LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles BOB HOPE WAS past due at a press conference with some of the TV critics gathered here. An NBC public relations type whispered to another that there was no answer to a knock on Hope's door. The key to his room was located.
"You know, I went up to my room, sat down in a chair and fell asleep," Hope confessed to the critics later, admitting that he still hasn't recovered from his trip to visit the troops in Saudi Arabia. "I feel fine, but I'm tired.
"I got back a week ago. Five o'clock in the morning we left Saudi Arabia and flew back to Washington. It took us 20 hours. Refueled twice in the air. Went to Andrews Air Force Base, did a little press there, then flew back to Norton Air Force Base out here. Five and a half more hours. So we took 25 and a half hours in the air. This has never happened to me before. I mean, I've flown a lot of places and a lot of long trips, but this was something else.
"I think I'm getting a little old for this," the 87-year-old comedian who's been entertaining the troops for a half century said. "About the second or third day we were there, I didn't sleep well. I woke up and said 'I'm pretty tired. We have to go out in that desert, I think I'm going to cancel today.'
"My daughter, who is producing, said, 'Oh, no, you can't do that. They've got them coming in, and so on and so on.' So I went out there and did them.
"We did three or four shows that same day, traveling by helicopter. And the wind in the desert is something. It whips up and the sand and the whole bit. It's not too comfortable. I think we did about 10 shows altogether."
NBC will show a 90-minute special compiled from Hope's tour of the troops Saturday night at 9:30. But most of the entertainers who accompanied Hope -- Ann Jillian, Marie Osmond, the Pointer Sisters, Khrystyne Haje -- were only allowed to do one show with him. And that wasn't for the troops in Saudi Arabia.
"The USO and the Defense Department got together on that. I couldn't figure it out," Hope said. "They just decided they weren't going to let any women in Saudi Arabia because of the religious thing. I don't know, it's a little silly to me.
"They worried about Hussein getting a tape and showing it to the other Arabs. I don't know how many Arabs would talk to him now. To me it's a little ridiculous that they won't let us entertain our guys."
Hope said that his wife, Dolores, was allowed to sing because they were both entertainers who were married. Former baseball star Johnny Bench and country singer Aaron Tippen also performed.
"I tried to get Ann Jillian in. She had her husband with her, but he wasn't an entertainer. If I'd told them he played good card tricks, I guess she'd have been able to get in, too. That's how silly it is. But Dolores sang a lot of songs and the four of us did about an hour show at most of the bases."
The entire crew did do a complete show in Bahrain and excerpts from that will be interspersed with segments of the shows at the Saudi desert outposts where Hope and his colleagues usually performed on a flatbed truck for audiences of about 1,000.
"It's the best audience," Hope said of the troops he found over there. "I mean, it's amazing how high the morale is. On account of that general saying we're not ready, my opening line was,'Are you ready?' And they went wild. You know, they just jumped up at it.
"I would call them guys, you know. And finally one little gal stood up and said, 'How about us?' Then I discovered there are an awful lot of gals in the service over there. Tremendous group."
Hope remembered once when he was in Vietnam, he had a line that got a lot of laughs. "I said, 'Hey, I just want you to know that 50 percent of the country is behind you,'" he said.
"But this is a different thing. They're getting such support from back here and the morale is tremendous. You have to see the special to really appreciate just how up they are. Because I've been doing these things for a long time and I find these people rather marvelous. I'm proud of them. I just hope they can adjust this thing so they don't have to go into combat."
Hope noted that last May he took a trip to Berlin, London, Frankfurt and Moscow that included some performances for the troops.
"And I made an announcement. I said this is my last trip. I thought now that Gorbachev and Reagan were dancing together and everything that we were all in fine shape. I never dreamed that this madman would pop up and we'd be back at it again."
"I didn't know whether I'd go or not. Then the USO got in touch with me and said, 'You are going to go, aren't you?' So I put together this group. I could have taken 100 people, so many wanted to go," Hope said.
"I did get tired on this trip. It's a little silly. But I didn't sleep so well in Bahrain. And I'm still tired. I guess I'll be tired for another week or so," he said, noting that he's been working on the bTC special since he got back.
"But I still enjoy doing it, because it's a different kind of kick you feel."