’Tis the season to be jolly handy in a tight situation.

Words by John Fraser

The Three Stages of Santa
You believe in Santa.
2. You don’t believe in Santa.
3. You are Santa.

So when I retired, friends wanted to know what I was going to do. Rocking on the front porch checking out the neighbours was option one. Given that I didn’t have a porch, front or back, or a rocking chair, option one was a no-go. Besides, my neighbours are slightly less interesting than news broadcasts in Mandarin.

Lots of retired folk travel, so why not travel? All it takes is time and money. I had plenty of time but thanks to divorce and a failed business gambit I had a shortage of green.

I heard that men could travel free on cruise ships if they knew how to dance. Amazingly that turned out to be true. Arthur Murray taught me dancing in a hurry and I took off for a life of love and adventure on the high seas.

“Love and adventure”—ha! If I want to recapture those magic moments in the South Pacific on a cold winter night in my little house here in Mississauga, I simply turn my stereo on loud and try to waltz my refrigerator from one side of the kitchen to the other. By the way, standing barefoot in the cat litter under a sun lamp does not take me back to a tropical beach either.

For some inexplicable reason I decided that acting was my forte. Why not? I just finished watching two weeks of TIFF and all the beautiful people sashaying the red carpet. What a life! They have the best of everything: 10-star hotels, private jets, designer clothes, secluded tropical resorts. At work (read: film studios or exotic locations), they are surrounded by beautiful young people handing them cold drinks, patting their sweating brows and catering to their every need.

So I got myself an agent, took some acting courses, enrolled at Second City, did a summer at the Humber College comedy course and then went from audition to audition without getting so much as a smell. Clearly I needed experience, but how do you get experience without any experience?!

Xmas was coming and an agency was seeking older dudes to be mall Santas. Yea! I got my very first acting gig. Santa’s job was to reside on Santa’s throne and have ankle-biters sit on Santa’s knee to get their mugshots taken. Santa had to be friendly, Santa must not have booze breath and Santa must keep Santa’s hands off Santa’s cute little elf helper girl in the red-and-green tights.

Santa always talks in the third person. Santa never says I or me. It’s always Santa says this or that, Santa’s sleigh, Santa’s reindeer, Santa’s little helper and so on.

As it turned out, Santa’s mall was quiet. Santa got bored. Usually there was no queue and Santa could inspect junior’s photo with mom and dad. “My, isn’t he cute,” Santa would say inspecting the photo, “and the kid looks OK too.”

Santa took to roaming the mall in the general vicinity of Santa’s castle. Santa would say to some dear old thing pushing her walker, “Santa says, ‘No racing in the mall,’” or “Santa wants to know if you’ve been a good boy,” to an aging gent slowly making his way, “or there will be no Viagra in your stocking.”

On one of these rambles Santa found himself surrounded by half a dozen mallrats, ranging in age from 12 to 16.

“Hey Santa, I’m going to pull off Santa’s beard,” the leader of the Ratpack threatened, reaching out with an extended arm.

Here was an acting challenge. How would Christopher Plummer handle this? How could Santa stay in kindly character and maintain Santa’s loveable image? How could Santa use this situation as a “teachable moment” for these loveable children?

Santa’s six-foot-two frame stood tall. Santa’s piercing, ice-blue eyes stared intently over Santa’s little wire Santa glasses, and Santa growled in a Clint Eastwood whisper: “Go ahead—make Santa’s day.”