By Scott Baker
Nothing will get you into the Christmas Spirit faster than playing Santa Claus in a New York City department store.
For actors, the competition to be cast in these jobs is fierce. Even when appearing in a major Broadway show, I would portray Santa at Macys, Saks or Bloomingdales by day, then act and sing on Broadway at night! I was even an ice-skating Santa at Bryant Park and appeared as Santa on the David Letterman Show, delivering “The Top Ten Ways You Know You’ve Hired A Bad Department Store Santa!”
I look upon playing Santa as “A License to Love” I hugged more people in one day than Leo Buscaglia or Mahatma Gandhi ever did in a month!
The children were wonderful but the parents could be…a challenge.
One December afternoon at Macys, where I met people in the beautifully decorated House of Santa Scott, which was filled with beautiful holiday ornaments and stacks of letters addressed in crayon to “Dear Santa,” Elf Mistletoe, a large woman dressed in a green tunic, bounces into the house and jovially announces that our next visitors, a mother and father with their young son, have demanded that their child be told that since the young boy is failing Math, he’s not getting anything for Christmas!
Guess who gets the privilege of telling him! Right! Good Old Santa Scott!
I will not be a part of this mean-spirited ugliness on any level, but the well-tailored parents and boy of nine are in the house!
What will I do? No way out!
The young man brushes a lock of blonde hair from his forehead as Elf Mistletoe snaps the traditional “Photo with Santa,” available for purchase after the visit.
My heart is pounding!
Just ask how he’s enjoying the holidays.
The parents grab Elf Mistletoe.
She shouts with evangelical fervor, “What about that Math?”
I rattle on, naming my eight tiny reindeer, seven dwarves, nine Supreme Court Justices…
The parents angrily confer with the elf.
Elf Mistletoe screams, “MATH! THE MATH!”
A deadly silence falls over Santaland.
I take a deep breath.
I quietly intone, “So. We’re having some trouble? In the Mathematical Department?”
Tears well up in the young man’s eyes.
An even deadlier silence falls over Santaland.
I inhale deeply.
I exclaim, “DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT! YOU’LL NEVER USE IT, ANYWAY!”
The young man smiles, then laughs out loud!
Elf Mistletoe nearly has a coronary.
The enraged parents grab their son and exit the House of Santa Scott.
I don’t know if they ever paid for the “Picture with Santa.”
I celebrated my “License to Love!” Santa just made a sad child laugh!