We are in Bedford, New York about an hour north of Manhattan for “The I Love Saturday Night Birthday Party.” Set amid 250 acres of rolling lawn and woods, this is the home of Ricky and Ralph Lauren. The popular, “RL” branded towels in the powder room are even more special when the homeowners are THE RL’s. The Norman-style 17,000 square foot house lends itself to what Mr. Lauren calls a “combination of hunting lodge and stately home.”
Throughout the house are ginormous bouquets of white flowers—Casablanca lilies, gardenias and hydrangeas punctuated with Helen Hayes roses, named for “The First Lady of American Theatre.” The roses have generous, open, yellow blooms which change to soft orange and pink overtones.
You would imagine classical music or cocktail jazz plays here often, but this Saturday night the soundtrack is the relaxed, joy-giving, California folk sound of Jackson Browne.
You feel the joy the moment you step into the Lauren’s grand, wood-paneled entrance hall. 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 JOY-GIVERS CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK:
Oct. 9—JACKSON BROWNE (Clyde Jackson Browne) is a quintessential, sensitive, California singer/songwriter who was born in Heidelberg, Germany. He began as a precocious teen writing hits for others as he did for the Eagles on “Take It Easy.” His most successful album in sales was “Running on Empty” which explored themes of being a touring musician and stayed in “Billboard” magazine’s “Top 10” for almost all of 1973. Browne has sold more than 18 million albums in the U.S. ‘
He has received numerous awards including the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in recognition of his lifetime in the arts and dedication as a social activist. He was the first artist/humanitarian to receive the Ghandi Peace Award from the organization, “Promoting Enduring Peace.”
Oct. 10—HELEN HAYES (born Helen Hayes Brown) was known as “The First Lady of American Theatre.” Her acting career spanned 80 years. She is one of the handful of people who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award—an EGOT. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our country’s highest civilian honor. In 1988, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Oct. 11—”Saturday Night Live” (SNL) premiered on October 11, 1975 with comedian George Carlin as guest host. The original title was “NBC’s Saturday Night.” This late-night, live television sketch comedy and variety show often parodies contemporary culture and politics. For instance, this past week had impressive, new cast member, James Austin Johnson, as a baffled President Joe Biden.
SNL has won 86 Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards. A weekly installment typically begins with a “cold open” sketch that ends with someone breaking character and proclaiming—“LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT!”
Tickle your pals with these joy-giving catch phrases from SNL:
“I am Hans, und I am Frans, and we just want to pump you up.”
“I got a fever, and the only prescription is…MORE COWBELL!”
“We are two wild and crazy guys.”
“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.”
“I live in a van down by the river.”
“You look mah-velous.”
“Wellll, isn’t that SPECIAL?”
Oct. 12—DICK GREGORY (Richard Claxton Gregory) was a comedian and vegetarian activist. His writings have been best sellers. Gregory became popular in the 1960s with his “no-holds-barred” comedy sets which poked fun at bigotry and racism in the U.S.
His comedy albums include: “In Living Black and White,” “Dick Gregory Talks Turkey,” “The Light Side: The Dark Side,” “Caught in the Act” and “You Don’t Know Dick.”
Oct. 13—LENNY BRUCE (born Leonard Alfred Schneider) was a comedian, philosopher and social critic. At a particularly conservative time in American history, he spoke freely about hypocrisy in government and in religion. His trial on obscenity charges is a landmark for freedom of speech in the U.S. “Rolling Stone” magazine ranked Bruce third (only behind his disciples, Richard Pryor and George Carlin) in its roster of the “50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time.”
Oct. 14—RALPH LAUREN (born Ralph Lifshitz) is a fashion stylist and billionaire businessman, the 102nd richest person in America, according to “Forbes Magazine.” He began his fashion career as a salesperson at a Brooks Brothers store before working for a necktie company, Beau Brummell. Lifshitz convinced the tie company to let him start his own line of slightly wider ties and the rest is apparel history.
Oct. 15—”I Love Lucy,” the classic television sitcom, premiered on October 15, 1951. The show starred Lucille Ball, her then real-life husband, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance and William Frawley. The storyline followed the madcap antics of Lucy Ricardo (Ball) a young, middle-class housewife in NYC who often concocted wild, hare-brained schemes with her best friend, Ethel Mertz (Vance) to appear alongside her bandleader husband (Arnaz). “I LOVE LUCY” became the most-watched show in America and was a major joy-giver for six seasons. ABC News and “People Magazine” voted “I Love Lucy” the “Best TV Show of All Time.”
Here are just a few of the great bits of comic dialogue from “I Love Lucy:”
“Lucy Ricardo: Ricky, wait a minute, let’s not watch television tonight.”
Ricky Ricardo, Ethel Mertz, Fred Mertz (shout in unison) NOT WATCH TELEVISION?!
Ricky Ricardo: What else is there to do?
Lucy Ricardo: Well, whatever happened to that game we used to play before television was invented? It was called ‘conversation.’
Ethel Mertz: Oh yeah. How’d that go?
Lucy Ricardo: You know, the four of us used to sit around all evening and talk. Nothing so unusual about it. In millions of homes all over the country, people were having the same kinds of conversations we were having.
Fred Mertz: Yeah, that’s why television was invented.”
“Lucy Ricardo: How’d you know all that stuff?
Ricky Ricardo: Who do you think you married, some country pumpkin?”
And, this hilarious monologue after Lucy has slurped too much of the high-alcohol content medicinal tonic, Vitameatavegimin, which she is selling.
“Lucy Ricardo: Well, I’m your Vitavigavegiat Girl. Are you tired, run down, listless? The answer to all your problems is in this little ole bottle, Vitameatavegamin. (checks the bottle label) That’s it. Vitameatavegamin countains vitamins, meat, megetables and vinerals. So, why don’t you join the thousands of happy peppy people and get a great big ole bottle of Vitaveatyvemeanyminimoe…This stuff.”
“Ricky Ricardo: I need someone with ‘sperience.’
Lucy Ricardo: Well, I’ve had ‘sperience.’”
“Ricky Ricardo: Lucy, you remember that old saying, ‘birds of a feather, smell the same?
Lucy Ricardo: You mean, ‘a rose by any other name flocks together?
Ricky Ricardo (thinks for a moment): Yeah.”
“Fred Mertz: She said my mother looks like a weasel.
Lucy Ricardo: Ethel, apologize.
Ethel Mertz: I’m sorry your mother looks like a weasel.”
“Ricky Ricardo: Lucy’s acting crazy!
Fred Mertz: Crazy for Lucy or crazy for ordinary people?”
COMMENTS OVERHEARD AT “THE I LOVE SATURDAY NIGHT BIRTHDAY PARTY:”
“Lighten up while you still can, don’t even try to understand. Just find a place to make your stand and take it easy.”—Jackson Browne
“The expert at anything was once a beginner.”—Helen Hayes
“Love is man’s natural endowment, but he doesn’t know how to use it. He refuses to recognize the power of love because of his love of power.”—Dick Gregory
“There are never enough ‘I love you’s.’”—Lenny Bruce
“Each day is an occasion to reinvent ourselves.”—Ralph Lauren
“When you’ve found another soul who has seen in to your own…take good care of each other…and remember to be kind.”—Jackson Browne
“The hardest years in life are those between 10 and 70.”—Helen Hayes
“One of the things I keep learning is that the secret of being happy is doing things for other people.”—Dick Gregory
“Every day, people are straying from church and going back to God.”—Lenny Bruce
“I didn’t have a vision as in, ‘This is where I’m going.’ I had a vision as in, ‘This is what I love to do.’”—Ralph Lauren
“We may lose and we may win, but we will never be here again.”—Jackson Browne
“Age is not important unless you’re a cheese.”—Helen Hayes
“I never learned hate at home, or shame. I had to go to school for that.”—Dick Gregory
“The only honest art form is laughter, comedy. You can’t fake it…try to fake three laughs in an hour…they’ll take you away.”—Lenny Bruce
“I don’t design clothes. I design dreams…People ask, ‘How can a Jewish kid from the Bronx do preppy clothes? Does it have to do with class and money?’ It has to do with dreams.”—Ralph Lauren
“Do the steps that you’ve been shown, by everyone you’ve ever known, until the dance becomes your very own.”—Jackson Browne
“When traveling with someone, take large doses of patience and tolerance with your morning coffee.”—Helen Hayes
“The only good thing about the good old days is they’re gone.”—Dick Gregory
“If you live in New York City, even if you’re Catholic, you’re Jewish.”—Lenny Bruce
“I’ve never wanted to be in fashion. Because if you’re in fashion, you’re going to be out of fashion.”—Ralph Lauren
“Life isn’t a race. It’s a relay.”—Dick Gregory
“Life is a four-letter word.”—Lenny Bruce
MENU FOR “THE I LOVE SATURDAY NIGHT BIRTHDAY PARTY:”
APPETIZER—Saturday Night Liver Pate’ (marthastewart.com)
SOUP—Lenny Bruce Matzah Ball Soup (allrecipes.com)
ENTRÉE—I Love Lucy Cubano Sandwiches (see below)
SIDE DISH—Ralph Lauren Preppy Roasted Artichokes (preppykitchen.com)
BREAD—Helen Hayes Victoria Regina Milk Bread (recipesofhealth.com)
BEVERAGE—Dick Gregory’s Bahamian Shake (thebahamiandiet.com)
DESSERT—California Jackson Brownies (recipeland.com)
ONE TO GROW ON—“The Next Voice You Hear: The Best of Jackson Browne” is available as an audio CD and streaming on Amazon. The mellow sounds are perfect for the fall evenings ahead.
After dinner, “The I Love Saturday Night Birthday Party,” revelers moved to the Lauren’s cosseting home theatre for wise and witty remarks from Lenny Bruce and Dick Gregory. Then, Mr. Lauren asked Helen Hayes if she might share some joyful memories from her illustrious acting career.
Ms. Hayes shared some fun backstage and behind-the-scenes anecdotes but said she hoped a bit more serious thoughts would still bring joy to all. She then shared this spiritual experience:
“When my daughter was sick with polio, I used to go early in the morning to a little church near the hospital to pray. There the working people came quietly to worship…I prayed every morning and I kept looking for a revelation, but nothing happened.
And then, much later, I discovered that it had happened, right there in the church. I could recall, vividly, the people I had seen there—the solemn laborers with tired looks, the old women with gnarled hands. Life had knocked them around, but for a brief moment, they were being refreshed by an ennobling experience. (she gestures to those at the party). It seemed as they prayed their worn faces lighted up and they became the very vessels of God.
Here was my revelation. Suddenly I realized I was one of them. In my need, I gained strength from the knowledge that they too had needs, and I felt an—interdependence—with them. I experienced a flood of compassion for people. I was learning the meaning of (she nods to those gathered) ‘Love thy neighbor.’”*
And, with those inspiring words, “The I Love Saturday Night” joy-givers ended the evening radiating even more joy—and love for all.
*Helen Hayes remarks are part of an inspirational essay she shared at thisIbelieve.org
I LOVE LUCY CUBANO SANDWICHES
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 (8 ounce) loaf Cuban bread
8 slices Swiss cheese
6 thin slices smoked, fully cooked ham
1 ½ cups pulled pork, heated
1 large dill pickle, sliced thinly lengthwise
2 tablespoons butter, or as needed
Step 1—Mix may, mustard and cayenne together in a bowl to make the sauce.
Step 2—Trim off ends of bread. Cut loaf in half and evenly split bread to make tops and bottoms of two sandwiches. Spread each half on both sides generously with the sauce.
Step 3—Divide sandwich ingredients between the two bottom halves in this order: two slices of Swiss cheese, three slices ham, hot cooked pork, pickle slices and two more slices of Swiss cheese. Place tops on sandwiches.
Step 4—Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium heat. Place sandwiches in skillet and press down with heavy weight (such as another skillet or foil-wrapped bricks). Toast sandwiches until bread is crisp and fillis heated through. 3 or 4 minutes per side.