Happy birthday, Old Ski Nose | SummitDaily.com

Happy birthday, Old Ski Nose

SILVERTHORNE – The entertainment world celebrates an amazing milestone today with the 100th birthday of one of America’s most notable figures, Bob Hope.

And while Hope’s larger-than-life comic presence has been enjoyed by millions from the days of Vaudeville through his many TV specials and USO tours, one Summit County couple has a special connection to the performer.

Don and Betsy Sather, owners of Silverthorne’s Bighorn Ace Hardware, got to know Hope very well in the late 1970s when they helped produce a three-record set best-of collection for the singer and comedian. The project, organized by the Sathers and a group of fellow Colorado investors, allowed them intimate access to Hope’s vast collection of archival recordings and memorabilia – and a chance to befriend the legend, who still sends the Sathers Christmas cards.

“I first met Bob in 1977, and I learned he’s as much of a comedian as he is a tough businessman,” Don Sather says. “He’s one of the few entertainers to own all of his own material. And to be successful in five different major fields – Vaudeville, Broadway, radio, TV and the movies – is quite the accomplishment.”

The Sathers, originally from Minnesota, moved to Denver in the late 1960s and worked as business development consultants, dabbling in the entertainment business and motion picture development. After scoring a success with films such as “Over the Edge” (an early Matt Dillon feature), Don Sather met producer Bernard Block, a friend of Hope’s since the 1960s.

“Bernard had done a bunch of different special assignments for Bob and knew that he had all of his own original material stored away in his own library,” Sather said. “When Bing Crosby died (in 1977), Hope said he didn’t like the material that was thrown out on the market and wanted to do a best-of project of his own, but do it privately. That’s where we got involved – I figured it was the chance of a lifetime. And Hope minced no words – we had access to his music and photos, but he insisted that the partnership would pay for everything in the project.”

Sather and a group of investors first met Hope and his wife Delores at a cocktail party at Hope’s home in Palm Springs; Hope was still very busy at the time with TV engagements and comedy tours, and Sather and Block spent much of the next year traveling to meet with him to approve the material.

“We literally went everywhere from Burbank to Cape Cod. Bernard would select the material, we’d edit it and bring it to Hope – he was still playing 150 nights a year.”

The completed collection, “Bob Hope and His Friends,” featured Hope and guests from every era of his long career: Crosby, Jimmy Durante, James Cagney, Groucho Marx, Ethel Merman, Judy Garland and even John Wayne. The records also featured a bit of contemporary material from the time, including duets with Debbie Boone, the Muppets and a wonderfully unlikely version of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” featuring Raquel Welch.

“Hope liked to be grouped with other big names and beautiful women through his career,” Sather says. “And that was my favorite part of the project – I had to get releases from all of the people on the record, so I had breakfast with Red Skelton, lunch with George Burns and I got to deliver the papers to Raquel Welch’s house.”

Released in late 1979, the completed set only sold about 150,000 copies, mostly through direct mail and catalogs. But Sather says Hope was happy with the project, and he and Betsy – who permanently relocated to the county in 1984 – have remained friends with the Hopes since then.

“We last saw him in 1996 or 1997 – his health had noticeably deteriorated, but he was still very sharp, and a fun guy. He always had that very dry kind of humor and he wasn’t afraid of making a fool of himself.”

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