(Kansas City, Missouri) - Time magazine theater critic Richard Zoglin grew up watching Bob Hope's movies and followed the comedian's rise to multimedia superstardom and tireless work for U.S. troops and charities.
"Then I watched as he alienated himself from an entire generation during the Vietnam War," Zoglin says, recalling the heat Hope took for supporting American involvement, "and that made him even more interesting to me."
Zoglin, a Kansas City native who has been with Time since 1983, discusses the gifted but decidedly imperfect subject of his authoritative biography Hope: Entertainer of the Century on Wednesday, June 17, 2015, at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St. The presentation begins at 6:30 p.m.
Born in 1903, Hope became the only entertainer to achieve top-rated success in every major mass-entertainment medium, from vaudeville to television, movies, and everything in between. He virtually invented modern stand-up comedy. His patriotic radio broadcasts and tours to entertain U.S. troops, along with his all-American, brash-but-cowardly movie character, helped ease the nation's jitters during the stressful days of World War II.
A savvy businessman and pioneer of brand extension - churning out books, writing a newspaper column, and hosting a golf tournament - he helped redefine the notion of what it means to be a star.
But Hope could be cold and self-centered. He was an indiscriminate womanizer. And as a close friend of Richard Nixon who endorsed American policy on Vietnam, he became a polarizing figure during that publicly unpopular war.
He also - regrettably - stayed in show business too long, becoming a cue card-reading antique. Hope died at age 100 in July 2003.
Zoglin has worked as both a writer and editor at Time. He served as television critic for more than a decade, later became a senior editor and assistant managing editor for the magazine and its website, and is currently a contributing editor in addition to the publication's theater critic. His first book, Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-up in the 1970s Changed America, is considered the definitive history of that seminal era in stand-up comedy.
Complementing his presentation, the Library is screening four of Hope's movies - Road to Utopia, My Favorite Blonde, The Seven Little Foys, and Sorrowful Jones - on Sundays in June at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St. Zoglin curated the series.
Admission to Zoglin's talk is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407.