Thursday, December 04, 2014
An Angry Jack Skirball
this Bob Hope biography by Richard Zoglin I keep considering which of my friends would like different parts of it. Like, I know McNeil would love it when success goes to Bob's head and he has long meetings with his writers and never provides snacks. He'll send out a writer with some spare change to pick up a pineapple sundae and eat the whole sundae in front of them and the writers get nothing. Ha ha! And then when it's time to pay them he stands at the top of the stairs and folds their checks into paper airplanes and sails them down, and the writers scramble pathetically after their money. In fact, I just emailed McNeil about all this but why should he be the only one to enjoy it? And I know Megan Abbott would like Bob's swank penthouse in early-30s Manhattan and the time Bob was in a Broadway show with Fanny Brice and Eve Arden and the choreographer was Ballanchine and the sets were designed by Vincent Minnelli, yes! Those were the days. And I know that both McNeil and Megan Abbott would like that Bob first danced with Dolores at a place called the Ha Ha Club and then they split a sandwich. But as for me, I just like the random phrase "an angry Jack Skirball, head of Educational Pictures." There's really nothing else about him in the book, but can't you just picture him, "an angry Jack Skirball, head of Educational Pictures"? Skirball! And I suppose I should mention by way of a disappointing correction that most people seem to think it was undiagnosed tuberculosis that killed Bob's first vaudeville partner. But Bob always insisted it was the bad diner food and became very paranoid for the rest of his career and even in his early struggling days would seek out a nice tearoom on the road.