'Tis one reason to be jolly

The strippers who came in from the cold: A heartwarming tale of Christmas.

Published December 3, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Dear Button,

A couple of Fridays ago, I danced myself into a froth at St. Mark's, in Venice, where our friend Keef deejays sometimes. But I am getting old, so I had to cut out and head home at a little past 4.

I roll up to the house, and there across the street is Dian's old, rusty, clunky Monte Carlo ... just begging to be smooshed by a compactor and stacked away for eternity. Well, Dian had been waxing proud about a contingent of beautiful Swedish strippers he was going to bring over in that very car. But Trey and I didn't bite. Because it's Dian.

Now, Dian's really not the Little Bitch they made him out to be in "Baseketball" -- in fact he's very sweet and rather gentle at times -- but when it comes to girls, he tends to exaggerate. What he wishes were the truth and the actual truth are like distant cousins who are not even speaking to each other.

So Dian talking about five hot Swedish strippers sounded to us like it would translate into one semi-pretty girl with kinda-blond hair and her four lame friends.

Needless to say, my climb up the stairs to the kitchen was not undertaken without trepidation.

Well, I walked into a big party -- and Dian was not exaggerating. The girls were beautiful and friendly and had just gotten off work and wanted to rage with the creator of "South Park." I'm his best friend and live in his house, so fuck you, I'm coming to the party, too.

When I woke the next afternoon, there was a note on the counter that read: "Dear Trey and David, Thank you for your hospitality. You'll see us tonight."

Trey and I were throwing a party that night to watch the Lewis/Holyfield rematch. Which was good, because the girls were coming back, but bad because we were operating on little sleep. Plus, throw into the mix the two Russian strippers Trey had met two nights before in Vegas who were also coming.

So I rallied myself on three or four Red Bulls (have you tried these things?) and pulled a Martha Stewart in the kitchen, whipping up several trays of finger food from scratch and ordering a battery of alcohol for delivery.

Then we just tried not to think about what might be coming our way.

Which turned out to be not much, although all parties did appear.

Anyway, fast forward four days to the evening before Thanksgiving. Trey and Jun (our guest from Japan) are at the office. I am home prepping the next day's dinner celebration. We have Christmas lights strung out front, a real tree in the living room, a scattering of poinsettias and a functional choo-choo train.

Dusk is nuzzling its way into the house, making the lights brighten. Outside, the air is crisp. I am listening to the King's College Choir sing my favorite Christmas carol, "Once in Royal David's City."

Then, in the midst of this holiday idyll, there is a diminutive knock at my wreathed door. And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but five tired, frazzled, haggard, broke, suddenly out-of-work, beautiful young Swedish strippers unloading themselves from a cab and looking for sanctuary in Bel Air. I, of course, granted it.

I mean, come on, it's Christmas.

So that was Wednesday. They didn't leave until Sunday. What happened in between is a whole other letter unto itself.

And now let's move to the world of hockey.

The ever-reliable Frank got the "in" with some of the Detroit Red Wings last season (he's very charming and has gotten the "in" all over town), which led to a friendship with the Los Angeles Kings, which led to them sending sticks and jerseys, which led to "South Park" sending back various autographed paraphernalia, which led to the Kings asking "South Park" to do some interstitial spots for the Jumbotron.

In return they gave us a block of season tickets located inside the blue line, just far enough off the ice to catch errant pucks. Perfect seats.

But for our first game of the season the Kings also gave us a skybox. There are 24 cushy, unobstructed-view seats in a two-tier, stadium-style arrangement. And there is a great deal of beer and chicken wings.

So, what did Trey see as I turned to him in the front row of the skybox, my face generously coated with a swirl of wing sauce and Ranch dressing? Joy. Sheer joy. A moment of being, as Virginia Woolf intended the phrase.

The new Staples Center was quite impressive. And the acoustics were excellent, which made the game intimate, despite our being far above the ice. You could hear the players grunting and specific fan comments.

It reminded me of the time I saw an exhibition match between Jimmy Connors and some other guy in the Boston Garden. Connors made a nice save, and a fan shouted, "Nice job, Jimmy!" Connors, in mid-run to his next return, casually shot back, "Thank you." Everyone laughed, partly because of Jimmy's timing and ease, but also, I think, because of a sudden feeling of uneasiness that the membrane between the famous world and the fan world had been pierced.

It's hard to describe -- Jimmy was just a guy, suddenly -- but it's something I've always remembered.

There is a very good Hemingway short story set in the Second World War in which he describes the intimate feeling of shooting men on bicycles. It's an ambush squad picking off retreating Germans. But that precious space between them and the enemy is wiped away by the bicycles.

It's not football on television. You know?

The point is, everything is always better live and close up. After watching every game of the Broncos' 1997 season, I stood in the parking lot of the stadium in San Diego under the fireworks that marked their Super Bowl victory and cried like a baby.

And I hate babies.



P.S. I lied about the finger food.

By David Goodman

David Goodman, like Steven Spielberg before him, grew up in Haddonfield, N.J. He writes for "South Park" and is the editor of bluelawn.com.

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