Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Every holiday season, I volunteer to be Santa Claus at local charity fundraisers, friends’ parties and a host of other events. I love being Santa, for a variety of reasons. I love the look of amazement in a young child’s eyes (usually between 2-8) when you know he or she still believes. I even like the skeptical “whatever” stare I get from teenagers when I can plainly see that the magic of the big guy is no longer in their lives. And I even enjoy the lustful look that 40-something thrice-divorced women who are into fat guys give me as they insist on sitting on my lap.
Over the years, I have developed a 10-point plan for being a believable Santa Claus. If you ever have to don the costume and play the role, you should really read these.
1. Play the part 100%
As my acting coach used to say -- “Go all out or don’t go.” If you believe you’re really Santa then everyone else will buy into it. Wearing the costume is a privilege, so don’t do anything that might spoil the big man’s image – like smoke, swear, spit, hit on women or break loud wind.
2. Learn your ho’s
A weak “ho, ho, ho!” greeting is the quickest way to be labeled a weak, panty-waist Santa Claus and nobody wants a wimpy St. Nick in their presence. Practice your delivery before the gig, and make sure you use a loud, deep, bass-heavy voice with just the correct amount of pacing. Think jolly, yet confident. Assured and comforting, with a twinkle on the side. Project your voice and shake the rafters!
3. Control your beard
The most important part of the outfit is the hair and beard. Too many times a cheap or poorly attached beard will ruin the illusion. First off, purchase or rent a high-quality beard. Use safety pins or small two-sided adhesive strips to make sure the beard doesn’t shift. One time a 10-year-old girl said to me, “Santa, your beard is falling off. I know there is no such thing as Santa, but I don’t want to ruin it for the little kids who still believe in you.” She then re-adjusted my beard.
4. Don’t skimp on the costume
Get the high-end suit, not the Walgreen’s one. It may cost a little more money, but it’s worth it. Kids aren’t stupid and they’ll know you’re not Kris Kringle right away if you skimp on the costume.
5. Don’t get hammered
This can be embarrassing. On one particular holiday evening I over-imbibed on some cheap red wine. One little kid who was sitting on my lap looked as his mother and said, “Hey mom – Santa smells just like daddy – like Gallo.” I corrected the child and told him that it was actually Kenwood. That was bad. Lay off the sauce when you’re Santa. There will be plenty of time to hit the egg nog later at the after-party.
6. No lap dances
Keep adults off your lap. It’s unnatural and unhealthy and can lead to sexual harassment charges if and when a party gets out of hand.
7. Do your research
Children will invariably ask a lot of specific questions. “What’s your definition of ‘bad’?”; “Why do you go down chimneys instead of through the front door?” and “Why are there Santa Clauses on every street corner downtown?” They’re interrogating you to see if you’re the genuine article. My advice is, if you’re going to be Santa Claus, do a little research beforehand. Check out Wikipedia. Work on your background story. Learn a few interesting facts that you can impress tots and tykes with. (For instance, did you know that Santa started appearing in red and white in the mid-to-late 19th century when he appeared in Coca Cola advertisements? Until then, Santa wore all-white, green or other assorted colors.)
8. Bring a towel
I have had many a two-year-old (those who aren’t scared to death of Santa) deposit all kinds of things in my lap. Need I elaborate? There’s nothing worse than a stinky Santa!
9. Have a Mrs. Claus to help you
Make your job a lot easier and bring an assistant. I used to hire a little person to help me, but he kept grabbing soccer moms and I had to let him go. Now my fiancée plays Mrs. Claus and it works out well. She can get the kids’ names and find out what they want before they hit your lap or warn you about a brat before you get kicked in the shin or smacked in the juevos.
10. Go tough love when necessary
A lot of teenagers will try to insult you to make themselves look cool in front of their friends. Maybe some of you did stuff like this when you were that age. I remember kicking Mickey Mouse in the butt at Disneyland one time when I was 11. That’s why they call it adolescent behavior. In these instances, I will lean over and whisper a word of useful advice into the offending party’s ear, something like, “Don’t make Santa go medieval on your ass.” or “I snapped an elf’s neck last week and he was just about your size.” You know, something to get their attention.
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