You might have anticipated the setting for the “Betty, Bette and The Boys Birthday Party” would be one of Hugh Hefner’s swanky mansions or the even more cinematic Sonoma Valley winery owned by Francis Ford Coppola. Instead, we opted for “a place where even squares can have a ball” and where they “still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse,” Muscogee, Oklahoma, USA.
You sense the joy the minute you walk onto the courthouse lawn. HOORAY FOR THE JOY-GIVERS! (Note: The comments attributed to these famous joy-givers come from words they have written or said.)
Please give A ROUND OF APPLAUSE for these American joy-givers celebrating a birthday this week:
April 3—EDDIE MURPHY personifies “LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT!” whether he’s actually performing on “Saturday Night LIVE” or wherever this Brooklyn-born, ball-of-boisterous-comedic fire is doing his thing. He is a comedian, actor, writer, producer, recording singer and practicing Catholic. (Yeah, that last thing surprised me, too.) His films, which include: “48 Hrs.,” “The Beverly Hills Cop” series, “Trading Places,” “Dr. Doolittle,” “The Nutty Professor,” “Shrek,” “Mulan,” “Norbit,” and “Bowfinger” have grossed more than $6.7 billion worldwide. He was the 2015 winner of the highly coveted Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
April 4—MUDDY WATERS (who was born McKinley Morganfield in Issaquena, MS) was the single most important blues performer in post-war America. He was a peerless singer, an able guitarist, a gifted songwriter and led the mightiest blues band in the world. His Clarksdale, Mississippi blues and harmonica sound has been described as “raining down Delta beatitude.” Muddy Waters’ hits include “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You” and “I’m Ready.” One of the greatest British “rock blues” bands saluted him by naming their band after Muddy Waters’ 1950 song “Rollin’ Stone.” Muddy Waters’ music is featured in long-time fan Martin Scorsese’s films “The Color of Money,” “Casino” and “Goodfellas.”
April 5—BETTE DAVIS was one of America’s greatest actresses and was known for playing unsympathetic, sardonic (read “bitchy”) characters. She could act the devil out of any scrip,t from crime melodramas to historical films and suspense horror; but my personal favorite is the joy-giving ugly duckling-to-swan romantic dramedy, “Now, Voyager.” Bette Davis received two Oscars and was the first thespian to claim ten nominations. The Academy Awards are known as the “Oscars” because Bette Davis said the buttocks of the golden statuettes looked like her husband Oscar’s.
Some of her most popular films are: “Jezebel,” “Dark Victory,” “The Letter,” “The Little Foxes,” “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” and “All About Eve.”
She was the joy-giving co-founder of the “Hollywood Canteen,” a club venue for food, dancing and entertainment for military enlistees during World War II. Bette Davis was the first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.
April 6—MERLE HAGGARD, aka “The Hag,” lived the songs he wrote and sang. He looked the part and was the part. One of his many hits, “Mama Tried,” recalls his troubled childhood after the death of his dad, Merle’s repeated incarcerations and prison time. After he was released from San Quentin Prison (CA) in 1960, he turned his life around and launched a successful country music career.
Merle Haggard’s hits include: “Hungry Eyes,” “Okie from Muskogee,” “Workin’ Man Blues,” “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” “That’s the Way Love Goes” and one of my favorite Christmas songs, “If We Can Make It Through December.” He received numerous music awards including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Kennedy Center Honor (2010). When he was Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, a passionate fan of Merle Haggard, granted “The Hag” a full pardon of the country music legend’s past crimes.
April 7—FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA is widely considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. The reputation of the director, screenwriter and producer was cemented with “The Godfather” in 1972. He later created “The Godfather, Part II” and “The Godfather, Part III.” If he were to release “The Godfather, Part XX,” we would still line up around the block to see them. His other film hits include: “Patton,” “Apocalypse Now,” “The Cotton Club” and “The Conversation.” The Italian American is a vintner who owns a major winery in California as sort of a—side gig.
April 8—BETTY FORD, born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer, was a feminist and a political activist for causes such as gun control, women’s rights and addiction awareness. She was the founder and first chair of the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse and addiction. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H.W. Bush recognizing the joy she has given to thousands who have, thanks to her activism and visionary leadership, been rehabilitated. She was the First Lady of the United States from 1974-1977, married to President Gerald Ford, a Republican.
April 9—HUGH HEFNER, a descendent of Plymouth Colony governor William Bradford, was a Midwesterner. His father was an accountant and his mother, a schoolteacher. They were a conservative Methodist family and Hugh’s mother hoped he would get a missionary position. Instead, he founded one of America’s most-popular monthly magazines. The very first issue, with a spread of Marilyn Monroe, sold 50,000 copies. He was a major money contributor to the political campaigns of fellow Chicago celebrity, Barack Obama. Hef’s philanthropic causes were animal rescue (including bunnies) and historic preservation (including mansions). He helped re-erect the “Hollywood Sign.”
COMMENTS OVERHEARD at “THE BETTY, BETTE and THE BOYS BIRTHDAY PARTY” FOR AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS:
“I keep telling people I’ll make movies until I’m fifty and then I’ll go do something else. I’m going to be a professional gentleman of leisure.”—Eddie Murphy
“You get a heck of a sound from the church. Can’t you hear it in my voice?”—Muddy Waters
“Despite all my Sunday learnin’, to the bad I kept on turnin’.”—Merle Haggard
“Some young, Hollywood starlets remind me of my grandmother’s old farmhouse—all painted up nice on the front side, a big swing on the backside and nothing whatsoever in the attic.”—Bette Davis
“Being a lady does not require silence.”—Betty Ford
“If I hear another line dance song, I think I’m gonna puke.”—Merle Haggard
“The secret of life is to say “Yes” all the time. When you’re old you don’t want to say, ‘I wish I had.’”—Francis Ford Coppola
“Life is too short to be living someone else’s dream.”—Hugh Hefner
“All men are sculptors, constantly chipping away the unwanted parts of their lives, trying to create their idea of their masterpiece.”—Eddie Murphy
“The blues had a baby and they called it Rock and Roll.”—Muddy Waters
“You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good. Joan Crawford is dead. Good.”—Bette Davis
“We need to have music that contributes to the well-being of the spirit. Music that cradles people’s lives and makes things a little easier. That’s what I try to do, and what I want to do. You don’t want to close the door on hope.”—Merle Haggard
“That’s what we’re here on this Earth for, to help others.”—Betty Ford
“I like to work in the morning. I like to sometimes go to a place where I’m all alone where I’m not going to get a phone call early that hurts my feelings, because once my feelings are hurt, I’m dead in the water.”—Francis Ford Coppola
“My life is an open book. With illustrations.”—Hugh Hefner
“I went down to my baby’s house and I sat down on her steps. She said, now come on in now, you know, my husband’s just left.”—Muddy Waters
“Apparently every man was told to bring three women with them. Sounds like a ho-down.”—Eddie Murphy
“Several girlfriends are easier to handle than one wife.”—Hugh Hefner
“Getting old is not for sissies.”—Bette Davis
“Willie Nelson told me the reason it costs so much to get divorced is because it’s worth it.”—Merle Haggard
“I’d love to kiss ya but I just washed my hair.”—Bette Davis
“That’s part of the requirement to be an artist, you’re trying to share your personal existence with others and trying to illuminate modern life, trying to understand life.”—Francis Ford Coppola
“I think once I made up my mind that I was allergic to alcohol, and that’s what I learned, it made sense to me. And, it was kind of pointed out that if you were allergic to strawberries, you wouldn’t eat strawberries. And, that made sense to me.”—Betty Ford
“Anything you have acquire a taste for was not meant to be eaten.”—Eddie Murphy
“If everyone loves you, you’re not doing it right.”—Bette Davis
“By the time you get close to the answers, it’s nearly over.”—Merle Haggard
“In my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined a sweeter life.”—Hugh Hefner
PARTY MENU for “Betty, Bette and The Boys Birthday Party:”
APPETIZERS—Eddie Murphy’s “Do Little, Talk to the Vegetables Figs-in-a-Blanket” (epicurious.com)
SALAD—Bette Davis “Dark Greens Victory Salad” (eatathomecooks.com)
ENTRÉE—Francis Ford Coppola’s “Mrs. Scorcese’s Lemon Chicken” (touringandtasting.com)
SIDE DISH—Merle Haggard’s Okie Okree (cdkitchen.com)
BREAD—Hugh Hefner’s Bunny Bread (allrecipes.com)
BEVERAGE—Betty Ford Mimosa Mocktails (myfoodandfamily.com)
DESSERT—Muddy Waters’ Mississippi Mud (see below)
ONE TO GROW ON—Each of this week’s birthday celebrants have YouTube videos worth your easy search. Make certain you check out “She Did It the Hard Way,” Jerry Skinner’s 40–minute documentary on film legend, Bette Davis. Also, both Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett have great, televised interviews with Bette Davis.
As you might expect, Bette Davis had the last word: “One begins to realize that one is getting old when the birthday candles weigh more than the cake.”
MUDDY WATERS’ MISSISSIPPI MUD PIE
Since this dessert freezes well, you can pull it out of the freezer when needed, thaw and cut into serving pieces. (source: tasteofhome.com)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
½ cup butter, melted
2 packages (3.9 ounce each) instant chocolate pudding mix
3 cups cold milk
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 carton (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
1 ounce semisweet chocolate
- Combine flour, nuts and butter and pat onto the bottom of a 13” x 9” baking pan. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes. Cool.
- In a bowl, combine pudding mixes and milk; let stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar in a bowl. Add 1 cup whipped topping and mix well; spread over crust. Spread pudding over cream cheese mixture. Spread remaining whipped topping over pudding layer. Grate chocolate over top. Refrigerate overnight.