365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: ‘The Nanu-Nanu Birthday Party’

(Photo from Unsplash)

This week, we’re in San Francisco at a luxurious, Victorian residence located at 2640 Steiner St. for “The Nanu-Nanu Birthday Party.” This was the film location for “Mrs. Doubtfire” starring Robin Williams as the titular character, Euphegina Doubtfire, a Scottish nanny for the fictional-but-adored Hilliard family. 

This house near the bay has become an iconic tourist destination, and in 2014 when, Robin Williams became a heavenly star, an impromptu memorial happened here with hundreds of the comedian’s heartbroken fans leaving bouquets of flowers, candles and photographs. 

When the film was first released, “Mrs. Doubtfire” did not receive the critical nor financial success of other works like “Tootsie” and “Some Like It Hot” which featured cross-dressing characters, but over the years, it has become a cherished classic. Euphegina has been eternally etched in the hearts of millions across the world. 


You feel the joy the moment you approach this graceful, welcoming home. HOORAY FOR THE JOY-GIVERS! (Note: The comments attributed to these famous joy-givers come from words they have written or said.) 


July 17—PHYLLIS DILLER was a stand-up comedian, comic actress, author, musician and visual artist. She was best known for her cackling laugh, self-deprecating humor and her wild hair and clothes. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and won the American Comedy Award for Lifetime Achievement. 

July 18—RICHARD RED SKELTON (yes, Red was his given middle name at birth). He was a radio and television entertainer for decades and also performed in burlesque, vaudeville, films and nightclubs. He pursued an entirely different career as a fine art painter. He wanted to be known as a clown and believed his life work was to make people laugh. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for radio and another for television. 

July 19—HOWARD SCHULTZ is a business visionary best known for his global success as the chairman and CEO of Seattle-based Starbucks coffee shops and branded products. He also owned the Seattle Supersonics professional basketball team. 

July 20—CARLOS SANTANA (Carlos Humberto Santana Barragan) is a Mexican American guitarist who pioneered a fusion of rock-and-roll with Latin American jazz. “Rolling Stone Magazine” listed him at #20 on their list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists.” He has 10 Grammy Awards, three Latin Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame. 

July 21—ROBIN WILLIAMS is often regarded as one of the finest comedians of all time. He was known for his improvisational genius and for the wide variety of characters he created on the spur of the moment in dramas and comedies alike.  

He was awarded an Oscar, two Primetime Emmys, six Gold Globe Awards, two Screen Actor Guild Awards and five Grammys. His films include: “Popeye,” “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “The World According to Garp,” “Moscow on the Hudson,” “Dead Poets Society,” “The Fisher King,” “Awakenings,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Hook,” “The Birdcage” and “Good Will Hunting.”  

He rose to fame playing the alien Mork in the ABC sitcom “Mork and Mindy.” Among his many inventions, Robin Williams is credited with Mork’s greeting: “I am Mork from Ork. I come in peace. NANU-NANU!” 

July 22—EMMA LAZARUS was a poet, author and social activist. It is her words that are engraved on a bronze plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty. 

“Give me your tired, your poor, 

Your huddled masses, 

Yearning to breathe free, 

The wretched refuse of 

Your teeming shore, 

Send these, the homeless, 

Tempest-tossed to me. 

I lift my lamp beside 

The golden door.” 

July 23—ALISON KRAUSS is a bluegrass-country singer and musician. She has released 14 albums, appeared on numerous film soundtrack recordings and sparked a renewed interest in bluegrass music in the United States. She has won 27 Grammy Awards ranking her fourth behind Beyonce’, Quincy Jones and classical conductor Georg Solti for most wins. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2019. 


“If you don’t have wrinkles, you haven’t laughed enough.”—Phyllis Diller 

“No matter what your heartache may be, laughing helps you forget it a few seconds.”—Red Skelton 

“Who wants a dream that’s near-fetched?”—Howard Schultz 

“Happiness is not a destination or an experience. It’s a decision.”—Carlos Santana 

“You’ve got to be crazy. It’s too late to be sane, too late. You’ve got to be full-tilt bozo…’Cause you’re only given a little spark of madness…and if you lose that, you’re nothing.”—Robin Williams 

“The grand old lady of bluegrass? Well, wouldn’t that be a wonderful title to have? I hope I do enough to earn it someday.”—Alison Krauss 

“I never made ‘Who’s Who’ but I’m featured in ‘What’s That?’”—Phyllis Diller 

“My credo is: have a little laugh at life and look around you for happiness instead of sadness.”—Red Skelton 

“Sometimes you have to create the thing you want to be part of.”—Howard Schultz 

“The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.”—Carlos Santana 

“If we’re going to fight a disease, let’s fight one of the most terrible diseases of all—indifference.”—Robin Williams 

“You know, for most of its life, bluegrass music has had this stigma of being all straw hats and hay bales and not necessarily the most sophisticated form of music. Yet you can’t help responding to its honesty. It’s music that finds its way deep into your soul because it’s strings vibrating against wood and nothing else.”—Alison Krauss 

“You know you’re old when someone compliments your alligator shoes and you are barefoot.”—Phyllis Diller 

“God’s children and their happiness are my reasons for being.”—Red Skelton 

“Always challenge the old ways.”—Howard Schultz 

“One day there will be no borders, no boundaries, no flags and no countries and the only passport will be the heart.”—Carlos Santana 

“Music is a harmonic connection between all living things.”—Robin Williams 

“I think people respond to honesty in music, so I only choose songs that are the truth for me.”—Alison Krauss 

“I think of music as a menu. I can’t eat the same thing every day.”—Carlos Santana 

“I married Miss Right. I just didn’t know her last name was Always.”—Red Skelton 

“Ah, yes, divorce…from the Latin word meaning to rip out a man’s genitals through his wallet.”—Robin Williams 

“Believe in your dreams and dream big. And then after you’ve done that, dream bigger.”—Howard Schultz 

“Some things feel really good to sing—there’s a physical aspect, but there’s more to it—a deeper place you go to.”—Alison Krauss 

“Laughter has always brought me out of unhappy situations.”—Red Skelton 

“Success is best when it’s shared.”—Howard Schultz 

“I served the meal in three phases: serve the food, clear the table, bury the dead.”—Phyllis Diller 

“I like to serve chocolate desserts because they don’t show the dirt.”—Phyllis Diller 


APPETIZER—Emma Lazarus Ellis Island Gefilte Fish Bites with Horseradish Sauce (cookingwithfriendsclub.com) 

SOUP/SALAD—Alison Krauss Bluegrass Salad (myrecipes.com) 

ENTRÉE—Robin Williams “Mrs. Doubtfire” Chicken with Hollandaise Sauce (thespruceeats.com) 

SIDE DISH—Red Skelton Irish Potato and Cabbage Mash (tasteofhome.com) 

BREAD—Carlos Santana Chocolate-Banana Muffins (foodnetwork.com) 

BEVERAGE—Howard Schultz Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino (starbucks.com and see below for homemade version) 

DESSERT—Phyllis Diller “Dirty Chocolate” Cookies (iambaker.net) 

ONE TO GROW ON—Howard Schultz book, “From the Ground Up: A Journey To Reimagine The Promise Of America”, asks and attempts answering these provocative and positive questions: What do we owe one another? How do we channel our drive, ingenuity, even our pain, into something more meaningful than individual success? What is our duty in the places where we live, work and play? This could be the required textbook for a class called: America the Joyful 101. 

Surprise is the essence of entertainment, and this gathering held many surprises. A few decades ago, I joined some friends for dinner with the popular comedienne, Phyllis Diller, after an Alabama Symphony concert where she was the guest performer. Earlier that night onstage, she did some bits of comedy from her schtick about her husband—“Fang”—but mostly she performed as the classically-trained pianist she had intended to become. After expertly playing symphonic works, she shared a serious musical composition she had created. She playfully titled the work—“Phyllis’s Fugue”—but the originality of the music underscored another of the many facets of this richly talented joy-giver. 

“The Nanu-Nanu Birthday Party” held other surprises: Red Skelton, the consummate clown, read a serious and moving essay he had written about valuing and respecting America’s Pledge of Allegiance, Emma Lazarus, the deeply powerful poet, shared some light humor, and the bluegrass Grammy winner, Alison Krauss, played a Mozart minuet she had learned as a child. 

This was an impressive array of joy-giving American earthlings for all of us, and for some alien like Mork from Ork. NANU-NANU! 

                   CARAMEL FRAPPUCINO (Tastes just like Starbucks when you can’t get there) 


4 cups ice 

½ cup black coffee, cooled 

¼ cup milk 

1 teaspoon vanilla 

2 tablespoons caramel sauce or syrup 

Garnish: whipped cream and caramel sauce 


Pour all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into two, large glasses. Top with whipped cream and drizzle with extra caramel sauce, if desired. (Yields 2 large drinks) 

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Ben South