Secret Santos

Michael Wilson at a Deitch Projects holiday party

New York

Left: Julie Potratz dances to Billy Idol's “Dancing with Myself.” Right: Aaron Bondaroff. (Except where noted, all photos: Miriam Katz)

WHILE MANY OF THIS YEAR’S holiday parties have been shadowed by a dour mood in step with the economic nosedive, leave it to Deitch Projects to demonstrate that it’s possible to whip up a jovial atmosphere without breaking what’s left of the bank. The downtown stalwart’s “Weird Holiday” kicked off at Santos’ Party House in Chinatown Tuesday night in a spirit of do-it-yourself good cheer, presenting a roster of campy amateur acts curated by Kansas City collective Whoop Dee Doo Productions and hosted by scenester Aaron Bondaroff (who insists on being known as either “A-Ron,” which I can just about countenance, or “the Downtown Don,” which I can’t).

Bondaroff launched proceedings with a video hyping usual suspects (or “fuckin’ hustlers, man,” as he prefers to call them) Aaron Young, Nate Lowman, Dan Colen, et. al. Perhaps force-feeding partygoers with these folks, plus assorted self-regarding dealers and collectors, wasn’t the best idea for an introduction; even our MC seemed embarrassed by the queasy note of moneyed self-congratulation, and whoever it was that bellowed “This sucks!!!” was clearly even less convinced. The first act, a pint-size hip-hop duo, was ushered hurriedly onstage, and the evening began in earnest. They didn’t look much older than twenty-one in total, and sure enough: “We had to perform,” announced the cute-as-a-button rapper. “It was the only way we were allowed into the club.”

Left: Laurendarling & the Ladies of Fakework. Right: Amanda Lepore.

Some not-so-helpful postperformance budgetary suggestions from Bondaroff (to Deitch: “Fire half your staff and buy some art!”) prompted a quick round of shoe-tossing before Whoop Dee Doo’s Jaimie Warren and Matt Roche made their appearance. Resplendent in chip-wrapper-encrusted catsuit (Warren) and burn-victim Santa outfit (Roche), they introduced Laurendarling & the Ladies of Fakework, a bevy of antler-wearing, baton-twirling go-go girls who danced around to no great purpose but successfully won the crowd back from their beers. After a not entirely dissimilar routine from some dancing furniture, the stage was transformed into a game-show set for a round of “Holiday Hoopla.”

“And this is Raven and Amber Ferguson, from Crown Heights, Brooklyn!” Perking up at the mention of my own hood, I watched as the two slightly bemused (and who wouldn’t be?) kids were put through their paces by a big-haired hostess in a chaotic battle against the ever-stylish Metalmags, aka Erica Magrey and Collin Cunningham. (Hostess: “So, you guys are from out of town? I heard you were from outer space, actually.” Magrey: “That’s right. We met on an orbiting station.”) Ultimately triumphant, the Fergusons smiled graciously to their extraterrestrial competitors and left the stage in a shower of glitter, cheered on by the likes of Ryan McGinley, Terence Koh, and Mike Smith.

From here on out, it’s single images that stick in the memory. There was, for example, that pair of interpretive dancers—one corpulent, one not so—and that devil-horned Santa astride a giant pantomime donkey. Then there was that folky singer insisting that we “listen for just two minutes” because we “might learn something” and that Lady Liberty–hosted “Mount Rushmore Staring Contest.” And what about that senior couple looking mildly traumatized as admirers flocked around Amanda Lepore, or Deitch himself installed discreetly at the back of the room, playing his customary indulgent-parent role? One late act, a dance to Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” performed by the star of Laurel Nakadate’s upcoming feature film Stay the Same Never Change (and her dummy double), was something of a highlight, but the announcement that followed—“Now welcome the New York Ukulele Ensemble!”—had me scrambling for the door. Happy holidays.

Left: Artist Jaimie Warren (left). Right: Designer Peggy Noland.

Left: A performance. Right: Artist Ryan McGinley.

Left: The Ssion's Cody Critcheloe (far left) with writer Amy Kellner (far right). Right: Deitch Projects director Kathy Grayson.

Left: Members of the Ssion. Right: Artist Terence Koh.

Left: Artist Mike Smith (left). Right: A member of the House of Ledosha.

Left: The Dark Side of the Moon. Right: The Metalmags' Collin Cunningham and Erica Magrey. (Photo: Michael Wilson)

Left: Shannon Stubbs and Erica Mahinay. Right: Daniel Pinchbeck and Eli Mishulovin.