This week, our “BOSSYPANTS Birthday Party” is in a factory in Queens, New York City. Hey now, don’t be so bossy about it, this is a very posh factory, the one created by German American Heinrich Engelhard Steinwag (later known as Henry E. Steinway)—Steinway & Sons pianos.
Since we are celebrating two American piano-playing legends this week, Liberace and Fats Waller, we took the party to their playground. (So, how much does a Steinway? About 800 pounds.)
Get in here, we mean it. And, don’t call us “bossy.” NO, you’re bossy! You will sense the joy the minute you see the shining baby (and not-so-baby) grands and hear the tickling of the ivories at “The BOSSYPANTS Birthday Party.” 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:
May 15—JASPER JOHNS is a painter, sculptor and printmaker known for his depictions of the American flag. The Augusta, Georgia native’s art styles embrace abstract expressionism and pop art. He has the distinction of many times creating works that bring the highest prices of any living artist. Johns’ artworks regularly sell for millions of dollars. In 2010, a Jasper Johns’ creation sold for $110 million. The New York Times calls him the United States’ “foremost living artist.” He is also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
May 16–LIBERACE (born Wladziu Valentino Liberace and called “Lee” by his friends) was a legendary child prodigy pianist/showman who, at the height of his fame, was the highest paid entertainer in the world. He enjoyed a performing career spanning four decades of concerts, recordings, television, motion pictures and endorsements. Liberace embraced a flamboyant lifestyle of maximalism both on and off stage. His hard-earned and bedazzled nickname was “Mr. Showmanship.”
May 17—SUGAR RAY LEONARD (born Ray Charles Leonard, I’m not joking) was a Welterweight, Light middleweight, Middleweight, Super Middleweight, Light Heavyweight professional boxer. He won world titles in all five weight divisions. Leonard was the first boxer to win more than $100 million in purses (cash payouts).
May 18—TINA FEY (born Stamatina Fey) is a comedy writer, comedianne, actress, playwright, producer and television presenter. In television, she is best known for her award-winning sketches for “Saturday Night Live,” and for creating both hit series: “30 Rock” and “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Her work in film includes: “Mean Girls,” “Baby Mama,” “Date Night,” “Muppets Most Wanted,” “Sisters,” “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” and the 2020 animated winner, “Soul.” She has won Emmys and Golden Globes. Tina Fey is the youngest recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Her bestselling autobiography received this review in The New York Times: “It isn’t a memoir. It’s a spiky blend of humor, introspection, critical-thinking and Nora Ephron-isms for a new generation.” Her book is titled—”Bossypants”.
May 19—NORA EPHRON is best known as a screenwriter and filmmaker of romantic comedies including: “When Harry Met Sally,” “You’ve Got Mail,” “Heartburn” and “Sleepless in Seattle.” Her legacy is The Nora Ephron Prize of $25,000 awarded by the Tribeca Film Festival for a female writer or filmmaker “with a distinctive voice.”
May 20—CHER (born Cherilyn Sarkisian) is a contralto singer, actress and television personality known as the “Goddess of Pop.” She gained popularity in 1965 as half of the pop duo, “Sonny and Cher” with their first mega-hit, “I Got You Babe.” Sonny Bono, her husband and father of her celebrity child Chaz Bono, had wanted to produce Cher’s musical career with her as a solo artist, but he agreed to the duo arrangement to calm her debilitating stage fright.
Cher has sold 100 million records. She has won a Grammy, an Emmy, an Oscar, three Golden Globe awards, a Cannes Film Festival Award, the Billboard Magazine Icon Award and also awards from the Kennedy Center Honors and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPiere Bono Allman is one of the very few joy-givers who is so celebrated she is known by one name—Cher. Well, Cher and Liberace.
May 21—FATS WALLER (born Thomas Wright Waller) was a jazz pianist, organist, composer, violinist, singer and comedic entertainer. He copyrighted more than 400 songs including: “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “This Joint is Jumpin’” and “Too Much Pork for One Fork.” Comedienne Nell Carter won a Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway musical, “Ain’t Misbehavin,” which showcased Waller’s tunes. More than 4,200 attended his funeral at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem (1943). The minister delivering the eulogy stated, “Fats Waller always played to a packed house.”
COMMENTS OVERHEARD AT “THE BOSSYPANTS BIRTHDAY PARTY” FOR AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS:
“To be an artist, you have to give up everything, including the desire to be a good artist.”—Jasper Johns
“Why don’t I just step out and slip into something more spectacular?”—Liberace
“I consider myself blessed. I consider you blessed. We’ve all been blessed with God-given talents. Mine just happens to be beating people up.”—Sugar Ray Leonard
“Photoshop is just like makeup. When it’s done well it looks great, and when it’s overdone you look like a crazy a—hole.”—Tina Fey
“Above all, be the heroine of your own life, not the victim.”—Nora Ephron
“The trouble with some women is they get all excited about nothing—and then they marry him.”—Cher
“This is so nice it must be illegal.”—Fats Waller
“Works of art are an opportunity for people to construct meaning, so I don’t usually tell what my works mean. It conveys to people that they have to participate.”—Jasper Johns
“You know when people made fun of me and I used to cry all the to the bank. I bought it.”—Liberace
“You don’t play boxing. You really don’t. You play golf, you play tennis, but you don’t play boxing.”—Sugar Ray Leonard
“You can tell smart people by what they laugh at.”—Tina Fey
“In my sex fantasy, nobody ever loves me for my mind.”—Nora Ephron
“If you’re waiting for someone to believe in you, you’ll be waiting forever. You must believe in yourself.”—Cher
“Jazz isn’t what you do, it’s how you do it.”—Fats Waller
“Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.”—Jasper Johns
“Nakedness makes us democratic, adornment makes us individuals.”—Liberace
“You have to know you can win. You have to think you can win. You have to feel you can win.”—Sugar Ray Leonard
“Confidence is 10% hard work and 90% delusion.”—Tina Fey
“When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you. But, when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh.”—Nora Ephron
“Until you’re willing to look foolish, you’ll never have the possibility of being great…It’s a dirty job being ridiculous, but I’ll do it.”—Cher
“One never knows, do on?”—Fats Waller
“That’s what painting does—it organizes vision in a certain way or suggests that certain things be paid attention to and certain things not be paid attention to.”—Jasper Johns
“My whole trick is to keep the tune well out front. If I play Tchaikovsky, I play his melodies and skip his spiritual struggle.”—Liberace
“The only way for a fighter to get back in fighting shape is to fight his way back.”—Sugar Ray Leonard
“Say ‘Yes’ and you’ll figure it out later.”—Tina Fey
“Insane people are always sure they are fine. It is only sane people who are willing to admit they are crazy.”—Nora Ephron
“If grass can grow through cement, love can find you at every time in your life.”—Cher
“If you don’t know what it is, don’t mess with it.”—Fats Waller
“I don’t want my art to be an exposure of my feelings.”—Jasper Johns
“Too much of a good thing is wonderful.”—Liberace
“When I’m not in training, I’ll walk around the streets weighing at 153 pounds, but it’s not solid; it’s my “socializing weight.”
“Always remember the most important Rule of Beauty: “Who cares?”—Tina Fey
“I don’t think any day is worth living without thinking about what you’re going to eat next at all times.”—Nora Ephron
“Grab your pig’s feet, bread and gin, there’s plenty in the kitchen. I wonder what the poor people are eating tonight?”—Fats Waller
PARTY MENU FOR “THE BOSSYPANTS BIRTHDAY PARTY:”
APPETIZER—Fats Waller Pickled Pigs’ Feet (justapinch.com)
SOUP—Cher Gypsy Soup (yummly.com)
ENTRÉE—Tina Fey 30 Rock Salt Prime Rib (allrecipes.com)
SIDE DISH—Nora Ephron Jerk-Rubbed Heartburn Corn-on-the-Cob (see recipe below)
BREAD—Jasper Johns American Flag Cornbread (cooks.com)
BEVERAGE—Liberace Slow and Low Flaming Old-Fashioneds (thrillist.com)
DESSERT—Sugar Ray Leonard Iceboxing Pie (southernliving.com)
ONE TO GROW ON—The Liberace biopic, “Behind the Candelabra,” directed by Steven Soderbergh, has Michael Douglas hilariously playing the “real rings-and-plastic surgery-addicted” Liberace at his campy-est. One of America’s sweethearts, a very buff Matt Damon, plays Liberace’s main squeeze. It’s hyper-kitsch but a lively, tempestuous fun.
FINALE FROM “THE BOSSYPANTS BIRTHDAY PARTY”–
Near the end of the evening, Cher and Sugar Ray Leonard are “dance-boxing” atop a Steinway as Fats Waller and Liberace play a duo-piano medley of Ragtime jazz, Rachmaninoff and romantic power ballads.
Tina Fey and Nora Ephron offered a barrage of piano jokes including these one-liners: “Did you hear about the vampire who used to torture his victims with his piano playing?…His Bach was worse than his bite.” And, “Have you heard about the musician who leaves a message for his wife?…Gone Chopin, have Liszt. Bach in a minuet.”
All the accomplished celebrants are good at being their own boss. They gathered around the piano-duo at the end of “The Bossypants Birthday Bash” while Liberace played Fats Waller’s classic, “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and the composer added some fresh lyrics to “Ain’t misbehavin’, I’m savin’ my love for…YOU.”
NORA EPHRON JERK-RUBBED HEARTBURN CORN-ON-THE-COB
4-6 ears of husked, sweet corn (soaked in cold water for 1 hour)
1/3 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons jerk seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Salt and Freshly ground pepper
Juice of 1 lime
- Turn the grill to medium-high about 5 minutes before ready to prepare meal.
- Pat the corn relatively dry with a paper towel, then rub the ears with olive oil, making sure they are evenly coated, then rub each ear with the seasoning.
- Grill the corn on the hot grill for 15 minutes flipping every 5 minutes or so. The seasoning will char and the corn will intensify in color as it nears completion. Salt and pepper to your liking and drizzle with lime juice when you’re ready to eat. Enjoy, mon!
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