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The Life and Times of Santa Claus WV

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Being Santa, Remembering John Again

John Johnson

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I have been away for a while from ClausNet. For that I am sorry, as I notice that a few of my friends have messaged me here and I have not answered them. Of all the Summers I have had thus far, this has certainly been one of the most interesting. I should say this has been an interesting year, as much of it began for me right after the Jim Yellig Workshop.

You see, I left that event on a very high note. It was a note that I still feel today. Think of it, those who were there really and truly touched history. It is a history that I am proud of and am ever increasingly growing protective of in my own way. I will explain how and why I say that in a few moments. Needless to say, after touching that history and the honor that goes with it I have began questioning certain aspects in my own personal life with Santa and of the Santa community.

Upon my return home I became involved with a discussion of why we do the things we do - especially why we of the real bearded persuasion dress in red all year long. Does it truly benefit the kids was my question. Nearly every Santa I spoke to gave me an "I" statement as opposed to an answer that in my mind showed Santa being used in truly serving children. The conversation was then switched to the possibility of "questionable" behavior from Santas being seen by children. That pretty much started my mind to thinking of ways to preserve and protect Santa rather than exploiting him out of Season.

Then came a role that made me ponder further. Many of you know that I am an actor. In June and early July I starred in a production of David Auburn's "Proof", a Pulitzer prize winning play about a mathematician and his daughters. He dies after a long struggle with mental illness and so the play is about his family coping with the possibility of his youngest daughter having the same tendencies. I played the part of Robert, the mathematician. In rehearsal, my question was constantly "is the audience going to think of Robert or of Santa going crazy?" Strong language was modified by my director who knew my concerns. The color red became cursed for me. I did not want Santa associated with this character. Though I ended up with great press over my portrayal of this tortured character the experience left me with further feeling that for myself I must protect Santa from being the object of defamation.

I have been studying seriously the subject of acting from workshop to workshop all Summer. I have been given various job prospects within the field as well. To be an effective actor you must also know yourself. After all, acting is immitation of life. I have come to another realization, Santa is not John. Rather, John portrays Santa. Why is this important? Because I feel that many of us in this industry look at ourselves as if we are Santa himself rather than as actors portraying a part. The further I have gone into a study of myself I realize that Basil Rathbone and I have alot in common. He always said that Sherlock Holmes tried to take over his life when not put under control. Santa has become the same for my life. By my becoming a 24/7/365 Santa I find that he has stifled me in so many ways including relationships with family and old friends, career, and creatively. I cannot get additional parts onstage due to my outward appearance as Santa. Musically, I am typecast as a holiday act only. People that I know and love are sometimes stand-offish with me after the Season. I never knew that my biggest blessing and source of outreach in my community could also be a burden.

So, after coming this far you might think I am quitting. On the contrary. I am taking my life back for myself and placing Santa where I feel he needs to be - for his protection and for my sanity. Santa is the vehicle by which I spread love and joy, often in a way of secret giving. I often think of Nicholas wrapped in a cloak dropping bags of gold in windows of the needy - which we know he did. I want to use the guise of Santa for that very thing. Also, I am surrounded by two industries that would actually enjoy a Santa that they can get to their specifications. After talking these over with mentors, customers, booking agents, theater folks, and most importantly God and my wife I have come to this decision: I am breaking with modern tradition in order to salvage the historical tradition of Santa - come New Year 2013 I am going to shave my whiskers and take on the search for the best traditional set I can afford. I am going to honor St. Nicholas by using the image for secret giving and good deeds as ever and will continue on as my community's Santa. But the jobs that John can do on his own, John will do without Santa. My prayer is that the Master of St. Nicholas will be seen first and foremost in my life. And if I can use Santa for His glory, I will - as a tool and not as a way of living. I am 34 years old, overweight, and with a history of heart disease in my family. I have to do something about it.

When I look back of Santas like Jim Yellig, James Reilly, Charlie Howard, and even my friend Jay Long - and modern friends like Phil Wenz, Mike Reilly, Dutch Schrap, and others - I see a link to the Santa of James Edgar and others who started the tradition in our country purely going back to the secret giving of St. Nicholas. It is a decision that has taken some thought, but I had to make it. I am insuring that if I say or do something stupid in life, Santa will not be the first thing seen and mocked. He will be in a special place each year.

Friends, I urge everyone to look inside themselves. Is Santa benefitting you or the children? What about in August or May or whatever other month? Is Santa holding you back? Is he more than a part you portray? Sometimes the reality is that we need to wake up from the dream. Don't stop portaying Santa. After 28 Seasons I am not quitting. Rather, we all must put him into perspective. Trim that chin and spend some time out of red. It actually feels pretty darn good sometimes. If we truly believe that we are called to be Santa and that he enters through the heart then these things won't matter. The love is what matters. Red suit or not we all could use that in our lives.

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Felix Estridge

Posted

Thanks, my friend, for sharing that. I know it was a decision that you did not take lightly. Many of the same things you have spoken of have been going through my heart and mind ever since that historic event, too. And with some of the things that have been happening in the last couple of years, it certainly makes it easier to not want to be an RBS when we are associated with other's behavior, both good and bad. Unfortunately, the bad far outweighs the good in its affect on the public. I support you 110% and may not be far behind you.

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Dutch Schrap

Posted

John, it's all in the heart, and you are one of the best - no matter which direction you go. If you do go ahead and change over to a TBS, I am here to help in any way I can.

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Santa TJS

Posted

You can still be real bearded and clean shaven. I wear beards of real hair so they are real just not growing and when not being used to portray Santa the adorn a wig stand. I had worked for me over thirty years now. If you ned help in that area, contact Dutch or me I sure we can point you to the right resources.

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John Johnson

Posted

Dutch and Tom, I really appreciate it. It means alot to know that I can count on you to help. That is what it should all be about right there. Thanks!

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Santa Oliver

Posted

John, I admire and respect you for your portrayal of Santa. I also admire you for putting your health, others and the Lord first in your life. You are a wonderful Santa and person and I know you'll be just as successful as a TBS. I also went through some time this past year seriously evaluating what I want my role as Santa to be so I can totally relate to your situation. We know it's not about the beard, it's the heart that makes the real difference. God bless you.

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Hi John,

I wear my beard year round(not inclined to remove it just because it turned white) but do not make any effort to be Santa throughout the year. On the odd occasion that a youngster spots "Ho Ho" or Santa, I have cards which I give them with a conspiritorial "Shhh" that read "You have caught me away from my workshop. Be Nice! See you Christmas!. They contain no contact information and are as much to assure the embarrassed parent as for the child.

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Elf Without Jingles

Posted

John, when someone shares a life-changing decision, as you have just now done, my traditional reaction is usually "Do what you feel in your heart you need to do." I utter those words here as well. Clearly, this presents a new challenge, one that, as you have said, you haven't taken lightly. By the same token, however, I can only add these few humble words of wisdom: To move mountains, sometimes one must make sacrifices. I pray that this one has been for the better.

Some traditionally-bearded Santas can rise to ANY challenge, my friends. All that matters in the end is that you simply believe. Something worth dwelling upon and remembering.......

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John, becoming a Santa was a life changing deal for me.I had a very bad temper and had been arrested numerous times for violence. My brother Died of cancer and I began growing the hair for Locks Of Love,,As people began commenting on how I looked, i began thinking about how I acted. I could not possible quit being Santa now.

I respect your decision in what is best for you, but as for me....The last 6 years have been a life changer and possible a life saver...

Best of luck to you..

Ken Kringle

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