Santas I have known

Saturday, December 23, 2017

By Charles Kraus 
aka Charles The Clown

“Is this the line for cheeseburgers?” 
"NO! It’s for Santa!"

That’s a kid responding to my question. I’ve been Charles The Clowning my way through life — more than 50 years of performing for children, including hundreds and hundreds of Christmas events.

That means I’ve introduced, worked with, and/or helped to sober up hundreds and hundreds of Santa Clauses. Evidently kids are not particular about who is wearing the outfit.

I finish my show, making the final extra gigantic balloon reindeer. My puppet and I are saying good-bye when suddenly we hear something.

"Hold on kids." I look up. 
Could it be … ? 
"I think Santa might be up there." 

Puppet: "Santa Monica?"
"No … that’s to the south."

Puppet: "Santa Barbara?"
"To the north."

Puppet: "Santa Who?"
"Santa CLAUS!"

I point to the door, the prearranged door, for the prearranged entrance. I’ve said my line … now Santa is supposed to come rushing in.

Not yet? Where is he?

"OK. Kids, maybe he’s having trouble finding a parking spot for the sleigh. Perhaps his GPS isn’t working and he can't locate us. Why don’t we shout “Hello Santa!”


Eventually, when he, or she, is ready, has gotten up the nerve, refastened the beard, and figured out the cue has been given … and given ... out pops Santa.

The person in the red suit is young, or old. He’s fat or skinny. He’s Black, Hispanic, Asian, Filipino. There was the Santa with the very French waxed handlebar mustache, the ends twisted into swirling curlicues. It might be time for Mrs. Santa. Santa in a wheelchair or using a walker. I’ve worked with gay Santas, with lesbian Santas, and in retrospect, possibly with transgender Santas.

One of my jobs is to travel the line, keep the kids entertained while they wait for a turn to tell The Claus what they would like for Christmas.

“I’ve got my list,” I tell them, waving it around. I start to read … 
“Bread, Milk, Swiss Cheese … hold on, that’s my shopping list.”

Sometimes I ask children what is on their Christmas list. Occasionally, having sized up the Santa they are about to meet, I’m thinking the best thing the kids could ask for would be a change of venue.

The meet and greet is a rite of passage that most kids take in stride. Some may be fearful, but I’ve heard few complaints regarding authenticity. It does strike me that most Santa impersonators have been cajoled into donning the suit. There is a reluctance. Perhaps an embarrassment aspect.

A little Ho Ho Ho. The official questions: Been good? And what do you want for Christmas? Not a demanding script.

The trick is to listen to the answers.

The better Santas help children put the gift thing into perspective.

“I’ll try to get you that, Harriet, but if the elves don’t have time to make one, I promise to get you something else you’ll enjoy.”

Say it like you mean it, Santa. And, oh …. pull down that sleeve. Your Grateful Dead tattoo is showing.


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