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Greatest Gift Hits and Misses

Some presents are unforgettable, whether for the right or wrong reasons. Prominent New Yorkers reveal the best and worst gifts they’ve ever received.

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Samantha Bee
Comedian
Best: My husband and I gave each other enormous Canadian parkas that can save your life if you’ve fallen asleep drunk in a snow bank. They come with flares!
Worst: An elaborately wrapped ring box with a crisp $50 inside from someone I was totally in love with. I’m pretty sure he stole the money from his mom’s wallet.



Chip Kidd
Graphic designer
Best: The Fleischer brothers did animated Superman cartoons for Paramount in the forties that are regarded as some of the best of the twentieth century. I’m a big Batman fan, so the artist Chris Ware imagined what it would look like if the Fleischers had done a Batman cartoon, and he made a fake animation celluloid from it. It was just incredible.
Worst: Three years ago, a big, elaborate fruit basket from a client was delivered the day before Christmas. I had taken the week off, so it just sat in my office, turning into compost.

Michael Kors
Fashion designer
Best: My grandparents gave me a double-breasted Joe Namath faux-mink coat when I was 10. Even then I craved glamour over practicality.
Worst: The Frosty Sno-Man Sno-Cone machine I got when I was 5. By the time I finally cranked out enough ice, I was over the whole concept.

Michael Cerveris
Actor
Best: Pete Townshend gave me a 1957 Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar. It was made as a sort of basic utility guitar, but the years have given it an extraordinary tone.
Worst: The German crew of Tommy’s European premiere got me a Turkish belly dancer. It was mortifying, humiliating, embarrassing.

Duane Michals
Photographer
Best: More than 25 years ago, when my partner and I first got together, he gave me this heavy, sumptuous corduroy bathrobe. It’s like wearing a big bear.
Worst: When I was 5, my mother bought me a Tinkertoy set. For some reason she decided that I really liked it, so until I was 10, I’d get a new Tinkertoy every year. I grew to loathe them.


Behnaz Sarafpour
Fashion designer
Best: My hairstylist, Ashley Javier, gave me a private reading with Karen Thorne, an astrologer. She does it all on her laptop. I’ve gone back every year since—she had some accurate premonitions.
Worst: It was a re-gift from someone that I work with— a basket filled with fruit products and chocolates. The note card actually said “To: Someone other than me.” I ate all the chocolates anyway.


Lewis Black
Comedian
Best: My grandmother got me a mechanical pony when I was 7. Who knew they made those? We kept it in the basement—I wasn’t perverted enough to keep it in my bedroom.
Worst: A bright-red-and-green sweater with brown golf figures all over, from Sharper Image. I’m not even able to bring myself to put it on my body.



Miles Redd
Interior designer
Best: A red motorized go-kart in the third grade. At 4 a.m., I found a little string that ran around the house, like a maze, and ended in the garage. I wrecked the kart and broke my wrist on Christmas Day after driving into a parked car.
Worst: In 2004, relatives from Berkeley gave me a slip to go to the post office. You stand in line for three hours, and you imagine something great. I ripped the box open right there, only to discover Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs tie-dye candle figurines.

John Patrick Shanley
Playwright
Best: Anything from my sons.
Worst: A guy named Jerry Justice gave me a gun for Christmas when I was 16. He’d decided to go straight as a result of my influence. I didn’t want it, but I felt I couldn’t give it away, so I threw it into Westchester Creek.

Marianne Boesky
Gallery owner
Best: A tie between a Mary Ellen Mark portrait of my daughter, Ellie, when she was 6 months old, and a surprise trip to Parrot Cay from my husband, Liam, on the last weekend I was allowed to fly before having the baby.
Worst: A broken promise. Christmas of 1999. I couldn’t possibly elaborate on that.


Simon Doonan
Creative director, Barneys New York
Best: Jonathan Adler gave me a one-off vase on our first Christmas together. It was emblazoned with the word truffles, a bizarre nickname he had given me at the time. If I ever find out that he made a truffles vase for anyone else, I will smash this one over his head.
Worst: When I was about 10, my mother gave me a dreary gray wool scarf. I gave it back to her.

Jonathan Adler
Potter
Best: I’m Jewish, so the presents always culminated in a big gift on the eighth day of Hanukkah. When I was 10, my eighth-day present was Atari. I was one of the first to get it, so my popularity soared as a result.
Worst: My freshman roommate at Brown University got me a subscription to YM magazine addressed to Jonny Sue Adler. To this day, I get gobs of female-specific junk mail addressed to her. Make it stop!

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