In 1966, Five Women I Love: Bob Hope’s Vietnam Story was published by Doubleday. The book tells the tale of Hope’s many USO tours, performing for enlisted men in Vietnam and Thailand. Accompanying him on the trip were Janis Paige, Anita Bryant, Kaye Stevens, Joey Heatherton, and Carroll Baker — five of countless participants, organizers, and crew who made the USO tour a success.
From the title, one might assume that Hope’s book focuses on these five women or is broken into sections, one fraction of the story dedicated to each of them. In truth, it’s nothing of the sort. The book discusses the travel and planning involved in putting on the tour, also sharing lines and bits from some of the performances. The narrative is generally chronological.
Funny mishaps, encounters, and experiences of the off-stage hours are shared, too. Those five women are mentioned throughout, but the book is more of a promotional tool for Hope than anything, and a memoir of the overall USO tour experience as it was for him.
I found this book to be best read in small chunks. Die-hard Hope fans will enjoy Five Women I Love‘s sense of humor, but to me it seemed like there was a concentrated effort to make every line a laugh. To be perfectly honest, this made it a little bit exhausting to read at times! I frequently found myself putting the book down to read something else for a while — perhaps even walking away from it for a day or two at a time.
When it isn’t busy trying to bring laugh after laugh, the book is also somewhat of a tribute to the troops. Hope is sure to name-drop every location that was visited on the tour, and to flatter the servicemen of the audience, sometimes referencing individual soldiers by name. I appreciated this aspect of the book, for the excitement these servicemen must have felt, seeing their names (or perhaps the name of a friend) in print, in a book by Bob Hope.
Five Women I Love isn’t a book that I can say I love, but it is interesting as a historical artifact, a record of a mid-century USO tour put on by one of the country’s most popular entertainers.