A not-so-serious holiday survival guide

Been invited to a holiday party that you'd really prefer to skip? Dying to regift Aunt Mitzi's potpourri of questionable origin? We surveyed creative minds for answers to holiday conundrums. You may not agree with the advice, but at least it's free. To launch our 101 suggestions for holiday cheer, we start with that perennial question:

QUESTION: How do you handle the party guest who's had too much eggnog?

Ed Begley Jr.Ed Begley Jr., actor and environmentalist: I married her.

Mary Sue Milliken, chef and restaurateur: Have more eggnog myself.

Stan Williams, a.k.a. the Elegant Thrifter (www.theelegantthrifter.com) and author of "The Find": It's always a good idea when serving a specialty cocktail that is highly flavored to have a nonalcoholic version on hand, not only out of consideration for those who are not drinking, but also for those who've had a bit too much.

Once they reach the point of no return, you switch them to the nonalcoholic version, which they're highly unlikely to realize is low octane.

Should guests get over-sloshed, do not -- I repeat, do not -- allow them to pass out in your bed! We once had a couple come for New Year's Eve bombed out of their minds. They passed out on top of the coats in our bedroom, requiring departing guests to dig for their wraps under the snoozing boozers.

Ann Magnuson, actress and performance artist: Introduce them to your AA guests.

Hutton Wilkinson, president of Tony Duquette Inc.: I have had "guests" of friends who have gotten falling-down drunk, and it makes me furious.

First, you tell the butler to stop giving them drinks. If they came in their own car, then I drive them home and have my friend follow and take me back to my house.

One woman was so drunk, when the valet brought up her car she said it wasn't her car. Then when I was driving her home, she didn't know where she lived. We eventually got to her house to discover that the decorative iron gate to the front door was padlocked, and she couldn't find the key. Never again -- ever!

QUESTION: What's the worst thing you've ever regifted, and how did you get away with it (or not)?

Jillian Reynolds, "Good Day L.A." host: A pair of pink running shoes (I HATE working out) that I tried to give to my best friend. Problem was the company had embroidered "Jillian" on the back and I hadn't noticed, so yes I got caught!

Anne Litt, KCRW-FM DJ: I used to regift Champagne. The trick was to stay just ahead of the liquor curve, meaning that I had slightly more on hand than I needed, so I would never have to buy any. I am now the mother of a 3-year-old, so no more regifting. I drink it all.

Billy Gibbons, ZZ Top singer and guitarist: The band decided to part with a vintage electric guitar to some friends who, ironically, had just given us one of the same model, and although it appeared to be identical, a quick inspection revealed a difference in weight and date. That qualifies for a "get out of jail free" card, doesn't it? Only hitch was, theirs was in tune. Ours? Well . . .

William Yeoward, designer and author, "The Perfect Host": A picnic basket. As it happened, it was full of fresh food at the time it was given to me, but when I regifted the basket, the food was a year old and had gone bad! I had never opened it, so I didn't realize.

Mary Sue Milliken: My whole family are notorious regifters. I remember a certain deviled egg platter that circulated among me, my sisters and my mom for at least a decade. Not sure who ended up with it, but I dread mentioning it here for fear it will end up under my tree.

Beth Lapides, writer and comedian: We don't call it regifting any more; we call it upcycling!

Hutton Wilkinson: When my mother died, she cut me out of her will but went out of her way to leave me the most hideous painting called "The Old Tree," which my brothers and sisters thought was a large, charming Victorian watercolor of a pastoral scene framed in a massive carved and gilded frame. In fact, "The Old Tree" was a vile painting purchased on a tourist visit to Pismo Beach and about as interesting to me as a framed cover of Life magazine. My sister was so outraged by my refusal of the bequest that I sent it to her for Christmas. I hope she has since passed it on to someone with similar tastes.

Ann Magnuson: Ninety-nine point nine percent of everything I've ever gotten in a Hollywood gift bag. Yes, 99.9% of the time.

Rachel Ashwell, founder of Shabby Chic, author of "Shabby Chic Interiors": I don't believe I have ever regifted without telling the receiver I was doing so. I don't have it in me to pretend.

QUESTION: What is the holiday decoration that you can't live without?

Jonathan Adler, potter and furniture designer: My husband, Simon, and I have two vintage Liberace Christmas balls from the Liberace Museum gift shop. They're still in their boxes and every year we plonk them on the mantle and voila -- le holiday decor est fini!

Trina Turk, fashion designer: Satsuma mandarins with the pretty green leaves still attached are not really a decoration but have always been a holiday tradition in my half-Japanese family.

Hart Hanson, creator of "Bones": Somehow I inherited the decrepit tin foil star that my dad had on his tree back in the Depression. It's ugly, tarnished and cheap. It's bent and tacky and ill-formed. It's my favorite ornament, and without it, Christmas would die.

Susan Feniger, chef and restaurateur: We're both nice Jewish girls, but my partner was brought up more religious, so a Christmas tree isn't usually something that she wants. So we do a solstice tree (which it really is). I love having that around -- no religious ornaments, only Earth ornaments, cooking or music. We also hang blue lights and we hang all of our holiday cards. For Thanksgiving we hung turkey lights!

Ed Begley Jr.: My solar twinkle lights.

QUESTION: What is the best excuse for blowing off a holiday get-together?

William Yeoward: Just be honest and say you are terribly hung over.

Stan Williams: I'm bad at this because I always say yes. But I think it's very easy to get out of parties now because the invitations usually come as e-mails and there's rarely any follow-up. There's "Oh, the file must have been too big and never made it to me," or "Your Evite went into my spam file and I didn't notice until it was too late." If someone actually goes to the trouble of mailing an invitation, then it gets harder. I think this year's best response would be, "I'm feeling a bit flu-ish and would hate to infect you and your guests."

Jonathan Adler: I always go with Marcia Brady's sizzler: "Something suddenly came up."

Anne Litt: An interesting question. I'm not invited to enough holiday parties to ever blow any of them off. In fact, I spend a lot of time figuring out how to get on the guest list. One holiday, more recently than I'd like to admit, I was driving down Mulholland, saw a Christmas party in progress, gave my car to the valet and had an excellent time.

Beth Lapides: "My toilet is being replaced." No one wants to get into it. I once had to beg out of a party we attend annually, and which I love to go to, because on Dec. 24 a plumber had come to unclog the hideously disgusting backed-up drain in the bathroom. In the process of doing something with the venting, he'd cracked the toilet bowl. So it had to be taken out. He was coming back on Christmas to close the hole with the new replacement toilet. That is definitely not the kind of thing you want to put off an extra day.

Ed Begley Jr.: "We couldn't get a sitter." How could they ever check up and see if I was lying? Warning: Don't try this line on your wife on date night.


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