In 1978, Ohio was celebrating its Golden Jubilee, and the dedication of the newly-refurbished Ohio Theater in Columbus where Hope had performed in vaudeville. Produced by Bob Banner, our hour-long special would include a parade in which Hope would be the Grand Marshal, capped by a black-tie, invitation-only stage show.
It had been a long day for Hope, and on the evening of the performance, about a half-hour before the taping was set to begin, he was standing in the wings with Elliott Kozak, the former William Morris agent he had hired 30 years before as his manager. Most of the guests had already filed into their seats, and a pianist was playing a medley of Ohio-themed
Hope turned to Elliott and said, “Feel my pulse.” Elliott did and
was alarmed by what he felt. Hope’s heart was racing at about two hundred beats per minute!
As Elliott led him back to his dressing room, Hope said he felt all right and had no chest pains. Regardless of the absence of heart attack symptoms, his heart was racing abnormally, so Elliott insisted he lie down. Banner was called in from the tech truck outside the theater and after speaking with Hope, told a production assistant to go out front — and without explaining why — locate the insurance executive whose company
had sponsored the charity event.
Banner wanted to avoid alarming the audience with the usual
announcement that was sure to do just that. The insurance guy told the PA that a well-known cardiologist was on the guest list, but hadn’t arrived yet. She got his number. Banner called him and described Hope’s symptoms. The doctor told Banner to take Hope back to his hotel — just a block from the theater — where the heart specialist could examine him more thoroughly.
In this five-minute audio excerpt read by the author, you'll hear what happened next. This and countless more stories like it appear in THE LAUGH MAKERS: A Behind-the-Scenes Tribute to Bob Hope's Incredible Gag Writers (c) 2009 by Robert L. Mills and published by Bear Manor Media.com in both print and audio versions.