Bob Hope was an American comedian who was at his most popular from the 30s to the 60s. A staunch Republican, Hope’s comedy reflected the values of that period,and his material often included casual sexism, racism and homophobia.
In 1975, for example, he declared, “I’ve just flown in from California, where they’ve made homosexuality legal. I thought I’d better get out before they make it compulsory.” His close friendship with, and public support of, Ronald Reagan also won him few friends in queer communities.
In 1988, Hope appeared on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In the course of the interview he ridiculed fellow guest Ed McMahon’s tie, saying he would have taken him for “a fag” ten years earlier. This outraged activists, particularly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), who wrote to Hope expressing their anger.
Much to their surprise, Hope responded positively. Not only did he apologise, he agreed to film a Public Service Announcement condemning violence against gays (below). When he discovered that GLAAD did not have the funds to create the PSA, he paid for it himself.
Looking very formal in his tuxedo and bow tie, Hope begins by declaring his pride in living in a ‘great nation’ that believes in free speech. He continues…
“That’s why I was amazed to discover that many people die each year in anti-gay attacks and thousands more left scarred emotionally and physically.
Bigotry has no place in this great nation. Violence has no place in this world – but it happens. Prejudice hurts and kills. Please don’t be part of it.”
GLAAD’s lack of funds also meant that the ad never aired on a national network basis, but it did play on a number of local TV networks, including Chicago’s The 10% Show and the Gay Cable Network in New York.