Right Outraged Over White House Hedda Lettuce Christmas Tree Ornament

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday December 23, 2009

Showing that they are not out of step with mainstream America after all, the extreme right wing has shifted its focus from health care reform and taxes to raise the alarm about a menace that lurks even now in the White House: Christmas tree ornaments that sport the likenesses of Mao Tse-tung and drag performer Hedda Lettuce.

People and groups from around the country submitted the tree's decorations, and the tree, along with the rest of the White House's decorations, supervised by England-born Simon Doonan, the creative director of Barney's department store in New York.

Right wing site Big Government noted in a Dec. 22 posting that Doonan's designs have rankled the right on previous occasions, as when he created a Christmas window display depicting Margaret Thatcher as "a dowdy dominatrix" and former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle as "a ventriloquist's dummy."

The posting included a series of photographs of various ornaments that are visible on the White House tree. "Of course, Mao has his place in the White House," read text accompanying a photo of an ornament decoupaged with, among other things, a bright yellow image of the Chinese communist dictator.

"And, of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without an ornament of legendary transvestite Hedda Lettuce," the text added, showing another decoupaged bulb that sported the face of the drag entertainer amongst a number of rainbows. A second photo of the same bulb sought to show where Hedda Lettuce had personalized the ornament with a written message. "He/She even signed it," read the text.

The site also posted a photo showing an ornament on which Obama's face was seemingly pasted over a photo of Mt. Rushmore.

At right wing chat site FreeRepublic.com, where news featuring even a hint of gay content is often posted for the delectation of participants, the ornaments were seized upon as proof that "This administration is the definition of obscenity."

The individual who posted that sentiment said, "No Christmas is complete without an atheist Communist tyrant decorating the tree."

Wrote another, "Well...I guess it could be worse.At least there's not a baby Obama in the whitehouse nativity scene.(Yet)."

"The White House will have to be fumigated when these two a'holes leave (in 2012!) " posted another chat participant.

"The left's beloved Mao," posted another, proceeding to include a bit of verse.

"Mao's tactics were very simple:

The enemy advances, we retreat.

The enemy camps, we harass.

The enemy tires, we attack.

The enemy retreats, we pursue."

Hedda Lettuce also blogged about the ornament at his site, recounting that, "I was doing some volunteer work with SAGE, at the Gay Community Center in NYC. SAGE is an organization that helps elder gay people by providing them social activities and a community space to hang out with their peers. It was a festive afternoon, for our task of the day was decorating Christmas ornaments for the Presidential tree in the White House. As it turns out, the White House sends ornaments to various organizations, the job is to make them dazzle in hopes that they will be proudly displayed at the big white mansion in our nations capital. So a few of us gathered around pots of glue, brushes and torn paper to decoupage the afternoon away. After I was done with my ornament I discreetly signed it-xoxo Hedda Lettuce, let it dry, and then placed in a box to be shipped to Washington. I completely forgot about it until yesterday when I received an excited phone call from Bertis, one of the executives at SAGE:

"'Hedda I just wanted to tell you I was in Washington and there was your ornament, in full view, with your signature, hanging on the tree in the Blue Room. I have posted some pictures of it on Facebook.'"

The White House Christmas tree is set up in the Blue Room. Hedda Lettuce noted the effect this had on the ornament's appearance: "When I looked at the photo of the ball, it was not my signature green color, it was many shades of blue. Not only was my ball hanging in the White House, my blue ball is hanging in the White House.

"I may never get equal rights, I may never be blond and pencil thin, I may never see Lady Gaga in concert this winter at Madison Square Garden," continued the openly gay entertainer, whose real name is Steven Polito, "but one of my balls is hanging in the White House with my name for all to see. Just for today that feels a bit better than me having the right to marry."

The ornaments prompted a call to action by right wing "patriots" from the Web site ResistNet.com, which listed the names and contact information of several people at William Morris Endeavor, the agency that represents Doonan. The site encouraged readers to "Let Mr. Doonan hear from you about his offensive ornaments on our nations christmas tree" care of those contacts.

Doonan's Christmas ornament antics were predicted in a Nov. 30 New York Times article, which reported that the designer had been chosen to decorate the White House this year and, given Doonan's past design flourishes, foresaw that "mistletoe mischief" would be afoot.

"Mr. Doonan, the creative director of Barneys New York and a tart-tongued columnist in The New York Observer, was selected several months ago to organize this year's public displays for the holidays, the Obamas' first in the White House, according to a person familiar with the planning," the article, written by Eric Wilson, said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.