Bob Hope is ready to go into outer space, and John Glenn has disappeared into the outer limits . . . the outer limits of corporate bureaucracy.
Of course, this isn't real life; this is television.
Hope's first special of his 34th season with NBC, seen last night, was a salute to NASA that included footage of the original seven "Right Stuff" astronauts. But NBC lawyers saw the tape last week and decided Glenn was the wrong stuff.
They ordered the Hope production staff to blank out Glenn's image wherever it appeared because he is a declared contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, and NBC feared that, under Section 315 of the Communications Act, all the other contenders would demand equal time--not necessarily on the next Bob Hope special, either.
Hope was reportedly furious that a "national hero" couldn't be shown on his program and had his staff check with the Federal Communications Commission, where a lawyer said it would be perfectly permissible for Glenn to be seen in the footage and that the equal time provision would not apply.
But by then it was too late to re-edit the program, a spokesman for Hope said from Hollywood yesterday. And so when Hope narrated the footage, listing the astronauts, as the camera panned to the void replacing Glenn, Hope said, "We can't show you John Glenn because he took off from Cape Canaveral and wants to land in the Oval Office."
Hope, meanwhile, would like to take off from a certain cape himself, as one of the first of the civilian observers NASA is thinking of allowing on some future flights of the space shuttle, starting as early as next year.
While taping the special, Hope, 80, made his bid to NASA administrator James Beggs. According to United Press International, Beggs said Hope would be "considered" for a passenger seat on a future flight.
Outer space may be the only place where Bob Hope has not put on a show.
In a telephone interview last week, Hope said he got the idea from singer John Denver, who had already put in his bid to be a civilian in space.
"I'd love to go, I'll tell you that," Hope said. "I was kidding with John. I said, 'John, you can sing, I'll be the emcee.' It's something else, I'll tell you.
"And I talked to Beggs about it. But you have to go through six weeks, a course, and I don't know where I'd find the six weeks. They put you through all kinds of tests and find out if you can handle the whole thing."
Hope was told they'd probably have to teach him how to go to the bathroom in outer space.
"Yeah," Hope said. "Well, my wife has been trying to teach me that for years."