Putting the X in Xmas

Long before Billy Bob donned the big red suit, a legion of bad Santas have rampaged annually through the city.

Long before Billy Bob donned the big red suit, a legion of bad Santas have rampaged annually through the city. Drunk on holiday cheer (read: liquor), hundreds of Santas, Mrs. Clauses, elves and reindeer set out on Sunday, Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. until the eggnog ran out.

SantaCon-which began in New York in 1998-started out this year at Triple 8 Palace in Chinatown. After some early-morning dim sum, the crowd hit up Central Park, Times Square, Macy’s and several bars on the way. The Transom caught up with the festivities at Jake’s Dilemma on Amsterdam Avenue. Spirited Saint Nicks played beer pong, foosball and danced. The SantaCon Web site encouraged participants to be creative, and the costumes ranged from Elvis Santa to cross-dressing Santa, with just about everything in between.

“The best part is, you don’t know where you’re going next,” said Dave Chaffin, who has taken part in SantaCon the past four years. “The Santa suit really unites everyone.”

“Santas on the move! Santas on the move!” began a chant from somewhere in the bar. Quickly, hundreds of Santas swallowed their pints, lined up on the sidewalk and marched boisterously down 81st Street. Unity, indeed!

“Is this a strike?” asked one bewildered Upper West Sider, as if an army of radicalized department-store Santas tossed the children off their laps and hit the streets. She may have been confused by the protest sign reading, “Stick It Up Your Chimney,” from the Union of Flying Reindeer.

The Santas headed down into the subway, to the chagrin of awestruck bystanders hoping to get a seat on a quiet train. Underground, the voices echoed loudly, and some pulled out their photocopied song books with dirty carols such as “O Come All Ye Faithless,” “Deck My Balls” and “Police Navidad.” An impromptu conga line broke out on the C train, while a couple of smashed Santas took pulls from a fifth of Jack Daniels.

The next stop was Rockefeller Center, where throngs of tourists lined the sidewalk, gaping at the lighted Norwegian spruce. Some mothers held onto their wide-eyed children as a seemingly endless line of rowdy Santas pushed through the crowd (however, a few less-surly Santas gave candy canes out to the kids).

“I see you when you’re sleeping,” said one belligerent Santa to group of giggling young women. In addition to crass comments, Santas also passed judgment on the spectators-and this reporter-deciding who had been naughty or nice this year.

“What paper you from?” asked one burly Kris Kringle.

” The New York Observer.”

“Oh, definitely naughty. No presents for you.”

-Michael Calderone

The Nose Knows

“This is it!” squealed a teenage girl tottering on chunky foam-platform shoes. She and a friend had come upon a velvet rope at a trendy Chelsea club early one recent weekday evening. After checking their names off on his clipboard, the bouncer pulled the rope aside, granting them admission to the club’s interior, where electronic dance music thumped and scores of other adolescents congregated.

The girls had been invited to the nightclub by Steven Pearlman, a Park Avenue plastic surgeon. The soirée served as a kind of self-improvement open house, where high-school-aged girls unhappy with their appearance could consult with experts in facial cosmetic surgery, diet, exercise, skin care and hair styling.

“It’s not just a nose job these days,” said Dr. Pearlman, who has a Cheshire-cat grin and bears a faint resemblance to the actor James Spader. “Girls gain confidence after their surgeries and want to improve many other elements of their appearance. For example, girls with big noses often have big, frumpy hairdos. We can direct them to a stylist who can help fix that.”

The evening’s multi-disciplinary approach to transformation echoed trends in reality television, where programs like Extreme Makeover and The Swan show radical transformations managed by teams of surgeons, life coaches and cosmetologists. Dr. Pearlman said that many of his young patients admire the looks of media personalities like Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jennifer Aniston, but they hope the surgery will yield a look that is still somehow “their own.”

Plied with grown-up-looking drinks served in martini glasses (but made only from fruit juice, of course), the teens took turns sitting with a woman named Liz, who was conducting on-the-spot computer consultations, showing prospective patients how they might look with pruned proboscises. “I feel like a fortune teller,” Liz giggled as a teen with a slightly hooked nose settled in at the table.

“Do you see a good nose in my future?” the young girl asked hopefully.

In addition to glimpses of their post-op streamlined visages, there was plenty to keep aspiring homecoming queens busy. One table was manned by Alistair Greer, a hunky personal trainer from Ireland. At another station, nutritionist Natalia Rose offered tips on diet regimens designed to help teen girls shed pounds. “Personally, I eat only raw foods,” Rose told one mystified mother. “What? Like a plant?” the woman asked.

All the while, Dr. Pearlman, who is the president of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, moved among his guests and some of their bewildered-looking mothers, explaining the prerequisites for surgery, which can cost, he said, between $7,000 and $10,000.

Just how young are some of Dr. Pearlman’s patients? “It depends on the individual, but I can generally start on girls at 15 and boys at 16,” he said. “Though with the guys, you have to be careful that they’re not going to be doing any sports too soon after their surgery.”

He said that he knows of a surgeon in Mexico who will operate on girls as young as 12, and a presentation shown at the club that night quoted a study saying that rhinoplasty on preteens does not affect nasal or facial growth.

“Ultimately, you have to assess the maturity of the patient,” Dr. Pearlman explained. “She has to be emotionally grown-up.”

Dr. Pearlman’s presentation continued to flash on the screen of a nearby computer, suggesting that besides rhinoplasty and chin augmentation, the repair of a cleft lip is the only other facial surgery suitable for teens.

“What’s a cleft lip?” asked one girl who was watching. “What’s rhinoplasty?” asked another, sipping a virgin cocktail.

-Lee Bailey

Into the Groove

In the days before she discovered Kabbalah and decided that New York was naff, one of the best places for an up-close Madonna sighting was at GMHC’s annual Dance-a-thon, a sponsored event to raise money for H.I.V./AIDS programs in the city. One of the last known sightings of the singer getting her groove on was back in 1997, the year that GMHC officially retired the event due to financial mismanagement-the event no longer served as a fund-raising initiative, according to executive director Ana Oliveira, barely breaking even on its costs.

Last Saturday evening, the GMHC hosted the official “Return of the Dance-a-thon” at the Jacob Javits Center. No Madge in sight, but over 3,000 people danced to a revolving set of D.J.’s that included Danny Tenaglia and Junior Vasquez. Free pretzels, bananas and water were provided for sweaty dancers taking a break from their sponsored dance sessions.

The celebrity quotient at this year’s event was noticeably thin-Naughty by Nature’s Vinnie Brown, Queer Eye culture maven Jai Rodriquez and Alan Cumming, along with Rosie Perez and recently crowned Miss New York Meaghan Jarenski-perhaps owing to the widespread impression that the virus is no longer a pressing concern in the city, since the availability of drug cocktails has kept thousands of H.I.V.-positive New Yorkers alive.

“You don’t see skeletal people walking around these days, but people still die of the disease,” said Mr. Cumming, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Drug Dealer.” (He later showed The Transom the back of his provocative garment, which was in fact promoting the “Keep a Child Alive Initiative,” which gets drugs to children with H.I.V./AIDS in Africa.)

“The worst thing is that the spotlight’s gone off it,” said Mr. Cumming. “People aren’t being educated about it, and the only form of government education is abstinence. You can’t ask young people to stop having sex,” he said. “That’s ridiculous.”

The actor, who said he intended to hit the dance floor a little later, expressed frustration at the lack of concern regarding infection among younger gay men, but thought the recent hype around drug-induced unsafe sex was overstated. “There’s a lot of bare-backing going on, but it’s too easy to blame it on crystal,” he said.

-Shazia Ahmad

Let the Sunshine In

For most people, the highlight of the office Christmas party is watching co-workers hit on the interns and, if you’re lucky, the occasional receptionist vomiting on herself. However, when you work at Ken Sunshine Consultants-which represents the likes of Justin Timberlake, Leonardo DiCaprio, Barbra Streisand, Ben Affleck, Ricky Martin and Hilary Duff-the fun comes in guessing which A-listers are going to show up and let Mr. Sunshine parade them past the cubicles. On the night of Monday, Dec. 13, Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio made an appearance at the office headquarters on Fifth Avenue, stopping conversations wherever they went as partygoers abandoned their chatter to gawk. Other lower-wattage personalities meriting curious glances were Carson Daly, Mark Green and Al Sharpton. And then there was Christine, a guest dancing in front of the D.J., doing her best impression of Elaine in that infamous Seinfeld episode.

-Noelle Hancock

The Transom Also Hears …

… that Hedwig and the Angry Inch star John Cameron Mitchell is directing the next video for the emo band Bright Eyes. Mr. Mitchell is open to casting people of all sexualities, ages and ethnicities, but is especially looking for people in serious relationships. “Basically, we want open-hearted people of all kinds,” said Mr. Mitchell. The production will be a night shoot, to take place between the holidays-either Dec. 28, 29 or 30. To keep things lively, Mr. Mitchell plans to host a dinner party, complete with board games, for the entire cast before the shoot.


… that on the night of Friday, Dec. 10, designer Zac Posen, actress Eva Mendes and singer Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas were cavorting about the palm trees of Bungalow 8, while Sean (P. Diddy) Combs made the rounds with an entourage of three, Liev Schrieber and Luke Wilson held court in a banquette, and brother Owen (dressed down in jeans and a baseball cap) was titillated by three buxom gals who kept the actor’s interest by taking turns grinding up against each other.

-N.H. Putting the X in Xmas