Celebrity gift guide

Five of Chico’s star shoppers share their holiday buying tips

When you’re out braving the crowds, elbowing some mommy so your kid can have the last light saber on the shelf, you might find some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. The News & Review talked to several shoppers who, while they may be big names around town, don’t have personal shoppers or toady assistants to do their bidding. This is Chico, after all.

So, in the interest of learning from experience, please read on and see who shops where, why and their suggestions for making this year’s gift-giving go a little more smoothly. From the vice mayor to a local musician, they’re all aiming to please friends and family on Christmas morning.

On a mission

Shopping not a vice for Councilwoman Kirk

Chico Vice Mayor Maureen Kirk (soon to be numero uno, if reports are true) doesn’t have a whole lot of time to shop, but it’s just as well. Kirk is not the kind of person to spend all day at Gucci anyway. (Even if Chico had a Gucci—does anyone have a Gucci?)

“I don’t go shopping blindly,” she said. “I don’t really like shopping that much.”

Instead of hunting and pecking for gifts at chain stores and outlets, Kirk said she goes on specific shopping missions at stores where she knows the people on her list like to shop.

She also tries to keep local money in the pockets of local merchants, frequenting such downtown stores as Sports Ltd. for backpacking supplies for her active 17-year-old son.

“I’m really a downtown person,” she said. “I always try to shop in town.”

Kirk buys gifts for about six people each year, typically spending $400 or $500. The most extravagant gift she ever gave was an iMac computer for her husband. She wasn’t sure if that counted, though, seeing as he already knew what he was getting.

When it comes time to wrap up her gift-buying, she heads out to the mall to look for men’s clothing items for the guys in her life.

“I don’t find as much men’s clothing downtown as I do at the mall,” she said.

While she admitted it is harder to shop for the older people in her life than it is for the younger ones, she never forgets to get presents for her two aunts, both in their 80s. Last year, she gave them framed family pictures, which were received with grateful “oohs and ahhs.”

Go-lucky gifts

Local singer-songwriter Barbara Manning’s tips for the reluctant shopper

“Honestly, I’m not really much of a shopper,” admits singer/songwriter and student Barbara Manning. “I generally only buy something for someone if I see something that’s right for that person. You know, that reminds me of them.”

Manning explains that this year may be especially dry since she’s low on cash. But that doesn’t mean she won’t shop for friends at such familiar local music stores as Melody Records/Ital Imports (where she suggests a gift certificate as a good idea) and the musician’s haven, Sound Source, where she can pick up anything from strings and picks to capos or whatever her fellow musicians might need.

“I really haven’t utilized downtown Chico that much as a shopping center,” Manning says. “I’m sure there are lots of other good places that I’m not aware of.”

The highly noncommercial Manning says she often enjoys making gifts for friends such as beads and necklaces.

“Homemade gifts are always good when you don’t have any money to be creative … but I don’t want to give away too many of my ideas and ruin the surprise.”

In the past, she has also used one of her most unique personal gifts, her nationally recognized songwriting abilities (she once graced the cover of Spin magazine and has performed with noted rock acts from Sonic Youth to Calexico), to actually write songs for friends and present them with a personalized recording.

“I once wrote a song for my two gay uncles who got married called, ‘Today Will Be the Day,'” Manning recalls. “That was a good one.

Lassoing a shopping strategy

KHSL DJ Terry Jones proves a country boy can survive shopping

“Country radio DJ Terry Jones has a couple of confessions: He’s been on a horse only twice in his life, and he doesn’t really care if he gets anything for Christmas.

It’s all about the kids—his three children, ages 5 to 8.

Jones gets goose bumps when he remembers the year he got his first bicycle, and then how happy his own kids look opening their presents. “It’s nice to get the gifts, but to see my kids get so excited at Christmastime, you live vicariously through the kids and it brings back memories.”

Jones usually goes shopping with his wife, and they hit the toy shops—"mostly the big chain stores.” For more unusual gifts, he said, “Bird In Hand is a neat store. You can find stuff for adults and kids in there.”

On this year’s list, compiled carefully by the kids who are lovingly spoiled by aunts and uncles, “there’s lots of Hot Wheels and Barbies—you can’t have too many Barbies.” A big-ticket item is the American Girls dolls, which run more than $100, not counting all their little accessories. The kids also want CDs this year, “all the bubblegum ones, pop, like Britney Spears. Britney is all right, but I don’t think they need to be listening to Christina Aguilera.

“They want a dog, but we already have a dog, a St. Bernard, who’s big enough for two dogs,” Jones added. His wife “likes a little bit of jewelry—simple stuff.” And since his wife likes to cook, a gift from The Galley is always a hit. Or he’ll trek down to Trader Joe’s in Sacramento. The Chico Mall is always a good choice.

He drew his brother-in-law’s name for the family gift exchange this year, and, “I have no clue what I’m going to get him.” He’s thinking he’ll try one of the Western stores, since the brother-in-law lives in Montana.

As for his solo shopping trips, Jones said, “I’m a guy. I have to wait until Dec. 23.” He’s just kidding. … He’s also an old hand at wrapping gifts. “I’m not tape-challenged,” he said.

Jones also was the Chico News & Review’s readers’ pick for “Best Celebrity,” so if you see him out shopping, give him a hearty “Howdy.

little Christmas

Musician Christine LaPado’s plan to make spirits bright

“If you spend any time whatsoever in the downtown Chico area, you are sure to have seen her. And heard her. Christine LaPado is a musician—a bassist, specifically. She can be found on almost any given night of the week in some neighborhood coffee house or restaurant slapping the strings on a huge upright bass in some jazz combo—more often than not with Jazz Laboratory, which also usually includes guitarist Bruce MacMillan and sax-man Bob Aranguren.

In the house she shares with husband John LaPado (also a musician, currently playing pedal steel guitar with country-punk band The Asskickers) and almost-2-year-old daughter Lydia, we discussed her gift-buying ideas for Christmas.

“One thing for sure that I get every year is a calendar for my sister who lives in Austria,” says LaPado. “I like to get her something [that depicts] American [cities and scenery] and that she will remember me by over the course of the year. And it’s got to be something that isn’t too expensive to mail. And Barnes & Noble is the place for that—they’ve got tons of really cool calendars.”

Her son from a previous marriage, Ben—also a musician, a clarinetist—is currently in the Army and touring Europe with a military band. She points out that it’s better to send him “small things” that will easily fit into his suitcase because he travels so much. CDs from Tower Records seem to fit the bill nicely. “I just sent him the new Pink CD, which I’m sure he’ll like.

“I go to JC Penny for one item,” she continues, “Gold-toe socks. For my husband and my son. That’s the only place in town to get them. They’re the ones my son prefers, and he turned John on to them, so now they both prefer them.”

As for daughter Lydia, LaPado says she’s thinking of purchasing a parakeet. “She’s really fascinated with them. So we were at PetCo the other day, looking at parakeets and cages and supplies and prices and all of that. They have a good deal [on parakeets] over there, and some really cute ones.”

LaPado is also big on “dollar stores,” claiming she frequents them as often as some people would yard sales and thrift shops. She particularly likes the new Silver Dollar Store in the old Ray’s Video space in the Albertson’s shopping center off East Avenue and the Esplanade. “They have a lot of Asian imports and things, like ceramic rice bowls.”

LaPado is planning on putting together a chopsticks (from House of Rice) and rice bowl (from aforementioned Silver Dollar Store) combo gift set that is sure to strike several happy notes for many friends and relatives this Christmas.

Read all about it

Wake-Up co-host reveals she shops at dollar stores

Maureen Naylor, that bright spot on local morning television, says she’s been a top-notch gift wrapper since age 8. But what she puts inside that sparkly festive paper, well, we’d best let her explain.

“My co-host, Rob Blair, told me to tell you that I was getting him a muzzle,” she said. “And I think that is actually a good idea.”

Others included on Naylor’s shopping list are her Bay Area family: her three brothers (including the one at Chico State University hoping to make the Wildcat baseball team next year), her sister and her new brother-in-law; and her roommates and Bay Area friends.

That, by anyone’s standards, is a fairly hefty list. But don’t expect the quick-witted Naylor to take a significant hit in her personal budget during the shopping season. Because of size and distance this year, Naylor said, her family will probably begin practicing the old gift-exchange policy in which names are traded and only one “really nice gift” needs to be purchased, and no one feels slighted.

She said last year she did the “Chico Christmas,” meaning heavy on the Chico sweatshirts and Chico Heat paraphernalia.

“Actually, this year that is a good idea for the Chico Heat memorial gift,” she suggested, noting the recent sudden demise of the local—and very popular—professional baseball team.

Two years ago, she told us, she began what has become a tradition: buying gifts at a dollar store.

“I get everyone in my family a gag gift at the dollar store. Last year I got my brother-in-law kind of a Groucho Marx mask from Osama bin Laden, and my dad got a little cash from Katie Couric. The funny thing is that these gifts go over way better than my, quote, ‘real gifts.’ “

She said that, two years ago, when living and working in San Luis Obispo, she gave her mother a “dragonfly box.”

“She had just gotten into dragonflies, and she loved it. She still has it. I even told her I only paid a dollar for it. It’s surprising what you can find in a dollar store.”

Naylor also likes to use her iMac to edit slide shows set to music—her experience in a television news room comes into play. I promised not to reveal this year’s project so as to not spoil the surprise.

So there you have it. Local TV’s top news personality shops at dollar stores for the holidays. Now that’s a scoop.