white elephant

The Strategist’s Celebrity White Elephant Gift Exchange

25 gifts over 25 days.

Photo: Joana Avillez
Photo: Joana Avillez
Photo: Joana Avillez

Fasten your cummerbund. Top off your eggnog. We cordially invite you to the first ever Strategist (Virtual) Holiday Party — a white elephant gift exchange with 25 guests from across the New York (and New York) universe. There’s Danny Meyer under the holly chatting it up with Barbara Corcoran. What are Brian Lehrer and Casey Wilson whispering about by the fire? And of course John Derian’s upstaged everyone with his gift-wrapping. All of our guests have brought a $25-or-under gift — something that surprises, delights, or otherwise changes lives — and you, our 26th guest, get to watch the game unfold right here.

Here’s who’s coming: From the entertainment world, Katja Blichfeld, Kevin Kwan, W. Kamau Bell, Desus Nice, Barbara Corcoran, Casey Wilson, and Ramona Singer. Our chef and restaurant-owning guests are Tom Colicchio, Danny Meyer, Alison Roman, Samin Nosrat, and Angela Dimayuga. Our literary guests include Radhika Jones, Cheryl Strayed, Tracy K. Smith, and Leandra Medine; and the designers in attendance are Batsheva Hay, Isaac Mizrahi, John Derian, Jesse Kamm, and Yves Béhar. For good measure we also invited an astrologist (Susan Miller), a financial journalist (Andrew Ross Sorkin), a Saturday Night Live writer (Bowen Yang), and our favorite WNYC radio host (Brian Lehrer). (Click on the names above to skip straight to a given player’s turn in the game.)

Each of our guests has brought a white elephant gift. Some of them are gag gifts. Most of them are things each party guest uses and loves. Each day on the Strategist, one of them will open a gift, and the next day someone new has the chance to steal it or unwrap another one. Follow the journey of the Queen Elizabeth figurine as it bounces from one famous person to another (or just buy the sparkly Play-Doh Leandra Medine loves). From December 1 to 25, we’ll be publishing one “turn” a day, with the latest player’s gift pick up top. Come back every day — even on the weekends! — to see who left with a karaoke microphone, who took the composting worms, and who kept getting robbed. (For more on the rules of white elephant gift exchanges, see here.)

Day 25: Yves Béhar is up last

Merry Christmas, everyone. Twenty-five days into December, and it’s been quite the party. Chocolate malt balls, olive oil, and a Yayoi Kusama-printed umbrella have flown around the room, while a few guests (not to name any names, but Kevin Kwan and Samin Nosrat) are left wondering what on earth they’ll do with the composting worms and cutting board cleaning tonic they chanced upon. There’s only one unwrapped gift left under the tree by now, and designer Yves Béhar is No. 25 and up almost last. Faced with a bounty of presents, he decides not to chance it, snatching the Äggcøddler from Katja Blichfeld. The designer, of course, recognizes good design: “I like the material of this ceramic coddler and its Scandinavian design.” And: “I love eating soft-boiled farm fresh eggs in the mornings.”

That means we’re back to Katja. “I love that Casey thought to gift a TV show (hand-to-forehead emoji here),” Katja says, right as she steals the season pass for 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days that Casey Wilson brought. Plus, the premise of the show reminds her of some of her own travels: “I once traveled to Europe with someone I met in an AOL chat room in the ‘90s. It didn’t go so well and I left him in Amsterdam when he became enamored with rave culture and pitched that we ‘just stay there,’ abandoning the 8-country itinerary we had planned. My most successful online romance is actually what brought me to NYC in 2004. We were together for five years, had a very amicable breakup and now he’s my real estate broker.”

We’re on a bit of a stealing spree, what with the stakes being high this late in the game. Now that Katja is in possession of the television show, Ramona has to choose something for herself. She, too, passes over the last gift and alights instead on the leather-bound notebook that poet Tracy K. Smith brought to the party, and that John Derian opened. “Is it refillable? It is? Oh that’s perfect,” she says, clinching it. “You don’t understand, I love notebooks still. I always carry a notepad around because I have my list of things to do. When I’m having a conversation with someone, for instance, I like to take notes. Right now, I’m developing my skin-care so I’m writing down things like the shipping prices or whatever. And before the show, when I was in business for myself I would carry around notes and date them and then refer back to them to figure out what happened on what day or what someone said. I use a spiral bound shit notepad now, so this will be perfect for me.”

John, what’ll it be? “Caffeinated face wipes, please,” he says, stealing them from Radhika Jones. “I feeling like I am neglecting my face a little.”