365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Twistin’ Party

(Photo from Redmondhome.com)

We are twistin’ and turnin’ on a plywood structure built atop a barber chair. This gyrating contraption was created in the early days of America’s space program here at Morehead Planetarium, the site of “The Twistin’ Birthday Party.” Think stargazer Neil Degrasse Tyson meets ‘Twistin’ star’ Chubby Checker.

Morehead Planetarium, the first in the American South, opened in 1949 and subsequently was used to train all Gemini and Apollo program astronauts in celestial navigation. It is located on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Until the late 1990s, the Morehead contained one of the largest, working Copernican orreries (please, if you have to ask—Google it like I did) in the world.


You feel the joy and wonder beneath the full dome planetarium which is 68 feet in diameter and 44 feet tall. Glorious cello music performed by Yo-Yo Ma, “Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace),” swells as your eyes are dazzled by the massive arc of twinkling stars.

HOORAY FOR THE JOY-GIVERS! (Note: The comments attributed to these famous joy-givers come from words they have written or said.)


Oct. 2—GROUCHO MARX (Julius Henry Marx) was a comedian, actor, writer and stage/film/radio/television star. He was the epitome of “quick wit” and of America’s comic geniuses. He made 13 feature films with his siblings, the “Marx Brothers.” His television career is best remembered for his years of hosting the game show, “You Bet Your Life.”

His distinctive appearance, which he adopted early in his vaudeville days, inspired one of the most joy-giving comic disguises ever–a one-piece mask of horn-rimmed spectacles, a plastic nose, bushy eyebrows and mustache is still easily recognizable decades later and known as—“Groucho glasses.”

Oct. 3—CHUBBY CHECKER (born Ernest Evans in Spring Gully, SC) became forever-linked to the dance craze, “The Twist.” Mr. Checker launched the phenomenon with his cover of the Hank Ballard and the Midnighters’ song, “The Twist.” His best known song is—dig this—“Let’s Twist Again.” He also taught us to move with these tunes: “The Hucklebuck,” “Pony Time,” “The Fly,” “Slow Twistin’” and “Limbo Rock.” “Billboard” magazine ranked Chubby Checker’s version of “The Twist” as the biggest chart hit of all time.

Oct. 4—BUSTER KEATON, called “The Great Stone Face,” was an actor, comedian, film director, producer, screenwriter and stunt performer. He is best remembered for his silent films in which he exhibited relentless physical comedy and a consistently stoic, deadpan expression. From 1920-1929, he worked without interruption. Film critic Roger Ebert called Buster Keaton “the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies.” A native Kansan, Keaton has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for motion pictures and another for television.

Oct. 5—NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON is a popular, science communicator, astrophysicist, planetary scientist and author. From 1995-2005, Tyson wrote monthly essays in the “Universe” column for “Natural History Magazine.” From 2006-2011, he hosted “NOVA ScienceNow” on PBS television. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences awarded him the Public Welfare Medal in 2015 for his “extraordinary role in exciting the public about the wonders of science.”

Oct. 6—CAROLE LOMBARD (born Jane Alice Peters) was America’s favorite “screwball comedy” star. She was known for playing energetic, often off-beat, likeable pranksters. Her films include: “Twentieth Century,” “Hands Across the Table,” “My Man Godfrey,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and her final film, Ernst Lubitsch’s “To Be or Not to Be.” She was married to “The King of Hollywood” Clark Gable when she died in an airplane crash while on a tour to promote United States war bonds. Carole Lombard Gable has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Oct. 7—YO-YO MA has been a performing cellist since he was four and a half years old. He was born in Paris, France to Chinese parents and educated in New York City. He graduated from the Julliard School and Harvard University. He has recorded more than 90 albums and won 18 Grammy Awards. Ma has been a United Nations Messenger of Peace since 2006. He won the National Medal of Arts in 2001 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Yo-Yo Ma was named one of “Time” magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2020.”

Oct. 8—CECE WINANS (Priscilla Marie Winans Love) is considered by many to be the greatest gospel singer of her generation. She has been awarded 12 Grammys, 23 GMA Dove Awards, 16 Stellar Awards and seven NAACP Image Awards. She is the best-selling and most-awarded gospel artist of all time. CeCe Winans has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her greatest hits included: “Mercy Says No,” “More Than What I Wanted,” “We Thirst for You,” “Jesus, You’re Beautiful” and “Give Thanks.”

Here are things CeCe Winans and others have said about joy-giving, American gospel music:

“When the song is over, the mikes turned off, the lights dimmed, all the glitter and glamour shed, and I am left alone with my thoughts, free to contemplate the paths that led me to where I am today, I pause to give thanks.”—CeCe Winans

“Since I was two years old, all I knew was gospel music. That music became such a part of my life it was as natural as dancing. A way to escape from the problems. And, my way of release.”—Elvis Presley

“My raps are a decision, rabble rousing, spiritual, like gospel music.”—Tupac Shakur

“There is a sound that comes from gospel music that doesn’t come from anything else. It is a sound of, ‘I’m going to make it through all of this.’”—Yolanda Adams

“From gospel music, I learned the importance of singing with emotion—authentic emotion, not contrived—which has made my music endearing.”—Oleta Adams

“Gospel music is really any music that’s a testimony and tells a story of what God has done in your life.”—Laura Allen

“My hear is still there in gospel music. It never left.”—Aretha Franklin

“Gospel music is so ingrained into my bones. I can’t do a concert without singing a gospel song. It’s what I was raised on.”—Johnny Cash

“I’m happy that I grew up listening to gospel music and came from where I came from. I feel like I have a history and a story.”—Katy Perry


“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”—Groucho Marx

“I’m just grateful to be on this planet. I have no enemies, that I know of. I’m just the guy who makes happy.”—Chubby Checker

“A comedian does funny things. A good comedian does things funny.”—Buster Keaton

“Knowing how to think empowers you far beyond those who know only what to think.”–Neil Degrasse Tyson

“I can’t imagine a duller fate than being the best-dressed woman in reality. When I want to do something, I don’t pause to contemplate whether I’m exquisitely gowned. I want to live, not pose.”—Carole Lombard

“Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks.”—Yo-Yo Ma

“When you’re in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will in the cell next to you saying, ‘Damn, that was fun.’”—Groucho Marx

“Every limbo boy and girl, all around the limbo work; gonna do the limbo rock, all around the limbo clock.”—Chubby Checker

“No man is a genius in slap shoes and a flat hat.”—Buster Keaton

“I love being wrong because that means in that instant, I learned something new that day.”—Neil Degrasse Tyson

“Do you laugh in the right places? Then, you’ll get along, in fair weather or foul.”—Carole Lombard

“Good things happen when you meet strangers.”—Yo-Yo Ma

“I never forget a face, but in your case, I’ll be glad to make an exception.”—Groucho Marx

“Wiggle like a stick. Wobble like a duck. That’s what you do when you do ‘The Hucklebuck.’”—Chubby Checker

“If there is sweeter music than laughter this side of heaven, I haven’t heard it.”—Buster Keaton

“In the end, it’s the people who are curious who change the world.”—Neil Degrasse Tyson

“Personally, I resent being tagged a ‘glamour girl.’ It’s such an absurd, extravagant label. It implies so much that I am not.”—Carole Lombard

“One of the great things about being a musician is that you never stop learning.”—Yo-Yo Ma

“There’s a part of me that’s always charging ahead. I’m the curious kid, always going to the edge.”—Yo-Yo Ma


“When I’m onstage, they know I’m honest, and I try to be as humble as I can.”—Chubby Checker

“Tragedy is a close-up; comedy a long shot.”—Buster Keaton

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”—Neil Degrasse Tyson

“I live by a man’s code, designed to fit a man’s world, yet at the same time, I never forget that a woman’s first job is to choose the right shade of lipstick.”—Carole Lombard

“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.”—Groucho Marx

“I want my flowers while I’m alive.”—Chubby Checker

“Silence is of the gods; monkeys chatter.”—Buster Keaton

“We are part of the universe; we are in the universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is the universe is in us.”—Neil Degrasse Tyson

“If my personalities offed you, I’m sure one of them can tell you where to go.”—Carole Lombard

“I think that peace is, in many ways, a precondition of joy.”—Yo-Yo Ma


APPETIZER—Carole Lombard Orange-Glazed Screwballs (tasteofhome.com)

SOUP—Groucho Marx Duck Soup (allrecipes.com)

ENTRÉE—Yo-Yo Ma Bach, Bach, Bach Chinese Chicken (thespruceeats.com)

SIDE DISH—Chubby Checker Checkerboard Veggie Squares (food.com)

BREAD—Buster Keaton Kansas Wheat Bread (crecipe.com)

BEVERAGE—Neil Degrasse Tyson Starfruit Mango Smoothie (redmondhome.com)

DESSERT—CeCe Winans Oh Sweet Mercy Cookies (ohsweetmercy.com)

ONE TO GROW ON—“Gable and Lombard” is a 1976 biopic starring James Brolin as Clark Gable and Jill Clayburgh as Carole Lombard. The movie is big and lush with a grand, sweeping music score by Michel Legrand. There is lots of screwball comedy and glamour. Seeing this film with someone you savor, and a bottle of champagne could make for a joy-filled night to remember.

Under the splendid array of stars in the star dome, BeBe Winans, CeCe’s brother Benjamin, joined her for a duet of their song, “Give Me A Star.” This was one of the most soaring blessings to the heavens, ever. The chorus pleads:

“So, give me a star

(Give me one to clear the mist away.)

Give me a star

(Give me one star to light the world today.)

One simple light

(Give me a star, one simple light, and I’ll never walk alone again at night.)

During the meal, which included Groucho Marx Duck Soup and Neil Degrasse Tyson Star Fruits, the starry, starry skies made way to projections of joy-filled scenes from Buster Keaton and Carole Lombard classic films. The background music was Yo-Yo Ma performing joyous selections from Michel Legrand’s original score for the film “Gable and Lombard.”

“The Twistin’ Birthday Party,” ended with everyone on the starlit dance floor and Chubby Checker urging all to “Let’s Twist Again:”

“Come on everybody!

Clap your hands!

Awww, you lookin’ good!

I’m gonna sing my song.

It won’t take long.

We’re gonna do The Twist,

And, it goes like this.

Come on let’s twist again,

Like we did this summer!

Yeah, let’s twist again,

Like we did last year.

Do you remember when,

Things were really hummin?’

Yeaaah, let’s twist again.

Twistin’ time is here!


                                      NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON STARFRUIT MANGO SMOOTHIE



1 cup fresh star fruit

1 cup frozen mango

½ cup frozen strawberries

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Ice cubes


  1. Chop the fruit into small pieces and fill your measuring cup
  2. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth
  3. Serve right away or store in the fridge until later

Ben South