They may never again accuse Secretary of State Alexander Haig of being a straight man.
Not after catching his act at today's taping of a Bob Hope television special at the Naval Academy. There he was wisecracking about his controversial remarks about being in charge moments after President Reagan had been shot.
Haig appeared here today along with a host of other celebrities to pay tribute to the 79-year-old entertainer's 44 years of performing before American servicemen. In the midst of so many "towering egos," quipped Haig, "there is bound to be some confusion. So I want to get one thing straight: The order of succession here today is . . . " and then he graciously listed himself second, after Hope, "a resounding first."
"Frankly, fellas," Haig continued. "I never really understood what all the fuss was about last year. So I got the order of precedence a little mixed up. I mean, golly, that's how I became a four-star general."
About 15,000 Hope fans and 4,700 midshipmen gathered in the academy's football stadium to watch the taping. And for many it mattered little that it rained during the six hours of taping.
Teen-aged star Brooke Shields and model Christie Brinkley were there, and the largely male audience whooped and hollered for them and other female performers.
"She's so gorgeous," breathed one white-suited midshipman, showing a Marine officer a snapshot of himself with Shields.
"Yep, that's something," the officer agreed.
The special, to be aired May 25 on NBC, wasn't completed today. Hope and some of the stars will return to the stadium tomorrow morning to finish the taping.
Hope's previous shows have taken him to the Kennedy Center, West Point, and the Air Force Academy. This time, said Hope in his opening monologue, he decided to visit "the nation's only federally funded yacht club."
The midshipmen gave Haig a standing ovation as he moved through a small group of them on his way to a caravan of limousines. In fact, the obliging young officers did a lot of applauding, led through their paces before the show by producer James Lipton, for sequences to be spliced into the show.
No one needed to be told to applaud when Shields and Brinkley, along with actress Bernadette Peters, portrayed cadets at the academy. Most of the jokes leaned heavily on ribaldry and a number dealt with the recent jailing of Italian actress Sophia Loren on income tax charges. "I never thought I'd see the day when people would arrest Sophia for not completely filling out her form," said Hope.
The 300 women students at Annapolis took the jokes about women in stride. "Well, it had both sides. Hope did have a part about us being gorgeous and all, so it was okay," said Sonia Soleng, a 19-year-old sophomore from New York state.