“Consuming Passions”: Santa, Baby

apple You could call this The Twelve Days of Christmas for the famous, the very famous and the hyper celeb. This is about what they give and what they want. It is the season, after all, of celebrity. With the holidays come the albums, the TV specials, the special songs – think Cliff Richard! Think the vision of all these fairy-tale people discussing the meaning of it all.

Well, Hark the Herald Angels, but if I’m not mistaken even Pee-wee Herman once, in the 1980s, delivered himself of a Christmas Special. From the mouths of babes and celebrities, like alphabet letters from a can of soup, fall words like PEACE.

In magazines they are pictured at parties in shiny frocks like tinsel on your tree. All the important young (and youngish) things, those faces you recognise, are out on the town shopping it up, but only because they love to GIVE. Celebrity giving is awfully various, of course. A lot of famous people are notoriously cheap and there’s plenty of regifting, as it’s known in the U S . This involves passing along some item you’ve been given, perhaps a stale fruitcake in a festive tin from last year; or one of those goodie bags you got for presenting an award that contains an oversize watch (very last year) or La Perla undies in a strange shade of red. (We’re talking fantasy here. I wouldn’t impugn the spiritual values of celebrity. And as my mother always said: “Why have reality in fantasy? It’s Christmas, right?”)

Some stars have long gift lists; and you can judge your status by the kind of present you get. Are you the Vuitton luggage or are you the wind chimes or the mail-order cheesecake? Are you a large or small orchid? An entire hamper from Fortnum’s, monthly baskets of grapefruits from Florida or an orange cheese-ball from Wisconsin? With the cheese knife or without? Very chic in certain Hollywood circles is the charitable donation. They send everyone on their list an awfully quiet little card, preferably made by your children, informing them that a donation has been made to the Wounded Squirrels Foundation in your name. A disappointment if you’re a friend of the famous. Me, I’d rather get something big and vulgar, or at least a cashmere throw from Hermès or a case of Krug Grand Cuvée or yards and yards of Gio Ponti fabric or a lifetime supply of take-out dinners from Ottolenghi in Westbourne Grove. OK, and a nice ring from Solange Azagury-Partridge and everything Prada makes in that new shade of violet silk. OK, and Seth Stein, the architect, to redo my place, and George Jensen silver, and everything for my kitchen.

Sometimes I wonder what the fabulous ask S anta for. I mean, honestly, do the rich and glamorous really want a 10 carat pink diamond – Jo Lo’s cast-off, maybe? Islands in the South Pacific? Or, as many insist, do they want something down-home, some scarf, some piece of folk art? Does Madonna yearn only for the simple ways of little English children? Is there no one who longs for something big? A gold, old-fashioned Rolls- Royce? A legendary jewel? Elizabeth Taylor, where are you now? I’ve been dwelling on this and have come up with some presents for the good and great. (Feel free to dream up your own constellation.)

1. President George W Bush A pair of sniffer dogs for security, one each for him and L aura. And a dictionary for correct pronunciation of the word NUC-LEAR, that’s nuclear, George, not NUK-U-LAR . Finally, and I hope this won’t show my own political leanings too much, but what would better reveal the feelings of a nation (or half of it) about this Prez than a turkey? (Make that a French turkey, call it a dinde .)

2. Tony Blair A brand-new spin-dryer, perhaps a European model.

3. John Prescott A Smart car. (OK, maybe two Smart cars.)

4. Osama bin Laden A George W mask.

5. Posh and Becks A seasonal, sacred child named Hollywood.

6. Tracey Emin Clean sheets.

7. Sting Something in hemp.

8. The BBC As Aretha would sing it, “ R .E. S .P.E.C.T.” Because there ain’t nothing like it nowhere. 9. Prince Charles The crown already.

10. Bill Gates An iMac.

11. Santa, who often gets a raw deal with those stale cookies A really nice midnight snack, including Petrossian Beluga, a bottle of S toli (still the best), a nice risotto with white truffles, and maybe a Delamain 1928 Cognac and a box of Fidel’s Cohibas. Well, deck the halls…

12. All my friends who are, naturally, all superstars in my eyes Peace and love and music and money and good times, and a partridge in a pear tree. Roll on 2004! ✦