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Van Gogh-Goghs in Secret Santa Fraud Scandal

LOS ANGELES (Xmassociated Press - Dec. 20, 1999) -- Local sketch comedy group The Van Gogh-Goghs' annual Christmas get-together was wracked by accusations of fraud when members discovered discrepancies in their annual "Secret Santa" name-drawing program.

"Secret Santa" is a Yuletide custom of giving gifts anonymously. The selection process is done by drawing names out of a hat, or hat-like device. Usually performed by small groups of people who have no real feelings for each other, such as co-workers or distant relatives, the Secret Santa ritual allows people to exchange cheap generic gifts with the illusion that they have spiritually participated in celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of humanity.

According to a Van Gogh-Gogh spokesperson, the six members initially drew names at random shortly after Thanksgiving. Group members Alan Benson and Galen Black discovered the fraud Dec. 5, when Benson called Black for a gift suggestion for Childs.

"Galen knows the kind of crap he likes -- comic books and salt water taffy and kewpie dolls and junk like that," Benson said.

At this point, Black revealed that he had also drawn Childs. A prompt flurry of phone calls quickly found that all remaining Van Gogh-Goghs had all drawn the name "T. Mike Childs," including Childs himself.

Childs denied allegations of fraud in creating the name slips for the hat. "They can't prove it was me," said Childs. "Lots of people have my handwriting."

The group acted quickly to allay public concerns about fraud. Van Gogh-Gogh Charles Rempel confiscated the ceremonial "Name-Drawing-From" hat the group uses to assign gift-giving responsibilities from Childs (in years past, it has been stored in an honored place in the middle of Childs' bedroom, underneath a pile of soiled underwear) and announced a second drawing on Dec. 8.

For the second drawing, each member made his own slip, and Childs was not allowed near the hat. However, the second drawing was flawed as well-- Benson's name was entered twice and Black's not at all.

"We think Galen may have written Alan's name thinking it was his," Rempel said. "Benson and Black both start with a 'B,' and, well... Galen's not so smart."

The Benson-Black mixup wasn't the only problem reported at the second drawing, according to Van Gogh-Gogh Jason Torchinsky: "I'm not sure who this 'King T. Cool Mike of the Universe' name I drew is supposed to be. Charles, is this you?"

The experience has soured the group on this year's gift exchange and left future gift exchanges in serious doubt.

"Now we're all so sick of it we may just drop the whole thing altogether," said group member Rob Terrell. "Like I fucking wanted to in the first place. They never fucking listen."

"I can't stand this hideous charade for another minute," he added.

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