The Santa Files

Our dossier on the jolly guy shows he's not exactly the sweetheart you think he is.

December 09, 2003|By Michael Ollove | Michael Ollove,SUN STAFF

You think you know him. Fat guy. Red suit. Could use a shave, or at least a trim. You'd know him anywhere, right? Santa Claus - or whatever he's calling himself these days. Father Christmas maybe. Or Kris Kringle. Or St. Nick. Doesn't matter. You figure you could pick him out of any lineup. For that matter, you could pick him out of an opening day crowd at Camden Yards.

You know this guy. You know him.

Or you think you do.

When you get right down to it, does anybody really know anybody?

We got to thinking about this, here at The Sun. Sure, we've written a lot about this guy, this Santa Claus, over the years. The North Pole thing. The reindeer. The gifts. The lists. All that public relations stuff. We started wondering, though: Maybe we know only what they want us to know, what his handlers are willing for us to know. Maybe there's more. Unknown stuff. Hidden stuff. A more complex story, perhaps. What we in the storytelling biz call, a more nuanced portrait. You know. Dirt.

So we did some digging. We poked around. We asked some questions. We rolled some microfilm.

Low and behold, we got some hits. Did we ever. Some of it was unappetizing, some odd, some salacious even. Let's just say it was pretty gratifying.

Turns out Santa has been busy, and we don't mean just delivering toys. Turns out Mister Claus - and we use the word "Mister" loosely here, as you will see - has been making the rounds of the police blotter and court docket with some regularity. What you are about to read, troubling and alarming as it may be, is absolutely true, a side of Santa Claus you never dreamed of, a side of him they never wanted you to see. It's nothing you'll come across in your Christmas pageants or hear about in your Christmas carols. You'll only read it here.

In the Santa Files.

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla., Dec. 5, 1978: Police are on the look-out for Santa after dozens of fans attending a Moody Blues concert paid him to park their cars in a lot near the auditorium. When they returned, they found their cars had been towed because it wasn't a parking lot, and Santa didn't own it.

MARINETTE, Wis., Nov. 17, 1980: Firefighters responded to an emergency call at the Dome Motor Inn where they found Santa Claus stuck in the chimney. It took half an hour to free him.

CAPE JUNCTION, Ore., Dec. 21, 1980: Santa was cited by wildlife officials for exhibiting three blacktail deer in a Christmas display without a permit. Said Santa, "I doubt if the handful of children standing around yesterday will ever forget the time they saw Santa Claus get a ticket."

LONDON, December 1981: Santa Claus landed in a magistrate's court for punching a teen-ager who had sprayed him with foam. "I told the kid to go away, but he wouldn't listen," Santa said, "so I gave him a clip around the ear."

LONDON, Dec. 3, 1981: Two Santas were hauled before a magistrate after getting into a fistfight when they both showed up on the same street corner to sell merchandise. Said the arresting officer, Constable Derek Spencer, "The fur was really flying."

EVERETT, Wash., December 1982: A department store took away Santa's job on the grounds that he was a she. The Bon store insisted Mr. Claus could only be a lesser paid Mrs. Claus. A woman Santa was too confusing for kids, the store said. Santa objected. Children don't mind a female Santa Claus, she said, "because when you get into a Santa suit, all they see is your nose and eyes."

CHARLESTON, W. Va., December 1982: A "greetings" company announced its newest offering for the holiday season: a stripping Santa Claus. For a mere $10 a minute, Santa would go to Christmas parties and shuck off his red suit, white beard and black boots until he is down to Santa's bikini briefs. "He's just gorgeous," said Sandy Sowell, president of Best Wishes. "I'm sure he'll go over big, if you know what I mean."

PENSACOLA, Fla., December 1982: Santa Claus sued the mall that fired him, charging religious discrimination. Santa said he was Jewish.

CHATHAM, England, Dec. 19, 1983: Santa was hauled away after he aimed a punch at a young visitor to "Santa's Grotto." Police said Santa was riled by what he considered the boy's cheekiness and swung on him. The kid ducked, and Santa hit the next boy in line. "Unfortunately," a store spokesman said, "Santa lost his cool."

WAUKENGAN, Ill., Dec. 9, 1995: Santa Claus was arrested at the Lakehurst Mall after slugging a supervisor at a shopping center. Assistant State's Attorney George Strickland said the supervisor objected to Santa's practice of instructing kids to say, "School sucks," while having their pictures taken with him. After the supervisor told him to knock it off, Santa clocked him.

"We don't take too many Santas into custody," said Strickland. "Generally, we like to have them out for the Christmas season."

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