Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
"Somewhere tonight in Hollywood," said Mark Russell, "there is a tourist from Alexandria who is wondering where all the stars are."
At the moment, all the stars were in Alexandria laughing at Mark Russell, including Bob Hope who was celebrating his 75th birthday at a quiet little party for about 200 at Peter Malatesta's restaurant.
Several hundred tourists from Alexandria were there, too, outside the restaurant crowded around the entrance to ooh and ah as Lucille Ball, Phyllis Diller, Fred MacMurray and his wife June Haver, Elliot Gould, Dorothy Lamour, Pearl Bailey and, of course, Bob Hope made their entrances.
It was, in a small way, like an opening night on Broadway or in Hollywood, with cheering crowds, popping flashbulbs and autograph books waving.
Near the end of the party, Mayor Frank Mann of Alexandria proclaimed May 24 "Bob Hope Day" and gave Hope a key to the city. "It was a great idea to make today my day," said Hope looking at his watch. "That leaves me about a half-hour to go wild."
Hope spent a good part of his day listening to other people telling jokes. Earlier, at the White House where some 600 guests attended a reception for him, President Carter did a fair routine as a stand-up comedian and may even have outpointed Hope in a lightning exchange of one-liners.
At the White House, Hope apologized "for some of the things I've said on television" and then began accumulating new things to apologize for later.
"I want to thank President and Mrs. Carter for loaning us our home," he said. "God knows we paid for it."
Before offering the comedian "the thanks of a grateful nation" for his "unselfish devotion" to personnel serving overseas in the armed forces, Carter did a bit of reminiscing.
"I think I was the only person who never met him in the armed forces overseas," he said. "Every Christmas Eve, we'd put some cookies and a bootle of Scotch under the periscope of our submarine, but he never showed up."
When he and Mrs. Carter were first shown through the White House, he recalled, they were "particularly thrilled to see all the signs that said, 'Bob Hope slept here.'"
"I have now been in office for 489 days," he announced, "and when I've spent three more weeks I will have slept as many nights here as Bob Hope."
In his first visit to the Carter White House, Hope stood in a receiving line with the Carters for nearly an hour, shaking hands with Hollywood personalities, senators and congressmen, Generals James H. Doolittle and William C. Westmoreland, ordinary citizens and officials of the USO, which sponsored a special birthday gala at the Kennedy Center last night that will be shown on television Monday.
In the background, the Marine Band played valiantly through the reception such tunes as "Moon River," "Tenderly," "Love Story" and (coincidentally, as Lucille Ball was going through the line) "The Lady Is a Tramp."
Through the long, exhausting ritual, Hope showed no signs of his 75 years, though after it was over he muttered to friends. "I nearly ruined my putting hand."
Asked how it feels to be 75, he said he couldn't answer, because "I don't feel that way." He didn't look it either.
"I would have mailed this speech in," Hope told the crowd packing the White House's East Room Wednesday, "but I couldn't afford it. The price went up to 15 cents. It was supposed to go up in 1963, but the postmaster just got the letter."
As presidents will, Carter got the last word. Looking over the large crowd with whom he and Hope had just finished a hand-shaking ordeal, he told them that Hope was "so glad to see you all, if you'll just wait until he's outside the door and line up, he wants to shake hands with all of you again."
Hope did shake hands with a lot of them again, two hours later at his nephew Malatesta's restaurant. He arrived there at about 8:15 p.m. to be greeted with "Old Folks at Home" by a uniformed fife and drum corps from Mount Vernon, which also greeted Gen. Omar Bradley, the only living five-star general. In Bradley's wake was that old hoofer George Murphy who, like Fred MacMurray, has known Hope since all three appeared on Broadway together in the musical "Roberta."
Gen. Westmoreland, who was at both parties, said he and Hope had known one another through three wars. "He was much appreciated in Vietnam - a special case," said Westmoreland. "We had soldiers over there dying for their country and we had people here in the United States waving the enemy flag. When Hope came over, it had a positive effect, much different than Korea or World War II, where everybody was united."
Mayor Mann said he knew from personal experience that Hope used to go and perform in combat zones. "I hid behind you on Guam in 1945," he told the comedian.
But memories of war were only a small part of the party. Russell joked about all the celebrities present ("All the limousines parked outside, it looks like Joe Colombo's funeral. I'm the only one here whose name I don't know."), and the celebrities worked hard at having a good time.
W. Clement Stone, the multi-multimillionaire who pumped a couple of million dollars into Richard Nixon's political career, jitterbugged to "A Foggy Day." And Phyllis Diller did it in a long blue blouse that ended abruptly over skinny blue tights. Pearl Bailey sang "I'll Be Seeing You" and the thrush of yesteryear, Dolores Hope, serenaded her husband with "It had To Be You."
Hope said "I don't believe I'm 75 - I feel so darn good. H&R Block just found a loophole in my birth certificate." He had told the same joke, and a few others, several times already Wednesday.
He asked James Lipton, co-producer of last night's USO gala at the Kennedy Center, if there was any chance he could do "a chorus" of his theme song, "Thanks for the Memories." Lipton nearly flipped over the suggestion.
When Hope asked if they couldn't discuss it further - at 1 a.m. - Lipton asked if he meant this morning. Hope assured him he did.
The crowd outside the restaurant grew during the evening, and some of the celebrities had police escorts to help them to their cars, but the feeling was obviously friendly. One fan, a regular patron of Malatesta's bar, managed to get into the bar, though not the dinner, and talked to some of the celebrities.
"It's really weird," said Sher Morrison, "seeing all these famous people in a place where you come to play backgammon all the time. I had a long deep talk with Elliot Gould. He carries around a $1,000 bill - he says it's the first $1,000 he ever earned. He showed it to me and let me hold it for a minute."