Each month, our Featured Member section profiles a ClausNet member. Members are chosen totally at random by me and the staff. Once selected as Featured Member of the Month, we interview the candidate and post the interview here. This is a wonderful way to get to know your fellow ClausNet members!
We are happy to announce our ClausNet Featured Member for June 2019 is Santa Carlucci!
Featured ClausNet Member – June 2019
Profile: Santa Carlucci
Real Name: Carl
Location: Minneapolis, MN USA
ClausNet member since: March 10, 2009
Community Reputation (as of today): 3 – Good!
Our Featured Member of the Month for June hails from Minneapolis. After reading interviewing Santa Carl aka Santa Carlucci, it sounds like he and I have a lot in common. I think we may be “il cugino”. We share a lot of common interests – especially when it comes to food! We caught up with Santa Carlucci a few days ago, and here is what he had to say...
ClausNet: How long have you been portraying Santa Claus and how did you get started?
Santa Carlucci: "Get started? I had my "Santa calling" as an epiphany in 1993. In the early fall of 1993, I was chosen to be my company's next Santa, every guy in the small 28-person company would have the honor to do it. A rental suit would be provided but I choose not to wear the fake beard since it was so hot, so I had started to grow my own. In October of that year I had a Scrooge type of nightmare, some call it an epiphany. I dreamt of my good life, good health, good wife and kids, good job and home, but had not given back enough and should have given back more. I dreamt of my childhood and seeing the Santas on the New York City street corners asking for money for the poor and decided I would do that.
The very next day I called the local Salvation Army and asked if they would let me ring bells as Santa and they agreed. My wife prepared a casual form of a costume with a simple red wool pullover, some green fleece pants with decorative suspenders, black Sorel boots with fur tops, and a Santa hat from Walgreens. I bought a festive reindeer wicker basket that I filled with Brach's mints to give to the donating children I would encounter. I arrived at the local Target store, found the kettle and bell and starting ringing. After just a couple of hours as this rookie, the smiling and greetings and donations were having an overwhelming effect on me and it showed in my enthusiasm.
I volunteered 10 hours Friday and 10 hours Saturday that first weekend of the Christmas season and I was hooked! I asked if they would allow me to ring each week and they happily accepted and placed me at the same location for the whole Christmas season. I told my boss about my efforts and he allowed me to take each Friday off for the next 5 weeks. The questions about why was Santa not at the mall was a constant one, but my answer of " this job is just as, if not more important" got great responses. I volunteered for the 6 weeks of that season and the same 120 hours every season for the next 8 years.
Over those same seasons I visited all the children's hospitals as well. During those years, costuming improved, my looks improved, my enthusiasm and greetings improved to the degree that I was mentioned in news articles. The Salvation Army moved me to various high-end locations and I collected record amounts of money for them. The local TV crew even did a short spot on my efforts. Mothers would actually go home and get their children and have photos with me at the kettle! Although I became a professional Santa in 2001, I continue to volunteer for Salvation Army, visit the hospitals, and offer 25% of my time to volunteering to this day. Back in those early days i couldn't find training, but, those years standing in the cold were my training and created my Santa Claus character that I am today."
ClausNet: What or who are your influences on your portrayal of Santa Claus?
Santa Carlucci: "I wanted to entertain as a home visit Santa. Since I have never seen another Santa on a home visit, I have concentrated on books, films, and TV for inspiration. "The Santa Claus Book" by Alden Perkes is a bible to me and now I'm using it to mentor my new Mrs Claus. By far, "Santa Claus: The Movie" starring David Huddleston is my most influential and inspiring film that I reference new Santas to. But you cannot leave out the Hallmark Christmas TV Movies with all the great portrayals and story lines. Again, I reference those to new Santas for the overall ability to handle the simple to complex questions that children and families will challenge them with. Plus, they provide some great costume and prop ideas!"
ClausNet: What do you enjoy most about being Santa Claus?
Santa Carlucci: "Of course, Christmas festivities and the betrayal of Santa to all the families and children each season is the most enjoyable. Being the focus of the festivities is overwhelming and at the same time exciting. The memories of these past 25 seasons run together in my mind but the enjoyment on the faces of everyone is everlasting. There's something magical and awesome about making everyone I see and meet feel like 6 years old! The fact that no matter what time of year it is, how I'm dressed, where I am, or what time of day it is, people automatically greet, smile, wave, and stop me with a kind response. The fact that just by seeing me I know I have had a good effect on that person."
ClausNet: What is your most memorable visit?
Santa Carlucci: "Although this visit happened over 20 years ago, it's still the one that has affected me. The local Shriners hospital provides medical care to all children, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. The clinic specializes in treating children with orthopedic conditions in an environment designed to put children at ease. Prosthetists create amazing life changing abilities for children to use arms and legs. I was visiting the local Shriners hospital clinic, and this included giving gifts, telling stories, hearing Christmas wishes, and having photos with families.
I was seated in the center of the clinic area and each family or child would come to me and have the best visit opportunity I could provide based on the abilities of the child to respond. Wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches, etc., were scattered as needed to get the children close to me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a cute blond haired 5 or 6 year-old girl peek out from the corner of the room. I waved to her, waving to come see me, as I was gathering a small group to listen to a story I was telling.
The girl didn’t come, and I didn’t see her again. The story time went without incident, gifts were passed out, wishes were heard, and photos were taken. As I was packing up, I saw the young girl peek around the wall again. This time I walked over and see a dad that has the young girl covering her eyes and whimpering on his lap. Gently I knelt down and calmly spoke with the girl. I said something like, " Hello little one, It’s okay Santa is not going to hurt you. I wanted to give you a small gift and would like to know if you have a special wish for Christmas".
I gave the girl a small gift from my bag which she accepted. She didn't respond to my question, so I asked why she didn't come over to see me and listen to the story. I was shocked to hear her response... " I didn't get my leg yet"! As I looked down, I see only one leg under her dress. An overwhelming flush came over me and the shock caught me by surprise. This was my first time that I had to hold back tears of sadness and I barely made it. I choked the tears back and responded with a statement like "oh little one I understand, the doctors here are the best and I'm certain they will make you the best leg ever!"
We hugged, I shook Dad’s hand, I gathered my stuff and left. I barely got out the door without bawling my eyes out. I sat in my car and had a good cry and a prayer for all the children and families I had seen. I continue to visit Shriner's and all the other children's hospital to this day, challenged by the sickest but I am prepared for the worse."
ClausNet: Do you have a favorite gig?
Santa Carlucci: "Since I am not a mall Santa, and with over 25 years of visits, there are too many great gigs that I have entertained at. There is one that stands out that happened as a result of my connection with my favorite charity, the Salvation Army. A fire in downtown Minneapolis had destroyed a single mother and 2 young boys’ apartment right before Christmas. This inner-city mother had nowhere to turn to. Her mother came to the rescue and let her daughter and grand kids move into her small 2-bedroom apartment with her. The boys would sleep on the bare floor and mom would sleep on a sofa.
The Salvation Army got wind of this and put things in motion to help this family out. Mattresses, gifts from the local professional sports teams, free passes to football and hockey games, video games and clothes for everyone was arranged literally overnight. Their PR group contacted me and asked if I would be the gift giver and I jumped at the chance to help. The local TV crew was contacted, and we all met up and stormed the grandmas home with lights, cheerleaders, and Santa carrying in the bag of gifts.
The family was shocked and delighted to have received so much. The young boys were thrilled with the latest sports video games plus all of the signed jerseys, sneakers, clothing and sports paraphernalia. Grandma and daughter were in tears of thanks and the local TV crew did a wonderful job of showing the reactions of everyone. Hugs, kisses, shaking hands, high fives were being given and received. The hour-long event made a 15 second closing spot to the news hour but I didn't care. The look and gratitude of those family members was all I was remembering."
ClausNet: What is your dream gig?
Santa Carlucci: "To be an influential Santa character in one of those Hallmark Christmas movies."
ClausNet: What keeps you busy when you are not being Santa?
Santa Carlucci: "Continuing to learn about being a better Santa and mentoring my new partner, Jenny Lynn Claus. We both are still getting to know each other and travel to Renaissance Festivals, watching partners acts and how they do their act. The banter, timing, story improvisation, props, and audience involvement that the festival acts provide are good guidance for our in-home acts.
We did over 75 gigs together in our first season with everything from an intense visit of inner city abused children to hundreds of children in a multi-hour extravagant country club event, from visits to children hospitals or shut in adults to being on ESPN with the local Viking football team, and from being on local TV promoting a local charity event to recording greeting videos for parents of premature babies. Those variety of events require Jenny and I to have our entertainment capabilities honed and ready for whatever type of event we are involved with."
ClausNet: What are your hobbies / interests?
Santa Carlucci: "My longtime partner, Cheryl Claus [deceased] got me interested in making leather and wood props that we used in our home visits for the Santa Claus community that include Naughty and Nice Journals [why children are on the Nice list], Baby Reindeer bell collars, Baby Reindeer harnesses, Reindeer whistle, and more. The latest prop being Fairy Dust Boxes, explained by Stephen Gillham in his book, "Santaology", require wood working, electronics, and crafting."
ClausNet: What is your favorite color?
Santa Carlucci: "Teal. I know, right?"
ClausNet: What is your favorite food?
Santa Carlucci: "Italian tortellini meals with Braciole and hot sausages, red gravy with heavy dark buttered bread, big and chewy red wine."
ClausNet: Coke or Pepsi?
Santa Carlucci: "Diet Pepsi."
ClausNet: What is your favorite cookie?
Santa Carlucci: "Oatmeal raisin."
ClausNet: What is your favorite movie?
Santa Carlucci: "Forrest Gump, but notable were UP, Wise Guys, Under the Tuscan Sun, The Way We Were, and Guns of Navarone."
ClausNet: Do you have a favorite Christmas movie?
Santa Carlucci: "Santa Claus, The Movie, but notable were Love Actually, A Christmas Story, and Netflix's The Christmas Chronicles and all of the Hallmark Christmas movies."
ClausNet: What is your favorite Christmas song?
Santa Carlucci: "Celine Dion's These are the Best of Times, but notable is Merry Christmas Baby by Sheryl Crow which my partner Cheryl Claus and I created a dance to and performed for her Mom, who was a swing dancer during the 50s with Cheryls dad."
ClausNet: What was the last book that you read?
Santa Carlucci: "Clive Cussler's series of Dirk Pitt books."
ClausNet: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Santa Carlucci: "Adult student teacher. I have a need and happiness to share knowledge with my cohorts."
ClausNet: What profession would you not like to attempt?
Santa Carlucci: "Golden Gate or other large suspension bridge painter. YIKES!"
ClausNet: What were some of your favorite toys as a child?
Santa Carlucci: "Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, Lone Ranger Cap Pistols, Davy Crockett Coon Hat, Gene Autry Pop Rifle, color by number scenes, glued plastic plane and ship models, and the best of all table top Hockey game."
ClausNet: What is your most memorable experience of Santa while growing up?
Santa Carlucci: "Visiting Santa Claus at the local Bloomingdales store in downtown New Rochelle NY, my hometown. It wasn't exactly like the famous Santa sitting on a snow-covered mountain top like in the "A Christmas Story" movie, but I remember there were steps to get to see that wonderful old soul! The line was long, but the smell of perfume was in the air and the decorations on the store floor were breathtaking. Being a poor family, we never had an opportunity to go to this store. I'm not sure what i asked for or if a picture was taken but I'm just happy for the memory. Here's a crazy impossible side story about my childhood Santa.
About 10 years ago I was contacted by a Santa that volunteered in Mexico. His wife had family in the Twin Cities, and he was wondering if he could meet me and pick my brain while they were in town. I agreed and we met and talked like we knew each other for years, a great time! During the conversation, our backgrounds came up and he told me he got his inspiration to do Santa from his dad who was a Santa Claus on the east coast. I told him I was from New Rochelle NY and his mouth dropped open. His father was the Santa Claus in the Bloomingdale's store during my young years and he was possibly the Santa Claus I saw. Wow, small world, huh!"
ClausNet: What is the hardest question you have gotten as Santa Claus and what was your response?
Santa Carlucci: "There have been too many hard questions over these past 25 years to do with pain, suffering, lost love, regret, anguish that I can respond to. Any of us that have been doing this character for a long time know we ache to hear the request for an impossible wish. But just the latest example happened at the local children's hospital this past season. A dying baby's parents and loved ones knew Jenny and I were visiting in the building and asked to stop by and to pay them a visit. The nurse and doctor staff were doing procedure after procedure to save this little person's life, so we were asked to stay.
The agony of knowing what was coming was palpable in the room with staff trying to keep us comfortable while the procedures on the baby were being administered. Finally, they said we could see the infant. Quietly, no bells clanging, we were brought to the small tight room where the parents, doctors, and nurses were around this impossibly small infant wrapped in a Christmas blanket. I felt as if I was the magical bearer of hope since eyes brightened and smiles occurred as we entered.
Since the situation was so dire and I had nothing that I could do to improve it, I made a small greeting to everyone, wished all a Merry Christmas and Jenny and I took a picture with the child. I comforted the parents by saying that this hospital and staff were the best and don’t give up, the good Lord makes miracles happen every day. And with that we left to the outer room for some water and to cool down. An attending nurse followed us out bawling her eyes out and hugged us, thanking us and telling us that they were keeping that baby alive just for our visit. That's when I had to leave the room and go compose myself since I was on the verge of crying. These are tough visits but no money or ego or acclaim will stop me from continuing to be the Santa for everyone."
ClausNet: What is the strangest request you've gotten as Santa Claus?
Santa Carlucci: "The request of my career didn't come from a 6 year old asking for the latest super hero or LOL doll. No, the strangest request came from some jerk in Miami. About 12 years ago, 1 week before Christmas, I received a phone call from an east coast business owner. He explained that he had seen my website and was impressed. He wanted to hire me for a customer appreciation event in Miami on Christmas eve. I laughingly explained I was in Minneapolis since some people don’t look to see what area I serviced. Plus, I had commitments to existing clients already for that night. He said something to the affect, "Oh I know where you are, I'll send my jet up to the local small airport near you and fly you down here. How's $1,000 sound for your fee?" So, now I'm thinking this is some type of act and he's just playing with me. So, I ask him for his business and while I'm on the phone I Google the business and yup its legit, he's some multimillionaire in Miami. But again, I refuse him explaining that I can’t go because of my commitments. He responds in a slower, deeper, more nasal New York accent saying something like, "Oh, you’re playing hardball huh! I'm not used to not getting my way. How's $2,500 sound?!!!" Now my temper starts to rise and I say NO. He blurts out "$5,000 and you and wife can stay the weekend at my hotel" I hung up the phone, shaking my head. There are some strange requests out there but nothing has beat that one yet."
ClausNet: How did you find ClausNet?
Santa Carlucci: " While being the lead information Santa for the Minnesota Santas group from 2002-2010, and being quite Internet savvy because of my technical day job, I was always looking for a better way to share and distribute information in the Santa Claus community. Being involved with the early establishments of a national group, AORBS, I was involved with many Santas throughout the USA. I was involved with all of the national conventions starting in 2006. That’s how I met Tim Connaghan, Philip Wenz, Tom Kliner, Bob Elkin, Fred Selinski, Gary Casey, George Martin, Cliff Snider, etc. They were a key to creating the need to have a common sounding board for all things that we were not just talking about, but a need for common information exchange. I don’t know if it was by luck or that information got back to Mike and his crew and in 2007 ClausNet was created. I think I was sent a link to ClausNet by one of my Yahoo group contacts and I Immediately sent the link to all of my contacts on the various Yahoo and AOL groups as well as my local Minnesota Santas!"
ClausNet: And what do you like most about ClausNet?
Santa Carlucci: "Doing what Mike Rielly and others aimed to do, namely provide a communication outlet for mature and novice Christmas based entertainers to share and enjoy the happiness, experience and hazards of this complex niche environment. ClausNet provides a plethora of diverse subjects that answer the simplest to the most complex questions to this most delicate and secretive world of characters. Plus, the legacy of aged and well-seasoned experts willfully giving up their teachings and answering questions to get the young up to speed. I have not found nothing else of this type that allows the exchange of free information for the Christmas entertainer."
ClausNet: Is there a Santa or Mrs. Claus over the years that you admire or has inspired you? Can you tell us a little bit about him/her?
Santa Carlucci: "No one Santa has inspired me, many have. Mostly they are the instructors, teachers, group leaders, and historians that have helped me master this craft through their lectures, social media postings, and deeds. I know I'll forget someone important so I won’t list them. But you know the obvious ones, i.e.; Phillip Wenz, Mike Rielly, Tim Connaghan, Susen Mesco, Tom Valent, Gordon Bailey, etc. But it’s the individual class instructors at the conventions and local meetings that are just as if not more important and so I want to recognize them and say to them that they have had an impact on me.
No Mrs Claus inspired me more and that I admired so much as Cheryl Claus, aka Cheryl Saxrud, my Mrs. Claus partner, now deceased. Cheryl brought a whole different approach to my Santa character because of our believable association as husband and wife. We were the Clauses! Our entertaining schtick was based on our life at the Pole. The courtesies, the verbal banter, the peck on the cheek, the argumentative or loving verbal banter were all in our act and it was loved by customers. Cheryl was a prolific cosplay patron and she got me into some strange outfits that she made over the 8 years we were together. She designed and even made our costumes and we won some of the early fashion shows at the national conventions.
We created new characters so we would have more outings together. The Minnesota Renaissance Festival, based on a 1600 England village, was a fun way to show off her costume skills. At the Renfest, we did Father and Mother Christmas, old battered Fairy couple, as well as a Sultan and his Sultana. Other outfits allowed us to dress for different gigs during the Christmas season. So, we had classic and casual Claus costumes, but also had uptown and downtown as well as summer costumes.
She was also a crafting person before she met me and that, along with my home visit props, became an avenue for her business, Mrs. Claus Creations. Her style of clothing and Mrs. Claus look was different and new and now is copied throughout the Mrs. Claus community. She eventually mentored others and became a leading figure in the community. We were very photogenic and clients as well as other people in the Claus community complemented us on that. She will be missed by not just me but by friends and others that got to know her."
ClausNet: What advice can you give to a first time Santa or Mrs. Claus?
Santa Carlucci: " Please ask and find a knowledgeable mentor as well as get as much and as diverse Santa school classes as you can. I have mentored Santas and love the mentoring inspiration that has been developed by Santa Lou Knezevich. As a rule, I use Christian virtues and teachings to be the basis for my continued effort of this wonderful character. Compassion, courage, dedication, determination, dignity, discipline, integrity, loyalty, perseverance, responsibility, service, and trust are virtues that can create your whole life as a Santa Claus character.
I not only use them for character building, I use some of those virtues in my story telling to instill the basic need of children not only to be good, but to see the reward, the gift, of doing a virtuous deed. If my question to the client of a Christian overture is requested, I include the Reason for the Season and other Christian stories to enlighten and add children and adult participation. Of course, sometimes the story goes over the head of the child, but it's not the child I am focusing on. I'm giving the parent the message to take with them and use as a tool to show the child that virtues and Christian values are the gifts that can be given and shared all year long, not just at Christmas."
ClausNet: Anything else you would like to add?
Santa Carlucci: "I humbly accepted my indoctrination into the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame last year at the IBRBS event in Denver and it has changed my approach to this wonderful community. I'm determined to be more involved in the distribution of knowledge to this community and provide a legacy path to others who follow. With the use of the internet and social media, the new Santa and Mrs. Claus have a big advantage over the old farts like me, hohohoho, and I'm going to help them using those tools! And in those immortal words, NEVER SAY NEVER, the good Lord has taken me out of the depression of losing my Mrs. Claus partner and my thinking that my career was over, and I would never wear the red suit again.
Miraculously, I found a wonderful Mrs. Claus in August of last year [the story of that is just too long to post here, message me] and my world was turned upside down. Jenny Lynn Beck, a widow, art studio owner, and avid cosplay patron is a natural Mrs. Claus. Because of her 20+ years as a ceramic art studio owner open to families, her children entertaining skills have been honed to a fine edge. We partnered and I began mentoring right away to see if we could do the 2018 home visit season. And, as luck would have it, Jenny could fit into some of Cheryl’s costumes and accessories!
Being a long-term Renaissance cosplay patron, Jenny and I attended the Renfest as Mother and Father Christmas and Jenny was graciously accepted by my long term Renfest actors. We prepared for the Christmas season and I accepted a full month of visits, events, and volunteering. The 6 weeks of the season was the most diverse season I have ever had with everything from distressed children is an inner city home and shut in adults at the local Masonic home for the aged to being on TV and ESPN with a local football hero, Kyle Rudolf's charity. With over 75 gigs under our belt, we are on our way to new beginnings and exciting challenges. And finally, I want to thank Mike for the recognition and honor to be the Santa Claus of the month and to all of you that have made this journey so much easier by just knowing you. This community is filled with the kindest and most giving men and women I have ever met."
Thank you Carl! Everyone, please join me in congratulating Santa Carlucci, our ClausNet Featured Member of the Month for June 2019!