Hollywood Portrait: The Gift-Bringer

Santa Claus describes his remarkable life and work.

Wearing a bright red suit with black boots and sporting an impressive  beard, he was allowing successive children to come and sit on his lap and tell him their Christmas wishes. Not sure if he was an imposter or the real deal, Patch arranged an interview with him, and he accepted, generously taking time in the midst of his busiest season, Christmastime, to talk about being Santa Claus.

Name: Santa Claus. Though people also call me Kris Kringle, St. Nick and often just Father Christmas.

Original Hometown: North Pole.

Really? You actually live year round at the North Pole? Well, except Christmastime, of course, during which I am away on a business trip. And then usually in early February Mrs. Claus and I will get away for a few weeks to somewhere warm. This year she’s talking about going to a dude ranch outside of Phoenix, but I think I can talk her out of that. [Laughs] Ho ho ho.

What do you do? You mean you don’t know? I am internationally famous and beloved. But these days if you’re not in the news for a month or two, you’re forgotten.

Well, I am a gift-giver, mostly, I bring presents to children – and also adults, if they are deserving – around the world for Christmas. And I own and run a workshop where we build toys – but also we do clothes, furniture, some electronics – and my daughter Sally is in charge of candy. And we do a lot of candy. Candy canes, mostly, but also some delicious chocolates. I insist on trying each and every one! [Laughs] Ho ho ho!

I didn’t even know you had a daughter. Well, I’m not surprised. Like most journalists, you seem rather uninformed. Yes, I have one daughter, Sally Claus. And two sons, Santa Jr. and Norman.

Norman Claus? You’ve heard of him?  He’s our accountant. The kid is a whiz with numbers. Not like me!

This workshop is in the North Pole? No, it’s in Milwaukee. Of course, it’s in the North Pole!

Do you have a big crew of people? Of people? Uh no. [Laughs] Ho ho! There’s me, of course, and Mrs. Claus, and our three kids. Right before the big Christmas rush Katie usually comes with her family, and her assistant and her nanny. Katie Couric. She’s a TV star. Heard of her?

Katie Couric? Yes, I’ve heard of her. She's a sweet girl. I've watched her grow up.

Who are the workers? Who makes the toys? Oh, the workers. We have elves! Didn’t you know? We have now 17 elves. We used to have nine, but three of them had eight babies. And those babies are now full-grown. Well, as far full-grown as elves get. [Laughs] Ho ho HO! That’s how we know Katie – she is part-elf. Her daddy’s an elf; been with me for nearly 70 years.

Seventy years? That’s a long time. How long have you been doing this? Well, it has been a long time. I started full-time Christmas of 1870. Before that I went to school and apprenticed.

With who? The Yule Goat. He’s a goat in Finland, pretty much started this whole tradition. At first his thing was to scare kids, like a monster – and demand gifts from them. But after several years of that, he started to feel bad about himself and thought about how it would feel to give the gifts rather than just demand them. Besides, they never gave him great gifts, cause they were scared of him. He’d get like all old spoons and worn snow-shoes and moldy cheese. So he decided to start giving the gifts, but the scope of the operation, just the delivery alone, was way beyond him. So I took over.

What happened to the Goat? Actually he lives out here now. In Palm Springs.

Do you like Hollywood? I love Hollywood! I always have. I love flying over the hill and seeing the big sign. This is where all the best movies about me have been made. Also the worst. But for those few good ones, I am always grateful. Hollywood has been good to Santa Claus. I also adore the food at , as does Mrs. Claus. We’re both appreciative of a good martini, and they make the best there. We don’t have restaurants like that where I live.

So you deliver all the presents as well? That’s right. Again – this stuff is pretty well known – have you heard of Wikipedia? Yes, I personally deliver each present myself.

To all the children of the world? That’s impossible. You’re telling me! It is impossible. And yet, each and every year, we do the impossible. And that is the miracle of Christmas. Well, one of the many miracles. I have a team of flying reindeer. We actually have fourteen now – but I go out with nine on Christmas Eve. And these reindeer – they are pros. They are highly trained, and very good at what they do.

People have always been appreciative. You'd be amazed by how many plates of cookies I get. I don't need that many cookies! But it's sweet. Carrots for the reindeer even.

I understand a lot of people don’t believe in you. [Laughs] Well, you know, a lot of people don’t believe a lot of stuff that’s true. There are people who don’t believe in global warming.

You do? Do I? [Laughs] Ho ho ho! I live in the North Pole! Which used to be about as big as Texas. Now it’s like Rhode Island! Yeah, I think I believe!

So is this an especially busy Christmas for you? Well, not much busier than any other year. It’s a lot of work for an old man. Just the record-keeping alone. I have a list of all children, and we record which of them has been naughty and which has been nice.

And the naughty ones don’t get gifts? They do get gifts – that’s just a myth that I don’t bring gifts to the naughty children. If I didn’t, I don’t think there’d be much work for old Santa! Kids are kids, after all. But the especially nice ones, they do get something extra special each year.

Well, Santa, thank you for taking this time in the middle of what I know is your craziest time of year. You’re very welcome. It is the craziest, but also the most wonderful. I love what I do. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. [Laughs] Ho ho ho ho ho!


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