HOPE AND THE BEAR
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
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!