Dr. Christmas Helps You Decorate Like a Star

For 24 years, Christmas decorators to the stars Bob Pranga and his business partner Debi Staron have been making visions of sugarplums a reality for Hollywood’s biggest celebrities.

The pair’s impressive client roster includes Heidi Klum, James Cameron, Kate Hudson, Kathy and Paris Hilton, Diane Keaton and Billy Bob Thornton, among many others.

Together Pranga and Staron own and operate Dr. Christmas. This Los Angeles-based holiday decorating company provides custom Christmas designs for celebrity homes and business offices. They’ve also created winter wonderlands for television shows and motion pictures such as Nip/Tuck, Fred Claus and Surviving Christmas.

“[Debi and I] actually met at an acting school in New York in the 1980s,” Pranga tells Celebuzz during a rare break from his hectic schedule on a Friday afternoon. “We moved out to L.A. together to be roommates. In the process, I got  hired over the phone to manage a Christmas store, and offered her a job as my assistant.”

Bob credits meeting and working for Paris Hilton’s mother, Kathy, with gaining him access to the high-profile Hollywood clientele that provides the backbone for his Dr. Christmas business.

“I ended up working at Elizabeth Staircase, which shut down and got taken over by none other than Kathy Hilton,” Bob says. “I worked for her for two or three years until she closed the store down. Now I still work for her every year and she calls me all the time when she has ideas.

“When I first started this gig, I would call my self The Christmas Guy,” the famed decorator adds. “Kathy said, ‘If you wanna make it in this town, watch me.’ She opened a lot of doors for me, and it was really great. Than I started thinking, If I wanna make a living at this I gotta get myself on television. One of my clients said I work 24 hours, making house calls…and that’s how I got my name Dr. Christmas.”

Bob’s goal of getting on television became a reality. After more than two decades, both he and Debi are celebrities in their own right, doling out their collective decorating advice to daytime talk-show audiences each year around the holidays. 

And now, after more than two decades in the business, does “Dr. Christmas” still get starstruck around his clients?

“I hate to say that I’ve been in this town long enough, but truth be told its always exciting to acquire a new celeb name—if nothing else just to meet them and see what they’re like,” Pranga says.

“I can always tell when it’s a celebrity calling because they have their people call and I go, ‘I’m not gonna blow up your  house, just tell me who you’re working for!’ I got a call from Ryan Seacrest last week, and his people were like, ‘Well, I can’t tell you who it is but he’s got two successful radio shows, TV shows…'”

There’s no doubt Hollywood stars like Seacrest will keep adding Bob to their very own wish list for years to come.

Holiday Tips

WHEN TO PUT UP YOUR TREE: “I wouldn’t put a live tree up until two weeks before Christmas. But if you’re talking artificial, at least wait till Halloween goes by. People who love Christmas take it down after the 5th of January. People who leave the lights up year round are ridiculous!”

KEEPING YOUR TREE ALIVE: “Well, don’t cut it down! The thing with the live tree is,  you can’t put them near heating vents, windows or fireplaces and keep a fresh cut on them. Water is a must. Sprite works. Diet coke is wrong—your tree is not on a diet. The sugar and acid combination actually keeps  the tree sap going strong.”

HOLIDAY PARTY HOST/HOSTESS GIFTS: “I always say bring something that the host could use to enhance the party, like champagne or  an activity. At Christmas, the last thing people need is another ornament. You’re not gonna buy something that’s their taste, so that’s out. I’d  rather have someone say, ‘Hey, I got you a couple movie tickets.’ And forget tree-decorating parties, because no one’s actually into that. They hang one ornament and drink a lot, then you spend the whole next day fixing it!”

DECORATING YOUR HOME LIKE A CELEB: “For celebrities, or anybody, it’s more about  the emotional impact of it than anything else. There has always got to be an element of the client represented somewhere in the house, even if it may be small. Sometimes people in Hollywood feel that they have to do a glorious presentation, very commercial, very showy. But if you really look hard in any celebrity’s home you will find an element of their childhood—as you would with anybody.”

TRENDS FOR 2008: “Whatever happened last year in fashion, color scheme-wise, generally shows up in Christmas this year. And whatever materials used in clothing are elements that turn into ribbons, with left over fabrics. Last year the colors were blue, chocolate brown—colors with mid-century feel to it. So a lot of that color scheme has entered the Christmas market this year. This year’s trends are also all about politics. Democrats are all about trendy things. They’re willing to go into other colors for Christmas, and to try newer things.”

Also available for order is Bob Pranga and Debi Staron’s decorating tip book Christmas Style, as well as their Complete Christmas Tree instructional DVD.