The Hollywood Museum was all astir on the first night of the last annual month that kicks off all Winter Holiday Celebration! Featuring a virtual parade of actors-turned-artists and/or artists exploring their creative expanse, The Hollywood Museum welcomed roughly 20 plus, celebrities to share their most arresting Christmas memories by way of painting and parlance.
Among those in attendance: four time Emmy winner Michael Learned in all her Post Halloween/Hollywood Museum Séance glory, best known, fairly recently, for her most timely stint as the creepy grandmother in Dahmer, but recognized chiefly as Olivia Walton on The Waltons, Academy and Golden Globe recipient George Chakiris best known for the role of Bernardo in West Side Story to speak nothing of his mad dancing skills – Christmas jig Related or otherwise – Kate Linder of The Young and the Restless (and coincidentally how most children could be described on Christmas Eve into Christmas morning), best-selling author Geoffrey Mark, and acclaimed Emmy and Grammy winner to boot, to speak nothing of his presence as “best elf at the party” (according to the LA Beat) pertaining to his pointy, swoop-toed, gold rhinestone encrusted puffy shoes, Meredith Thomas of Keeping Up With The Jones’, (the related theme of which no one was concerned– communal and non-competitive as the evening was), Steve Wishnoff of the cutting edge prison drama OZ (a place where only really bad kids go all year round, never mind Christmas), Elaine Ballace of The Rich & the Ruthless, (the title itself evoking a mirrored demographic evincing both the ostensibly best Christmas (materialistically speaking) and worst Christmas (communally) combined, Kathy Garver of Family Affair (what most Christmases aspire to be), Conner Dean of the FOX Series 911 (3 numbers best left out of necessitation pending any turkey cooking endeavors on the Holiday in question or any other), Jared Becker of The Fablemans, Diana Lansleen of The Young and the Restless and Days of our Lives, Chris Levine of Love & Love Not, Tyrone DuBose of Unsung, Darby Hinton former child actor extraordinaire, yet wielding the ever youthful Christmas-related enthusiasm pending his Daniel Boone days and beyond, Carrie Schroeder star of two harrowing sounding tales which, could even be each other’s sequel: Santa Stole our Dog and Why Women Kill, Kathy Kolla of World’s Littlest Brat (but certainly not treated like one by Santa on Christmas the LA Beat is assured), Vanessa Angel of The Preacher’s Wife and Merry Ex-mas (Yet another topical and sequential sounding cinematic series, are we noticing a trend – YET?!?), Nancy Harding of Crown Prince of Christmas (the answer, yes, yes to the observed trend!), and rounding out the guest list in most international fashion: West End/Broadway Star and Host of Britt in LA, Lauren Samuels.
The ceremony commenced with an informative intro by Museum President and Founder Donelle Dadigan advising us to take special notice of the Dr. Christmas decorated trees adorning nearly every room, and floor of the museum, but not before informing celebs of the 20 minute time allotment pending the creation of their much awaited ‘one of a (soon to be) kind’ keepsake ornaments!
The arts and crafts enterprise occurred in the historic photo gallery by way of an assembly line of celebs i.e. the staging area for what would not only foment the conceptual process, but the selected medium of choice:
“Okay, so I chose a sphere,” cryptically divulged Alice Amter aka Koothrappali’s mom on The Big Bang Theory. “Some of them are different types of spheres, and they don’t have smooth surfaces… I picked up three before this one. I like smooth because it’s easier to paint on. When I saw all the colors I was like, ‘Oh it’s just like putting on my makeup!’ …And I’ve [drawn this pine tree] because I’m obsessed with Alaska. I watched the show Below Zero and it’s [about people] living off the grid in Alaska.”
“This is the real animator for Jim Henson!” declared an enthusiastically friendly Vanessa Angel proudly brandishing her Elmo bauble as said venerable referenced animator Guy Gilchrist cheered her on from the sidelines.
“This was me putting ‘Merry Christmas’ and a tennis racket, and a few tennis balls, [on my ornament] because I am not creative enough to draw anything else. And then I saw everybody else’s, and I’m like ‘Oh yay. That’s great…. I’m the least creative one here…’” declared a somewhat tentative and slightly sarcastic actor, and tennis enthusiast Connor Dean. “I thought I could incorporate it, and then put a big ‘Merry Christmas’ around it.”
For the record, The LA Beat found Dean’s rackets exceedingly round, childlike, and magical – perfectly bewitching for the decided and splendorous zeitgeist of the season!
The remainder of the allotted 20 minutes of creativity encompassed: painting, looking for paint, agonizing over the right shade of paint, lamenting over smooshed and smeared painted depictions of ornaments — illustrated on ornaments — and acknowledged stuck fingers to ornaments, the primary refrain, “Oh well, I’m not really an artist…” the likes of which could have been the resounding chorus sung by a choir of ambiently artistic angels…
But when all was said and done, there existed a heartfelt cornucopia of post-Thanksgiving decorations fit for the most homey, non-corporate of nesting spaces: the Hollywood Museum Lobby tree!
Designs in question: prickly painted Christmas trees, sneezing snowmen, happy reindeer, dyspeptic reindeer, festive, robust wreaths, and of course, all manner of holiday sporting equipment.
After all the glitter was applied, the reindeer hooves rendered fittingly formed, the lobby procession was set to commence.
“My mom would always take my best friend and I [to all the Holiday sales] the day after Christmas… My mom just turned 98 and we were just talking about that yesterday and she says, ‘I don’t remember, did we ever BUY anything…??? – or did we just go there?” And I said, ‘Yeah Mom, we got stuff…’” recounted Kate Linder, of her favorite holiday memory before placing her ornament on the tree.
“I’ve always loved the museum,” declared the still wonderful Tennis racket decorated ornament wielding Connor Dean. “My favorite thing has always been coming here for the Dolores Mission School… One of my favorite memories, growing up… [was my mom’s Holiday movie] Christmas Raffle… We put all the names of our favorite movies into a hat, and then drew [them out], so there was no fighting. We’d stay in our pajamas all day, and try to make sure the house wasn’t turned into a demolition sight.”
“I had great memories…,” divulged a warm and paternal Darby Hinton. “‘Course my Mom was always late so we’d [always have a last minute wait before we opened Christmas gifts]. But I didn’t really know the true meaning of ‘better to give than it is to receive’ until [I had] five kids, and [I got] to be the one putting things under the tree, watching them on Christmas morning. So, that’s my story. My story is much love to all of you, and may you all have a wonderful Christmas Holiday, whatever you want to celebrate season all year long.”
“[Mine] is actually my life. So, it looks like a Rorschach test, ‘cause I’m was a psyche major in college…,” enthusiastically proclaimed Elaine Ballace of her painted ornament. “It also has the ice skate,” she continued, “because I was an ice skater as a child starting at age 8, and I used to remember when rinks were open way back when and on Christmas Day… My mom would always let me wear one of my [skating] costumes…and I’d skate in the morning; then go home. And by then our turkey was done, and we’d have Christmas Open House for everybody! …I read recently that there are 28 holidays between November and January. So instead of putting ‘Happy Holidays’ [on my ornament], I put ‘Happy Holy Days’, for all the people who are celebrating a holiday…whatever they’re celebrating between now and then!”
“[My] favorite Christmas [story] is a show business memory from 1966, affirmed Geoffrey Mark. “I sang, ‘Let there be peace on Earth’…at the school where a lot of professional kids were going, including Lisa Loring of The Addams Family. A guy was talent scouting… Desilu Studios came and offered me a contract… And then Art Linkletter wanted me to come to be one of the kids he would interview over Christmas week. And then The Danny Kaye Show came and [said] ‘Could you please close his Christmas Show by singing Let There be Peace on Earth?’ And my parents said, ‘No we want you to grow up normal,’ and I didn’t get to do any of it! Merry Christmas!… Next year I’ll sing it for ya!”
“It’s my second Christmas here in L.A.,” announced Jared Becker of the new Steven Spielberg movie, The Fabelmans, “and I can’t be with my real family. So it’s nice to be with my entertainment family… One of my favorite memories of Christmas, and I know it’s very cliché: My mother gave me a box and it started barking, and I opened it…and that was my best friend for so many years…”
Kathy Garver, aka Cissy from the hit TV Sitcom Classic Family Affair had both hilarious and entertaining things to say about both her decorated ornament, and her most cherished Christmas Memory:
“My hand was stuck to my ornament… It is my first year coming to decorate the tree… My memory that I think of when I [recall Christmas as a little girl]: I really wanted a Betty Crocker cooking set… So Santa brought me one. I was so excited! …I made these little apple pies, and [they took hours to make.] And I had two big brothers, Bud and Lance. I said, ‘Look at my pies you want these?’ They took the pie. They ate the whole thing in one bite! …So, I guess it doesn’t matter how much work you put into something, as long as somebody enjoys it. I enjoyed making this ornament. I didn’t realize I was doing it upside down. [I guess I did it] for all my Australian friends… So, it has the tree, and it has a wreath of Welcome, and if you turn it on the right side, there’s a star because I think we are all stars, and whether you look at it upside down, or right side up, I know a very special star for his season is shining that light on every single one of us!”
“My biggest Christmas memory has got to be when my grandfather set fire to the Christmas table accidentally… He put his napkin down, and it caught just the slight candle [flame] in the corner, and it proceeded to catch fire to the rest of the tablecloth!,” declared Lauren Samuels, host of A Brit in LA.
Meredith Thomas remembered by some in attendance for her most recent appearance in an Elton John video, in conjunction with something called Dog Man, had this to say: “One thing not a lot of people know about me is that I lived in the North Pole…the first seven years [of my life]. I lived, above the Artic Circle in a village that was called Barrow. It has an Inuit name which I can’t pronounce… So my first 7 years I was close to Santa. I could see Santa from my house…and we lived in this beautiful frosty wonderland… And then I moved to the lower 48 which is wonderful too, but I’ll always remember my time in the village of Barrow Alaska.”
“I grew up in Connecticut and my parents …they knew how to do Christmas,” confirmed Michael Learned. “We would hang out stockings—my fathers socks really…in their bedroom…they had a fireplace… And ….in the morning, I was up at 3:00, and I would sneak in, and there would be stockings just bulging of God knows what… Beautiful toys, and oranges, and silver dollars, and all these wonderful things — except for one year…they were full of switches. But underneath the switches, there was still the toys!”
“I love doing this,” declared actor Steve Wishnoff. “Like George Chakiris, I grew up in a very large family, and we spent holidays with everybody, all my cousins, sleeping on the floors… But I think my favorite Christmas ever was 34 years ago. My niece was born on Christmas Eve. And that’s that! Have a Merry Christmas everybody!”
Vanessa Angel, another native from across the pond, had the following to recount…and confess:
“I have to say, I kind of cheated [on my ornament] because I had my friend here with me: Guy Gilchrist who is the cartoonist for Jim Henson. So I have an Elmo angel, and I would say that I think there must be something about British Christmases, because I have kind of a funny Christmas memory. My only white Christmas that I experienced growing up in England was when I was about 7, and I was so excited to see snow. I never saw snow… And there was a tradition in the U.K. where you throw Brandy over the Christmas Pudding, and you light it on fire! So my mom brings it into the living room, and puts it down on the table, and the tablecloth catches on fire, and somebody runs out and gets a bunch of snow, and that’s how the fire was put out! So that’s a good memory for forever, and I just want to wish everybody Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas! It’s my favorite time of year too and I’m so happy to be here!”
But the most touching remembrance, most in keeping with the spirit of the holiday came from Rico Anderson of Star Trek fame:
“So ,one thing that a lot of people don’t know about me is that I am the oldest of 11 children… My mother had six of us biologically, and [then] she adopted five children… [At one point] she adopted…3 little girls who did not come from the best backgrounds. And one of the most beautiful memories I have of Christmas comes from that experience… They had other Christmases, but they weren’t the best Christmases. And [for] their first Christmas [with us]…my mom, and I, and my other siblings…really wanted to give…these three little girls, just one of the best memories they’ve ever had, and we all played Santa Claus. We all went nuts with the presents ! …And [it was just] so beautiful [to see] their little faces when they were coming down the stairs, and seeing the gifts…and just the love that they were getting from people who truly loved them. ….So it’s something that I always hold near and dear to my heart. And I love sharing the story… It reminds me of how wonderful this community is, and how giving everybody has been…and I just want to say that I’m really honored to be a part of it. I love each and every one of you. You guys are great! It’s been a lot of fun, and let’s just keep it going! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, [and] Happy Kwanzaa even though the “K” here started to drip [on my ornament].”
All in all, an evening of red and green paint, revelry and most sumptuous refreshments!
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