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January 18, 2011

Tom Dreesen


MARK WILSON: Like to welcome Tom Dreesen. He's about to make his 17th consecutive start here at the Bob Hope Classic which puts him in pretty select group with, boy, it looks like you have Bob Hope, Gerald Ford and Mr. Welk. And that's the longest active streak, but you'll join those other three gentlemen once you tee off. Want to talk about your time here and what that means to you?
TOM DREESEN: I've actually probably been here 25 times, but 17 straight years in a row. But I came here in I think 1977. Bob Hope saw me on my first appearance on The Tonight Show and he contacted me about coming here to play in this. Which was for me the biggest thrill, because I caddied as a boy, you know, I had eight brothers and sisters, we lived in a shack on the south side of Chicago and five us actually slept in one bed, no bathtub, no shower, no hot water. Irish poor. I set pins in bowling alleys and worked in taverns, but I caddied every summer to help feed my brothers and sisters.
So I remember even being in the service and watching the Bob Hope Classic. Coming out of the service, I went back to my old neighborhood and the tavern where I used to tend bar and I used to tell all the guys, we would watch the tournament and I said, we should go and there and try to caddie for those guys, not the pros, but the amateurs. Wouldn't that be something just to caddie there, never dreaming that one day I would play in this.
So when Bob Hope called me the first time -- I made this long story a lot longer, didn't I -- then I really, really was excited. And to come out here and to tee off in front of like a thousand people, you know, and that, on the tee, you know, Mr. Tom Dreesen, it was almost surreal. And this knee was saying to this knee, you don't belong here, you know, you don't belong here.
It was really exciting and still is. Ironically, it still is. I still am excited driving down here from Los Angeles yesterday as I was the first time. I really am excited about being here.
MARK WILSON: Thank you. Questions?

Q. Was that the first time that you had ever had any contact with Mr. Hope?
TOM DREESEN: Yes. Obviously always was a fan, but the other thing that we did prior to me coming down here there was a golf tournament in Wisconsin called the Vince Lombardi Golf Tournament that still exists. And Bob was going to be the master of ceremonies and he started using me for years where he would be the master of ceremonies, but I would do the stand up comedy because he didn't want to do the stand up, he wanted to MC.
So he said, come to the Vince Lombardi Tournament and I got John Gary as a singer and it was a black tie affair and I went there and he said, I want you to do 20 minutes then the singer will come on. I said okay.
And after dinner Bob said, we got a problem, Tom, John Gary isn't here yet, and we're worried that he's not going to make it. You may have to stretch a little bit. I said, okay.
All of a sudden said he's on his way, he's in the limo, you're going on. He introduced me, and so I do 20 minutes and John will come up and do an hour and 10.
I did 20 minutes and Bob off to the side, I said, and you've been a wonderful audience and Bob gave me the stretch sign, you know, (Indicating). So I said oh, God, he's not here. So I did another five minutes, I said, you've been a wonderful audience and Bob went like this again. I did an hour and 40 minutes, he never showed up. The car broke down, he never showed up. I was out of material 20 minutes before that, I was ad-libbing and just working off of Bob. But because of that night Bob used me time and time again.
I'll tell you another quick short story, the next day there was a press conference and Bob Hope -- and I was a new comedian, I had only done a couple Tonight Shows, and they asked Bob a hundred questions, but one of them was, what comedian do you think will be around for long time like George Burns, like Jack Benny, like yourself, Mr. Hope. He said, well, I saw this kid last night, Tom Dreesen, and I think he'll be around a long time, he showed me something when he was put out to burn, basically, and he survived.
And because of that, he did that, there was a UPI guy in the audience they had UPI and API, because of that it went across the wire services and I got corporate dates for years because Bob Hope recommends me, you know. I'm obviously endeared to him and to his wife, who we did a lot of shows together as well. And I went to her 100th birthday a year ago and now she's 101 and still hanging in there. God bless her.

Q. Obviously this tournament means a lot to you and I guess we could say you're the de facto host by default now because of the streak, but what --
TOM DREESEN: Would you repeat that again? The de facto host? I like that.

Q. Do you like that?

Q. But what are your thoughts on the future of this tournament going forward and some of the stuff they have had to deal with in the past years with guys, pros not playing and thoughts about maybe B list celebrities or what have you, I mean some of the talk out there. What's your feeling about that? Nothing personal.
TOM DREESEN: You're asking a B list celebrity?
(Laughter.) Maybe a C list celebrity? You know, it's the painful part of our business but I know where I stand on the totem pole. Seriously, you're hot for awhile, you're hot and you're not in our business. It's an up-and-down thing.
But my honest opinion, the PGA TOUR, Mark, should go to the players and demand, this tournament has supported them for over 50 years, they owe this tournament something.
There's no loyalty in show business, there just simply is no loyalty. When they're done with you, you'll hear about it from your next door neighbor sometimes. And that's the problem.
I think that the PGA TOUR should go to their players and tell their A players, we need you there. You've got to be -- this tournament, this tournament has supported us for years, where's your loyalty? That's my opinion.
I realize -- I was playing on the Celebrity Players Tour for a long time, we were hurting for title sponsors, the money's not out there, as you know. That's the problem. But a title sponsor will come. If you build it, they will come.
And so I think the PGA TOUR's got to go into their resources and come up, help the Hope come up with that title sponsor. And then go to their A players and say, we're not asking you to come, we're telling you to come. If that's possible.
Because you can't let a tournament like this die. After all the hard work that has been put into this tournament through the years, after the money that it's raised for charities, after the money it's given to the pros, you know. That loyalty, they need to -- that's my point. Did that answer your question?

Q. Obviously you've played as a celebrity in a lot of tournaments, whether they were just celebrity tournaments or whether they have been with pros, what is it about this tournament that stands out in that regard for you? Is it just the, it's four days or that it happens to be perfect weather?
TOM DREESEN: It's the people. The fans. For years I've been, I tell a joke on every hole, so they have also helped me with developing material. But it's the people. It's such a fan friendly environment.
I play in the AT&T, as you know I'm the master of ceremonies for the AT&T and for the Frank Sinatra down here, it's the fans. It really is the way the people come out every year. How they come from back east now. And so years ago this was supported mainly by locals, as you know. And then now it's 50 percent probably coming from back east, from cold weather to this beautiful climate.
But it's the people. It's the players interacting with the amateur, which doesn't exist a lot anymore, you know. There's a lot of pros that do not want to play with the amateur. I don't blame them, you know, I don't blame them, but I think that's what makes this tournament unique. There's a lot of pros that love playing with the amateurs.
Again that's, it's a long time and I think that they're cutting back on this a little bit, on some of the festivities. But I really believe it's the people, it's the fans that I come out for that I get excited about.
The other thing for me as a golfer I've played in this event as you pointed out 17 straight years, there's never been a round that I haven't asked a pro at some point, could you help me with my chipping, could you help me with my putting, and they will give me some advice and I write it on a three by five card and I keep it in my golf bag. And so you get free golf lessons.
I never met one pro, you hear stories, don't talk to this guy, this guy's into his game or he's a real jerk. I never met one that hasn't been, hasn't been amateur friendly. Never. I would love to tell you a horror story, but I never met one.
And some great stories from Peter Jacobsen and Fred Couples and the years past Chi Chi and Lee Trevino and those guys that would just entertain you all day long, give you lessons all day long. It's a great experience.

Q. Who are some of your favorite pros that you played with over the years here?
TOM DREESEN: Obviously when you play with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, when you're in an amateur status, those are always exciting moments. But the fun people, Peter, who entertains you all the way around. Peter Jacobsen always sticks out in my mind, John Daly, of course I've always had a lot of fun with John Daly.
I always tell the story of first year I played in this, you know there's an amateur a celebrity, a celebrity a pro and three amateurs. And I got to the first tee and I was so excited I had done a couple Tonight Shows and I'm a celebrity and I walked up on the first tee and this guy's name was Hoot McInerney, he was a car dealer, had probably played in this 32 years and he said, hi, I'm Hoot McInerney. And he was in my from group, I said hi, I'm Tom Dreesen. He said, nice to meet you, Tom, I sure hope we get a good celebrity, last year we had some guy I never heard of.

Q. So what did you say?
TOM DREESEN: So I told that story at every banquet and made Hoot McInerney a star. I told it on the Tonight Show and on Letterman and all that stuff.

Q. What was your comeback?
TOM DREESEN: Well that was, I think that might have been -- the first time I played was 1977. And then I was on road for years with Sammy Davis and on the road with Frank for 14 years, so there were times we were booked and I couldn't play, you know. Obviously the last 17 years tells you maybe I wasn't booked that often.
But I always would, I honestly do, every year I set aside this time with my managers and my agents and say, do not book me anywhere for the Bob Hope, for the AT&T, and for the Frank Sinatra, it's my hat trick. Then after that I really have to go back to work.

Q. Do you remember what your response was to Hoot?
TOM DREESEN: To Hoot? No, no, my response, was, gee, I hope you get a good one this year was all I could say. And we became the best of friends. In fact, his company has hired me I don't know how many times.
The other thing for the comedian, when you get up and perform, now see when we came here, Bob Hope, there was no formal show, Bob Hope went on stage did some comedy and he brought out Glen Campbell and John Denver and Tom Dreesen and Peter Jacobsen, by the way. And everybody, every entertainer had to do something as we do at the AT&T, this is mandatory that the entertaining celebrities do a performance. And that's what made it so unique in those days.
Can you imagine the show when you saw Bob Hope and maybe four comedians and four singers and how great that was. That truly made the difference in those days.
That's the saddest, with Bob gone, with Frank gone, when those names called you, you came. About getting A celebrities is a good example. When you had Bob Hope call you, you didn't say no to a Bob Hope or to a Frank Sinatra, you know. And you know some celebrities are not real good golfers, but they say they are, they got ego handicaps. So they're telling everybody, yeah, I'm a three, I'm a four, yeah, I'm a five. But you come out here and you find out what you really are, don't you.
So I always to those celebrities that tell me that say they're a three or a two, I say, really, what kind of money games do you guys play at your course. If they say we play hundred dollars Nassau's, I say this guy's probably a scratch. But almost all these vanity handicaps say, I don't gamble. So when you come out here it's bare bones, I mean, they're going to see how you really are.
MARK WILSON: Thanks a lot, Tom. Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts

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