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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.


Samantha Bee
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
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
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
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
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
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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