After a Fashion

Scrambling to take care of that Secret Santa on your list? Your Style Avatar has the perfect solution!

Snow falling in winter dreams at Estilo's runway show benefiting the Ballet Austin BARRE
Snow falling in winter dreams at Estilo's runway show benefiting the Ballet Austin BARRE

SANTA'S REAL SECRETS In offices and businesses across the globe, people are indulging in that ritual known as Secret Santa (which does not involve guessing which of your co-workers prefers wearing red velvet and white fur underclothes). The object, of course, is that names are drawn and the draw-er spends a very minor amount of money on some sort of gift for the draw-ee. Instead of spending money on a smelly holiday candle your co-worker may be allergic to, or a box of candy for someone who should really be avoiding carbohydrates, Secret Santa really doesn't have to cost any money at all. In fact, it's an opportunity to do someone a real favor. Instead of giving your co-worker a cheap gift, why not give them something really useful like a suggestion that may improve their lives? Instead of a can of Fart Spray, why not slip them a small envelope with a note that says, "In the nicest way possible, you're really too fat to wear hip-huggers." Sure, the co-worker might waddle off to the ladies room and cry, but only for a few minutes, then undoubtedly see the wisdom of your suggestion and start wearing more suitable clothes. Soon she'll probably even find a date and don't be surprised when she comes to you and gives you heartfelt thanks for a gift that will last much longer than a .05 oz. bottle of Enjoli from CVS. A note as simple as "If you're going to wear boxer shorts that show above your pants, make sure they're clean and fresh," could turn someone's pallid "indie" existence from lifeless to lifelike, and then the real gift will be yours as you've made a lifelong friend. How about "Creative facial hair is not for everyone," to plant the seed that your co-worker's face should not resemble a topiary, or "Get your eyebrows done professionally," to help spur an officemate into losing the golf-club eyebrow look? Easy, free, and incredibly helpful. What more could you want out of a gift?

SEASONAL UGLINESS It's the holiday season again, and you know what that means – yuuup, time for the city of Austin to torture us with those Hideous Tinsel Christmas Decorations that litter Congress Avenue from Town Lake to the Capitol. And, yes, it's an annual rant of mine, and will continue to be until the city gets some goddamn sense into its head and does something befitting the capital of the great state of Texas. If they can find the money to narrow a major east-west thoroughfare like Riverside Drive to "reclaim" parkland that no one uses, they sure as hell can fix those trashy eyesores that blight our grandest avenue. In a city that claims one of the densest populations of creative people in the country, surely we can do something better than those despicable Wal-Mart castoffs. Even the star on top of the Christmas tree in front of the Capitol is askew (undoubtedly reflecting the wayward political direction we're heading), but does the city care? Hell, no! Join forces, dear citizens, and just say no to dreadful decorations.

PARTY POOP The birthday party thrown for philanthropist Gary Cooper by Richard Hartgrove, his devoted partner of 22 years, was held at the spectacular home of a high-ranking Republican official (honestly, the nicest Republican I've ever met, though his name will remain my little secret), and was one of the most beautiful parties I've ever been to. The home itself, with a dazzlingly brilliant color scheme by Marc Harmon ( and eye-popping art by Sergio Rodriguez (, drips with pure style. The food was by Ash Corea (owner of the late-lamented Empanada Parlour), the waitstaff was a crew of Ph.D.s from Texas A&M, including some professors (you heard me correctly) recruited for the event, and the guest list included some of the best and brightest of the arts and nonprofit communities – not to mention friends from Gary's childhood, many of whom traveled great distances to attend. Parties, even the fun ones, are still work for me, but this one was so divine, I totally relaxed and unwound like I haven't in ages… The same can be said about the Zach Scott Christmas party held at the very theatrical home of Zach's artistic director, the brilliant Dave Steakley. (Did you see his production Keepin' It Weird? Fabulous.) This was one of the liveliest groups I've had the pleasure of partying with in so long, but then again, any chance to party with actress/goddess Barbara Chisholm is going to be a very special occasion… The sneak peek at Taverna, the fab new Italian restaurant in the 2nd Street District left us yearning for more; the food is delicious, the atmosphere perfect, and the waitstaff attentive and knowledgeable… The fashion show at Estilo, benefiting the Ballet Austin BARRE, a networking group of young professionals, was a gorgeous Russian winter fantasy, replete with fur hats and falling snow. Dazzling.

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