By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
Greetings from the Big Apple
Oklahoma oafs in sweatpants who walk really slow got you down? Well, with teen squatters, squeegee guys, dancing crackheads, and other nefarious spare-changers taking to Manhattan's streets in record 1980s numbers, it looks like those good old days of jeering tourists are over. Become a volunteer Big Apple Greeter (1 Centre Street, 380-2364, www.bigapplegreeter.org) and put the Disney back into the New Times Square. Better yet, be your cool New York self and take your visitors on the wildest fucking tour of their boring Midwestern lives! And be sure and tell them that, yes, you did vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton. (SPARTOS)
'Santa Claus is Coming Out'
The T is out! Santa Claus is down with the sisterhood and is finally revealing his homosexuality to the world, as recounted by friends and family in Jeffrey Soloman's Behind the Music-styled mockumentary. In his 80-minute one-man show, Soloman portrays the circle of pals and haters who bear witness to the intense drama of the world's most ubiquitous holiday icon, from Santa's fake actress/wife to his agent, his macho elf foreman, and Rudolph. St. Nick bares his soul to the world about his long-term affair with Italian toy maker Giovanni Gepetto (Pinocchio's daddy! Ain't that deep, tho!), wrought with anguish over pleasing the world's children and being honest about his true self. Through January 7, Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond Street, 206-1515. (GERMOSN)
What A Drag
In this time of heightened suicide rates, what can better assuage our nerves than the self-deprecating, callous humor of a drag queen? Joey Arias assumes the lockjaw pose and perilously penciled brows of Joan Crawford for Christmas With the Crawfords, a libertine re-creation of Mrs. Pepsi's 1944 radio show with Christina and Christopher, in which a cavalcade of uninvited guests stop by to witness the cheerfulness and the child beatings (through January 5, Chelsea Playhouse, 125 West 22nd Street, 439-5135). Also the haggard-yet-endearing barfly Kiki returns with Herb to tell more tales from her many years tugging at the coattails of the rich and famous, while doing her distinctive renditions of hits by Mary J. Blige, the Ramones, Tori, and Pink Floyd, in Kiki & Herb: "There's a Stranger in the Manger!" (through December 31, Westbeth Theater, 151 Bank Street, 741-0391). Speaking of holiday hagarellas, Fez (380 Lafayette Street, 462-9077) is hosting appearances by two very special entertainers. Bicoastal-BBW Jackie Beat, fierce in that guttural way, will do her best to wipe that Christmas cheer off your mug in Merry F***ing Christmas! (December 14 through 23). And for those of you who need a little moreor lessestrogen in your gender illusionism, Murray Hill returns with newfound patriotic fervor and a parade of guest stars including the Pontani Sisters, the Dazzle Dancers, and *BOB* (December 2, 9, and 16 at 10). (GERMOSN)
I Saw Santa at the Betting Window
Belmont Racetrack is transformed into a drive-through winter wonderland, with more than 2 million lights, and over 100 holiday displays, all accompanied by special in-car music. The 500 acres host lighted tunnels, gift vendors, entertainment, and photos with Santa. Food and clothing charity donations are appreciated. The cost is $20 per vehicle. I wonder if you can bet on reindeer races. Through December 31, Belmont Racetrack, Hempstead Turnpike and Cross Island Parkway, Queens, 516-293-4242, www.belmontholidaylights.com. (ABER)
To Your (Mental) Health!
This holiday season, don't wallow in self-pity. As 2001 draws to a close, confront your fears and acknowledge your pain to start the new year on the right foot. The Olive Leaf Wholeness Center (145 East 23rd Street, 477-0405) offers free group sessions titled Coping With Our New World on December 5 at 5:45. Go figureunlike family and friends, these folks actually want to hear all about your problems. What more can you ask for? (KIM)
Jews in Shanghai? That's right, unknowing public, especially in the 1930s. No, this ain't no wacky new sitcom, it's a new version of The Nutcracker, conceived and directed by Michael Mao, with narrative by Broadway's B.D. Wong and sets by superstar Ming Cho Lee. Two little Chinese-Jewish twins (triple-threat!) star. Instead of a Wooden Soldier, Mao's young female twin gets a holiday firecracker (!) that transforms into a glorious Fire Prince. Subsequent mind travel, like one big badass drug cartel, extends from Shanghai to Hawaii, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico, and stops off at one of NY's remaining public monuments: the Statue of Liberty. December 8 and 9 at 1, the Pepsi-Co Theatre, SUNY Purchase College, 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, NY, 914-251-6200. (PERETTI)
'Ass 'n' Titties 'n' Latkes'
You wouldn't normally associate ghetto tech as holiday-themed music. Perhaps Grandma would flinch at the prospect of "Ass 'N' Titties" replacing "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel," but this didn't stop the folks at Fun from booking the most offensive jockey on the planet. Detroit's DJ Assault spreads some goodwill (and raunch) in hopes that wayward Manhattanites will get a dose of naughtiness in addition to festive good cheer. Also on hand for the dancing and special menorah-lighting ceremonies are "big booty dreidel girlies," and opening DJs/mensches Ulysses and Koose. December 13 at 10, Fun, 130 Madison Street, 964-0303. (ROMANO)
Tired of wrapping presents with free copies of the Voice? Just in time for the holidays, the AsiaStore at the Asia Society explores and demonstrates the many ways of gift giving throughout Asia. Remember, presentation is everything. December 1, 8, 15, and 22 at 11, Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue, at 70th Street, 517-ASIA. (KIM)
'Z100'S Jingle Ball 2001'
Pink's hair gel!
O-Town's so bootleg!
Oh what fun,
It is to ride, Enrique Iglesiasoh!
Alicia's just a kid!
Oh what fun,
It is to ride, that hottie Craig David!
December 13 at 7, Madison Square Garden, 32nd Street and Seventh Avenue, 465-MSG1. (SPARTOS)
Soundclash in Lincoln Center! In one corner, Kurt Masur, with his New York Philharmonic posse backing him up, trots out Tchaikovsky's inevitable "Nutcracker Suite." In the other, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra crew counter each movement with Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's 1960 arrangement of same. The wild card is Marsalis's own dual (or dueling) orchestra composition, "All Rise"you decide which side gets the handicap there. December 13, 14, 15, and 19, Avery Fisher Hall, Broadway and West 65th Street, 721-6500. (WOLK)
'The Royal Tenenbaums'
Wes Anderson's Rushmore follow-up celebrates that holiday hallmark, forced togetherness (as well as Shawn's New Yorker and The Magnificent Ambersons). Salinger's Wise Children grown up all wrong, the Tenenbaum kids (track-suited Ben Stiller, raccoon-eyed Gwyneth Paltrow, bearded Luke Wilson in tennis short-shorts) all end up under the same roof with their divorced parents (blustery Gene Hackman and blithe Anjelica Huston). Opens December 14. (LIM)
Musician Richard Barone's labor of love has turned into one of the city's best-kept holiday traditions. Well, I'm letting it out! The "Downtown Messiah" is getting bigger and better. According to Barone, it was a difficult task reworking a 200-plus-year-old classical music piece for a modern crowd while paying tribute to the music itself. He decided to let guests interpret within their own musical style. The result is an all-star, multi-genre evening of musical inspiration. Besides a chamber orchestra and a chorus, look for David Johansen (wild, crazy, yet reverent), Jane Siberry, and Terre Roche ("You know she can sing, but man can she play guitar!"). Other surprise performers always seem to turn up, but don't expect Handel; artistic differences or death? I often wonder. December 14 and 15 at 7:30 and 10:30, Bottom Line, 15 West 4th Street, 502-3471. (ABER)
I consider Kwanzaa to be the eternally misunderstood holiday. It's not black Christmas or Nubian Hanukkah. It's a period for African American families to break out the straw mat, Kenorah, and corn ears, while focusing on unity, pride, economic solidarity, self-appreciation, and more. The Spirit of Kwanzaa at Victoria Theater (December 21 at 7, 22 at 2 and 5, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, 1 Centre Street, Newark, New Jersey, 888-GO-NJPAC) leads the season with live domno drums and performances by Dinizulu African Dancers, Drummers, and Singers. If this isn't your thing, join in on some collective enrichment at Kwanzaa Fest(December 14 through 16, Jacob Javits Center, 39th Street and Eleventh Avenue, 718-585-3530)an annual expo that adheres to the shopaholic in us all. For visual stimulation, African photographer Seydou Keta shows black-and-white portraits of people from Bamako, Mali, at Sean Kelly (528 West 29th Street, 239-1181, opens December 8). Celebrate the principle of creativity by checking out the artist's muses. (FRANKLIN)
'2001 Unsilent Night (The Christmas Piece)'
Yes, Grandma does have quite an affinity for Jerry Garcia and the Dead, but honestly, she didn't put any psychotropics in your eggnog. The eerie bell-sounds, dreamy melodies, and haunting (yet soothing) drones are actually the electronic "carolers" of Phil Kline's Christmas concert procession. Experimental composer Kline gathers droves of friends and volunteers to march along carrying boom boxes with pre-recorded segments of minimalist-influenced, avant-garde Christmas music that Kline has composed. The result is a block-long (maybe longer; last year he had 50 boom boxes and over 200 people) procession of boom-box carolersquite mystifying. E-mail Phil and get involved: firstname.lastname@example.org. December 15 at 7, begins at the Arch in Washington Square Park, Fifth Avenue and Waverly Street, www.mindspring.com/~boombox. (BOSLER)
Hookin' Up for the Holidays
Single for the holidays, and looking for something more than a cheap, drunken, stumble-home-from- the-club-with-a-stranger one-night stand? (Can't say I understand that line of thinking, but I'll humor you.) One place you might find that special someone to take home to your parents is at the 92nd Street Y (1395 Lexington Avenue, 415-5500; December 15 at 7:30). Their Saturday Night Singlespeaks offers the unattached an opportunity to meet and discuss dating issues over refreshments in a "relaxed, friendly environment." If you consider yourself more of a "rogue" single-in-pursuit, and Christmas day finds you flying solo, stop by Cinema Classics (332 East 11th Street, 677-5368; December 25), where you can pretend to read a book in their dimly lit, tr*s bohemian caf*, while scoping out the room for other lonely hearts. And if you prefer to make your move in the dark, where your face is as hard to make out as the next person, slip into their screening room ($7), where they'll be showing Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Aliens; outdated special effects; desperate, frightened people alone in the darkyou don't have to be Santa Claus to deliver the goods on this one. (SWITZER)
'Ronnie Spector's Christmas Party, Vol. 8'
She sang on the best Xmas album ever (her ex Phil's), and this wall-of-Santa shindig has become a real-life annual tradition for the leathery old softies of rock 'n' rollhalf Brill Building, half Coney Island High. It'll be a blue Christmas without the ageless Ronette's
familiar foil Joey Ramone, but the cast list over the last couple of years has variously included Keith Richards and the Angry Inch band, and she apparently tried for Sleater-Kinney once. Cross your fingers for your favorites. December 15 and 16 at 7 and 9, B.B. King Blues Club, 237 West 42nd Street, 997-4144. (WOLK)
'Carmen Mofongo's Coquito Christmas 2001'
Although she grew up in the same Bronx neighborhood as J.Lo, actress Michele Carlo admits to her tragic gringo-ness. "I'm like the most un-Puerto Rican Puerto Rican on the entire planet," she confesses. She funnels her camp take on Latino American culture into the guise of Carmen Mofongo. "A Nuyorican Bronx-styled Carmen Miranda," as described by Carlo, Carmen wears ridiculous hats piled with anything from fruits to packs of Caf* Bustelo and Goya cans. Her tembleque-thick accent makes her sound like she hasn't left Mayagez, but she casually peppers her speech with 25-cent words like effluvium and congruence while singing bastardized versions of '50s musical numbers. At the show, audience members get free coquito shots, "the traditional Puerto Rican holiday drink," Carlo says, "made with rum, milk, rum, eggs, rum, vanilla, rum, spices, rum, coconut, and rum." Those who aren't wary of falling down dead-ass drunk during the show will enjoy the scheduled cameos from LES art-stars Reverend Jen, Purple Organ, Johnny McGovern, and Bruce Malnoff. December 15 and 22 at 10, Surf Reality, 172 Allen Street, 673-4182. (GERMOSN)
'A Holiday Gospel Celebration'
Let us address a hard truth about the holidays: It's not the greatest time for good music. After a certain age, the canned, witless positivity of songs like "Jingle Bells" and "Let It Snow" slowly starts to deaden otherwise useful brain cells. Even the occasional instances of brillianceEsquivel doing a gamelan-tinged "White Christmas," Nat King Cole's showstopping version of "O Tannenbaum"are little solace. Wash that din out of your ears and head to an exclusive concert of holiday gospel by Liz McComb, a glorious belter of jazz-inflected tunes. Not too well-known here, McComb has been a diva of the genre in Europe since the early '80s. Her fiery, commanding mezzo tone is finding its way onto the listening palettes of American ears with live performances like this one, backed up by a specially assembled Harlem choir. December 16 at 3, Aaron Davis Hall, 138 Convent Avenue, at West 135th Street, 650-7100. (GERMOSN)
'Feliz Navidad With Jos Feliciano'
Growing up Latin meant that instead of cookies and milk we'd leave Santa steak and rice, and an obligatory bottle of Bacardi. And instead of Bing Crosby's too "White Christmas," we'd get all sappy to Jos* Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad." The Puerto Rican crooner brought a bag full of soulnot coalto the Bastidas household every year, and we were grateful from the bottom of our hearts. December 21 at 8 and 10, B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 West 42nd Street, 997-4144. (BASTIDAS)
Nervous New Yorker coughs a consumptive cough. After nine months of greedy living, she swears off all gluttonous goods and servicesdesigner jeans from Barneys, frothy cocktails at Bungalow 8, and the sexy chow of the Park. But alas, she is only human! So, she confesses, there's been the occasional night of dancing (for charity!) and afternoon of shopping (to fuel the economy!). But deep down, Nervous New Yorker knows there's more to patriotic goodwill than draping a flag across her SUV. So, this holiday season, catch her fetching hot meals for the elderly (Citymeals-on-Wheels, 355 Lexington Avenue, 687-1234) and those living with AIDS (God's Love We Deliver, 166 Sixth Avenue, 294-8104), not to mention carving turkey for the homeless (Coalition for the Homeless, 89 Chambers Street, 964-5900). Now Nervous New Yorker's just plain Nice New Yorker. (SPARTOS)
Frank Darabont's December '99 inspirational, The Green Mile, was a tribute to redemption, running time, and bladder control; here watch him loan a Capra halo to Jim Carrey, who plays a blacklisted '50s screenwriter determined to make a new life in a small town. Or you could catch It's a Wonderful Life on TV for free. Opens December 21. (LIM)
Those who aren't fortunate enough to have the dubious pleasure of sitting with their neurotic family and gorging themselves on the requisite turkey Christmas dinner can head to Carroll Gardens for an un-Christmas Christmas party. The third annual Jewish Christmas features a flick and an unlimited Chinese buffet for a $10 cover. Previous years have entertained atheists, displaced clubbers, and Jewish loners with Starship Troopers, Austin Powers, and Time Bandits. This year's flick is the so-bad-it's-good fourth Star Wars installment, The Phantom Menace, which will be accompanied by classic episodes of cartoon shorts. Oy vey! December 24 at 8, Halcyon, 227 Smith Street, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, 718-260-9299. (ROMANO)
Sick of the same tired nativity set you bought from KMart? The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Avenue, at 82nd Street, 535-7710) helps stave off boredom with its annual Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Cr*che in the Medieval Sculpture Hall. It's all about a little 18th-century style (get in on it now!)silken-robed figures with shepherds, animals, and the three magi. The 20-foot tree is clad with cherubs, 50 angels, and gleaming lights. While you're there, see the Virgin and Child and the Processional Cross. If you need another dose of the Middle Ages, check out the Cloisters (Fort Tryon Park, West 193rd Street, and Fort Washington Park, 923-3700)the stained-glass depiction of The Annunciation will have you praying for more. (FRANKLIN)
Yes, I know the tradition is that we go to the pictures after Chinese food, but what, you want we should see Harry Potter for the sixth time? The lineup for this annual gathering of the tribes is still uncertain (though the 24th will feature Rob Tannenbaum and Sean Altman's "What I Like About Jew" songwriter program), but you can expect the usual suspects: big-name neo-klezmer acts, Hasidic rockers, unorthodox downtowners, and word-play worthy of our Catskills heritage. December 23 at 8, 24 at 7, and 25 at 8, Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, 219-3006. (WOLK)
Don't Make Me Stop this Car!
Your friends are in from Boston and they want you to show them "New Yawk," but you only have 18 cents in your pockets. Pile into the wagon, wait till 2 a.m. on a Tuesday night preferably, and take a drive into Manhattan. "You wanna see a city dressed in holiday style?" Cruise to Macy's (34th Street and Broadway, 695-4400) and view scenes from Miracle on 34th Street, then move up to Lord & Taylor (38th Street and Fifth Avenue, 391-3344), where they'll be celebrating their 175th anniversary with "Christmas Through the Years." Peek inside Saks (49th Street and Fifth Avenue, 753-4000) re-creation of Chris Raschka's new adaptation of e.e. cummings's Little Tree. Pass by Bergdorf Goodman (58th Street and Fifth Avenue, 753-7300) and their "Values and Virtues" window, one of three separate themes honoring traditions like shopping at Bergdorf Goodman. Play some holiday tunes and sing along to the Chipmunks Christmas Song, and never once leave the comforts of your climate-controlled vehicle. Or if you're like mewith no car or friendsyou can stay home and smoke that stuff that looks like a Christmas-tree bud. (ABER)
'The Shipping News'
A holiday tradition alongside puking in-laws and fruitcakes in freezers: Miramax hitches their Academy cart behind Lasse Hallstrsm and his homespun paeans to tolerance, this time taking the form of E. Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize winner. As quixotic Quoyle, Kevin Spacey casts himself again in Being Robin Williams. Opens December 25. (WINTER)
Bronx Zoo's Holiday Lights Show
Top Three Reasons Why the Bronx Zoo's Holiday Lights Show Beats the Human Herds, Tourist Traps, and Faux Flash of Manhattan's Midtown Zoo: (3) Big-beaked gray-cheeked hornbills, slithering African rock pythons, and funny-looking pygmy marmosets don't talk, sneeze, or shove. (2) The 140 giant lighted animal sculpturesincluding a somersaulting spider monkey!are a lot less scary than the gargantuan Barbie at FAO Schwartz. (1) Live reindeer and camels will get you home faster than a yellow taxi. Through January 1, Bronx Zoo, Fordham Road and the Bronx River Parkway, Bronx, 718-367-1010. (SPARTOS)
'A Beautiful Mind'
Escape your insane family and curl up with insane but strapping Russell Crowe in Ron Howard's biopic of schizophrenic game-theory prodigy John Forbes Nash Jr. Maybe the Good Will Hunting combo of math and emoting is preemptive, but the cast (including Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly) and source material (Sylvia Nasar's book) are impeccable. Opens December 25. (WINTER)
Stoned Sledding in Nyc
I don't smoke pot like I used to, but when it snows in the city, I just have tothere's nothing better than a dive into the surreal, urban wonderland. And my favorite stoned snow-day activity is sledding. Yes, there really are places to go sledding in the Big Apple, two of the best spots being Great Hill in Central Park(West 106th Street and Central Park West) and Monument Hill in Prospect Park (6th Street and Prospect Park West, Brooklyn). You can pick up a decent sled at KMart for under $12, but if you're too paranoid to do the whole "dealing with people" thing, find a sturdy piece of cardboard or rip off a plastic trash-can lid. I also recommend bringing along a flask of Jack Daniel's to help shake off the coldafter all, risking hypothermia is part of the thrill. (SWITZER)
'Nutcracker on Ice'
Some things are better in New Jersey, like Sopranos casting calls and eyeliner selection. Add another to the list: the Saint Petersburg version of The Nutcracker, choreographed by Konstantin Rassadin. They take your basic Nutcracker formula, and they ICE the MOtheR OUT, y'all! (St. Petersburg Ballet all up in the PAC, namsayin'?) Clearly, this show holds the promise of rich extravagance. Originally (1816) a tale with dark and morbid roots, Nutcracker was re-written to pander to American idealism. Phew! We need to cling to that stuff now more than ever! Let's get lost in the branches of that majestic pine, in sweets, warmth, and dreams! If the PATH is shut down for some reason, say terrorism, or if you hate frozen water, stay on the island for Lincoln Center's George Balanchine version (through December 31, Lincoln Center, New York State Theater, 63rd Street and Broadway, 870-5570). Both offer many young girls in frilly skirtstake Grampa! December 27 and 28 at 7:30, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, 1 Centre Street, Newark, New Jersey, 888-GO-NJPAC. (PERETTI)
Move Your F'in' Car! It's Christmas!
Got the holiday blues already? Feast upon the lights of Brooklyn. The borough hosts some of the wildest holiday-decorated houses in America. Jump on the W or N subway and make your way to Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights (between 80th and 86th streets, and Tenth and Thirteenth Avenues). Each year draws over 150,000 visitors a year. Don't miss 1145 84th Street, 1152 84th Street, and 1062 84th Street. There you'll behold sights that'll make you marvel at the electric bill or curse at the traffic. Homeowners spend thousands of dollars on Christmas lights, spotlights, and more lights. Complete miniature villages are created; Santas give out candy canes; 30-foot-high motorized figuresthink outdoor Radio City: It's gaudy, it's heartwarming, it's crazy . . . it's free, cheapskate! (ABER)
'Radio City Christmas Spectacular'
Radio City loves nothing more than a big, fat, shiny seasonal spectacle, and this merry Christmas is no exception. With over 1.2 million patrons last year alone, the event nears the cult status of say, Disneyland. To celebrate high attendance numbers and their 75th anniversary, the 50 millionth patron (since opening in 1933)expected to arrive this yearwill receive four tickets for life! Yes! That's right, if you win, you and three friends can see the parade of the wooden soldiers every year until the day you die! Paying customers will feel just as lucky, with a cast of 140 precision dancers, showy costumes, an erotic Rockettes-cum-leggy reindeers "White Christmas in NY" (no not dust, ash, or anthraxsnow, silly!), and a 3D filmic tour of Gotham'cause Christ would've wanted it that way. Plus more, more, more. Also not to miss: Radio City's A Christmas Carolwith Tim Curry as Scrooge. Through December 29, Radio City, Sixth Avenue and 50th Street, 307-1000. (PERETTI)
'Betty: 2001 Space Holidays'
The fun-loving gals of Betty wrap themselves up in Christmas lights and pour on the holly-jolly pop theatrics for this Saturday-night series featuring guest singer-songwriters Toshi Reagon, Dan Zanes, Sean Altman, and more. Each week, storytellersincluding the Moth's Shelagh Ratnerweave sugar-plum tales. Plus, a surprise visit by Ms. Claus! December 8, 15, 22, and 28 at 8:30, Joe's Pub, 425 Lafayette Street, 239-6200. (SPARTOS)
The Voice's Holiday Preview:
"Seasonal Brew: Getting Into the Holiday Spirits"
"Chow Choices: A Holiday Food Miscellany"