This Just In!
By Lake Stevens, Man About Town
December 18, 2004
Santa, Can I Be Your Helper?
On a recent spree at the Beverly Center, I noticed a crowd of youngsters
standing in a tight cluster near the Grand Court. I instinctively smelled
a story. Did a new Cinnabon open? Perhaps Brittany Murphy or some other
horrible Disney leftover was signing autographs or flaunting her ribcage.
Normally I steer clear of America's youth -- what, with their hip hugger jeans
and Juicy tracksuits. I don't think that a quick trip to pick up a crystal
soup toureen for my mother-in-law should turn into a peep show of every
fourteen-year-old girl's roll of belly fat. I like to be a voyeur on my own terms.
Despite my contempt for the current "youth culture," as a celebrity journalist,
I have vowed to uphold the motto: Where There is a Star (even one of marginal
significance like Ashlee Simpson), There is Lake Stevens.
I elbowed past children, mothers and a strangely content midget couple in order
see what everyone was fussing over. To my surprise there was no lip-syncing
MTV celeb or even Danny Terrio making a "nostalgia" appearance. Instead, I
spied a fat man stuffed into some kind of cheaply-dyed, red faux fur ensemble.
That material was dreadful. And his facial hair! A gnarled white beard,
that looked as though he'd recently used it as a substitute serviette, covered
the lower part of his face. I couldn't be quite sure, but I think he had a cold
sore. I really should recommend a product so he can tame that mess. I'm
usually not too keen on revealing my grooming secrets, nor do I make a point
to get close enough to such people to even be within shouting distance. However
this was an exceptional case -- no one should have to go out in public like that
out of ignorance. Christmas is a time for giving and I could be charitable by
offering a few beauty tips that I picked up from "the wife." (On the other hand,
if this is a specific "look" that he's trying to work...or if he's just too poor
to care, far be it from me to interfere. Besides, I really could do without
contracting a case of body lice this holiday season.)
I was about to turn away and flee when everything suddenly fell into place.
Santa Claus! Of course -- that's what people do at Christmas. They pack their
six kids into the minivan and drive into the Big City for a little bit of holiday
glitz. Somehow this man had been suckered into donning the red suit, hat and
boots in order to (I guess?) please children. No man should have to endure
hour after hour of sitting in a mall while children scamper into his lap,
their firm and boney behinds pressing into his pelvis. They look up to him as the one man
who holds the key to all their hopes and dreams. Imagine it:
day-after-arduous-day of children, their hair smelling faintly of apple
and rotten eggs, crawling and squirming in his lap, whispering their deepest
desires into his ear. Yes, there was a story here. I wanted to find out how
someone could be so selfless as to incur such an obvious hardship upon himself
in order to make small, trusting children adore him for no reason other than
wearing a red suit and beard. I took a long drink from my bottle of Evian.
Mall air -- cough -- can be so dry.
I waited impatiently for "Santa" to finish up with one particularly horrid
looking boy. How can any mother in good conscience dress her child in a T-shirt
with "Old Navy" printed on the front? It may as well say: "I will one day operate
a forklift." Old Navy finally slid off Santa's lap and ran off to his mother, clutching the coloring
book every Santaland visitor receives. Before the next kid worked up the courage
to approach him, I quickly strode to Santa's side and requested an interview.
It took the promise of a hot lunch and bus fare to Torrance, but he
agreed to meet me in the food court on his next break. I spent the next hour
and a half impatiently pacing near the restrooms.
Lake: My name is Lake Stevens. I'm very pleased that you could take time
from your busy Santa schedule to meet with me.
Santa: Ok, whatever. My name is Jerry. I need something to drink -- you mind
buying me a whiskey? Make it a double.
Lake: Yes, of course. Let me order it for you. So Jerry...are you really from
the North Pole?
Jerry: (cough cough) No, I'm from Nevada. Wife divorced me -- took my girls
with her. I miss them sweet young things...the way they used to look at me
'fore their bitch mother started feeding them lies about me.
Lake: Do you have much contact with your family?
Jerry: The judge don't 'low it. All I know is that if I can't see my kids,
I ain't payin' that whore any money. All she did when we was married was suck me
ry, took everything I had. I'll be damned if she pulls that shit when we don't
even live in the same state. Yeah, so that's why I'm here. A new town, a new
start. Say, how 'bout another drink?
Lake: Sure Sure. Would you care for a salad or something nibbly? Chili cheese
fries? Ok, but I have to assume that you know what eating all that trans-fat
does to your sperm count. Alright, alright! I'll have the server bring them
with my next martini.
Have you always wanted to be a Santa? Were you a Santa in Nevada? Where was it
in Nevada you hail from?
Jerry: Jus' a small town. After I was paroled, they said I needed to get
myself a job. I seen this ad over in Hollywood outside one them theaters. I
think I had just seen Santa's Naughty Elves 14 or something. It was kind of
like "karmen" or whatever that hippie bullshit is called. What more of a sign
could you ask for? Plus I needed to eat real bad like...and I love children. All
those kids...all young and trusting. Especially the rich ones you see around
here. So eager to please, you know.
Jerry: Anyways, I came down here and signed up. Hired me on the spot! Didn't
even have to take a piss test or none of that shit. How bout that. Now I get to
be with young kids all day. Well at least till the holiday is over...but I got
it all figured out, see. I gonna be the Easter Bunny come spring. Kids get to
sit yer lap when yer tha Easter Bunny. If that don't work out, I figure I can
be one of those clowns that go visit the cancer kids. I mean, those kids are
fucked already -- what does it matter?
Lake: Er, yes, right, ahhh. Did you have to take any classes on how to
be a Santa? Any professional training? You seem to work so well with the
children. Perhaps there have been acting classes in your past? Do you rely
more on Method Acting or the Practical Aesthetics Technique?
Jerry: The what? Naw, they just gave me the suit and told me I get 7.50 an
hour and two breaks. That ain't half bad. Said that I have to get it cleaned
if I spill anything on it. Almost wrote to the ex-wife. All that bitch ever
saw was dollar signs…hearing 'bout this would show her. But that restraining
orders says no contact…and they mean no contact.
Lake: Oh! Well, thank you, Jerry. I think I have taken enough of your time.
Jerry: Hey no problem. Got to get back anyway...duty calls, you know. Can't let them
Lake: You must talk with a lot of other Santas? I would very much enjoy
meeting other gentlemen in your noble profession. I'll buy the drinks.
Jerry: Aw, sure...you seem alright, I guess. We all meet at the Tippy Top Bar
over in Hollywood. Round 9.30...after the stores all close. Plenty of them there.
Lake: I'll be there.
That night I made my way over the discarded needles and unconscious transsexual
prostitutes that give Hollywood its "charm." I soon came face to face with the
Tippy Top Bar. I heard raucous laugther pouring from the establishment (the
upper portion of the half door was open to let the smoke escape.) Luckily
"the wife" insisted I wear my track shoes and bring a pair of latex gloves (we
always make sure to have an ample supply on hand). As usual, "she" was right.
It would be grossly irresponsible to touch any surface in the joint. I would be
lying if I said I'd never been in such a place. I did have let loose that weekend
in Bangkok last summer...things I saw (did) there would make a Moscow smack whore
blush. I entered the bar. The dark, yeasty interior fondly reminded of The Rack
in NYC. I spied a group of Santas at a back table. I quickly introduced myself,
promised a round of drinks and secured several interviews.
Lake: How long have you been a Santa Claus?
Bob: I been doing this Santa gig every winter for...jeez...about five years.
Before that I used to play Santa at home all the time. Seems the neighbor boys
got a big kick of comin' over to my apartment when I was dressed as Santa.
Lake: What do you find as the most rewarding part of your job?
Bob: Aside from all the kiddies? Jeez pal...I need another beer. Help me out?
Lake: Here, take this. (I always keep a few fives in my Gucci wallet for any
transients who start to approach me. It always seems to do the trick)
Bob: Thanks, mister. Hey...I've got this rash. No health insurance...help a
Lake: Sorry, I only pay for alcohol.
At this point another Santa wandered over.
Tony: Hey. (sniff sniff) Name's Tony. Yep. You the guy who wants to know about
being a Santa? You some kind of queer or something?
Lake: Yes. And no. I am simply interested in your lifestyle. Do you need a
hankerchief? Your nose seems to be running an awful lot.
Tony: No, I'm cool. It's just the Ice. Ya cool? You aint a cop?
Lake: (Laughter!) So when did you first get the calling to be a Santa?
Tony: (sniff) Oh, you know, right after prison. This dude I shared my cell
with told me he did it every winter. He looked out for me. Got shivved in the
shower though. Well, (sniff) I was released the day after Thanksgiving -- biggest
shopping day of the year so they say -- and I really needed the bread.
I thought "why the fuck not?" I'd only been away for five years and boy,
the price of Ice aint so cheap no more. Hey, fancyman, you probably know where
I can score some good shit. I learned a few things in Prison...maybe we could work
out some sorta trade, know what I mean? They got a stall that locks here.
Lake: I appreciate the offer, but I am a happily married man. What is your
typical day like as a Santa?
Tony: Not too bad. I get there about 9 am to put on the suit. I have to
be on the floor by ten. Weekdays are ok, but weekends are pretty rough...non-stop
little bastards. Some of them stink like their parents ain't bathed them in a
year. Sometimes I get lollipops or their boogers stuck in my beard.
Lake: What happens when a kid asks for something that you know their parents
can't get for them?
Tony: I give it to them straight. I just say, "Look kid, your parents bust
their asses eight hours a day at a job they hate so you can have some decent clothes
and eat a good meal a couple times a day. Ask for too much and they ain't gonna
want you no more. Believe me I should know. My parents dumped my sorry ass on the
street one Christmas 'cause I kept bugging them for a BB gun."
Lake: Thank you so much for sharing your story. I really feel like I've
come to know the life of a Santa.
Tony: No sweat, fancyman. Sure I can't do a little favor for ya? We're all
going down to the theater on the corner. Whyn't you come along?
Lake: We-ell, "the wife" is out of town. But only for the sake of journalism.
-Lake Stevens, Man About Town