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Santas Behaving Badly

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Michael Rielly

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There used to be a show on British television years ago called Men Behaving Badly. As the title of the sitcom suggests, the basic premise of the show revolved around men who frequently engaged in childish pranks and behaving immaturely and selfishly.

Today's article in the Wall Street Journal by Jim Carlton entitled: "These Santas Are Keeping a List, And Not All Have Been Nice" reminds me of that show.

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal

These Santas Are Keeping a List, And Not All Have Been Nice

Their Ranks Divided, Fraternal Order Of Clauses Is Under Fire; Banned From Elf Net

July 10, 2008

Wall Street Journal

By Jim Carlton

There are still 167 days until Christmas, but the Amalgamated Order of Real-Bearded Santas will try mustering up some early holiday spirit this coming weekend in Kansas City at their convention.If only they weren't at each other's bearded throats.

The Amalgamated Santas, one of the nation's largest Santa groups, are dealing with a schism in their ranks. The rift has left burly bearded men accusing one another of bylaw violations, profiteering and behaving in un-Santa-like ways. Some Santas have filed complaints of wrongdoing against others in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

The once-fraternal Santa impersonators began to split last year when a power struggle unseated their top Santa and most of his board of directors. Further polarizing the Santa world, new splinter groups have formed to woo disaffected Clauses and their allies. The new Fraternal Order of Real-Bearded Santas, for example, also welcomes "affiliates of Mrs. Clauses, Designer Beard Santas and Elves."

As I am not a member of AORBS, FORBS, or FIRBS I cannot really comment on the matter. Although through ClausNET and the CWH Santa School, I have met many a Santa and Mrs. Claus on both sides of this riff in the Santa Claus Universe -- or the "Santa Civil War" as one Santa I know puts it.

Then the trouble started. A new Santa member, Nick Trolli, joined the board and was put in charge of planning the Kansas City get-together. Soon, the 47-year-old Mr. Trolli started squabbling with the head Santa, Mr. Connaghan, over surveys about membership criteria Mr. Trolli sent out without consulting Mr. Connaghan and the board.

Mr. Connaghan says Mr. Trolli began accusing him of engaging in ethical conflicts by conducting business with member Santas, including acting as a booking agent for 200 of them hired for Christmas events. Mr. Connaghan says he kept his personal business and role as the group's director separate.

There are threats of violence against fellow Santas...

Things became physical that month, when a Santa who had been banished from Elf Net tried to crash a board meeting of Amalgamated Santas at Knott's Berry Farm Resort Hotel in Buena Park, Calif. The interloping Santa, Ric Erwin of Laguna Niguel, Calif., says he planned to videotape the private meeting at the request of Santas who couldn't be there. He pushed his way past Mr. Trolli and ended up face-to-face with Mr. Germann near the meeting room filled with Santas. Mr. Erwin says Mr. Germann "used his elbow to bounce me off the wall." Mr. Germann says he didn't touch Mr. Erwin. Mr. Trolli says Mr. Erwin "headed into him like a linebacker." Mr. Erwin was escorted out by security guards.

And Mr. Trolli says his family has been threatened by breakaway Santas, who deny it. "My children have been instructed that, if anyone looks like Santa, to run," Mr. Trolli says.

And the amassing of followers on both sides of the issue...

The deposed top Santa, Mr. Connaghan, is building his own group, the Red Suit Society. Directors of chapters from the group's Pacific and Rocky Mountain regions have filed articles of separation from the Amalgamated Santas. Among their complaints: portraying a "vindictive and persecutory attitude" toward members, ethical violations in establishing a "Santa tribunal," and "engaging in Un-Santa like dialogue."

The Amalgamated Santas will be on high alert at their Kansas City convention, which starts Friday. The schedule is lighthearted: Events include a "Santa, Baseball and Me" charity night at the Kansas City Royals stadium. But at least one of the splinter Santas has let it be known he plans to drop by.

Although I found the WSJ article to be on the whole fair and balanced to both sides of the issue, my fear is that the main stream media will pick up on this story. If so, we could see this story around for a few weeks. The main stream media seems to revel in anything that casts Santa Claus or CHRISTmas in a negative light. I only hope that this story will not tarnish the reputation of the hundreds of others who faithfully portray Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Let's all stay positive while keeping the spirit of Christmas in our hearts and never forget the reason why we do this.

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Santa Mike Baker

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Perhaps this year we should put them in the naughty list. We all know that Santa's are only human after all, even Santa can have his off day. Not good press though and I don't think too many children read articles like this in the papers.

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