Last Night: Strip Dreidel, Christmas Eve Heebonism and Jewjitsu in Palm Springs
Being Jewish on Christmas sucks. The only places open are Chinese restaurants and movie theaters. Every house but yours is beautifully ablaze in lights and big French windows filled with families in ill-fitting itchy wool sweaters. Meanwhile, your Jewish friends with parents who aren't afraid of blood (in Yiddish, they call them "doctors"), have decamped to esoteric tropical locales to turn their skin the color of lox. Maybe a kindly Gentile family will shelter you with spiced ham and fruitcake and egg nog, while peppering you with questions about whether or not you celebrate Thanksgiving. At worst, you wind up home alone, watching Home Alone, marinating on the fact that like Eskimos with snow, the Yiddish language contains myriad ways to call someone obnoxious (schmuck, schmo, schmegegge, schmendrick, basically anything with the prefix "sch.")
Jeremy Pelley The Ace Hotel in Palm Springs honors the tribe on Christmas Eve
So credit Heeb Magazine's annual Heebonism Party for figuring out what Jews should've done sometime during Baruch Spinoza's heyday: learn how to have fun on Christmas Eve. Previously held each year in New York City, Chicago, Denver, and San Francisco. the New York City quarterly finally wised up and realized that there are more Jews in Nate N' Al on any given day than in all of Denver County. Accordingly, the Semites swarmed Palm Spring's swank Ace Hotel ready to prove that we enjoy two things paramount above all: Chinese food and bad puns.
To the uninitiated, the middle of the desert seems like a strange place for a party, but for those familiar with the peculiarities of the tribe, Palm Springs serves us well, and represents an atavistic longing for the homeland, as evidenced by the fact roughly 42 percent of Angeleno Israelites have grandparents who own a condo between Cathedral City and Coachella. Which meant that on this Christmas eve instead of inhaling Frankenberry and myrrh (whatever that is), roughly 100 Hebrews sat down at 7 p.m. to a buffet Chinese dinner in the Hotel's "Commune," a banquet hall adorned with crimson paper lanterns, ersatz Chinese folding money, a fake roaring fire on a big screen, and a soporific soundtrack of acupuncture music. The vibe was ironically awkward, which, compounded with everyone's actual awkwardness, made it feel like a Chinese New Year Celebration sponsored by the Jewish youth group AZA. Or the Bar-Mitzvah of a child who was really into Rush Hour 2.
Things got livelier when comedian Eric Andre delivered a hysterical set riffing on being half-black, half-Jewish, both subverting the requisite stereotypes and profoundly insulting a set of departing Septuagenarians by deeming them "The Golden Girls." Success. Next, tables were cleared to create a dance floor for music provided by DJ's Luke Top of Fool's Gold and Maxwell Williams of Maximum Thrills. In a corner, porn stars Joanna Angel and James Deen held court with a game of strip dreidel, a traditional Jewish Hanukkah game that may or may not have been invented in Russian bathhouses on the Lower East Side circa 1913, (boasting the slogan, "where neurotic meets erotic").
There was only one problem. With call drinks at the bar running $9 apiece, it was hard to cultivate a level of public drunkenness commensurate with the notion of "strip dreidel." Not that I wanted to play strip dreidel, but it seemed like the sort of situation that could only be sensibly considered after a double-digit tally of drinks. The solution was clear. Mini-bar bottles of Jack Daniel's ran $24 each. They contained enough liquor for six strong beverages. My jacket had deep-pockets. The whiskey was stealthily concealed. Budgetary goals were met. In this business, we call that shit, "Jewjitsu."
Meanwhile, Angel and Deen succeeded in inducing graphic makeout sessions and a level of Hebrew nudity unseen since Natalie Portman stripped down with Jason Schwartzman in that Wes Anderson short Hotel Chevalier. Should these photos circulate widely, there will be many flushed faces at Hebrew schools all across the Southland. It felt like I was watching "Bat-Mitzvah's Gone Wild." The evening wound down somewhat early, but no matter. It was tough to argue that Heeb hadn't produced an excellent anodyne to the problem of being the lonely Jew on Christmas Eve. After all, there's only so many times you can watch Home Alone.