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Christmas in Hawaii, Hope in Nevada
by Harry Spencer
Dec 11, 2009 | 1055 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AP Photo - Comedian Bob Hope, right, looks over a custom-designed $12,000 golf cart reflecting his distinctive profile with Harry Von Zell, left, and Barbara Eden during the Desert Golf Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., Feb. 4, 1970.
AP Photo - Comedian Bob Hope, right, looks over a custom-designed $12,000 golf cart reflecting his distinctive profile with Harry Von Zell, left, and Barbara Eden during the Desert Golf Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., Feb. 4, 1970.
A number of diehard University of Nevada, Reno football fans have already indicated they intend to make the trip to Hawaii for the Christmas Eve football bowl game between the Wolf Pack and Southern Methodist University.

One of the more interesting sidelights of the matchup is the fact that former Hawaii coach June Jones will be returning to his former digs as head coach of SMU. Jones and Chris Ault of the Silver and Blue have a long history between them so the game should have special meaning for both coaches.

The Pack got the Hawaii assignment primarily because Western Athletic Conference champ Boise State got its well-deserved appearance in a BCS game, the Fiesta Bowl, against TCU. Both of those teams are undefeated so it should be an interesting contest.

For most football junkies locally and around the country, last weekend’s college and pro football contests were among the most exciting of the season. On Saturday, things started off with Cincinnati playing against Pittsburgh in a game that was the most breathtaking of the season. Later in the day, though, the one-point Cincinnati cliffhanger win was outdone by the last-second field goal that kept Texas undefeated and assured of a spot in the national championship game. Up until that final tick, Nebraska had given the highly favored Longhorns all they could handle. Conversely, nationally ranked number two Alabama handled number one Florida with consummate ease and will oppose Texas in the championship game.

On the pro side of the weekend, the most surprising win was registered by the lowly Oakland Raiders as they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh.

One poor defensive play cost the San Francisco ‘49ers their loss in an evenly played game against the Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile, he New Orleans Saints staged one of their come-from-behind wins to stay undefeated and, by oddsmakers, will most likely be the team that will face the equally unspoiled Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl.

Celebrity Corner

Just when you think you have seen all the films featuring three well-known stars with a past northern Nevada connection, along comes another. Earlier this week a rare Bob Hope “oater” entitled “Alias Jesse James” showed up on cable TV. In addition to Hope, who was a perennial golfer at the old Glenbrook course on the southeast corner of Lake Tahoe, “Alias” also featured red-haired bombshell Rhonda Fleming and supporting actor Jim Davis.

We bumped into Hope on the Glenbrook course on a couple of occasions. At that time, the 1950s, the Glenbrook venue was a favorite spot for golf for the late Catholic priest Maurice Welsh and a few of his contemporaries. On one occasion, the foursome of three priests and myself were midway through the first nine when a pair of golfers caught up with us on the tee. We offered to let them play through, but they said, “No, we’ll continue to follow you guys.” Recognizing the wise-cracking Hope and the Glenbrook pro who was playing with him, two of our group tried to tee off but hit some miserable shots into the woods. Hope stepped up and said, “Maybe we should play through,” and promptly hit a fine drive down the middle of the fairway. He turned and with his trademark grin said, “It’s just a game, fellows!” The pro hit an even better shot and the two moved on ahead.

Our foursome soon lagged far behind the pair and we never caught up to them until we finished and sojourned to the clubhouse where Hope continued to amuse us with his witty banter.

Fleming arrived in Reno in the early '60s as part of a touring cast of a Broadway show presented in the old State Building (now the Pioneer Theater). Since the office of the Reno Chamber of Commerce was nearby and the chamber’s head man at that time, Jud Allen, was a former Hollywood press agent who had Fleming as a client, we were invited backstage after the show to meet and chat with the well-endowed performer.

In “Alias,” Hope played a bumbling insurance salesman who made the mistake of insuring Jesse James, played by Wendell Corey, and then falling victim to Corey’s plan to have Hope bumped off and buried in James’ name. Fleming was James’ gal, but ended up with Hope.

Davis, who played the part of Frank James, Jesse’s brother, had visited the Reno/Sparks area earlier in his career when he was the star of a TV series called “Rescue 8” in which he portrayed a fireman. He was in Reno because he had been sponsored by local Crescent Creamery, one of the advertisers of the show. During the day we squired him to grammar school assemblies in the area where he pitched the youngsters on getting their daily supply of milk— particularly Crescent Creamery milk. At night he visited the famous Reno hotspots of that era. He subsequently had a long and successful career in both film and TV.

Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.

Editor’s note: Spencer’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.
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