This year is the 50th anniversary of the Bob Hope, an event that I thought had been rejuvenated by a man I’m proud to call one of my closest friends, George Lopez. Of all the celebrities who play in pro-ams, no one loves the game more than George. A couple of years ago, after Bob Hope’s death, the organizers asked George to be the tournament’s official host. He was honored and excited, and he threw himself into the “Hopez” with a level of energy and commitment that was astonishing even by his hyperbeanic standards. He hosted every party, canvassed all of his showbiz and athlete pals to play, signed every autograph, and exhausted himself in the process. I know, because I went to the first one he hosted, and I couldn’t believe how wiped out he was at the end of each day. He looked like a roadkill pinata. But the next morning he was back, being George Lopez again. I was so proud of him.
This year’s event will be hosted by Arnold Palmer, who may be the most important person ever to play golf. I love everything about Arnold, and I’m not upset at all that he is involved, but I am seriously disturbed at the way George Lopez was treated. After all the effort he put in, he was told in a two-minute phone call that his services were no longer needed. That was it.
Now, maybe they just didn’t like George’s sense of humor, and that’s their right. Of course, Palm Springs is, to say the very least, a Republican refuge, and most of George’s cronies are (and I’m looking for a politically correct way to say this, but it’s not coming to me) uh… not exactly white, and Democratically inclined. In fact, I might be George’s token white friend, I’m not sure. But wasn’t Sammy Davis Jr. a friend of Bob’s? He used to play, and I think he was both black and Jewish!
I think there’s a perception problem here. Most white people in this country have no idea how huge George Lopez is in the Latino community. Just like the Irish, Italians, Jews, Poles, Germans, Scandinavians, and other immigrants of old who started new lives in the New World, Latinos are doing the same, but with less representation and lower self-esteem. These people look up to George Lopez, who at two years old was abandoned by his parents, left to fend for himself, and eventually taken in by his authoritarian grandmother and raised with no love. From almost nothing, George became a huge star, only the third Latino (after Desi Arnaz and Freddie Prinze) to have his own TV show, and he now has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
George represents the American dream to millions of people who might otherwise not dare to believe. And he didn’t achieve his success by complaining every time things didn’t go his way — he just worked harder, acting as if he were already on the other side of a problem that for him no longer existed.
All comics have a dark side, and George is no different. When people see him in public, they expect the happy-go-lucky, funny man they know from TV. But he is not always that way, and he often struggles with shadowy demons that haunted his childhood. He is a good and decent man whom I love like a brother, and a great American who does all he can to support our troops. Whatever the reason for the decision to drop him from the Hope, he deserved better than a casual phone call, and I think he’s owed an apology. For the record, I don’t have a vote yet, but I certainly would have voted for George Lopez to at least co-host the 50th Bob Hope with Arnold Palmer. It would have been the decent thing to do.
When you play golf in Palm Springs they say that everything breaks toward Indio — you know, the Mexican neighborhood. Not this time.