I know it is a trite old notion but it seems life is moving a whole
lot faster then it did when I was younger. Just yesterday I was
celebrating the New Year and now I've got to gear up for another one.

With Penguin Tree-Topper!
Once again I'm not sure what I'm getting anyone for Christmas nor how
I'm going to pay for these still unknown gifts. Once again I hope for
enough bookings to keep me alive well into the coming year. Once again
I have to string lights on a damn tree. OK, I like the tree part.

suppose Ill never get used to watching the world pass me by faster and
faster every year. When I was a kid, favorite days like Christmas,
Halloween, my birthday, and the last day of school took an eternity to
reach my calendar. I miss the way anticipation combined with childhood
innocence affected my outlook on life.

I guess I miss a lot of
things from when I was younger. I don't miss parachute pants per se,
but you get the idea. I really miss not seeing Christmas decorations
until after Thanksgiving. However, as Christmas approaches I am
reminded of one thing I will NEVER miss.

Early in my career, a
short time after Clown College, I had to take as many gigs as possible
to convince my family that I would be able to one day make a living as
an entertainer. I like to call these less glamorous bookings hunger gigs since I would take them simply to put food on the table. I profiled one such gig in last weeks column. Another type of hunger gig is playing Santa Claus.

had worked a couple of gigs as an elf where my own dad was playing the
big man. Dad LOVED playing Santa and was great at it. However, he DIDNT
need the money and already had a good job so it was always about being
a GREAT Santa for him. Of course, I know he took a few of those
bookings because I wanted to be a working performer and I was too you
young to drive myself anywhere. His solution? Santa complete with

balloon-twisting elf, all in one package. Whoa! Dad was such a great Santa HE GAVE ME A CAREER FOR CHRISTMAS!

I RARELY made any sort of Santa appearances. I paid a few bills by
donning now the gayest of apparel. Being Santa was a thankless job and
the pay was LOUSY! However, if you need the money you can
string together enough gigs at shopping malls, private parties, and
country clubs in a season to make it worth enduring the kids with bad
colds, worse attitudes, and shitty parents.

I suppose this all
comes as a shock to anyone who has never booked a Santa nor had the
need to take work as a Santa. Many people think of the fat man with
such high regard that it seems inconceivable that Santa Claus wouldnt
make a decent living at it. Well, listen up! Even the best shopping
malls pay their Santas a meager salary for their time. Some of these
guys are people who graduated from Santa School . I thought my degree from Clown College was useless!.

I suppose now would be a good time to try and help out my brothers in the business by saying to potential Santa buyers, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR! Watch Bad Santa and get a little taste of what COULD happen if you are a cheap bastard when finding the perfect Santa.

true Warrior-Kringles out there do their job because they LOVE it so
much. THEY are true heroes of the holiday season as far as I am
concerned. I was not nor will I ever be one of those good-hearted souls
with such a love of children and the season.

I really didnt
mind the kids that much when it came time for me to strap on the
padding and the beard. Kids are kids and Santa is as big a celebrity as
any kid will ever meet so it made perfect sense to me that some would
be a excited enough to wet themselves. I even didnt mind the brats who
were so spoiled they didnt deserve ANYTHING for Christmas EVER AGAIN! No, it was the parents that ruined Santa for me.

parent thinks their child is perfect. Every parent believes that their
family is cuter than all others, especially when they get all dressed
up for holiday post card photos. Every parent is WRONG! Yes,
some kids are adorable, but most of them are not. What makes a kid
stick out in the memory is the behavior of the child and worse, the
behavior of the parents.

A spoiled kid is pretty common, especially at Christmas time. Kids deserve to be a little
spoiled at Christmas time. The parents that made these vile
abominations of nature is a completely different thing altogether. Few
things are more embarrassing or irritating than spoiled parents. In the
Chicago suburbs there are MANY spoiled parents.

One thing I
learned from my dad playing Santa was how to talk to kids. He was great
at putting the kids at ease and getting their lists of special toys.
Dad would always whisper some of the more unusual requests to the
parents and they often appreciated the extra effort. I tried to do that
whenever possible. More often than not Id get a speech about how THEY KNOW their kids and it was insulting to have Santa tell them what to get THEIR children for Christmas. Merry fucking Christmas!

kids were afraid of the giant man in a red. You know, the man who sees
you when youre sleeping and knows when youre awake. This is the man who
KNOWS when youve been bad or good so BE GOODFOR GOODNESS SAKE! Oh Sweet Jesus - BE GOOD! Some kids are scarred for life when the spoiled parents, DESPERATE to get the perfect holiday photo for their albums, would FORCE their kids to sit on Santas lap.

Park Ridge Times Herald 12/10/89The worst photo-inspired holiday kid crime I ever witnessed came when I was working as Santa for a store called Morningfields in Park Ridge, IL
(SEE Photo). This photo was in our local newspaper and the names of the
girls, Kelly & Meaghan Hircsh, are a matter of public record so I
have no qualms about sharing this with the class.

These girls were the first in line to visit Santa. This SHOULD have been a sweet moment, but it wasn't. Why? They were tired and crabby from waiting for a VERY long time prior to Santa's arrival.

dad made a point to get them up extra early, long before the store was
open, and wait for Santa. He knew that the local newspaper photographer
would be there at the same time. How did he know? He called the paper
himself. Apparently these same kids got their cute little mugs on the
front page of the paper the previous year and the dad wanted to give
"their fans" a repeat performance. The guy didn't even let them talk to Santa until the photographer was there! You
can see the look in my eyes and the expression on the younger childs
face to understand how upsetting this experience really was.

HEY! Isnt Hirsch a Jewish last name? God DAMMIT!

my time as Santa Claus I had to endure parents who thought I was the
babysitter for their children, parents who blamed me for their children
crying, parents who were pissed off because I couldnt provide insight
as to where to find the current hot toy, (as if I were the REAL Santa).

I even ran into parents who were angry that I gave candy canes
or coloring books out to all the kids who sat on my lap. I was told
that it set a bad precedent to have their kids accept gifts from
strangers! I told these freaks they should just take their kids to the
Santas that they knew from now on.

In all I only took Santa
bookings for a few seasons. There are many Poloroid shots of me with
countless numbers of kids on my lap. However the photo reprinted here
is likely to be the ONLY public record of my Santa days.

the weeks prior to Christmas I will be sharing some other Santa
memories with you. Tis the season, you know. Until then, think about
this article when you dressing up our youngster for a visit with Santa.
In fact, print this up and use it as your holiday card this year. It
HAS to be better than those AWFUL family portrait cards you were
planning on sending out.

For MORE Tales from Andy Land or to comment on this week's column check out Andy's BLOG.