Tinselgate: My Side of the Story

We are on a very tight deadline. The relentless schedule of holiday events starts the next day. While Kimberly and her team fling grapevines, magnolia wreaths and lotus pods hither and thither, I set about the task of festooning the massive, ceiling-scraping Blue Room Tree. After eight hours of ball-tying, scaffolding-wrangling and ribbon-pinking, we are done. On Wednesday, Dec. 2, we add the magnificent hand-beaded Project Alabama tree skirt. Et voilà! I am very proud of our “Monuments” tree. It looks gorgeous.

Hearing a racket outside, I turn and manage to catch the president jumping aboard the US 1 helicopter to go make his now famous Camp David Afghanistan speech. On my way back to the W Hotel across the street, I encounter Bo and give him a pat on the head. I reflect on the majesty of the U.S. A person can emigrate to this country with a dollar and a dream and, if he shleps hard enough, end up szhooshing the White House.

During the first three weeks of December, the White House schedule of fetes and receptions proceeds without incident. The Wish Tree is groaning with wishes. Oprah and HGTV praise and immortalize our efforts. Everyone is happy. Even Pat Nixon’s old Faberge orbs, polished up and reused in one of many bipartisan gestures, are happy.


Some grody little snapshots find their way to Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government Web site HQ. The iPhotos contain carefully chosen and gruesomely misleading micro-close-ups of three of the 800 Blue Room balls: Barely visible is a postage-stamp-size Andy Warhol Chairman Mao from, I assume, a Pittsburgh Warhol Museum–themed ball; a micro-mug-shot of a good-hearted vaudevillian tranny entertainer named Hedda Lettuce; and a pecan-size Obama head decoupaged by a fan onto Mount Rushmore. These three details are seized upon by Mr. Breitbart and attributed directly to yours truly: “Transvestites, Mao and Obama ornaments decorate White House tree.”

The BG posting implies that I have manipulated the content of the décor to incorporate my own malevolent agenda, expressing communist sympathies and launching an attack on family values by including a mug shot of Hedda Lettuce.

There is no way to even begin to address the idiocy and inaccuracy of these notions. There is no such thing as redress on the curse that we call the Internet. Big Government has dropped me in the shazzit and the hating begins. Within hours, Hedda and mini-Mao have gone viral and global with Fox News and tens of thousands of blogs and hits.

Homicidal hatred rages. Death threats involving baseball bats and my head, etc. You get the picture. Merry Christmas, Mr. Doonan, and welcome to Tinselgate.

As somebody who was raised by an arch-conservative working-class mom and a lefty dad, I am no stranger to the concept of a feisty debate. But why the threats of violence? The willingness of wing-nut Web

devotees everywhere to jump aboard the hostility train was staggering and extremely unfestive. Even Gawker fanned the flames, calling me a “noted gay male.” How about “ping-pong ace” or “animal lover?” There are many other facets to the First Elf, you know.

The one person who kept her sense of humor was Hedda Lettuce herself. (She apparently decoupaged her ball while volunteering at a senior gay fund-raiser.) Spewing double-entendres, she blogged about the exhilaration she experienced knowing that one of her balls was now hanging on the White House tree.

The irony of Tinselgate is fairly breathtaking: A person donates his time and expertise—for free!—thereby saving taxpayer money. That same person then uses his ingenuity—incorporating the creativity of kids and needy folk and reusing tchotchkes from previous administrations, thereby saving even more dosh—and ends up on the receiving end of a torrent of threats and physical abuse from his fellow Americans.

And so to you, Mr. Breitbart. Now that the dust has settled and the homicidal emails have slowed to a trickle, I realize that I owe you a debt of gratitude. By dropping the First Elf in the poop, you have unwittingly provided me with a searing insight into the pathetic and disastrous state of our comment-obsessed culture. Thanks to you, I see now that there are two kinds of people in the world: In the first group, we have those who “do,” and in the second group, we have those who sit at their computers on their ever-widening asses blogging, platforming and commenting on the not-always-perfect efforts of the first group. Tinselgate has renewed my commitment to keep my tight ass fairly and squarely plonked in that first group.

Thanks, and happy New Year!

Tinselgate: My Side of the Story