I didn’t take any classes. But I’ve watched all movies about Santa Claus that I could. There are a lot of kinds of Santas: you've got the aggressive Brooklyn Santa, Santa from 'A miracle on 34th Street', Santa without 'A year without Santa' – he is very soft, wise, like Dumbledore in the first Harry Potter.
Then you've got the Santa Claus from 'Rudolph', who is wise, has this long beard, he’s kind of a maverick. And he is very skinny! You cannot have a skinny Santa. But he is bossy. He comes in, and the people don't remember this, but he ridicules Rudolph in the first scene for having a bad nose. So that's not a very nice Santa. This Santa is more like a football coach. You want to get the game done, he needs the best reindeer for his team. But still, he is a good Santa.
'Bad Santa' – this Santa would be more like angry Dumbledore. But still there, still magical.
Santa from the 'Frosty the Snowman' cartoon – that was the absolute best Santa Claus. He is the softest Santa, he's forgiving. He teaches people about mortality and about letting go and forgiveness and talk about patience, this is the best Santa I think of all time. He is the one I aspire to be. I tried as much as I could. I took my voice from Rudolf's Santa, but my persona would be from 'Frosty'.
I'm a big guy, you don't mess with me, I kind of put the fear of God in them a little bit. There's a certain understanding between us, and respect, so they don't mess up with my beard and costume.
The worst that a kid might do is to say: 'You are not real Santa!' And I'm like 'OK. Merry Christmas, buddy. Smile, take the picture! I'm not going to argue with you. Ho-ho-ho!'. The ones who try to ruin it are mostly adults. That's who I have to watch out for. I've heard some Harvey Weinstein jokes. But I didn't ask you to come over here and get this photo with me. I'm just trying to spread the Christmas cheer around here.
I'm fine with that. Yeah, I've got long legs. I'll put anyone on my lap, I really don't care. I mean anyone. I've had some 300 lbs people sitting on my lap.
There were people bigger than me! Adults, puppies, I've gotten everything: I even had a baby today, three weeks old, she was the size of my hand. And once I had a 97-year-old guy. But I can endure anyone 'cause I'm young, I have strong legs, and I feel bad for older Santas. I would like more durable Santas out there.
I really get a chance to observe people, to see how we are as a society. There's a lot of distrust. The first question that people ask is 'Is it free? How much does it cost?' But it's FREE, just come on up! The first thing people are worried about is money.
It's sad that people questioning Santa – this beacon of hope – about the money.
There's a lot of cynicism also. I feel like unfortunately there's a lot of kids this month who didn't come sit on my lap because their parents didn't trust me.
I also see how much people are into their phones. You are sitting there, waving at everybody and is ready to take selfie with you or record a video but people are sneaking as if I don't see them recording the video with me. And whenever that happens I just wave at them and I go ho-ho-ho right to the video. This time you've got free great videos with Santa. Merry Christmas.
And I always make sure that everyone gets a picture even if they don't have a phone or camera. I ask someone who's passing by to make a picture on her phone and text it to them. "Ho-ho-ho?" Santa asks you. You're going to do it of course.
Absolutely. Hey, you've got to keep hope alive. I think hope is the most important thing. Not just in kids – kids are filled with hope until they grow up and become adults.
I like to see adults loosen up around the kids too. They go shopping with their kids, which is kind of a pain in the butt sometimes. But the magic happens when they see the smile and the sparkle in their kids' eyes – and the parents get to the Christmas spirit! This is what it's about! My job is not just for the kids. I really do look for adults too, and anyone who wants can come sit on my lap and get a Merry Christmas from Santa, and tell me their dreams of what they want. I had one lady today, she just came up to me and she said 'I want my family back'. Her family died. And her boyfriend will be not in the city for Christmas, so she will be alone for Christmas. And I said to her that things are going to get better, the days are going to start getting longer, spring will soon come back and we are going to have summer, everything's going to be beautiful again. You've got to just keep things going. She was very happy because I reminded her that today might be sad, but in five years you're not going to be thinking about today. You don't go for worries, just be as happy as you can. So forget the kids. I mean the kids are great, but I really love what I do for for the adults. And I'm doing this for me too. It's making me happier. It fills my soul.
No, I haven't, but I'm sure that every mall Santa has a little bit of Bad Santa in them. People are still waving at you even when you are going to pee, or when you want to have your lunch and want to hurry people up. Sometimes I can relate to that guy in Bad Santa Claus very much.
Sometimes Santas don't have the best hygiene, they look sweaty, they look gross. Once I saw a particularly gross Santa on the subway, but besides that I don't know any rude Santas.
The thing is, it's a big responsibility. I never ever ever want to be a Santa Claus that breaks Santa Claus for a kid. I can never be that guy. You must be vigilant if you have the suit on – you must be committed to that because you can never ruin that for a kid. That's the Worst Sin of Being a Santa.
I make $40 per hour plus tips. It's a pretty good money, and the job overall is very rewarding. I want Santa to be in demand the whole year: I want barbecue Santa Claus, I want bachelorette party Santa. I want a Santa for all occasions!
The only unpleasant thing was the first weekend I got a rash underneath my chin. That was it. After that I learned how to keep a beard for six hours and not get a rash. And I'm fine. First I put a tape underneath my lip, it helped but it was awkward and I hated having tape there. And then I just I figured out how to put the beard correctly so it's not touching my bottom lip and I wouldn't get the rash. That was a big thing to learn. That was the hardest part.
I get caught sometimes in the streets: 'Hey Santa, let's take a photo!' But usually most people are nice. Some cars honk at me, and I don't want that because people get distracted, and I don't want anyone to get distracted by Santa.
I go to pick up my costume because it's usually cleaned at nights, then I go to whatever location I'm at. They give me a contract, so you know how long the hours are, what you're doing and where. It's usually 1-1.5 hour contract. In the mall I spend 6 hours every Saturdays and Sundays.
Most of the time I dress up and go out in costume, going or driving to where I have to go. In certain parts of the city, even in Queens where I live, I don't feel safe walking around in a Santa Claus costume. So I'll just carry around the red sack with my stuff. When I do the parties usually the hosts have gifts for me to hand out with notes about the children so you know what they want me to tell them, like 'you have to brush your teeth more' or 'you have to listen to your parents' or 'you're not praying enough' – I have to be the hammer of justice, I have to make sure all these kids are behaving themselves.
In the mall basically I just sit in that chair for six hours from 12 to 6. I give myself a 10 minute break at around 3:00pm to get some food or something. Usually I have to go to Starbucks. I made friends with them and they always know what Santa wants. And I'm walking around in the mall. You've got to be ready to take pictures, to wave at every kid, every person – you're always in character. It's been the most time I've spent in any character. Sometimes I even feel like Santa Claus, and sometimes when I'm not in my costume I walk around the streets and wave at people and smile at everyone and sometimes I hohoho to myself. I get into the character a bit too much.
Oh yeah, the younger ones definitely do. Absolutely. You can tell pretty much right away by how they look at you. It is actually fascinating when you look in their eyes, and see they believe it. It's the best. Sometimes they don't, but it's fine and they're still playing along and still happy.