November 1979



As you saw referenced in our October 1979 REWOUND update, your co-host Tim Hollis (that’s me, folks) went to Tuscaloosa to be in the audience for the taping of Bob Hope’s college campuses special. This is one anecdote about that event…

The taping ran far, far into the night, mostly due to the complexity of one sketch being performed for the show. Things went smoothly and quickly as long as Hope was doing his monologue or other stand-up comedy, but when it came time for a routine involving sets, crazy costumes, cue cards and Bear Bryant, things got mighty slow. It took seemingly forever for the stagehands to tape the cue cards to the floor, furniture, and anywhere else the performers could see them, but that wasn’t the worst part.

In the skit, Hope played a ludicrous football player who was being forced onto Bear Bryant by the college administration. The script called for Bryant to be on the phone, arguing about the situation, and his big laugh line was supposed to be, "You’re just the president of the university, not Ayatollah Khomeini." Not a great gag, but in October 1979 it was topical and would have been good for at least some sort of chuckle.

The trouble started when Bear Bryant, despite the presence of cue cards, seemed physically unable to pronounce the two words "Ayatollah Khomeini" consecutively and get either of them right. For take after take after take, Bryant blew one or both words, and even when he got them almost understandable, he was trying so hard not to mess up again that the line lost whatever comic timing it needed to punch the gag across. They finally managed to get the whole thing in the can, and we audience members trundled home to bed.

Then, guess what happened? Between the time of the taping in October and the air date of November 19, the Americans were taken hostage in Iran, and all of a sudden it was not exactly the best idea to be using Ayatollah Khomeini as the punch line of a joke… no matter how many takes it had required for Bear Bryant to get his name right. So when the show aired, that line was cut to a hastily-edited moment of Bryant saying "You’re the president of the university," just so people who know who he was arguing with on the telephone, and the rest of the much-worked-over line was gone.

No, here at REWOUND we don’t seem to have a recording of the final show. In late 1979, blank VHS tapes were still relatively expensive, and tying up one for a two-hour special was just beyond my high school financial capabilities. So, you’ll just have to take my word for all of this!

10/13/2009 -- 1225 AM EDT