A DRUNKEN, BRAIN-ROASTING TRIP
TO A BOB HOPE LIVE SHOW
[A Grim But True Chronicle]
Syracuse University. October 1983. Yes, it's Brian J. Edwards and I at the Bob Hope Memorial Service and Showcase at Syracuse University's Carrier Dome. Everyone who thought they were Anyone was there, that evening in October, and we had managed to secure a pair of 8th row center seats -- free seats, mind you -- for this pathetic event, which was to be telecast on one of Hope's upcoming TV-craptaculars. The place was crowded with hideous old women in perfumed furs and men squeezed into three-piece polyester suits two-sizes too small, jamming into the Dome with no idea of what they're in for. Brian says that he's never been inside the Dome before, so this is a rare treat indeed for an unsuspecting individual. Sitting at Hungry Charley's beforehand, pounding down a pitcher of flat beer, we had little clue that there is no proper way to prepare for this type of horrible ratfucking weirdness. Sucked into the already deteriorating stadium/ nontaxable-entertainment-complex, behind a hundred crumbling grandparents on their one outing for the year before the heavy snow arrives and their joints lock for the winter. We try valiantly to make our way to our seats, but first we have to figure out where exactly our seats are!
Getting down the steps to the floor is a problem, but slowly we blaze a trail. A huge S.U. symbol hangs above the stage to let us know exactly where the fuck we are, the place only half full of people who had to pay real, hard-earned cash to see this Ancient buffoon. With a fresh beer in my hand, we begin to sweat profusely in the humid, fog-laden atmosphere of this (ironically) badly-air-conditioned Carrier dome; Brian taking off his jacket and dropping into his chair as I relax with my cold brew. "Here, Brian, you may need this..." I say, passing him the beer. No one sitting beside us, luckily, because everyone else seems to think that this is Something Special -- as we get more than a few strange looks as we joke about deflating the ceiling. Hey, it's only 'Bobbope' and we got in for free, so fuck you all. We're here to have fun. We soon realize that the floor is covered with the Astroturf used for football games. "Having your face scrapped across it during a game must not be too fun," we quickly conclude. Plus a nice view of the stage. Easily within spitting distance, but I dare not tell this to Brian, who's in one of his surlier moods. When Bob canes on stage we'll be REAL close to that shitheep of protoplasm held together by the miracle of modern media-electronics. "Did you remember to bring your gun?" Brian asks me, "Oh shit. I didn't. You mean you didn't bring yours?" We frantically look around. "I hope somebody brought a gun," Brian shouts. Let's give this crowd a real show to watch. What more could this lemmings want for a seven dollar admission? Brian reads his ticket stub while waiting for Bob. "Waitaminute. Vanessa Williams is here? Shit! I'm leaving." But I calm him down as the show starts.
After some classy (zzzzzz...) music from the S.U. Jazz Ensemble, Bob takes the stage and the crowd goes wild. Brian and I stare apprehensively at each other and wait for the funny stuff. It'll be a long wait. People try to make their way up the aisle to take pictures but the heavily-armed and well-trained bodyguards won't allow this kind of anarchy bullshit. A young girl approaches with a rose that she wants to give Bob, but she's knocked aside by the hollow-eyed ushers. Poor Bob. It's a frightful monologue indeed. Bad jokes and old jokes, few (if any) laugh unless the NBC cameras are on them. They're filming for Bobbope's November TV-special, and Brian constantly hides from the cameras. No surprise, he doesn't want to be seen at a Bobbope concert. Personally, I don't care if I'm seen, just as long as I'm not seen laughing. Cue-cards appear on a stand in front of him, and some people seem shocked to learn that Bob doesn't make up the jokes as he goes along. Instead, he reads them and rereads them, trying to squeeze a chuckle out of this heavily-sedated crowd, while telling the audience to act as if they'd never heard his horrible rotten lousy jokes before. The crowd strives to please Bob, and they agree to give him a SECOND standing ovation because the cameras didn't catch it the first time.
Meanwhile, Bob makes jokes about Syracuse University and Marshall Street (the prime area for college inebriation) as if the bastard had ever stepped on this campus before today, or even wanted to. Brian keeps trying to draw him in his sketchbook, but each time his drawing looks more alive then the real thing. Frat fucks hold up signs in the second tier praising Bob, the cameras panning the happy, plastic faces of the audience, purposely neglecting the two of us, who look very confused, groggy and unhappy. Is this fossil be the same funnyman who gave us such classics as "Paleface" and "Road to Morocco"? It couldn't be. Our dreams are shattered. and unfunny doesn't come close to describing this outcast. In the middle of his monologue I leave in search of the bathroom. Nothing to be missed here. Venturing into the mens' room, I find myself in a long line of hard-drinking businessmen who're peeing in a trough. Classy? You bet! And none of these guys care what the fuck Bob has to say... I also grab another beer from the grossly overpriced concession stand. It's a big beer indeed. "I want one of THOSE!" I say, pointing to the quart cups stacked on the counter.
I return just in time to hear Bob introduce (soon to be ex-)Miss America Vanessa twice, because the cameras fucked up again. Ahh, the miracles and spontaneity of television. Senility reigns as Bob flubs his lines and the audience gets very quiet as they realize that he's utterly insane. When Missfuckinamerica comes on stage, the upper deck begins to shake, the rumbling of their pounding feet echoing throughout the building. "You can't make that noise!" Bob suddenly orders. "You'll ruin the taping. They won't be able to hear ME." Bob just keeps on blabbering to the winds, but he's really starting to ramble now. The cue-cards are running low and the jokes are few and far apart. A handful of wise audience members leave, and I talk to an usher who had to listen to all the complaining assholes who actually thought Bob was gonna be worth their cash. No such luck. A slug has more personality and charisma than this relic. But both Brian and I strive to survive this holocaust of humor. For free, we can make it through almost anything...As long as the beer holds out...Vanessa sings "Happy Days Are Here Again," and the crowd seems to believe this propaganda, the gullible lemmings that they are. Then Bob throws in his words of wisdom. "Don't you think Reagan's doing a great job? This country's really getting back on its feet." This slow-witted, fucking multimillionaire has no right to subject us to his bullshit. Maybe the S.U. logo hanging from the backdrop will fall and slice off his diseased head, splattering blood, brains and spine fragments on Vanessa's gold lame gown. Alas, it's too much to hope for in one short, weird night. But maybe if we wish real hard...
Five minutes later, Vanessa's gone, and that's all for her return to her alma mater. Get back on the plane and goodfuckinbye. She made her money and ran with it. Intermission was over all too soon as far as we're concerned. What time is it? Whet day is it? Bob comes back on stage and has us tape a commercial for his TV special. Fifteen thousand people paying to help pimp Bob's annual Thanksgiving Living Room Shitstorm. Telling us all to yell "Be there!" on cue, but nobody can do it actually the way HE wants it. No shit, he's getting angry at the audience for not being more professional. Strangeness reigns. Some sorority fucks come up on-stage and give Bob a rude poster they made. It's all pre-planned to make it seem as if Bob gives a shit about all of this and all of us, but honestly, there are only dollar signs in his baby blues. Another girl gives him a wet kiss, but I doubt there's a shred of manhood left in his hollow shell. Security officers begin to roam the aisles looking for undesirables. Photographers break through the barriers and try to take Bob's picture. Why do they waste their energy? There are fat old ugly ladies sitting next to me now, smelling like pineapple cologne, frightened of the two 'hoods' next to them, who obviously stole their tickets from hard- working Republicans. From down the aisle, a foolish girl passes me a camera and asks me to take Bob's picture, since I have better view. Sure, I say, and drunkenly peer through the viewfinder. Oh, dear. Everything seems very twisted and unreal, but I do the best I can. I think I got half the Jazz Ensemble and Bob's feet, but what did the silly bitch think she'd wind up with, giving a loaded camera to a derelict like me?
Later, we're forced to listen to a couple of S.U. Assholes sing a duet from "On a Clear Day" and they're remarkably terrible. I think it was a carefully conceived plan to make us realize just how entertaining Bob was, in comparison. Well, it doesn't fool us, and I get yet another beer to displace the pain. Brian takes the opportunity to run to the bathroom. A blond bimbo in a red dress sings badly and nobody cares except for Bob, who sits in the sidelines licking his lips, scratching his ass, and trying to remember what year it is. Brian returns and I tell him what he missed. He doesn't care. The cameras are being dismantled now, and the cue-cards are gone, but Bob still has more to say. I guess NBC has had enough of this dismal evening. He boasts, "When this is cut own to seven minutes for My Special, it'll look just great!" Bob's getting cocky, the sonofabitch. "I haven't seen a crowd like this since Vietnam!" Did he just say what I thought he said? Brian And I keep staring at each other. We can't believe it. Bob starts singing, telling racy jokes. Anything for a cheap laugh, because he knows he's on the skids. Rasping "Buttons and Bows", and it's more than I can stand anymore. "Thanks for the Memories" is next, and luckily for us, he decides to call it a night.
Brian and I sit paralyzed in our seats, helpless from a lack of laughter. We watch Bob being helped off the stage, white-knuckling the handrails as he makes it down the steps. He's old, and that cold sweat of death is dripping down his forehead. No amount of make-up or money can stop it. Eighty years old and still acting like an asshole. His show will be over soon, but luckily, ours is over now, and suddenly we're in a rush for the doors. Chancellor Mel Eggers is in front of us, and Brian wants to meet him. I hold him back as he tries to climb over the crowds. "Later! You can meet him later!" Slowly up and out the aisle and through the exit, blown out into the cool night air by a burst of pressure. "My...I didn't expect that!" says Brian. I don't think anyone could have expected it. Time to sleep, but first it's time to go home and write. Goodnight, Bob, you old fart. You're an American institution. I'm just glad I didn't have to pay to listen to your brand of horseshit.
© 1983 by Steven Puchalski