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Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Holding out Hope

By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

America lost one of its most beloved entertainers Monday when Bob Hope died at 100. With a career that stretched from vaudeville to the age of 156-channel TV, Hope was an enormous influence on comedy and his classic "Road" pictures with Bing Crosby remain funny and innovative half a century later. By traveling the world to entertain U.S. troops from WWII to the first Iraqi war, he also cemented his reputation in American culture.

While his best work was decades in the past, Hope never gave up performing. In fact, earlier this year he was working on another "Road" picture that would have connected him to another generation of American audiences. Fortunately, Page 2 located the shooting script for the movie ...

"The Road to the Final Four"

Scene 1:

Bob Hope
"I just flew in from the States, and boy my arms are tired."
[The camera pans slowly across acres of desert before stopping to focus on the stage of a USO show in Iraq. It is March 2003, and BOB HOPE, two months shy of his 100th birthday, is struggling during what will be his final performance for U.S. troops in a war zone.]

HOPE: This is Bob "For Haliburton" Hope and I tell you, it's great to be back in the desert. I haven't spent this much time surrounded by nothing but sand since I played the back nine at Palm Springs with Gerald Ford ...

[Rim-shot followed mostly by silence and a little polite, awkward applause.]

HOPE: But seriously, how about those Hussein kids? I tell you, I haven't seen a crueler, more merciless, savage and bloodthirsty bunch of villains since I visited my agents ...

[Rim-shot followed by total silence]

HOPE: And that Saddam. I gotta tell you, he's so ugly that he makes Phyllis Diller look like Anita Ekberg. Yow, Anita Ekberg. Grrrrrwwwllllll ...

[Rim-short followed by scattered boos and hisses. Somewhere in the back, someone chants derisively, "Bob for Texaco Hope! Bob for Texaco Hope!" and someone else shouts, "Knock out the knocks! Knock out the knocks!"]

HOPE: Well, I can see the natives are getting restless. All right then, we'll just skip the quips from the Kodak All-Americans and go right to the main event. Men, let me show you what you're fighting for -- here's Charo!!!

[As the very old, very wrinkled and very flabby Goochie-Goochie Girl takes the stage in a thong bikini, the troops being throwing tomatoes and HOPE is forced to flee.]

HOPE: Whew! The Viet Cong weren't this vicious during the Tet Offensive!

Scene 2:

[Backstage minutes after his performance. HOPE sits at his makeup mirror. He groans.]

HOPE: Ohhhh ... where did all the laughs go? When did I lose my touch? How did it all slip away? BING, how did we ever do it in the old days?

[Suddenly, BING CROSBY'S ghostly image appears in the mirror. He is smoking a pipe and sipping orange juice.]

HOPE: Bing! You're back! Thank God! Tell me how to recapture my magic!

BING: Tut, tut, Junior. Don't you worry. You've just temporarily misplaced your stroke. You just need to get back in the swing of things. Don't worry. Stay smooth. And let the old instincts take over.

Bob Hope, Bing Crosby
"Hey Bing, I get dibs on haunting Sinatra. What? He's here?"
HOPE: I try, Bing, but I can't seem to bridge the damn generation gap. I feel more out of place than David Bowie did singing "Little Drummer Boy" on your Christmas special! I bet I'm 20 years older than some of these soldiers.

BING: Twenty? Junior, your jokes are 60 years older than these soldiers.

HOPE: So how do I do it? How do I get the old Hope snap back?

BING: Easy, easy. You go back to your roots. You start playing college campuses and, before you know it, you'll be leaving them in the aisles just like in the glory days of Crosby and Hope. And your old buddy has just the ticket. A gig at the University of Kansas party in New Orleans on Final Four weekend. It's a can't miss.

HOPE: Great! I'll send a telegram to my gag writers and put them to work.

BING: Oh no, Junior. You have to do this on your own. Just like when you were starting out. But you'll have to hurry. I got you on the next cargo plane out of here.

HOPE: A cargo flight? This better not be like the time you talked me into buying the Cleveland Indians as the perfect investment.

Scene 3:

[A U.S. cargo plane flying to New Orleans from Iraq. HOPE edges past four helmeted COALITION SOLDIERS and plops down his gear in the back of the plane between a duffle bag and a SLEEPING PASSENGER.]

HOPE: Bing was right. This is just what I needed to spark my career. It's just like the old days, flying from camp to camp, dodging anti-aircraft fire and shielding myself from stray bullets with Bing's ears. Why, I wouldn't be surprised to meet Dorothy Lamour.

[HOPE lies down on the duffle bag, quietly humming, "Thanks for the Memories," then leaps up startled as the duffle bag kicks him. It's not a duffle bag at all -- it's a large WOMAN dressed in the same sarong DOROTHY LAMOUR wore in "The Road to Morocco."]

WOMAN: Watch where you're sitting, old man!

HOPE: Who the hell are you?

WOMAN: Who am I? I'm QUEEN LATIFAH, best supporting actress nominee for "Chicago" and granddaughter of Princess Shalimar of Morocco.

HOPE: [Staring at her ample busom] I thought I saw a family resemblance. Grrrrrwwwwlllll ...

[He turns to the camera.]

HOPE: I haven't seen bazookas like those since the Battle of the Bulge. Speaking of which, either that's a Weapon of Mass Destruction in my pocket or I'm just excited to see her.

Queen Latifah
Sorry, Bob. You're old enough to be the Queen's great-grandfather's much older brother.
QUEEN LATIFAH: Don't you be pointing your nasty thing at me!

HOPE: Sorry. It has a mind of its own ever since I started taking Viagra.

QUEEN LATIFAH: I meant your nose.

[The SLEEPING PASSENGER wakes up and instantly recognizes his famous companion.]

PASSENGER: Gee, Mr. Hope, what a surprise finding you here.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Who's that?

HOPE: It's Tiger Woods! Why, I haven't seen you since we appeared on "The Mike Douglas Show" together when you were three and I was ... in my late thirties. That was wild. You, me and Jimmy Stewart on the same show. I haven't played with a pair that impressive since I helped Jane Russell out of her 18-hour bra. Grrrrrwwwllllll ...

By the way, Tiger, I see your golf career turned out all right. My tips must have helped.

TIGER: They sure did. Mr. Hope. I listened to everything you said and did the opposite.

HOPE: [Double-takes for the audience] But at least I see you took my advice on Swedish women. Elin Nordegren. Grrrrrwwwllllll ... She reminds me of Anita Ekberg. Grrrrrwwwllllll ...

TIGER: [Laughs very hard] That's so funny, Mr. Hope. But tell me. Who is Anita Ekberg?

Scene 4:

[An exterior shot of the cargo plane flying dissolves into a map of the world. We see a red line being drawn from Iraq over North Africa and the Atlantic and toward New Orleans. Cut to the interior of the plane where HOPE, QUEEN LATIFAH, TIGER and the COALITION SOLDIERS are killing time by playing cards.]

HOPE: OK. Seven-card stud. Jacks or better to open, $10 minimum bets, $25 maximum raises.

TIGER: But I don't know how to play seven-card stud, Mr. Hope.

HOPE: Did I say $25 maximum raises? I meant unlimited.

Tiger Woods
The only thing funnier than Bob's wacky antics is Tiger's Nike driver.
QUEEN LATIFAH: I don't know the rules either.

HOPE: Did I say seven-stud? I meant strip poker.

[He stares at her breasts again.]

HOPE: Grrrrrwwwllllll ...

Scene 5:

[The poker game continues. QUEEN LATIFAH is wearing HOPE's clothes and HOPE is wearing LATIFAH'S sarong. HOPE looks at the camera and flips his sarong coquettishly.]

HOPE: That's what I get for trying to draw to an inside straight. Oh well, it worked for Uncle Miltie.

[HOPE deals from his deck of America's Most Wanted playing cards. Everyone picks up their cards. HOPE looks at his cards. Then he looks at the COALITION SOLDIERS. Then he looks at the cards again. And back to the SOLDIERS. And he notices a striking resemblance between the SOLDIERS and the faces on the Most Wanted playing cards. Slowly it dawns on him.]

HOPE: Hey, you guys aren't coalition soldiers. You're the ace of spades, the king of diamonds, the jack of clubs and the nine of hearts. You're Saddam, Uday and Qusay Hussein, and the Iraqi information minister, Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahhaf!

SAEED AL-SAHHAF: You are mistaken, you son of a camel! We are simple merchants on our way to New Orleans to sell Final Four souvenirs to the revolting heathen fans of America who shall die choking in their own vomit! Praise Allah!

QUEEN LATIFAH: If they're Final Four souvenirs, why does one of the crates say "Warning: Anthrax," another say "Caution: Biological weapons" and another say, "Danger: Nigerian Uranium"?

SAEED AL-SAHHAF: I swear by Allah that what you call weapons of mass destruction are nothing but trinkets as harmless as a sterile camel's testicles. As we insisted to the United Nations weapons inspector, Hans Blix, these are nothing but Mardi Gras beads, Rock Chalk Jayhawks T-shirts, Carmelo Anthony bobblehead dolls. Nothing more.

HOPE: What about the crate that says "Kentucky Southeast Regional Champions T-shirt"?

SAEED AL-SAHHAF: What can I say? We took calculated risk, it didn't pay off. You like? We give you very good deal. You make big American profit selling on eBay. Guaranteed collectors items. Praise Allah!

SADDAM: Enough, Mohammed! You are fooling no one! The infidels have learned our secret and, for that, they must perish! Uday! Gut them and leave them to drown in pools of their own blood! But show some mercy for the woman. Slice off her ears first, so that she need not hear the screams of agony from the coward with the ski nose.

QUSAY: Awwwww, Dad! Uday always has all the fun!

TIGER: Gosh, Mr. Hope. This sure looks bad. Are we going to be able to get out of this?

Mohammed Saeed Al Sahhad
Mohammed Saeed Al Sahhad delivers his first report for the New York Times new TV network.
HOPE: Depends.

TIGER: Depends on what?

HOPE: No, Depends. I should have worn my Depends. Because I think I soiled myself when he mentioned slicing off ears.

[Suddenly, CROSBY'S ghost reappears and whispers into HOPE's ear.]

BING: Trust your instincts, Junior. You know what to do. Just like we did it in the old days. Feel the force.

HOPE: I'd kiss you, Lobster Ears, but if I did while wearing this sarong, I'm afraid they would mistake me for one of the Village People.

BING: That's the spirit. Junior! You're getting your stroke back -- that pop cultural reference was only 25 years old!

[HOPE turns to SADDAM.]

HOPE: Saddam, I am nearly 100 years old. I've spent eight decades entertaining people around the globe. It's been my entire life's ambition to make people smile whoever and wherever they may be. Please, you must grant me one last request.

SADDAM: But of course. I am a bloodthirsty, mass-murdering dictator who has gassed his own people and led his nation into certain destruction, but I am also a gentlemen. What is your request?

HOPE: Nothing could make me happier than one last game of patty-cake with my good friend. Grant me that pleasure and I shall die a happy man. Right, Tiger?

TIGER: [Winking] Right, Mr. Hope.

SADDAM: A game of patty-cake? It is a strange request, but like your punchlines, the western world is a decadent society we cannot begin to understand. Do as you wish, but hurry. Uday doesn't like to be kept waiting when he's about to torture someone.

[HOPE and TIGER face each other, bend slightly at the knees and begin slapping patty-cake style.]

HOPE AND TIGER: Patty-cake, patty-cake, baker's man, bake a cake as fast as you can!

[Just as they say "As you can!" the two punch Qusay and Uday, knocking the two unconscious, while QUEEN LATIFAH drops SAEED AL-SAHHAF with a swing of HOPE's golf club. Suddenly outnumbered, SADDAM raises his hands in surrender. TIGER grabs an assault rifle and points it at the four Iraqis while HOPE begins tying them up.]

SAEED AL-SAHHAF: We have you just where we want you! You are doomed! Surrender before Allah strikes you down with a lightning bolt that turns you and your children to ash and sets your ancestors to walking the globe as soulless zombies!

SADDAM: Oh, give it a rest, Mohammad.

[Everything looks like it will work out, but then HOPE accidentally knocks over the crates with his nose, spilling Anthrax, toxic chemicals, nuclear waste and deadly biological agents into the plane.]

QUEEN LATIFAH: Oh, my God! We're going to die!

TIGER: And with the Masters just coming up!

Carmelo Anthony
A dejected Carmelo Anthony can only laugh at losing the title game to Kansas.
HOPE: This is the most dicey situation I've been in since I played Vegas and the hotel was overbooked and I had to choose between spending the night in the cage with Siegfried and Roy's tigers or in the hotel ... with Siegfried and Roy.

Scene 6:

[HOPE, QUEEN LATIFAH and TIGER are floating on a raft on the Mississippi River near the port of New Orleans.]

HOPE: Wow. That was close.

QUEEN LATIFAH: Was it ever. I don't know how we got out of that one.

HOPE: Evidently, neither did the writers.

QUEEN LATIFAH: And the best part of our amazing rescue is we're just in time for your performance at the Jayhawks post-game party!

TIGER: I wonder who won the Final Four?

SAEED AL-SAHHAF: I just heard on the radio! Kansas delivered an inspiring triumph over the decadent sons of whores from Syracuse! Following the victory, coach Roy Williams swore by all that is holy that he shall never leave the sacred soil of Kansas! Praise Allah!

HOPE: That means they'll be in a great mood! My comeback performance can't miss! Latifah, I love you!

QUEEN LATIFAH: And I love you! Let me welcome you into the Queen's palace!

SAEED AL-SAHHAF: Grrrrwwwllll ...

[The raft sails toward the horizon and the movie fades to black ...]

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.