As you drive East out of Palm Springs, California, down HWY 111 you’ll admire a mushroom-shaped home, designed by John Lautner, stooped high atop the mountain. It was once home to the late Bob Hope. Born in England, Hope was a natural entertainer, even as a bouncing boy known as Les. Yet, he had a rocky start in the 1930s and didn’t truly make it until his Broadway debut in Ballyhoo. His love for show business landed him a gig dancing with the Siamese Hilton twins. Many remember Hope most for the countless smiles he brought to soldiers during the struggles of WWII. His philanthropy and warm spirit united generations.
Apart from the glamour of vaudeville, radio and Hollywood, Hope had a profound impact on the growth of the Coachella Valley desert region. Golf was a popular pastime for former President Eisenhower and I’m sure he’d recall fondly playing with W. Clarke Swanson at Thunderbird Country Club. Historians describe how Clarke had a terrible stroke midgame and sadly didn’t make it to Desert Hospital in Palm Springs to receive the critical medical care needed to save his life. If only there had been a hospital located closer to Rancho Mirage, perhaps Clarke may have been saved.
Clarke Swanson’s wife, Florence, was friends with Delores Hope at the time. Due to neighbors of the community gathering together in support of a need for accessible healthcare, Eisenhower Medical Center was born. From 1966 onward, the Hopes donated land, sought private funds and witnessed the groundbreaking of the hospital. They formed the Eisenhower Medical Center Auxiliary and continued to grow the world renowned medical center after its inception in 1971. As a result of their ongoing charitable giving, the realization of the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences, Betty Ford Center, Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, Dolores Hope Outpatient Care Center and Uihlein Administration Building came to pass.
Despite their own personal and career obligations, the Hopes dedicated their time, service and commitment to the Coachella Valley region for over thirty years. The Bob Hope Classic, now recognized as the CareerBuilder Challenge, a professional golf tournament that brings visitors from across the globe, takes place annually. Palm Springs and its visitors continue to celebrate the comedic, theatric and big screen magic of Bob Hope. Sadly, he lost his life to pneumonia at the ripe age of 100 years. The long-term impact of his legacy will forever remain a part of the charming Coachella Valley desert and beyond.