The USO (United Services Organization) was created early in World War II to provide “home away from home” for everyone in our military. The USO canteens were open to all active-duty Americans–open across the world providing open ears for listening and open smiles for sharing.
From 1941 until 1991, the USO was all about God, country, apple pie and Bob Hope. When Bob Hope was bringing the laughter, music and USO variety “camp shows,” he also brought: Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Connie Stevens, Ann-Margaret—well, you get the idea.
The USS Alabama, permanently docked and welcoming all to Mobile Bay, is the setting for “The USO Show Birthday Party.” This massive battleship served the US Navy operations in the South Pacific during World War II and is now retired as a museum ship popular with tourists.
You feel the joy the moment you see the stars and stripes of the American flag proudly waving against the cloudless, blue skies this Memorial Day Weekend. 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 29—BOB HOPE (born Leslie Towns Hope) was a British-American stand-up comedian, vaudevillian, actor, sort-of-singer, dancer, athlete, author and one of the most important entertainers of the 20th century. He was born in London but at age four, he moved with his family to Cleveland, Ohio.
Hope had a brief career as a boxer before beginning an 80-year career in film, television and onstage. He appeared in more than 70 films and starred in 54 of them.
He hosted the Oscar awards 19 times (more than any other person) and wrote 14 books. Between 1941-1991, Bob Hope made 57 tours for the USO (United Services Organization) entertaining active-duty American military personnel around the globe. The signature song of this joy-giver was “Thanks for the Memories” and we thank him for all the joyful memories he gave the world.
May 30—Benny Goodman, aka “The King of Swing,” was a jazz clarinetist and enormously popular “Big Band” leader. He led one of the most influential musical groups in America during the 1930s. His concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City in January, 1938 was described as “the single most important jazz or popular music concert in history and jazz’s ‘coming out party to the of respectable music.”
May 31—Joe Namath, nicknamed “Broadway Joe” for his brash personality, was a football quarterback who attracted mainstream popularity outside of just sports. He led his college team, the University of Alabama…ROLL TIDE…to a national championship and played 13 seasons in professional football, mostly with the New York Jets. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
June 1—MARILYN MONROE (born Norma Jean Mortenson) epitomized the American invented character. She changed her curly brown hair to a straightened, platinum bouffant; her harsh, natural voice to a kittenish purr and her conservative wardrobe to nearly and fully, voluptuously nude. The actress, pin-up model and cabaret singer was famous for playing a comedic, “blonde bombshell” glamourpuss. As Marilyn Monroe, Mortenson became an icon of American popular culture, rivaled only by Elvis Presley and Mickey Mouse. “The Smithsonian Magazine” included her in “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.”
June 2—WAYNE BRADY is a West Indian-American actor, singer, comedian, game show host and television personality. He has been a regular on the American version of the improvisational comedy television series, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” He was the host of the daytime talk show, “The Wayne Brady Show,” and has hosted “Let’s Make A Deal” since it’s 2009 revival. Brady starred on Broadway in the Tony-winning musical, “Kinky Boots,” as Simon, who is also a drag queen. Brady is a five-time Emmy award winner and was nominated for a Grammy award for his traditional and soulful cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.”
June 3—JOSEPHINE BAKER was an American dancer and jazz cabaret performer who became an international sensation dancing in only a skirt made of artificial bananas and a beaded necklace. This made her a star in Paris, France at the world-famous Folies Bergere nightclub. She was known as the “Bronze Venus” and is an iconic image for the “Jazz Age” and the “Roaring Twenties.” Baker was awarded the coveted “Chevalier of the Legion d’honneur” by General Charles De Gaulle for her involvement in the “French Resistance” during WWII. Baker once said, “I have two loves, America and Paris.”
June 4-DR. RUTH, Karola Ruth Siegal Westheimer, is a German-American sex therapist, media personality, author, radio and television talk show host, sniper and Holocaust survivor. (A documentary about her life, “Ask Dr. Ruth,” premiered in U.S. theaters in 2019 and can be streamed on Hulu). She is the author of numerous self-help book, including “Sex for Dummies”.
COMMENTS OVERHEARD AT “THE USO SHOW BIRTHDAY PARTY” FOR AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS:
“I feel very humble, but I have the strength of character to fight it.”—Bob Hope
“It takes the black keys and the white keys both, to make perfect harmony.”—Benny Goodman
“If you aren’t going all the way, why go at all?”—Joe Namath
“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”—Marilyn Monroe
“I didn’t know that we could bring a variety show to daytime television. I didn’t know that people wanted to see singing, dancing and comedy in the morning.”—Wayne Brady
“The secret to the fountain of youth is to think youthful thoughts.”—Josephine Baker
“A lesson taught with humor is a lesson retained.”—Dr. Ruth
“I always like to visit Washington, D.C. It gives me a chance to visit my money.”—Bob Hope
“After you’ve done all the work and prepared as much as you can, what the hell, you might as well go out and have a good time.”—Benny Goodman
“First, I prepare. Then, I have faith.”—Joe Namath
“We are all stars and deserve to twinkle.”—Marilyn Monroe
“I always thought that common sense would prevail. But, on a game show, there is no common sense.”—Wayne Brady
“Since I personified the savage on the stage, I tried to be as civilized as possible in daily life.”—Josephine Baker
“During WWII, free speech wasn’t dead in Germany and Italy, merely the speakers.”—Bob Hope
“If you want to do something, you do it anyway, and handle the obstacles as they come.”—Benny Goodman
“My favorite animal is the turtle. The reason is that in order for the turtle to move, it has to stick its neck out.”—Dr. Ruth
“When you win, nothing hurts.”—Joe Namath
“Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition.”—Marilyn Monroe
“When it comes to sex, the most important six inches are between the ears.”—Dr. Ruth
“Theatre sports is the best improv training, period.”—Wayne Brady
“To realize our dreams we decide to wake up.”—Josephine Baker
“She said she was approaching forty, and I couldn’t help wondering from what direction.”—Bob Hope
“Creativity grows out of two things: curiosity and imagination.”—Benny Goodman
“I don’t know whether I prefer Astroturf to grass. I never smoked Astroturf.”—Joe Namath
“I am not interested in money, I just want to be wonderful.”—Marilyn Monroe
“Curvy women need to visit a museum. Men have been attracted to those curves forever and still are. They can’t help it and that helps you.”—Dr. Ruth
“I can’t wait until tomorrow ‘cause I get better looking every day.”—Joe Namath
“Keep smiling because life is a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.”—Marilyn Monroe
PARTY MENU FOR “THE USO SHOW BIRTHDAY PARTY:”
APPETIZER—Dr. Ruth’s Aphrodisiac Oysters (simplyoysters.com)
SALAD—Wayne Brady West Indian Crab Salad (rouses.com)
ENTRÉE—Joe Namath Quarterback Calzones (tasteofhome.com)
SIDE DISH—Bob Hope Road to Rio Brazilian Refried Beans (see below)
BREAD—Marilyn Monroe More-Than-A-Mouthful Muffins (food.com)
BEVERAGE—Benny Goodman Clarinet Licorice Stick Cocktail (cocktail-db.com)
DESSERT—Josephine Baker Re-Purposed Banana Skirt Pie (thespruceeats.com)
ONE TO GROW ON—Check out Amazon for the biography, “Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker in Her Time” by Phyllis Rose. I read this delightful and inspiring book when it was first published in the late 1980s. The author does a rousing job of explaining how Baker went from poverty and obscurity to international stardom in Jazz Age Paris. Many hardback and paperback versions are available at ridiculously low prices. You’ll have enough money left in your wallet to buy a banana skirt or kilt.
The finale of “The USO Show Birthday Party” was Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe and Josephine Baker entertaining in a pop-up, USO canteen on the main deck of the USS Alabama. After acknowledging the applause, Josephine Baker slipped on a chaplain’s robe to end the evening with a prayer of gratitude for all the joy-givers, saying “I believe in prayer. It’s the best way to draw strength from heaven.”
HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND!
BOB HOPE ROAD TO RIO BRAZILIAN REFRIED BEANS
4 cups precooked basic beans
1 cup coconut milk (canned or homemade)
Salt to taste
¼ cup sugar (optional)
Put the cooked beans, with their liquid, in a blender along with the coconut milk. Blend until smooth. Taste and add sugar or salt if desired.
Put the blended beans in a large, heavy pan and heat over medium-high heat stirring frequently to avoid burning. Heat until the mixture just begins to bubble, remove from heat and serve immediately. Serves eight.
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