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Last Updated: Friday, 30 May, 2003, 06:54 GMT 07:54 UK
US celebrates Hope birthday
Bob Hope's children Kelly Hope, Zachary, Linda, and Tony
Hope's children were at the ceremony for their father
Celebrations including a flypast by 1940s planes and the renaming of a Hollywood square have heralded the 100th birthday of comic Bob Hope.

Hope, regarded as one of the United States' greatest entertainers, has failing eyesight and hearing and was not well enough to attend public celebrations.

But his family and neighbours held a party in his honour on Wednesday, when 101 balloons were released and local children sang happy birthday.

Hope is said to have joked to his family: "I'm so old, they've cancelled my blood type."

Thursday was declared Bob Hope Day in 35 US states, while a Hollywood intersection was renamed Bob Hope Square.

 Bob and Dolores Hope in 1998
Family celebration: Bob and Dolores Hope
Three of Hope's children - Linda, Tony and Kelly - led the naming ceremony, which was also attended by Hope's younger showbusiness associates, including Mickey Rooney, who is a youthful 82.

"Happy birthday, Bob, keep going. We love you," said Rooney.

And honorary Hollywood mayor Johnny Grant added: "I hope that when people pass this intersection, they will recall their favourite Bob Hope joke or story... and make this the happiest corner in the world."

The air display in Los Angeles saw several 1940s-era US planes roar overhead, honouring Hope for his role in entertaining American troops around the world.

Military band
A military band paid tribute at the Los Angeles ceremony
His daughter Linda said her father "knows this is going on and he is very touched by it".

"He is so grateful for all the birthday wishes. He has cherished every moment with the audiences he helped make laugh," she said.

Several veterans travelled to Hollywood for Thursday's ceremony.

"I think he should have been surgeon-general of the United States because laughter is the best medicine," said fan John Sheehan.

"If I had to pick one guy to represent America, I would pick Bob Hope."

Shirley Duenckel, President of the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce, places balloons near an Al Hirschfeld caricature of comedian Bob Hope

Queen Elizabeth II and President George W Bush have led the congratulations.

Hope has not been seen in public for three years.

His wife of 69 years, Dolores, is 94.

Hope, who was born in London but moved to the US aged four, has received more than 2,000 birthday cards.

Hope, known as the king of the wisecrack, became one of the United States' favourite entertainers through scores of films and television shows.

Bob and Dolores Hope
Hope appeared with Rhonda Fleming in 1949's The Great Lover
He hosted more Academy Award ceremonies than anyone else, and is known for entertaining troops from World War II to the first Gulf War.

British comedian Bob Monkhouse, who is in the US working on a tribute to the veteran, said: "Bob was a man whose ambitions were all achieved."

Monkhouse became a scriptwriter for Hope after impressing the star with a gag about the poor quality of British food at London's Prince of Wales theatre in 1953.

Jim Shepherd, secretary of the Bob Hope Theatre in Eltham in south-east London, close to the house where the comedian was born, said a film festival and golf tournament would be held later in the summer.

Bob Hope Theatre

Janet Gillman, mayor of the borough of Greenwich, sent Hope a telegram wishing him "many congratulations", while Eltham MP Clive Efford called on the council to award him the freedom of the borough.

Hope's longevity means he has outlived most of his contemporaries.

Bing Crosby, his buddy from their famed "road movies", died in 1977 aged 74, while comedian George Burns died shortly after his 100th birthday in 1996 and Dorothy Lamour died in 1996 aged 81.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's David Willis reports from Hollywood
"By anyone's standards it's been a remarkable career"



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