Standing outside of Sunset Strip (and by that I mean… no clothes), Santa is taking wincing drags while pimp swaggering in that red coat. Another Santa sits quietly on the curb absentmindedly eating from a bag of Thanksgiving-motifed candy corn. Or is it kandy korn. Whatever. The colors were changed slightly from the classic Halloween orange and white to Thanksgiveable brown and tan. Santa to my left just came out of the convenience store adjacent, holding a fresh banana, which he stoically eats next to the XXX sign. My santa hat is erect, stuffed as it is with my kefiyah and perched impossibly on my head. I wanted to be Santa Terrorist, but what was the point? The conical hat was much funnier, but required that I walk super carefully to keep it on. Then I began, for the hundredth time that day, to refer to myself in the third person:
Santa cannot lose the lid, or the whole Santa Mystique will come to an ignominious halt.
True, Santa, said Santa Kandy Korn. Lucky you have not been drinking.
Has Santa been drinking? asked Santa Lid.
Santa nodded gravely.
John Law appeared in the doorway, glowing. His Santa persona was conceptual: a barely contemptible Tahitian shirt and the knowledge that he would allow himself to be hanged later that evening in a country western bar.
Santa, what’s it like in there? we asked.
A Sea of Red, reported John Law.
I had come outside the strip club, situated perfectly in a strip mall, on Sunset Boulevard, which has a strip, according to legend, to show some of the other Santas how its done. Although some Santas would never follow: they were sitting chin first on the stage, female Santas howling for kisses, male Santas getting that quiet look I did not want to disturb; and some Santas were at the bar, attempting to lift the contents intraveneously and could not be dissuaded. I was reaching out to the Santas on the wall, collapsing their gimlet straws with great pulls of discontent. I could tell: some Santas had never been to a strip club as a matter of Santastic Principle. The goings-on were testing Santa mettle. Santa could not decide between naughty and nice. Santa was about to explode in cognitive dissonance.
The dancers wished Santa had brought more cash. But where could it fit in the red suit? Santa wished the dancers had transferred from the two to the four year program. But dancers are homemakers, professionals and students from all walks of life, as varied in their objectives as Santa is. Santa had an act of Santa’s own, and took the stage with the permission of the house manager who was struggling to quash any visual documentation of the event.
As Tall Conical Hat Santa, I was offered lap dances at each turn of the gang plank. No thanks, I ho-ho’d cheerfully, but Santa wants to give you this glow-in-the-dark superball! Lap dancers were grateful, on the surface. The mints went over better, to be honest. Santa avers that the interior of a strip club compromises one’s breath.
Santa, I said, placing my mitten over the top of the highball glass. If you don’t like what is happening to your economically-empowered naked sisters, you better leave this club. Never mind that the lights go dim inbetween acts, forcing the dancers to blink and scramble for their tips while their eyes adjust to the darkness. See how some dancers dance upstage where the light is already somewhat dim? They aren’t attracting as much attention, but they are plotting where every dollar is landing on their neurotic grid. Never mind that your Santa Other has never seemed happier as he takes in the acts up on stage. Santa can work that out in the hotel room tonight with tears and defiance. Santa better come with me, with all the other Santas who walk it like they talk it.
The bus drivers, great church-going women, were inside the strip club long after all the Santas had been ejected. A hundred or more of us swelled and crested red waves, just as we had done all day:
* In the Fairfax Farmer’s Market, cornering Dickensian carolers and forcing them into singing “Here Comes Santa Claus”. Santa tips generously.
* On the Santa Monica Freeway, bursting out of tour buses because Santa will not be fenced in.
* Down the main drag of Venice Beach, making memories for tourists who had hoped something like this might happen, and making residents relieved that they would not have to make something up for the tourists today. Santa’s ostensible reason for being there (a beach clean-up) was met by the facts (a pristine beach).
* Into the pit at Muscle Beach, announced by the appearance of pink glazed donuts rolling under the feet of the balloon-pinched fanatics there. Santa was bench-pressed by a denizen. Santa did ten pull-ups, eight more than are required of an American Gladiator. Santa got pumped up.
* Up and down Hollywood Boulevard with a descent upon the Winter Wonderland sponsored by the Church of Scientology, a fact that continues to cause Santa pyschotheological distress. Because Santa’s legs were not broken during the heretical outburst, Santa confirms that L. Ron Hubbard is Nice.
* Steeply ascending to Griffith Observatory to act out Rebel Without A Clause, Santa began to run late and only had time for a cheese dog and a peek off the edge into the L.A. twilight. Santa used the bullhorn to announce that if Santa did not get on the bus right now, Santa would be too late to get into the titty bar for free. A hundred red-suits fled the grounds, cheap bastard that Santa is.
Santa wanted to go see the Vandals reunion at The Palace, but only Santa could know what might happen when a hundred red-suits presented themselves to an L.A. punk audience. Police presence was required and the better red than dead Santas discovered the narrowness of their anarchic theory, pointing out teen spoilers to The Man with no compunction. Splitting Santas, we turned one street earlier to find the truck we had strategically parked near by knowing, in a fit of Santa forethought, that the end of Santa’s journey would leave Santa here. A couple with matching ventriloquist dummies were delighted to see Santa. Santa was amazed to note that the ventriloquists dummies resembled in every way the ventriloquists: wearing all the clothes they owned and having no place to go. It was 2am on Hollywood Boulevard and Santa rose to the occasion. The dummies got their act together too.
I managed to find two Christmas Trees not properly disposed of. I took them down to Stair 28 and presented them at the beach bonfire. Santa! everyone shouted. After dancing the trees into the blaze (there is really little hotter than a Christmas Tree on fire in March), I wondered if I should pitch the red suit as well. The fire had tried to get it already. It was unlikely I’d be joining Santa on another rampage, or swimming in another sea of red. Of what use could it be?
I kept it.
It’s really very comfortable.