Holiday greetings from Hollywood ?- Low budgets and creative minds create this year's Christmas cards

Tis the season to be socially conscious — at least that’s the message being sent by this year’s batch of holiday greeting cards from entertainment biggies. Unlike the high-concept cards that once decorated Hollywood’s faux mantelpieces, today’s power cards — printed on ecologically correct paper — express cause-oriented Christmas sentiments, and often inform the recipient that a charity donation has been made in his or her name. ”People in Hollywood are realizing you don’t need all the glitz to get someone’s attention,” says Marc Friedland of Creative Intelligence, an L.A. graphics studio that has designed cards in the past for Steven Spielberg, Paramount Pictures, and Entertainment Weekly. ”You get their attention with the cleverness of the content and the poignancy of the message.”

The card Friedland designed for Quincy Jones, for instance, is typically artistic and eco-minded. Featuring an original painting by the late Miles Davis acquired from the musician’s estate, the card is printed on ”100 percent post-consumer recycled paper” and decorated with a ribbon fashioned from ”natural” raffia fiber.

For those wishing to make a more direct social statement, the holiday greeting card of choice encloses a charitable donation notice. ”We think it’s more appropriate to give to charity. If people want to give gifts this year, they’re doing it out of their own pockets,” says Mike Medavoy, chairman of TriStar Pictures, which is sending out donation cards for 10 charities, including the Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. ”Card drives, ” which raise money through sales of cards at major L.A. charities, attract a host of power players. Board members Barry Diller, Bette Midler, and Kim Basinger have purchased cards from Hollywood guru Marianne Williamson’s Center for Living, which supports individuals with life-threatening illnesses.

While some card designers and foundation directors say the shift from gilt to guilt reflects Hollywood’s growing concern with AIDS and ecology — at least when it comes to yuletide greetings — others suggest the new trend is largely dictate by recession economics. In other words, the Budget Grinch has stolen Hollywood’s Christmas. ”Indulging in an elaborate Christmas card right now seems like wretched excess,” says Los Angeles Times society writer Jeannine Stein. However, cards from the Pet Shop Boys, Flavor Flav, and Naughty by Nature show that humor isn’t absent. And power-card givers like nouveau hotelier Merv Griffin and Knots Landing‘s Joan Van Ark are obviously still willing to lavish attention on good cheer. After all, somebody has to put the tinsel in Tinseltown.