One assignment I recall as a writer for the now-forgotten daily Beverly Hills Citizen was to show up at the 1955 Academy Awards ceremony. It was at the Pantages Theater, just a few blocks down Hollywood Boulevard from today’s Dolby Theater, where the 2015 event happens.
That night of March 30, 60 years ago, was hosted by the late great Bob Hope, as he did 18 times from 1940 through 1978. I was assigned to seek out the winners and losers of the event, but wanted particularly to have a few moments with Bob.
I had enjoyed his movies and radio shows since I was a kid. I saw him in a live performance for the troops just after the end of World War II in 1945 in the bombed-out Rizal Stadium in Manila, The Philippines.
I had spent several hours with him in 1953 during the Korean War, when he entertained at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. As Chief Journalist of the base Public Information Office, it was my duty to meet and escort the star when he arrirved at the airfield in a Navy PBY from San Diego.
As he jumped onto the tarmac I introduced myself, took him to the Officers Club to freshen up, joined him in a quick dinner and rode with him to the base theater. Throughout he was very natural and friendly, and we shook hands as he entered the stage door to prepare for his performance.
Two years later, after I managed to sneak my way past security to his dressing room at the Pantages on 1955 Oscar night, he was just leaving for some publicity shots. When I said hello, he just muttered something and brushed past me.
Then, as I was slinking off, disappointed, Bob suddenly stopped, turned around and shouted, “Hey, Chief. Did you also eat that damned fried chicken special at the club in Corpus Christi? I was sick as hell for three days after that!”
He then walked back, smiled, hugged me and was again on his way to the Academy Awards stage.
(That night in 1955, Marlon Brando won the best actor Oscar and Grace Kelly was named best actress. He later won again as the Godfather and she became Princess Grace of Monaco.)