James Lipton

James Lipton talks Christmas, Rockettes, and getting animated.

on Dec 2, 2008

Christmas is upon us, and, as anyone who has watched Inside the Actors Studio, or read my memoir "Inside Inside" or my blog last December knows, this is my favorite time of the year.

When I left Michigan decades ago, one of my first authentic New York experiences was "The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular." For some mysterious reason the words "Music Hall" have vanished and it's now simply "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular," but its charms have only grown as its title has shrunk.

Year after year, decade after decade, come December, having no children of my known, I've co-opted (sometimes ruthlessly) my friends' offspring and shepherded them (that sounds like an appropriate term) into the eponymous Art Deco masterpiece that houses what is to me one of America's greatest contributions to the culture of kitsch.

The dictionary defines kitsch as "something of tawdry design, appearance, or content created to appeal to popular or undiscriminating taste," but don't you believe it! There's a place in the world, in art - and in every open heart - for kitsch, and nowhere will you find it more spectacularly displayed than in the aptly named Radio City Christmas Spectacular. From the moment when two - that's right, two - Mighty Wurlitzer organs suddenly roll out of the Music Hall's vast proscenium arch, producing a thunderous chord that nearly stops 6,000 hearts, until ninety unforgettable minutes later when the Christ Child is born before our dazzled eyes on America's largest stage, worshiped by America's largest cast (complete with camels and donkeys), to the accompaniment of America's largest theater orchestra (in the Land of Kitsch, nothing's too good for the holy infant), something happens that can only be described as...well, indescribable.

That's kitsch: indefinable, imperfect perfection aimed straight at the heart - and in this case arriving there in a shower of spangles, sequins and irresistible good cheer.