week is on Apple Plus. It's a new documentary Sydnee, about the life of Sidney Portier. I think most people agree, he's one of the most elegant, charismatic, and talented actors ever on screen. This is produced by Oprah Winfrey who said that was the most extraordinary person she had ever known. But Oprah's love for Sydnee does not influence the honesty of the film, including some areas of his life that Oprah admitted made her uncomfortable. It's directed by Reginald Hudlin, who directed the movie Marshall, about the life of, uh, justice Thurgood Marshall starring Chadwick Bozeman. The film covers Sidney's roots in The Bahamas in Florida. His total devotion to his parents, who he admitted, informed every single decision he made in his life. It talks about his start in what was called the Negro Theater in New York. It covers all of his film work from the earliest unknown performances to the peak of his career, movies like In the Heat of the Night, and guess who's Coming to Dinner?
And it looks at his devoted involvement with his close friend Harry Belafonte. In the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties, there are interviews with Denzel Washington, spike Lee, Halle Berry, Robert Redford, Barbara Streisand, along with his wives and his daughters. Again, the film is very honest, including about his affair with Diane Carroll. An eye-opening aspect of the film is the conflicted relationship that Sidney had with the African American community. He was accused of being an Uncle Tom. He was accused of being a white man's interpretation of what a black man should be. The film highlights, uh, moments in his film that shocked the general public too. Like when he kissed his white fiance for the first time, and guess who's coming to dinner. And when he slapped the rich white man in the, in the heat of the Night, black people referred to that moment as the slap heard round the world.
A black man had never struck a white man on film before. His relationship with the African Americans began to soften up a bit when he became a director and did some black oriented films like Uptown Saturday Night Bucking The Preacher, which was on TCM yesterday. He also directed Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder in Stir Crazy. Now, a heartbreaking revelation, and this is all I'll say, is that regardless of his amazing looks and his talent and his charisma and his box office success, the pressure of being the first black man to achieve this box office status in Hollywood, and the public's conflicted reaction to him left him extremely lonely. And he talks very candidly about it. I wanted to show you this picture of the one time I got a chance to meet Sidney Poitier. And this is a picture at an award ceremony. I'm the, uh, adolescent On the right of this picture next to me is an unknown man who was the head of the board of directors of this particular nonprofit organization. And then to that man's left is Sidney Poitier, and to his left was the director, Arthur Hiller, that directed movies like Love Story, silver Streak, and the Out-of-Towners. And, uh, Portier and Hiller were be receiving, uh, philanthropic awards. So there I was, it was a great honor to meet that amazing gentleman. He
Louise Palanker (05:17):
Looks very excited to be,
Fritz Coleman (05:18):
He's really ex I'm sure he hasn't. That's probably the fourth one of those he'd done in one week. And, uh, but it was, it was fun for us. No,
Louise Palanker (05:24):
He's, he's borderline giddy to be in your presence,
Fritz Coleman (05:27):
<laugh>. All right, I'm looking forward to catching up with our guest Martha Bolton. She's an author and a playwright and a humorist. This woman has written 88 books. If you've even read 88 books, please raise your hand. <laugh>, she wrote for Phyllis Tiller. She was the first full-time female staff writer for Bob Hope. She helped write 30 hours of primetime television with Mr. Hope. And for 15 years, she wrote jokes about his personal appearances for his personal appearances and his special events. She co-wrote a Bob Hope special entitled Hope News Network, h and m, which is about the time I met her because I played the weatherman on that show. I'm not a real mother man, but I played one playing one on tv. I've known and admired this lady for 35 years. She's got a desk full of award nominations like Emmy's and Writers Guild. We're gonna talk about this wonderful book, it's called Dear Bob, Bob Hopes wartime correspondent with the GIS of World War ii. We're gonna get to the book, but I want to talk about her amazing history. All right, Martha, we are so thankful to have you here coming to us from Nashville.
Martha Bolton (06:36):
Thanks for having me on. I'm, it's great to reconnect and and to, to meet your finding, uh, host,
Fritz Coleman (06:45):
Co-host. Thank you. And
Martha Bolton (06:47):
I'm excited to, to catch up.
Fritz Coleman (06:49):
Well, you have a lot of great stories. I can't wait to dig into 'em. Now, before we start your interview, <laugh>, you have to sit through my own family slideshow. This sets up my history with Bob Hope. Before we get to yours, <laugh>. Now, I was in the Navy. I was stationed on the U s s John F. Kennedy, which was an aircraft carrier in, uh, 1971. We were doing duty in the Mediterranean, and Bob Hope brought his Christmas show to our ship. It was the biggest thing that had ever happened to any of us. His guests were Lola Falana, Johnny Bench, the Gold Diggers, who were the dancers on the Dean Martin Show and singer Gloria Loing, who I ended up opening for years later at a concert at her home in Lake Arrowhead. And Ursula Andrus, who at the time was considered one of the most beautiful actresses in the world. So Bob Hope came to my ship. I ended up opening for Gloria Lowering. I ended up being on the Bob Hope Show in 1988. So a couple of the mini circles life that are all in the Fritz Coleman Museum. Oh, that was a picture of me doing the news on the USS John F. Kennedy <laugh>, because I worked for Armed Forces Radio and Television. Thank you to my boss, Mike Burns, for supplying these photos that should have been burned a long time ago. Anyway, let me get to a question here. Well,
Louise Palanker (08:01):
I, I wanna do my Bob Hope, uh, history. Oh, please. We, because everyone you meet, Martha has one. Am I not correct? So <laugh>, so my, I don't know this guy, this is just his essence was that everyone knew him, right? So, yeah, absolutely. I'm 11. It's our first trip to California. We, I grew up in Buffalo, New York, and we went to a taping of a Bob Hope special. I'm 11. And I, and I just remember that Louie and I was there. I don't remember who else was on the show, but it was the first time I saw show business, and I was determined to grow up and go into it and that, and I did. So that was, so Bob Hope's very influential in my life that way. Oh, oh, wow. And then, of course, with Premiere Radio over the years, as he did his specials that you worked on, what he would do is every time there was a special coming on, he would invite the press over to his house.
And Bob Hopes house in Toka Lake is like the White House in that, the bottom floor are the offices. And I imagine that he would sleep somewhere upstairs. So I don't know if he slept, but he didn't seem as though he did. But so we kind of felt at home there. We pulled into the driveway and it was just became part of, you know, my routine was to go see Bob Hope. And what I would do is I would bring a different staffer every time I went, so that maybe 30 people at Premiere would have the memory of having been to Bob Hopes. Well, that's nice. And before us, you see the array of Christmas gifts that he would give out. Every year I have, uh, there's a tape, a scotch tape dispenser that says, stick with me, <laugh>. And then, of course, the warm wishes on the, on the blanket. This is some sort of a, this is how you held papers together back when they were papers kids. Remember when we had Paper <laugh>? And then my favorite, my favorite is this one. It's a, it's a post-it little, uh, dispenser. And it says, thanks for the memo reads
Martha Bolton (09:43):
Louise Palanker (09:44):
Martha Bolton (09:45):
It looks like my office. Oh,
Louise Palanker (09:47):
And I just want you to know, Martha, that when you gave these Christmas gifts out, and maybe you weren't part of the department that did this, these aren't things that anyone ever disposed of or gave. Well, these are things that we, we keep, we have them and we'll, and we'll pass them on. So these are treasures. So thank you.
Fritz Coleman (10:04):
Alright. But enough about us, we've eaten up about three quarters of the show anyway, that we're, we're doing this to, to explain to you how important our having a chance to talk to you is. And I, I thought about the pressure of being Bob Hope's first female staff writer. There are great stories about Lucille Callen being the first female in Sid Caesar's writing room for Caesars. And there was not only pressure, but a lot of inappropriate hijinks in there. Uh, I'm sure it was different for you, but talk about that job. First of all, how did you get the job and, and what was the atmosphere in the writer's room as the only female?
Martha Bolton (10:42):
Well, how I got the job, um, I had been writing for Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers, and, uh, and then I, I kept getting encouragement that I should be writing like for a sitcom or, or something like that. Uh, and so I, I read a book by Gene Parrot, and you know, gene Fred, I do. And, um, we had a lot in common because he got his start writing for Phyllis Diller as well. And then he also would roast people at his work. And I was roasting, uh, I was a church secretary, so I was roasting our pastor <laugh> and doing all these roasts. And I got, I got kind of known in the area, and different, different businesses or churches would call me to come roast there, boss or pastor. And so we had that in common, and I just, I just wanted to write him a letter and tell him how much that I enjoyed his book, and then also what we had in common.
And at the time, he was a creative consultant for Mama's family. And so I, I wrote him and he, uh, was so kind, and he got in touch with me and invited me down to see a taping of mama's family. And I took this scrapbook that I had this rather large <laugh>, bigger than normal scrapbook, and, uh, and made the poor guy, well, he was kind enough to do it. I didn't make him, but he, he looked through this scrapbook. After the taping, we went out to eat, and he just went page by page. And he was reading my material. I was writing a newspaper column at the time, and I had that in there. And then I had the jokes that I had, some of the jokes that I had sent, uh, mailed to Phyllis and Joan, and, and he's reading it all. And he, he just encouraged me that I should try writing for a, a sitcom.
And so, uh, he, he said, for me to do a couple of spec scripts for mama's family, well, he said one, and I ended up doing two. But at the, at the time, my typewriter wasn't working <laugh> at the house, so I went to the local library. Oh, wow. And for a quarter, for 20 minutes, I kept feeding quarters into this Wow. Typewriter and, uh, and typed up two spec scripts for him. And I, I was in a hurry, so I wanted to make sure I didn't waste any time. And, um, just, just typed him up and, and got him to him. And he, he loved him. And then he got him to, uh, the producer of Mama's family. And then I got a call from the producer and he said he was going to invite me in the next season to pitch some show ideas.
So I was so excited. I, you can imagine, uh, you know, this was like a huge leap and a hu huge opportunity. So, uh, what happened though is what happens in Hollywood is that the show didn't get picked up that next season. Oh, it, it ended up getting picked up, but at that window of time, it didn't get picked up. So I, my my hopes were dashed. And, you know, I, you know how you get, you're all excited, this is gonna happen, and then it doesn't. And, uh, then Jean said, well, would you like to try writing for Bob Hope? And I about fell off my chair, and, and I was, you know, are you serious? And, and he said, no, why don't you try it? He gave me a topic and I wrote some jokes up, and he got 'em to Bob. And then I waited to hear back.
And then one night, uh, we had gone out and, uh, my husband was taking the babysitter home. So I was, it was just me at there, at the, at the house. And it was like eleven, eleven, eleven thirty at night. And the phone rang, and it was Bob. Oh my gosh. I could not believe it. I'm like, oh my goodness. And, uh, it was kind of funny though, because there was, uh, there was this guy in our church that, that did voices, and he had been, he knew that I had written some jokes to try out for him. So he had been calling me and pretending to be Bob. Oh, no, no. But I thought it was him and I, I said, come on, I know it's you and you're not even that good, you know, <laugh>.
Speaker 4 (15:19):
Martha Bolton (15:20):
But it ended up, it was Bob and
Speaker 4 (15:22):
Oh my gosh,
Martha Bolton (15:23):
He just continued to call. And I, um, I started writing for different appearances of him and just kept on, and then he'd, he'd, you know, throw something else out there, throw something else. And I ended up going on staff and, uh, was with him 15 years.
Fritz Coleman (15:40):
Wow. I, I just wanna do an addendum to your Gene Parrot story, who is one of the most supportive comedy writers. I I have known him for a long time, and his daughter sort of follows him around and takes good care of him. I was out in Thousand Oaks doing a show at a cafe. There were nine people in the audience, <laugh>, two of them were Gene and his daughter Linda. Yeah. He's very, very supportive. Oh. And he tells a great story. And you're 11 o'clock thing from Bob Hope kind of blends into this Gene said that it wouldn't be outta hand for Bob to call up one or a bunch of his writers at like three o'clock in the morning, and Oh, yeah. Insist on a couple of jokes for a breakfast he was gonna do in a couple of hours. Did that ever happen to you?
Martha Bolton (16:22):
Oh my goodness. Did it ever it <laugh>? Well, the thing of it was, he was always in different time zones. Oh, okay. Where he was at. It was a, it was a normal time a lot of the times, but where we're at, it's two in the morning <laugh>. So it, you know, how you, you dread a late night phone call because it's a usually scary news or something. And, uh, with Bob working for Bob, we just got used to it at two o'clock in the morning. Oh, okay. It's Bob. There is a, there's a funny story I'll tell you about that. Uh, one of the writers, uh, the, he was asleep in bed, and Bob called and his wife picked up the phone and she said, hello. And he said, is your husband there? And she looked over at her poor husband who had been writing constantly, uh, for days and weeks, and, and she just didn't have the heart to wake him up. So she thought for a minute, and Bob repeated, is your husband there? And she said, well, no, he told me he was gonna be with you tonight,
Speaker 4 (17:29):
Martha Bolton (17:31):
So there was this pause, and then Bob said, oh, yeah, here he comes down
Speaker 4 (17:36):
<laugh> <laugh>. That's great. That's awesome.
Martha Bolton (17:40):
Awesome. But yeah, that, that's Tim. When
Fritz Coleman (17:43):
You went on staff, did you have to go in and work at NBC at 3000 West Alameda? Did you have an office in there where the other writers, I'm just trying to get a sense of the atmosphere at being the first female, and did you have ceilings to break through when that happened?
Martha Bolton (17:55):
Well, the thing of it is, uh, we, we wrote a lot of the, like, monologue jokes and whatnot. We'd write it at our house. Ah, then we'd, when it was a showtime, we'd go and meet at Bob's office at, in his house at, he had this huge office. And, uh, we would, uh, go there and then he'd, we'd all sit around this big table with him at the head and, and all the writers around it. And then we would pitch different ideas, uh, for the sketches. And, uh, sometimes we'd turn 'em in ahead of time. So he would sit there with the stack of all of our ideas, and then he'd go through it. And, uh, like there was this one time I remember he, he was reading one of mine, and he said, well, Martha's got a good idea here. And he starts reading it. And when I had turned it in, I didn't have an ending. So I just kind of put something, I figured I'd, I'd figure that out later. And I just put something, kind of sloughed it off there at the end. And then, so Bob's reading it, and he gets to that ending. And then he said he didn't read it. He just goes, and then Martha went to lunch, <laugh>.
Uh, but he was quick. He was quick. But that's how we would do it. We'd, we'd do that, and then we'd, we'd meet at, uh, we also would meet at the Alameda office, the Hope Enterprises office. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and have meetings there with Bob and Elliot. And, um, did you, you knew Elliot Kozak, right? Yes. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. So, uh, we'd meet there and we would talk down the show and decide what, what we're going to do. And then, and we'd all throw out ideas and, uh, different ways that we could go with things. And sometimes he would pick your entire sketch idea. Uh, we'd all go home and, and write our version of that sketch. And then sometimes he would pick just yours of, you know, word for word. That would be your entire sketch. And then other times he would take pieces of each of each of ours, and we all kind of went in the same direction.
So you could take a block here and a block there, and then he'd put it together. Um, I remember the first sketch idea, uh, that I was so excited to see the set done up, uh, at there, at N B C. And, uh, they kept putting it off and, and putting it off. And then we ended up breaking for dinner. But I, but the set was built, it was an elevator sketch, and it was all built. And I, and so we were gonna do it first thing after dinner. And then, uh, uh, I came back, I was so excited cuz it was gonna be the first sketch that they, uh, taped and I come back in and they're tearing down the set. Oh, man. I, I was like, what, what, what? You know, they're, they're, yeah. So anyway, it ended up, because they had too much, they had so much already that they just cut.
So, uh, but I reach, I turned that in a few years later on a similar type show. And I turned it in and he picked it again and he forgot. Picked it before? No, this time they did it. And it was with, uh, Danny Thomas and Gillian, um, wow. Were in it. But you know, you, you never give up on anything, but you're talking about, uh, what was it like? And I have to say that the, the team that we worked with, our, our team, when I came on the, they were so supportive. It was, uh, semen Jacobs side Jacobs and Freddie Fox and, uh, uh, you know, o obviously Gene Parrot and Bob Mills. And, uh, the, the three of us, three of us came on together was Phillip, Jason Lasser, and Doug Gamble, and myself. And I hope I'm not, uh, leaving anybody off there at the, uh, at the time, Jeffrey Baron came in as well.
But they all treated me as a, a, as an equal. They were very respectful of my work. And, uh, just, they, they just treated me really well. I, I can't say enough good about it. And I didn't even realize that I had broken a ceiling until later in one of the interviews that they had set up. And then I discovered that I was his first woman staff writer. But they, um, uh, it, it was, it, it was hard work. There were a few times little things would happen. Like one, once the, um, uh, I was supposed to take a, uh, you know, some material down to one of the stars on the show to give her a line change. And so when I walked down there, uh, and she opened the dressing room door, you know, she, she thought I was the, the, uh, costume designer. And so she said, this, this is where, this is where I made it taken in <laugh>. And believe me, she does not want me sewing for <laugh>. I would've put an extra sleeve in or something.
Fritz Coleman (23:03):
But <laugh>, it sounds to me like all the writers pitched for everything. I mean, there wasn't a separation between, like, like there was on the Carson Show between sketch writers and monologue writers. Everybody pitched
Martha Bolton (23:13):
In. No, we, yeah, we did it all. We did it all. And e we, we did it individually. Um, and then we would drive it to his house. Or when he, when we finally got fax machines, then we would fax 'em to his house. But, uh, yeah, we, we all worked individually. Si and Freddy were a team, and they worked together, but everybody else was, uh, individually. But we, we called each other throughout the day, and we would, if we had a joke that we especially liked, we'd call up and tell somebody about it. We'd also stand on the side of the stage there at N B C to, uh, when he was doing the monologue and doing the sketches and whatnot. But especially the monologue. And we'd all stand next to each other. And if, um, uh, if we heard a joke that was ours, and if it got a really good response, then we'd nudge the person next to us and say, okay, that was mine. You know, just kind of point to yourself. But if it didn't get anything, then you just, you didn't claim that
Louise Palanker (24:17):
Around, like, who wrote that? I don't who
Martha Bolton (24:19):
Wrote that? Yeah.
Louise Palanker (24:20):
<laugh>. So when you were over at, at, at, uh, Mr. Hope's house, you, you saw the binders of letters, and how much thought did you give to World War ii? Because I know that the times that I went over to interview him, I wasn't giving a lot of thought to World War ii, even though I knew that my father had seen him. My father was on the front lines in the Normandy invasion, and he had seen him. So I, I knew he had, I knew of his service be, but he continued to do it. He continued to do it during my childhood, and he continued to do it during the time when I was interviewing him for these specials. Like, I, he didn't stop until 1990 Right. Entertaining the troops. So I don't know if I, if I recognized how vital his service was during World War ii, when did you become aware, uh, of
Martha Bolton (25:06):
The course? Well, I knew in watching the, uh, when a veteran or a military, um, a GI would come to see the shows, I, you could tell the respect that they had for Bob and he had for them. And so you knew that that was there. But, um, as far as like watching him on television, it would've been the Vietnam years mm-hmm. <affirmative> for me. And, and, you know, watching, uh, him perform, uh, on television and, and the, and seeing the crowds and all of that. So I, I knew he had it, he had all of this experience, but I wasn't that familiar with the World War II years. And when I, we were working on a project, and when I came across those World War II letters, I was just blown away at, at what is in them. And it, and its story after story of things that I didn't know he did.
And then the depth of the connection just was unbelievable. And so I talked with Bob and told him, I, I said, have you, you know, have you ever thought about putting these in a book? Because it would make a fantastic book. And he, he, he liked the idea, but he was afraid that, um, he couldn't get through them again because they're so emotional to him. And he said, he suggested that I contact Linda, who was his, uh, producer, and, um, and, you know, talked with her about it. So we started talking about it and started going through the letters way back then, and, uh, making selections. I was working on it. And then, you know, you get onto other projects and whatnot. And so, uh, we never forgot about it, but it just got put aside for a while. And then, uh, then Bob died.
And, uh, I wasn't sure where it stood, but a few years ago, uh, Linda contacted me and said, do you wanna get back on that book? And I was just thrilled. I, I said, absolutely. And so we dove into it At that time when, uh, when Bob was alive, the letters were at his house, but then over the years after he passed away, they, uh, they're up at the Library of Congress now. So I live in Tennessee now. So I would drive up the, up there and finish the research and, and finding the letters at the height of World War ii. Bob Hope was receiving 38,000 letters a week. So you can imagine the, um,
Fritz Coleman (28:06):
There's a really touching prologue in the book by Linda at having Oh, yes. Been fascinated by this when she was a young woman, like she was a teenager and had to have a project. And she saw it was like this, it was like the, uh, the holy grail. It was this mystery Right. Stack, you know, yards and yards of folders. Yeah. And she became very interested in what was in those and asked if she could do a project on them. So the, the, you know, the pilot light for her interest in that was many, many years ago when she was a young woman. And, and the book we're talking about is, dear Bob, Bob Hopes wartime correspondent with the GIS of World War ii. And those of us that perform just had an added bump of respect for him because, you know, you, you, regardless of where the audience is, you go perform in front of an audience to steal their laughs and then you're onto the next show.
And you don't give that audience a, a thought anymore. But he accepted the responsibility of being the only contact between these soldiers and their families. And it was so touching. And I'm gonna read a couple of really brief ones here cuz they're really, really touching. Um, this one's on page 26. And, and I, I will tell you that there's a lot of humor in this book too. She does some great interstitial jokes. But this one is says, dear Mr. Hope, I wanna thank you from the bottom of my heart for your thoughtfulness in remembering my son, Bert McDonald and sending me that wonderful letter about him. He lost his own life by saving three others, and yet he could not have a flag draped on his coffin after I brought his body home from New Orleans, because the Merchant Marines were not recognized by the Navy at the time.
I had one boy to visit me after he came out of the hospital to tell me how my boy kept their courage up when they were all in the water. My husband, who is in the CBEs, just came home after being in North Africa for nine months. He was telling me what a wonderful show you gave them over there. You will never know just what that letter means to me. So thanking you again, I remain sincerely yours, Mrs. Hattie, singer of Lima, Pennsylvania. And I'll just read one more here, Weezy, cuz I just think it sets the tone for this amazing book. This was from December 26th, 1942. Dear Bob, this year's Christmas was the first one that I've spent away from home. The hymns and Carols broadcasted throughout the day made me homesick and all broken up inside. I tried not to think of home yet.
Somehow I couldn't keep my thoughts from wandering back to those joyous moments spent on Christmas Eve. And the following holiday weekend, I tried to forget by reading, but it was to Noah Vail. Then I happened to tune in the variety program in which you participated as mc. After listening to that program, I felt greatly relieved. I know I'm just a homesick rookie, but I'm sure those veterans of campaigns and the staunch Australia, raging North Africa, isolated Iceland, and those who went through Helen Batan Gudo Canal in Singapore would've forgotten some of the past when they heard that wonderful program, this line of thought comp compelled me to write and congratulate you. Please keep up the good work Bob and make God bless you. And he didn't even sign it. He just said an ardent admirer. I thought that was so beautiful. And, and each one is more touching than the other. Really, really special.
Martha Bolton (31:36):
Oh, I know.
Fritz Coleman (31:38):
Did you have a favorite? Did you have a favorite one in there, or,
Martha Bolton (31:42):
I have a, I have several that I just, you know, that choke me up every time I read them again. And, um, and like you said, there's some funny ones. I love the funny ones. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But the book, I think it explains the why of that connection between GIS and Bob Hope. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, better than anything that anybody can say if when you get through reading all of these letters, and believe me, there's thousands and thousands more. You understand why they would do anything for him. And, and they repeatedly say that to him as well. And also, you know, why he would do anything for them. And there was this strong connection. But I, I do have one that I, I really, um, if you want me to read it, did, did you want me? Yes, please. Okay. And just the humbleness of this just always chokes me up.
But Dear Bob, I'm writing to you because my husband was one of the soldiers you brought a little of home to in Sicily. It was the only entertainment he had had during his nine months of active service overseas. And now he will never see any other. Yes. I mean that he was killed in action. He didn't die a hero. He never did anything spectacular. He just did his duty as best he could. His name will never go down in history as being great. And yet he was to me, and I'm very proud of him. I received a letter from his commanding officer telling me what happened. It seems that night of March 17th, they were on the front line at Anzio, waiting to be relieved. Pete, my husband, was out of his foxhole checking on the men in his platoon to see that they were ready to leave.
The minute the relieving unit arrived before he could get back to his foxhole, the Germans fired several rounds of artillery. One hit close to Pete and several pieces of shrapnel lodged in Pete's chest. I'm told that he died instantly. Pete or Staff Sergeant Melvin e Peterson was one of the finest men that ever lived. And he will always live in the minds and hearts of his friends and loved ones. My husband was like millions of others. He didn't want to leave home and go to war, but there was a job to do and he was never one to shirk. So he went cheerfully. I wrote to you because my husband wrote me of the show he saw with you and Ms. Langford, you seem like a friend and you saw him since I did. I guess that's why I've told you all about it. Sincerely, Mrs. Harriet and Peterson.
Fritz Coleman (34:35):
Oh Lord. Wow. And I, I can understand you being very moved by that one. And I,
Louise Palanker (34:41):
And I, I think that the, the collection is extraordinary because most letters that went back and forth are in someone's attic or someone's drawer. And this is the, these are all consolidated in one location that, that serve as a, uh, means of understanding what it felt like soldier, after soldier, after soldier to do. You know, you think of them as serving in this certain place, but they had, they just found themselves there. They were, you know, Jerry Thompson from Iowa. They were, they, you know, they were who they were. And from where they were from, they weren't from Iwa Jima, they weren't, you know, from Normandy. Right. They were just finding themselves there. And so, and some fever dream and having to put one foot in front of the other and serve to, to the very best of their ability. And so, and hearing the voice of Bob Hope, not only was that a reminder that home is waiting for you, but it was the way that he approached it with humor when everything was so grave. And we all need to laugh every day. And I'm sure they would go day after day after day with no laughter. Mm-hmm. When they did finally laugh. And it's not just that he came to where they were, it's like they listened to his, their Armed Forces Radio to whatever ability there was to broadcast wherever they were. They, they heard his voice and that was their thread connecting them home.
Fritz Coleman (36:00):
Good point. And I'll say, uh, because I, I look at my own parents as a reflection of this. It wasn't just the soldiers. He had the respect of the American people for what he did too. And I'll give you my own personal example of that. Doing the Johnny Carson Show was always, I always called it your comedy Bar mitzvah when you're a, when you're a young standup, when you do the Carson Show. That was your coming of age. Well, my father was never a huge fan of Johnny. He, there was just something about him that I, I don't probably, cuz he was funnier and more charming and who knows, I dunno why <laugh>. But he just, he was not a huge fan of Johnny. But when I finally earned my father's respect and made him realize that I was actually in show business, <laugh> was when I did the Bob Hope Show and I did the Hope News Network appearance that you were a co-writer on.
Now, Thomas, this is the other group of pictures. I, I, I want to actually, there wa this will be the I M D B page. But anyway, all you need to know is Martha co-wrote the show. I wanna see how much of it she remembers. The other cast members were Phyllis Diller, Morgan Fairchild, Tony Randall, Yakov, Smirnoff, Brook Shields, and Ted Turner. And other than the fake weather forecast I had to do, I did a scene where I was dating Brook Shields and I had to meet her parents who were played by Morgan Fairchild and Tony Randall. So, anyway,
Louise Palanker (37:23):
That's intimidating. How'd you do?
Fritz Coleman (37:26):
Martha Bolton (37:26):
Here's the script. Here's the script. <laugh>.
Louise Palanker (37:30):
Wow. Oh, did you find a line that Fritz had so that we he can Oh no, there
Fritz Coleman (37:34):
Were, Hey, I gotta tell you a funny story about that. About the line. Okay. You know, um, my, my job is that, I don't know if you even wrote this piece or somebody else wrote it. I was standing in front of a map, which was a, a jigsaw puzzle of the United States, and I had a pointer <laugh>. And so I'm doing a thing and I'm just accidentally hitting the mat. And then California falls off the map. <laugh>, yes. And I go on with my dialogue and hope comes running out of his dressing room. He says, wait, we gotta do that again. I got a perfect joke for you, <laugh>. He says, when you hit the map, hit the map again. But save this line. Nostradamus must have been right <laugh>, because that was at the time we were talking about an earthquake. And I thought that old guy, man, he was in his eighties, he just fired that light up. It was really impressive. I was really impressed. And that light stayed in
Martha Bolton (38:18):
The, was fun. That was a fun night. Yeah.
Fritz Coleman (38:22):
How much time did you guys have to write those shows? I mean, from the time you found that?
Martha Bolton (38:26):
Well, you know, we didn't have much, but I'll tell you, uh, if you, if you look at the at on the cover of this it film, September, uh, second and third, 1988. And it aired September 8th. So it was
Louise Palanker (38:43):
Whoa. Quick turnaround.
Martha Bolton (38:44):
Yeah. Wow. Yeah. And we were writing up to the last minute, uh, you know, up to, well you're obviously you're still working on it when you're rehearsing too and, and adding jokes and different things. But he was, the turnaround was really quick. And we, and we would start maybe a week or a week, maybe a week before, to start writing new material or 10 days. It was pretty quick. It, it, we're gonna start this and then just would start turning in sketch ideas and then he'd, he'd pick one and then we'd write those. And, and the monologue was always at the end. After, after we had written the others. Then, then we got the monologue topics. And for a show, um, at the, at, for the live audience, it would always be like a 40, 45 minute monologue. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, he, he just would go out there and just go, go, go, go. And then obviously that got paired down for what you see on television, you know, 6, 7, 8 minutes, something like that on television. But,
Fritz Coleman (39:54):
And, and in those days it was Carson and Bob Hope that were delivering the temperature of the nation with current events jokes cuz it was pre daily show and all that kind of stuff. And so they, they, they, they were the ones delivering the nation's attitude back to them. Were there parameters in your current events material? I think there was, there's a legend that Bob said, you can stick but don't draw blood when you, when you make jokes, <laugh>, something like that. Like, you, you can, you can be sharp, but you don't be cruel.
Martha Bolton (40:27):
Well, and the, and the thing of it is, is, uh, you know, as you know, he wrote for every president in his lifetime and, you know, he would wrote, write about them and, and joke about them. And they all loved it. They, there's letters from the presidents to him and thanking him for, for the jokes and, and joking back with him. And, and their quotes about him were always that, you know, he, he could, he could do, he always felt loved and respected when he joked about you. It just wasn't a, it wasn't mean-spirited at all, but, you know, he would just have fun with it. And, and they loved it.
Louise Palanker (41:07):
Right. Because he always had this sparring relationship with Bing and with his friends. It felt like you were in his family if you were joked at Yeah,
Martha Bolton (41:12):
Louise Palanker (41:14):
I'm gonna read like, uh, Martha, I'm gonna read a little bit of my favorite letter. This one really, really touched me. It's included near, near the end of the book. It's, it's from a, a Jack Simmons. And I'm going to enter this midway. Uh, he writes, I'm not griping or complaining, rather, I am explaining when I tell you that on the morning of the day that I saw you, I had been told that I could take my choice of two things. Keeping what legs I had left with the probability of never walking again or having them amputated with the possibility of walking with artificial limbs. I'll not lie, I was plenty scared down in the dumps a young kid with what appeared to be a pretty dismal future. Understand you. I was not feeling sorry for myself, but I'd definitely be lying if I told you that I wasn't giving it plenty of thought.
Mr. Hope you'll probably never remember this. But as you walk down the ward saying a few words to first one man and then another, you gave each man a new chance to regain himself by the cardinal dosage. I e laughter cures all ills. The thing I refer to as you're not remembering is what you said when you looked at me with your permission, I will quote your exact words as you walked up beside my sack, glancing at my legs before you spoke. I bet you're glad you didn't have to go down and hear us today. Didn't have to. I couldn't have moved six inches of my life depended on it. Allow me to tell you, sir, that could you possibly recall, I made no answer to the statement in quotes above, but that I broke into almost hysterical laughter. Imagine had you said what I expected to hear, i e that old soap about how are your old man and is there anything we can do, et cetera, et cetera.
And it probably been cussing yet that sir is why I'm writing this letter. I know of no other man whom I have ever encountered who could have so well lifted a lower demand spirits than you did that day to go farther. When I commenced to laugh, you said, and again I quote, that's a better laugh than I got during that entire three hour show. And I haven't said anything yet. You stayed with within range of my hearing about 20 minutes that day. And if I live to be a million, I will always treasure it as the outstanding day of my life. Mark, you weller. I do not write this as idle praise or in any sense of flattery. Neither do I have any requests or ActX to grind. This comes from the bottom of my heart and in the most sincere manner I can possibly express. Thank you. And the way he signs the letter Jack A. Simmons Sheriff's Department, Palm Beach County Courthouse. I'm seeing that he, he went on and he lived a a a a good life with with wow. With purpose. That was a very
Fritz Coleman (43:45):
Louise Palanker (43:46):
Letter. But the way that, yeah, the way that, that Bob Hope knew that what was required of him was to treat them like people. Right. And not like special cases. Uh, that that was what they needed more than anything. That,
Martha Bolton (44:00):
And, and not to let, like he would tell the, uh, the troop that went with him, you know, to not, you know, to hold it together while they're in there with, with the, uh, patients. And then, you know, I'm sure they broke down when they went outside, but, um, just they were there to make 'em smile and bring laughter and give 'em something else to think about.
Fritz Coleman (44:23):
Yep. And, and I, I noticed that, um, they really had the system down for doing these shows. Cuz I remember about a month before he appeared on the Kennedy, um, we got this questionnaire I worked out of a public affairs office and that's where the Armed Forces Radio and television was assigned. And they asked us all these questions about operation of the ship. Like what's the captain's name? Does he have any nicknames, <laugh>, does he have any, does he have any particular sensitivities? And all these is what's the worst meal you ever had on this ship? And all these things. And we all sat around and sort of gang wrote the answers to this. It was 15, 20 pages long. Yes. And we sent 'em back. And then when Hope would come out at the top of his show on the ship doing that, those were always the jokes that got thunderous laughter. Yeah. Because it was so recognizable. And they're all sitting around and saying, how did you know That was fantastic. <laugh> did. So were you guys involved in the writing of those? I mean, you we mailed the stuff back and then, or
Martha Bolton (45:23):
Well, they, they would do the, the, they, they'd send us fact sheets and, and it would come from all of that research, which was so helpful because you had that you knew what the hangout was, what the, you know, the, the superiors, what their names were, and it gave you material that you can, um, you know, insert into the jokes mm-hmm. <affirmative> that, like you say, it was that, uh, familiarity that when they heard
Fritz Coleman (45:55):
Their head always killed because he, Bob Hope was saying what they could never say to their superiors. It was great
Louise Palanker (46:01):
<laugh>. Yeah, there was a ton of that. But also just knowing that he knew what you were going through, it felt, it just felt so warm, I'm sure. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Now what I'm wondering is that during World War ii, and you do a lot in your book to lay out sort of the context, you know, you, you include a lot of different quotes from various books that kind of give the reader a sense of, you know, what the world was going through. And I'm wondering if, you know, how the war effort coordinated with the hope effort because a lot of where he was going, how to be kept top secret. So how did they plan his itinerary? How did they prepare to get him someplace safely and get him out? There must have been a lot going on behind the scenes.
Martha Bolton (46:39):
Well, there, there was, and that was always a, um, a major project to get him there safely and, and, uh, you know, without harm. But there were plenty of times when he had close calls and, uh, the bombs are going on behind the stage and you know, or the, or they have to, um, you know, take cover. Uh, it, it wasn't, he definitely, it wasn't safe. He definitely risked his life going. And there were, uh, there were also times when like, if, if he went to one island and there was another, uh, group of guys that didn't get to come to the show on this island, but, you know, can you come and and stop over where we're at? And he would talk to the pilot and say, can we go, yeah, we could go over there, right? We're we'll just go over there after this show. And the pilot would say, no, it's, it's too late. We wouldn't get back in time. It's too dangerous. And Bob would go, no, we could do it. We could do it <laugh>. And he would, he would make sure that he went over there to entertain those guys. And
Fritz Coleman (47:51):
Mark Lockman said he was the bravest man he ever met. He Oh yeah. Hope was very brave.
Martha Bolton (47:56):
You know, for somebody who played often, uh, a character that was a coward mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, he was, he was fearless. It's, it just would seem like when you read these situations that he would get in and he would not show any fear at all. Which I don't know if he was just, you know, making himself be that way in front of the guys, but it just looked like he was fearless.
Louise Palanker (48:25):
Maybe it helped him stay calm too, you know, behavior way he could have Yeah. To success. I'm wondering if you, um, if you've heard from the families or from anybody whose letter appears in the, you know,
Martha Bolton (48:35):
There, uh, there's a, there's a picture in there and I, I I think you'll, you'll, uh, remember it, but of a nurse dancing with him. Yeah. And she's having the time of her life and, and, uh, so I just love that picture. I, I got a letter from her daughter.
Louise Palanker (48:53):
Oh, wow. The
Martha Bolton (48:54):
Lady's daughter says, you got my mom's picture in there. We were so excited. So Oh yeah. I just, I I love that. And, and, uh, so yeah, we're, we, we get those kind of comments. So it's, it's pretty neat.
Fritz Coleman (49:08):
I, I don't know if a single performer, uh, would have the impact on service people even doing the same schedule of performances Bob did these days because of email and social media and soldiers can actually FaceTime from a battle zone now. I know. So there isn't to disconnect with the, with the home front. A hope was the only conduit of information or hope, hope from hope. And, you know, when he was out on these performances, I, I just don't know that we could recreate that scenario these days.
Martha Bolton (49:37):
There wa there was also one, one thing that he would do is if a, uh, if a GI could get up close enough to him and hand him his mother's phone number, his or her mother's phone number, he would then, when he got home after this long tour and, and travel all the way back, he would be on the phone making phone call after phone call from these little pieces of paper of these soldiers calling their mom or dad and saying that he had seen their, their son or daughter and, uh, you know, give a message or that, you know, they looked good and everything they wanted to say Hi, just phone call after phone call.
Louise Palanker (50:26):
Wow. So explain what were, what were short snorers,
Martha Bolton (50:32):
<laugh>. Those are pretty cool. Yeah. What those were was when you were with a group of, you know, whoever, whoever you were with you, everybody took out a dollar and everybody, you know, uh, you, you signed them and then when you had to keep it with you, then if you ever saw that person again, then you had to have that dollar Okay. <laugh> and everybody was doing it. And if you didn't have the dollar, you had to pay the person a dollar. So it was this fad that was going on. But every, it, there's so many people that signed these dollars and famous people. And, um, and then there's one that's in the book that all all, uh, the whole troop Bob Hope Troop signed them, and Eleanor Roosevelt signed some, and it just, it, it was just something fun that another light thing that helped people get through the war, but they ever called short Snorers.
Fritz Coleman (51:37):
That's so cool. Gi give us, um, uh, this will be really hard. Maybe this is a dumb question. Give, give us a favorite moment, a funniest moment working for Bob, or a most touching moment, or one that will always stand out in the pantheon of good memories of your
Martha Bolton (51:51):
Employment with him. Well, they, um, I two, I have several moments of that are, that are special to me. There was one time, I'll, I'll tell you two real quick, but, uh, I was dropping off material at his house and, and he had a dog, I don't know dog, I don't know if you ever met Snow Jobb, his dog <laugh>, but his, yeah, his name was Snow job. And so I was dropping off material and I was always nervous around that dog. But, uh, he came up to me and he bit, he just took a plug out of my, the top of my foot. He just what? Grouted and then bit me. So, uh, you know, I, I left and, and got checked out and whatnot. But anyway, the next day Bob sent me a telegram that said, dear Martha, please come back soon. I'm ready for another hors d'oeuvre, <laugh> love stone job. <laugh>,
Louise Palanker (52:44):
Martha Bolton (52:44):
Classic, but the most, the most touching moment. Uh, I was, uh, you know, he had, Dolores had remodeled their, uh, their bedroom and their office, the, his whole office area. And so they were showing me the office area and you know, Bob was there at the desk and whatnot. And then he took me around to the side and it went down this hallway and aligned on both sides of the hallway, were all of these photographs with him and this president, that president, this king, that queen, uh, this four star general, this four star general, and just amazing you, it was showing me the different ones. And we get down to the end of the hallway and he stops and he looks back and he just had this real, um, overwhelmed and humble look on his face. And he just said, it's something, isn't it Martha? It really is something. And it was, he was in awe of his own good fortune and his own life that he had led. And, and it wasn't nothing arrogant. It was, he couldn't believe it that it was just that he was allowed to have a hundred years in this world. Wow. And to do what he got to do,
Louise Palanker (54:10):
He was marveling at his, his own, his own fate, which he created. Uh, yeah. So I have a little bit of a question. Do you remember going into an area of the house that was like a museum where there were things behind glass?
Martha Bolton (54:25):
Yes. Yes. That's, that's his office where we would have the meeting, the writers meeting.
Louise Palanker (54:30):
Okay. Yeah. So he was showing me that he had items from Hitler's Bunker <laugh>. And I remember thinking, why, you know, as a Jewish girl it was, it would look like Nazi memorabilia, but, and I, so I didn't quite understand that. And then in your book, there was a letter from a, a gentleman who was, he said, he said, and I guess they would send Bob Hope things
Martha Bolton (54:54):
Well, and that was,
Louise Palanker (54:55):
Yeah, yeah. He was saying, I'm very close to the front lines if you want something from Hitler <laugh>. And I'm thinking, okay, that's how he wound up with things was this guy.
Martha Bolton (55:04):
That's, that's what, uh, that's what it was. It was sent to him mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, um, and there were so many things that were sent to him, and, and it meant, you know, obviously meant something to the, to the soldier that sent it to, uh, to be able to take that down, you know?
Louise Palanker (55:23):
Oh, for them. It was definitely a, a victor moment. It yeah. Absolutely. Wasn't any celebration of these items. It was that we made it it all the way here. Not at all. Victory moment. Yeah. Victory moment.
Martha Bolton (55:32):
Fritz Coleman (55:32):
Yeah. What are you working on now, Martha?
Martha Bolton (55:35):
Well, I <laugh>, I'm, uh, I do musicals now. I'm, I'm writing scripts for musicals and we're on our 13th, uh, musical. Wow. And they, yeah, it's been fun. Uh, they are in Indiana, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. And, uh, we just started, we just filmed our first one and it, it's been going for 13 years, but it finally, it just got, um, uh, it's gonna be filmed. I mean, it already was filmed, but they're putting it together now. And, uh, it should be in theaters, I think February 13th, it's gonna be, have a, um, a, what's it
Louise Palanker (56:20):
Martha Bolton (56:21):
The Confession? It's based on Beverly Lewis's trilogy. And, uh, I took the three books and then, uh, we made, I, you know, wrote the script and then, uh, we made a, um, uh, turned it into a musical and it's been really well received. Uh, Wally Nason did the music, and Dan Postma did is the producer and Mel Rig, rig Sicker is the executive producer. So that's what we're working on, and we come out with one and one, a new one every year, so.
Louise Palanker (56:54):
Oh, wow. Good for you. That's quite a project. Well, your book is a five solid star reviews on Amazon. Everybody loves it and everybody's reading it. And if you wanna better understand the hearts and minds of the art, the soldiers who saved the world, I in the forties during World War ii, read, read, dear Bob, it's, it's a great way for, for younger people to really grasp an understanding of what we went through and the sacrifices that were made for us to live in, in a free, in a free
Fritz Coleman (57:25):
Nation. And the historical significance of Bob Hope. Oh, yeah. I mean, I could never understand my dad's reaction to him until I sort of put him in historical perspective. He was a very important man. I mean, he was an ambassador of goodwill for the whole country at that point. So, yeah. Crazy. Definitely. So happy to talk to you, Martha. I, I'm, you're looking well, and I, I wish you continued success. I've always enjoyed our friendship.
Martha Bolton (57:48):
Well, thank you. Me too.
Louise Palanker (57:49):
Okay. Stay where you are. I'm gonna, nice meeting you too. Nice meeting you. It's just been a pleasure. I'm gonna read our closing credits. Thank you so much for joining us. We would love to continue this conversation with you on Instagram and Twitter, where we are at Media Path Pod, and on Facebook where our show page is, media Path Podcast. And our Facebook group is Media Path with Fritz and Wheezy podcast community. You can find full video podcast episodes loaded with bonus visual content on our YouTube channel Media Path Podcast. You can write to us at Media Path email@example.com. If you enjoy this show, please give us a nice rating in Apple Podcasts and talk about us favorably on social media. <laugh>, if you would be so, so very kind, you can sign up for our Fun and dishy firstname.lastname@example.org. And we wanna thank our wonderful guest, Martha Bolton. Our team includes Dina Friedman, John Madox, Sharon Beo, bill Philiac, Thomas Hubble, Mason Brown, and you. Our theme music is by me and John Madox. I am Louise Planer here with Fritz Coleman and Martha Bolton. And we will see you along the media path.
Speaker 5 (58:51):
That's great. So
Louise Palanker (58:51):
Just stay where for two more minutes. We're gonna take a picture.