Cheap Cheer


So you forgot to tell the family you got laid off six months ago, and now the prospect of dropping several bills on Nutcracker box seats is making you shudder. Fear not, broke Gothamite! The Voice has lots of festive ideas for the frugal—many of them free (look out for the !


“We’ve come a long way in making Santaland a much more enjoyable atmosphere then it was back then,” says Bob Rutan, director of Macy’s Event Operations, of David Sedaris’s sardonic “Santaland Diaries,” a cautionary tale of Macy’s elfhood circa 1991. Since the department store’s spokespeople maintain that they employ “the one and only Santa,” Rutan is only authorized to talk about the 140 elves hired every Christmas season at the Herald Square location. According to Rutan, not only should ideal elf candidates be filled with the Christmas spirit, they should be patient, maintain high energy levels, and, of course, like kids. “Elves come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ethnicities, and religions,” explains Rutan. “We have six-four, 220-pound elves. We have Buddhist elves and Jewish elves.” First-year elves earn $9.50 an hour to do everything from ringing up sales to helping shoppers to exits. Rutan estimates there’ll be about a dozen openings at press time; stop by Macy’s eighth-floor personnel department or call to apply. Macy’s, 151 West 34th Street, 494-4766.  (SPARTOS)


After shelling out December’s rent for that closet you call home and dropping 10 bucks a day for lunch, no wonder you turn to a free newspaper for cheap holiday revelry; but in the midst of all the indulgence, reserve an evening for kids in need. Donate toys to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation (718-252-3100). Or play Santa in the New York Cares Secret Santa Program by answering “Dear Santa” letters (228-5000, apply by December 6). If you have time to spare, become a Children’s Aid Society Holiday Helper (orientation on December 10, 105 East 22nd Street, 949-4800). Wrap gifts, or better yet, chill at one of their holiday parties. It’ll be dry, but there’s bound be plenty of sugar to get you high-strung. (KIM)


Is all the shoving and foot stomping below Rockefeller Center’s lofty Christmas tree turning you from a Santa to an irascible Ebenezer? Relax. There are plenty of alternative evergreens on view that are just as impressive as they are different. Towering in the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West and 79th Street, 769-5100; $12 adults, $7 kids) is their annual Origami Holiday Tree. Starting November 26, 1000 intricately folded, richly colored paper decorations representing the museum’s collection—including an arrangement of dinos—will graciously hang from its boughs. If you still have a hankering for paper ornaments, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (1047 Amsterdam Avenue, 316-7540; J) has a grand Peace Tree embellished with 1000 paper cranes (a symbol of world peace)—the lighting ceremony is on December 20 at 11 a.m. And what is Christmas tree gazing without a little outdoor briskness and a lot of holiday ditties? South Street Seaport’s (Fulton and Water streets, 732-8257; J) festive boardwalk is illuminated with thousands of white lights emanating from their annual 50-foot “Singing” Chorus Tree. The all-men Big Apple Chorus make up some of the limbs on view this year, Friday through Sunday, from November 29 to January 1. Now all you need is some hot cider. (FRANKLIN)


“In an effort to make ourselves heard over the constant drumbeat for a war without limits, while maintaining an appropriate level of style, decadence, and deathly seriousness, we at Apocalypse Wow! have created Rockstars Against the War, an exclusive, V.I.P.-level, invitation-only, super-elite band of the most fabulous, incredible, mind-blowing malcontents on the planet.” So goes co-founder and “head instigator” Chairman Wow!’s refreshingly glamorous, patchouli-free pitch for peace on Earth, a true holiday sentiment if there ever was one. In addition to sending “lavish tour buses” down to the massive D.C. protests, the group(ies) organized “Funk the Election,” an L.E.S. DJ party with “ample alcohol consumption and debauchery to please even the most apathetic.” Apocalypse Wow! is planning another audacious action come December; go to to get on their A-list. (SPARTOS)


NBC must stand for “Not a Bad Christmas.” Aside from the indomitable Miss Piggy and Mr. Kermie Kermit, their new Muppet movie features Whoopi Goldberg (of the movie Ghost!) and David Arquette (hot off Eight Legged Freaks!) as well as Joan Cusack! (Not a Bad Cast!) But that’s not all . . . Need a Bazillion Credits goes even further because, so far, we don’t have enough star action for the kiddies—and everyone knows children need celebrity-driven entertainment. Enter William H. Macy, Carson Daly, Kelly Ripa, Joe Rogan, Molly Shannon, and the cast of Scrubs for additional cameos. It’s like a big ol’ B-list gang bang. Plot: Kermit tries to save the Muppet Theatre from a banker-nightclub developer. NBC, November 29 at 8 p.m. (PERETTI)


Nuyoricans, rejoice. It’s Chreemas time again! Before roasting the pig, chilling the cervezas, and dusting off your José Feliciano records, you may want to check out a couple of Christmas Carol parodies to get you in the mood. Live Theatre Gang infuses Puerto Rican flava into Boriqua Scrooge (Sundays at 3 from December 1 to 29, New York Comedy Club, 241 East 24th Street, 946-1244; $8-$12), a musical retelling of the Dickens classic. There’s bound to be plenty of salsa and spirited humbuggin’ for the entire family. For another fix of Latin-laced yuletide fun, visit Carmen Mofongo’s Coquito Christmas Carol (December 7, Surf Reality, 172 Allen Street, 673-4182; J). Bronx girl Michele Carlo (a/k/a Carmen Mofongo) takes you on a rum-induced trip through the past, present, and future with a colorful cast of Lower East Side hooligans, plus a special appearance from the man—not the one who’s keeping you down—Papá Noel. Remember to lift your glass of Carmen’s free homemade coquito—wepa! (BASTIDAS)


My Aunt Mary always used to say about the holidays: ” ‘Tis the season to be gay, because Christmas is such a drag!” I never understood this, or why she peed standing up! This year it’s all beginning to make sense after a holiday visit with the three queens of decadence: Jackie Beat, Cashetta, and Flotilla DeBarge. A/k/a “Ho, Ho, Ho.” They’re all fabulous and funny, and always give you just a little more than your average cabaret lady. Visit a winter wonderland with Cashetta’s Magical Christmas Show (Sundays, December 8-29; $10), an evening of song, dance, and instead of seltzer in your pants: magic! No poof jokes. Turn the beat around with the real queen of mean, Jackie Beat. More fun than a bucket of bile (dressed in holiday style, of course), Jackie Beat’s Holiday Punch is ready to knock you out for one week only (December 15-18 and December 21 at 8, and December 20 at 10; $18). If you’re looking to celebrate the holidays and be politically correct, bring everyone to The Flotilla DeBarge Chanukah-Kwanzaa-Christmas Spectacular (December 1 at 10 p.m. and Sundays at 8 from December 8 to 29; $12), an all-diva dive into the holiday melting pot. Who says they don’t make family shows like they used to? Time Café, Fez, 380 Lafayette Street, 533-2680. (ABER)


El-Vez‘s show is performance-art, comedy/variety, Elvis impersonation (duh!), Latino/Chicano politics, and part pop-culture critique and adulation (sometimes covering and cut-and-pasting artists such as Bowie, Hendrix, James Brown, José Feliciano, Patsy Cline, and the Stooges, to name a few). Expect over-the-top costumes, comedy sketches, plenty of Christmas-themed songs such as “Little Drummer Boy,” “En El Barrio (at Christmas Time),” “La Piñata,” and his classic: “Brown Christmas.” December 6 at 9, Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street, 533-2111. $15. (BOSLER)


For the horoscopically indignant, your dear stick pals whose birthdays fall between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, it seems charitable to toast them with their own parties amid all the other holiday jubilees, no? Sagittarius (November 22-December 21) first, for this is a notoriously exhibitionist sign and because Sagittarians adore splashy air guitar, leading conga lines, and French toast with bloodies. So do not rule out brunch. Capricorns (December 22-January 19) are more meticulous and retiring and tend toward workaholism. So perhaps a civilized kidnapping from the office followed by watercress sandwiches with the crusts cut off, iced sakitinis, and intermittent reports from Standard & Poor’s. (RAO)


Psychedelic Sam, tired of zoning out to the twinkly lights in his apartment, heads to Central Park to jazz things up—literally—courtesy of the Duke Ellington Boulevard Neighborhood Association. Hiding behind a free pair of 3-D glasses, he welcomes the season by dodging all the glittery beams coming at him from the tree. He even fashions a homemade ornament or the gigantic spruce out of hair, dried-up orange peel, and pushpins. After spiking the complimentary hot cider, he pulls out his trusty harmonica and joins the local jazz musicians, then chats up the “Walking Talking Snowman” until Frosty is no longer talking. As the evening comes to a close, he thanks his lucky stars for events that are “free” and “open to the public.” Time to start planning New Year’s Eve. December 8 at 5:30, plaza at Central Park West and 106th Street, 340-8067. (BASTIDAS)


As the holidays approach, here’s how it’s been between my girlfriend and me:

“I’m not wearing the beanie, Sarah, there’s just no way!”

“It’s a yarmulke for Christ’s sake, and you know that!”

“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, especially around Christmas!”

“He’s not my lord! A babe in a manger, three ‘wise’ men following a star—grow up!”

“Oh yeah, light another candle, why don’t you—real mature!”

We can’t take it anymore, and rather than finding separate apartments, we’ve decided to seek help from therapist Paul Radensky, an expert on The December Dilemma for Interfaith Couples: What to Do About the Holidays? We’ll see what happens—maybe this year my Advent calendar won’t be ripped off the wall and torn to shreds. December 9 at 7:30, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, 415-5500. $10. (SWITZER)


‘Tis the season for Los Straitjackets! The instrumental surf kings will be twangin’, reverbin’, and hangin’ ten mistletoes all over your holiday faves, such as “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” and “Let It Snow.” The World Famous Pontani Sisters will be on board as well, looking good and dancin’ the go-go aboard Los Straitjackets’ reindeer-led UFO. December 13 at 9, SouthPaw, 125 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-230-0236. $12. (BOSLER)


Murray Hill returns with a homey celebration any New Yorker will appreciate. Imagine: a cardboard cutout fireplace, a 99-cent tree, a stack of Duraflames, and a mini-fridge stocked with Bud cans. If that doesn’t get you misty-eyed, I don’t know what will. Along for the snowball fights and Kodak moments will be the Wau-Wau Sisters, Dirty Martini, *Bob*, and many others. December 14 at 9, December 20 at 10, and December 21 at 10, the Cutting Room, 19 West 24th Street, 539-3197. $12. (BASTIDAS)


For those of us who grew up in New York City, summers included frolicking in the spray of a fire hydrant and winters meant Wollman Rink in Central Park, skating on wobbly ankles, and slamming into walls in lieu of an elegant stop. A low profile and cheap venue better suit my lack of grace and thin wallet these days. In Manhattan, Central Park’s other frozen patch of water, Lasker Rink (mid-park between 106th and 108th streets, 534-7639; $4.50 admission, $4.75 skate rental), overlooks the Harlem Meer and produces far less traffic. For Brooklyn ice capades, turn to Kate Wollman Rink in Prospect Park (Lincoln Road off Ocean Avenue, 718-287-6431; $4 admission, $4 skate rental), at the edge of the lake on what was Music Island, a haven for concerts in the 19th century. In Queens, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park’s Ice-Skating Rink (New York City Building, opposite the Queens Museum of Art, 718-271-1996; $8 admission, $4 skate rental), built for the legendary 1939 World’s Fair, offers plenty of anonymity for wiping out. (KIM)


The latter-day soul movement is blazing away this holiday season via Gotham’s latest rocker chick sensation. You want some Creole funk in your eggnog and gospel shouting in your carols? Then come on out and genuflect before Redbone the soul stirrer. As heiress to such luminaries as Sly, Phillippe Wynne, and Roberta Flack, Miss Thang Martha looks poised to be Americana’s next superstar. This here redbone non-atheist cousin can dig it. December 14 at 9, Galapagos, 70 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, 718-782-5188. $7. (CRAZY HORSE)


It’s been quite a spell since the strains of “Here We Come A-Wassailing” rung out through the streets of Lower Manhattan—but that spirit lives on in the form of Phil Kline and his band of merry (and occasionally scary) postmodern carolers. This’ll be the 10th year in which Kline re-creates his Unsilent Night, a Christmas parade-cum-jam session that guarantees anyone can carry a tune—on a boombox, that is. Kline will assemble his art-damaged elves—volunteers are welcome to join the fun—at the Washington Square Arch. The ringleader will hand out an array of cassette tapes—each with a different set of sounds recorded thereon—to add to the merriment (and sonic chaos). The march will continue east to Tompkins Square Park. December 14 at 6:45, Washington Square Park, Fifth Avenue and Waverly Street,  (SPRAGUE)


Celebrate brotherhood by heading uptown to Harlem to hang out with Balthazar, Melchior, and Gaspar, guys who prove that we all can get along, especially when there are presents involved, in this updated tale of the Three Wise Men who traveled to Bethlehem to offer Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In Latin cultures, the Day of the Three Wise Kings is celebrated on January 6, the actual date of gift giving—which, coincidentally, allows plenty of time to take advantage of all those after-Christmas sales. December 15 at 3, Aaron Davis Hall, City College of New York, West 135th Street and Convent Avenue, 650-7100. (BASTIDAS)


If you’re going to be throwing down a good chunk of moola this holiday season partying it up with co-workers, college pals, brothers-in-law, etc., it might as well be in the Land of the Buyback. You know, the “this one’s on me” that bartenders, usually in blue-collar establishments, slide over to you after you’ve had two or three. Buybacks don’t exist at fancy-pants lounges, and cocktail waitresses don’t give ’em. The buyback is the result of that magical relationship between bar stool patron and bartender. And, of course, if you’re not tipping, the bartender’s not buying. Like most good things in life, the buyback’s a win-win situation. Downtown dive Nancy Whiskey Pub (1 Lispenard Street, 226-9943) is a dependable buyback bar, what with its mixed-race working-stiff crowd and its aura of stale beer and cigarette ash. One bartender, who sports AmberVision glasses and a well-endowed beard, is especially appreciative of tips and always buys back your third round. Unless, of course, it’s happy hour, and you’re already scoring $2.50 Guinness and Double Diamonds, in which case you’ll have to wait till your fourth. Over in the trendy Lower East Side, there’s a couple of buyback standouts, including Whiskey Ward (121 Essex Street, 477-2998), a classy neighborhood drinking hall with punk DJs and solid-ass beer bargains—our favorite being the $5.50 Parker (PBR and a shot of Turkey or Jack). And the bartender kept the comps coming on a recent debauched evening at Filthy McNasty’s (179 Essex Street, 260-5515), where every Friday night’s a $5 kill-the-keg marathon. (SPARTOS)


Christmas is supposed to be about the joy of giving, so Two Boots Den of Cin has the right idea by paying homage to the man who gave so much of himself, who brought joy into the hearts of millions of TV viewers throughout the ’70s, Mr. Center Square himself, Bewitched‘s Uncle Arthur—the incredible Paul Lynde. The Paul Lynde Christmas Special features the king of camp yukking it up with the likes of Martha Raye, Alice Ghostley, and Anson Williams (yup, Potsie from Happy Days). And there are some similarities between Paul and the son of God: Both were way ahead of their time, and both met tragic deaths—but Lynde was way funnier. December 16 at 8, Two Boots Den of Cin, 44 Avenue A, at East 3rd Street, 254-0800. $5. (SWITZER)


Five years ago downtown musician Richard Barone created an updated homage to Handel’s Messiah. Taking a 260-year-old masterpiece and adding elements of rock, jazz, bluegrass, country folk, gospel, and about any other genre you can think of was not easy, but since it was Barone’s labor of love, it somehow worked. Now, with a 20-member chorus and a slew of soloists—Dar Williams, David Johansen, Syd Straw, Marshall Crenshaw, and others—along with instrumentalists Randy Brecker, Peter and Tobi Kiesewalter, and Larry Salzman, as well as a choir and chamber orchestra, it will be performed at New York’s most sacred site: ground zero. December 17 at 6:30, the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center, 200 Liberty Street, 945-0505. (ABER)


Who ever said jungle headz and techno junkies don’t care? For the sixth year in a row, Stuck on Earth will be hosting its holiday benefit and food drive, Joy, headlined by Frankie Bones, D.C.’s Scott Henry, X-Dream, DB (takin’ you back to old junglist days), Odi, gabber old-skooler Lenny Dee, Heather Heart, and others. Tix are 15 bucks with three non-perishables ($25 without) and all proceeds go to feeding the homeless through City Harvest, so don’t be a scrooge! Spread some goodwill and stuff those cargo Illigs with a few cans. December 19 at 9, Club Shelter, 20 West 39th Street, 780-4618, (FRANKLIN)


Afro-futurist all-star big band Burnt Sugar draw the sublime out of what seems like a chaotic freak-out. Shepherded by journo Greg Tate and inspired by electric Miles, Burnt Sugar imaginatively trip through the black diaspora of the last 30 years. The core lineup represents for this holiday gig—Vijay Iyer, Mutamassik, Bruce Mack, Jared Nickerson—and while there are no promises, they may play a Christmas tune if asked nicely. December 20, Galapagos, 70 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, 718-782-5188. $7. (PATEL)


“We have all the hits,” boasts blond proprietor Marina Troshina. ” ‘Love Me Tender.’ You know, like this.” Actually, the karaoke machine at Uncle Vanya Café has only 500 English-language songs. The other 3000 are in Russian. All the better to soak in the homey, festive atmosphere that’s as affable as the nearby Firebird Café and Russian Samovar are glittery. Christmas—banned in Communist Russia for so many years—is celebrated on New Year’s Eve as a secular winter holiday. So skip the soulless, capitalist version, and order a giant $5 bottle of Stepan Razin “Krepkoye” (a malt-liquor brew with a 17 percent alcohol content), debate politics, and sing a song from the old country. Karaoke kicks off in the bar area around 11 on weekends, after the late-night diners polish off the last of the blini. D’vashe zdarovye! Uncle Vanya Café, 315 West 54th Street, 262-0542. (SPARTOS)


South Park tyke Kyle Broflofski may have lamented being a lonely Jew on Christmas (” ‘Cause there’s something wrong with me/My people don’t believe in Jesus Christ’s divinity”), but you don’t have to. The Knit’s five-day yuletide Jew-wave marathon begins with singer-songwriter Basya Schechter’s Pharaoh’s Daughter (December 21) and continues with drummer Ehran Elisha’s Kinetic Music Special Project and pianist Burton Green’s Klez-thetic (December 22). Sean Altman and Rob Tannenbaum will bust out “Rudolph the Hooknosed Reindeer” and other seasonal delights during their “What I Like About Jew” revue on Christmas Eve, and the Hasidic New Wave will deck the halls with free-blowing balls on Christmas Day. December 21-25, Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, 219-3006. $10-$12. (GEHR)


We queers get swept up in holiday tradition as much as the next Susie or Jane. And for African American homos and trannies (as with the rest of the community), Kwanza is the time for reflection, embracing the Nguzo Saba (principles from self-determination to faith), and communal solidarity. Habari Gani! The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center commemorates the season with the 15th Annual Queer Kwanzaa Celebration co-sponsored by 10 different organizations, including the Audre Lorde Project, Gay Men of African Descent, Black Pride NYC, and the Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church. The event boasts vendors in an African market, performances, and, of course, you know there’ll be some fried chicken (vegetarian food, too). Umoja! December 29 from 1 to 10:30 p.m., the Center, 208 West 13th Street, 620-7310. $7. (FRANKLIN)


There’s nothing like a free, all-you-can-eat buffet to relieve you of your holiday funk. Toss back a couple of martinis at these complimentary troughs, and you’ll swear you’re having the time of your life. Or dinner at Sizzler. Orange vinyl, smoky mirrors, and aqua bartender uniforms—it’s time to get HoJo’d. Every weekday from 4 to 7 at Howard Johnson‘s (1551 Broadway, 354-1445), fill ‘er up with apps like Swedish meatballs, rice, and surprisingly tasty tuna sandwiches. Cocktails blended with ice cream ($6.50) up the caloric value. Plus: The bartender calls you “Honey.” For a fancier spread, try the Wednesday Latin party at Lansky Lounge (104 Norfolk Street, 917-701-0811), where you can gorge on meat loaf, macaroni, rice, salad, chocolate-chip cookies, biscotti, and chocolate cake. They get you with $9 cosmos—luckily, just one gives you a serious buzz. Remember: No jeans or sneakers allowed at this classy, classic salsa dance party. On Thursdays and Fridays from 5 to 7:30 join the other working stiffs at friendly East Side Irish pub T.G. Whitney’s (244 East 53rd Street, 888-5772), and pig out on Buffalo chicken wings and cold pasta primavera. Wash it all down with one of the many drinks on special, including $3 pints of Saranac (Thursday) and black-and-tans (Friday). (SPARTOS)


Although this holiday season mostly hails the arrival of the fat guy in the red suit (not my uncle Monty), one of the sure signs of the days of jolly is the annual television airings of yuletide classics. Well, this year you can catch everything from 1964’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to perhaps TV’s most beloved Christmas message, the ageless 1965 A Charlie Brown Christmas, at the Museum of Television and Radio. Don’t miss the real Grinch (as voiced by Boris Karloff), along with The Weinerville Chanukah Special and rarely seen dramatic programs such as M*A*S*H and Rod Serling’s version of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,”Carol for Another Christmas. Call for schedule. Through December 30, Museum of Television and Radio, 25 West 52nd Street, 621-6800. $10 adults, $5 children. (ABER)

Cheap Cheer: The Voice‘s Holiday Preview