“Give, Love, Rent”
Excluding Saturday mornings in the late 70s to early 80s, my favorite moments in front of the TV are those spent watching Christmas specials. Animation preferred, but not exclusive. I exude nostalgia like a musk during this season. Peppermint musk, if you were curious.
I taped (meaning videotaped) many of these specials around 1985, I guess. Network stuff. It’s probably all available on DVD now. Maybe I’ll bother to check and reveal their availability at the end of this article. It all depends on whether I even finish this article. I might get wrapped up in reminiscing and reviewing these shows and never get around to writing about them. I do that. I load up on pinwheel cookies and cold milk. Or one of those egg nog lattes. Then I nod off. Or nog off, depending on how much rum’s in the mug. (This mug doesn’t need much rum.) And the next thing I know, the a-wassailing’s all done, the garland’s packed away, and I’m nursing a mouse-like hangover at SoTac on St. Stephen’s Day. I swear it’s almost like these shows WANT to dwell in obscurity! Stupid Ziggy!
Aw, Ziggy. Sorry, Ziggy. You know – Ziggy! Hapless, hairless, humble Ziggy. I was never sure – was he some sort of savant or something? Anyway, he had a Christmas special on ABC back in 1982. “Ziggy’s Gift,” with a theme song by Harry Nilsson! ”Give, Love, Joy” wafts through my memory every Advent. Are the kids into Nilsson still? Were they ever? What year is it?
This half-hour animated special follows Ziggy on Christmas Eve or something as he gets a job as a department store Santa. Then he kinda gets hassled a bit by the world. You know, the way Ziggy does. It’s rough in the cold dark city. (Zig’s got an apartment there with a small menagerie of pets.) Yet he perseveres without complaining and in the end he is rewarded for his quiet strength and kindness. This follows a troubling incident involving terrified turkeys.
Hey, I was at the Salvation Army the other day. You know, ‘tis the season (actually I needed a book of Rod McKuen poems…). So I’m sifting through the rubble and you know what I find? (Is it a point, you ask?). I find a Ziggy Christmas ornament from 1979. There he is, dressed in a Santa suit, with his dog (what’s that dog’s name? Marmaduke or Dondi or something?) So I buy it, solitarily smug at my perception of the synchronicity of it and all. You see, cuz he wears that same Santa suit in the TV special. It’s the craziest thing. AND I think there’s a Salvation Army Santa in the cartoon as well! Another Christmas miracle. Go know, right?
Tinsel Trivia: Know who provided Ziggy’s voice? Nobody. He didn’t talk! That’s nice. I wish there were more Ziggys in the world.
It occurs to me that “Ziggy’s Gift” may have been the last great holiday special of my time. I’d ask my friend, nostalgia victim Harry Carbohydrate, what his opinion is if I could ever get him to stop watching “The Star Wars Holiday Special.” (As all Star Warriors know, said holiday special, from which Lucas has distanced himself 30 parsecs, premiered November 17, 1978 on CBS. I’ll spare you the synopsis, but suffice to say Bruce Vilanch, who, two years earlier, penned “The Paul Lynde Halloween Special” lent his rapier wit to the proceedings.) Seated a zeptometer from his TV, Harry’s been studying his poorly re-dubbed videotape with a tenacity typically observed in rebuffed UFOlogists. Sure it’s compelling – Bea Arthur serenading a giant rat – but so’s digging up a cesspool…for a little while. Two hours, this thing is! Find yourself a bootlegged copy of this “fabled disaster” (Carbo’s phrase) and suffer like the rest of us. I give it 4.5 out of 5 Ziggy’s. Mostly because you’ve never seen anything like it in your life!
I hope you won’t confuse my flippancy with cynicism. I love Christmas. Everything about it! Especially, as I’ve mentioned, the holiday specials, of which “Ziggy’s Gift” almost tops the list (narrowed out only by “Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol”).
“Ziggy’s Gift” was recently released on DVD. So it’s easily available, despite my feigned ignorance earlier. It’s touching without being manipulative. Funny, but never snide. Mirroring the best of humanity (which can still be quite benevolent), it illustrates how a little kindness goes a long way.
I give “Ziggy’s Gift” 5 out of 5 Bea Arthurs.