Tuesday, January 29, 2008


from Bootleg Magazine Jan 2007

You want to know what it feels like to be famous? Dress up like Santa Claus in December and take a walk downtown, anywhere there’s a large gathering of people. Everywhere I went dressed as Santa I was greeted with Hey Santa in one form or another. People stared happily and a little star struck.
Older and young adults alike were happy to see old Santa, even if he was portrayed by someone younger like me. Their eyes would light up ever so slightly after seeing the red suit, the long white beard and the red hat with a white ball at the end. It was as if their younger self woke up for a brief moment.
My beard was becoming unruly and I needed a bathroom break so I stepped in Fat Tony’s to make use of the mirror and facilities. I wasn’t really thinking, merely planning to go in and get out, but to my unexpected surprise there were tables filled and the bar lined with drinkers and a large party of well dressed young women in the back in gorgeous dresses. Perhaps it was a sorority party or a girls-only Christmas party – who knows, but people looked up when I walked in with that red suit on.
Look, it’s Santa. Hey Santa!
I walked quickly past the tables, past the bar and to the back for the restroom. I encountered the beautiful group of young women decked out in colorful dresses. Those within my eyesight partially melted as if Brad Pitt were moving past them. Their eyes fixed on Santa’s and it felt as if I had them under a spell, or rather, Santa did.
I want to touch Santa’s beard a young woman said, her eyes glistening and brown hair reflecting the soft florescent light. Her hands came towards me, fingertips wanting to rifle through the white beard. It was tantalizing but Mrs. Claus was waiting at the front of Fat Tony’s and you should never disrespect the Mrs. Besides, I had to get back to my group of fellow Santa’s. Santarchy was afoot.
The funny thing is, there were only adults around that night and it seemed as though they were kids in adult bodies. The same could be said for those adults who participated in SANTACON.

This little event, SANTACON, was staged December 9th in Wilmington. SANTACON is an annual gathering of Santa’s who take off in a night of raucous caroling, drinking and mild debauchery in the fat man’s suit. It happens all around the world, Kansas City, Houston, Boston, New York City, London to name a few.
All the Santa’s and Mrs. Claus’ met around four o’clock at Juggling Gypsy. Telling everyone to meet at four was somewhat of a ruse because SANTACON’s ringleader, Bash, knew that the Santa’s would be running late. Some would meet up with the group later as we would be driving around the city in two rented passenger vans, one with seats and the other without.
Santa Bash planned a night’s list of activities, the Santinerary, as he so affectionately called it. The group would descend on as many establishments as possible to bring fractured Christmas cheer, singing carols just out of kilter with the norm. Songs such as the naughty version of ‘The Night Before Christmas’ and ‘Silent Night, Welfare Night’ or ‘Crashing Through the Snow.’
With the first van filled the group found themselves downtown singing in front of the government building for all those who passed by. It was a nice warm up for a night that was just beginning to grow chilly. A song was begun and kids hushed away. Everyone retreated to the Barbary Coast for a drink or two.
Me and the Mrs. Caught up with the Santa gang there. The Santa’s were a wonderfully varied type. There was a Rasta Santa, a 70’s Cool Santa adorned in a sleek red business suit and black beard, a Santa only in grey long john’s, a Miami Vice Santa, a little bit hippy Santa, a Sexy Santa, a Lazy Santa and more traditional Santa’s. Some were disheveled from early drinking and others were just getting started and carrying around their bottles of Windex to drink the blue liquid from. Now, on appearance, it looks as though Santa is spraying Windex into his mouth. But it’s blue colored alcohol or wine to make it safe to drink whenever Santa or Mrs. Claus feels like it. Santa’s are known worldwide for drinking Windex and if you don’t clean out the bottle thoroughly and long before SANTACON, it can lead to a nasty hangover. And there were many Mrs. Claus’ on hand in addition to a few elves. It was barely six o’clock and many more stops to go.
From the Barbary Coast SANTARCHY roamed from place to place, entering Charlie Brownz to bring forth Christmas cheer with a rendition of ‘Rudolph the Red Hosed Reindeer.’ Everyone stood in front of the stage to sing for an early bar crowd. “Rudolph the Red Hosed Reindeer had a very shiny hose, and if you ever saw it, you would really say oh WHOH!” The early bar crowd clapped happily and wished us well.
Now Santa’s can get a little naughty and push people’s buttons. And it’s only fair, Santa works hard all year, fulfilling wishes and living in that cold environment and all. So, Santa, it must be said, has to let off a little steam. So sometimes, well, let’s lay it out there, a Santa dry humped the glass at CaffĂ© Phoenix as two, much older, diners stared in frozen amazement from behind the glass. They held forks in their hands but appeared dead. From behind another pane of glass other diners were shocked and amused, finding the silliness in the situation. Around the corner the same could be said of window diners in Deluxe, laughing while trying to chew their food. And henceforth, the gang of Santa’s and their better halves walked into the night, up Market Street to return not to their sleigh but to a rented passenger van and also to help remove a Santa who was stuck in a street drain at the curb.
Everyone climbed into the van that contained several rows of seats. We headed back to home base at the Gypsy where other Santa’s awaited our return. From there more Santa’s would leave in both vans, the other van referred to as the Surf Van for it contained only two front seats. All Santa’s in the cargo area would have to sit on the floor as a lone Santa tries to stand. The van moves about in traffic and our faithful driver, Santa Denny, applies the brake at his discretion thus sending the surfer tough waves to make it difficult to stand up.
But before embarking on a little surf trip it was required that we embrace tradition, that tradition known as the Santa Pyramid. One by one the Santa’s sat their beers on the cold ground and piled on, and Mrs. Claus’ too, until we reached a proud pyramid of fifteen. A few pictures and damaged shoulder blades later, the pyramid disappeared.
Santa Bash is on his cell phone to someone and the topic of The Santa Land Diaries comes up. We had spoke Friday night of paying a certain Macy’s elf a visit during SANTACON.
“There’s an elf with a room full of people complaining about Santa down at City Stage,” Santa Bash yells over the phone. “We’re making a few stops and then we need to pay him a visit.”
Bathroom breaks accomplished, it was back in our four wheeled sleighs and off to town again we went, this time to sneak attack ArtFuel. Outside the studio a sea of red moved towards the door, each Santa passing back the same message, Shhhhh. We were to sneak inside the front door and surprise those still inside. It was deadly quiet, like crime scene quiet. The band of Santa’s moved to the back of the studio before reaching Sarah Peacock. She turned around to see before her a vast number of Santa’s crowding her room. She was regaled with a song and a bull whip was brought out to tame a non-believer. Now the non-believer knew the real meaning of Christmas. Off we went, back into the van to surf.
Friendly passings of booze were to be found inside the dark of that van with no seats. Everyone sat huddled on the cold black floor, a little liquid spilled from cups and ran under those not sitting on the wheel hubs, but all was okay. The only light to see came in through the van’s square rear windows when cars came too close, in which those in the back would playfully claw at the glass, leaving finger marks in fogged up glass from their fake screams.
“Those in the back will soon be in the front,” Santa Bash offers as we speed off in the surf van. A Santa stands up and carries the weight of his body as the van moves around a bend in the road. Santa holds fast, bearing inertia until he has to place his hand on the ceiling to keep from flying forward. He holds fast again as we start to slow. But Santa Denny knows this game all to well. He slams on the brakes and Santa wipes out, thrust forward into a patch of Santa’s in the front. Everyone slides forward on top of one another, drinks spill, the surfer falls into the other Santa’s. Everyone is okay from Santa falling in the dark cramped corridor of the Surf Van. Some continue to bang on the glass at cars outside. People on the street gawk and yell and wave. Some say Merry Christmas.
Anyone driving by the van could not conceive of the humorous mayhem on the inside, but they would enjoy it just the same. Unless they had to relieve themselves of the giant Red Stripe drank just a short time ago.
Santa Denny pulls into the parking lot in just the right amount of time, for Santa has to go, go, go. He steps into a corner and relieves himself of the pressure as the other Santa’s walk by yelling loudly, Santa’s taking a break! Santa’s taking a break, Santa’s taking a break!
It’s off to Bottega to spread the Christmas cheer, sing another song and have a drink. And behind the bar sits Santa himself in an elegant beard. It seems some Santa’s have to work during SANTACON.
Several Santa’s disperse for a while. Mrs. Claus steps out onto the sidewalk to practice her bull whip skills. Walking around downtown, everyone says Hey, its Santa, especially the ladies, while the guys say What’s up, as if a little envious, as if they already know the joy Santa can bring (nod and a wink).
Santa Bash assembles the crowd again and offers part of his secret Santinerary. Next stop, the Strip Club. First we have to stop at the Gypsy to pick up some Santa’s and Mrs. Claus’ and then Expressions to sing a song and then the coup de gras, the Crazy Horse. The night’s longest engagement will involve Santa’s, some Mrs. Claus’ and naked beautiful women dancing on gold shiny fifteen foot poles. What a wonderful Christmas this shall be.
We pick up several more Santa’s and a few non-Santas, a Frenchman, Thomas and his wife.
“This is the best time I’ve had since I’ve been in North Carolina,” Thomas says. “I went to a Moroccan restaurant for dinner and we wanted to have an after dinner drink at the Gypsy.” He and his gang came inside to find the SANTACON gang and they joined up. “The next thing I know I’m in a van full of Santa’s. That’s how I look at life, you can’t plan everything.”
The van arrives at the Crazy Horse. It’s early and looks to have Santa’s outnumbering everyone else in the joint. Once inside it seems as if it’s not unusual to have a fistful of Santa’s in the room, no one pays us much attention. Or perhaps it’s that there’s a naked woman dancing with that golden pole at the right of the stage. With something that enticing on stage, who cares about a bunch of red covered holiday maestros?
The Mrs. Claus’ take front row seats and slide money into the dancer’s underwear. One dancer, with color streaked black hair, shoulder tattoos and fangs, hangs from high above on the pole, defying gravity. She slinks down the pole, her tall slender figure moving towards the stage until she lands gracefully. She then works the edge of the stage as customers, Santa’s and Mrs. Claus’ give her money as she spreads her legs in response. Santa’s order drinks from a leggy brunette dressed in red Christmas attire, something resembling a red teddy with white and black boots. One of the dancers took Thomas’ hat, dancing with it tight on her head. Another dancer buried her face in a Mrs. Santa’s ample breasts and then the Mrs. returned the favor, all in good holiday fun.
The club manager, in the spirit of the holiday season and just being one cool individual, offers everyone in SANTACON a free shot of peppermint Schnapps. An announcement is made and everyone lines the bar to down the shot. Merry Christmas Crazy Horse. Merry Christmas sexy dancers.
After spending too much time at the Crazy Horse we realized that we missed crashing City Stage Crumpet the complaining elf and The Santa Land Diaries. Next year Crumpet, next year, you’ll get what’s coming to you. So our next stop was The Rusty Nail. Parking behind the AFL-CIO building there was the audibly loud sound of what we thought was a concert but turned out to be a community dance in progress. We wave hello and look inside only to depart to The Rusty Nail.
Upon entering I get the feeling this is not going to be well taken, not in the matter in which the sudden entrance of 25 Santa’s and Mrs. Claus’ should be. People at The Rusty Nail stared, just stared. No one says Hey Santa or anything of the sort. The moment reminded me of that scene in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure when he enters the biker bar and tries to use the pay phone. It seems we have interrupted something. No one is mean or disrespectful but one gets the feeling they prefer we were not there at all. Towards the back a man and a woman are performing a song and many are singing along. Once finished several Santa’s step up to the microphone and begin to sing ‘Deck the Balls,’ a Howard Stern worthy rendition of the holiday classic. It doesn’t go over badly, it just doesn’t go over.
The Santa’s and crew file out shortly thereafter with little fanfare. As Santa Denny steps out the front door he says something and can’t help but smile. Mrs. Claus asks, “Did we get asked to leave?”
“Yeah,” Santa Denny says with a laugh, “We were asked to leave.”
The group crosses the street back towards the vans behind the AFL-CIO and two Mrs. Claus’ are taking in the fact that we were asked to leave.
Holding her coat closely to stay warm, she coughs and says with no hint of sarcasm, “How do you get asked to leave the Rust Nail?”
The other Mrs. Claus chuckles and we all hurry to the van since the night is aging and growing ever colder. After a lengthy drive away from downtown and then u-turning back to downtown we park on a side street and make for Lula’s. After entering Lula’s it’s clear that not many Santa’s will make it in. The bar is crowded and the Santa’s that do make it in appear like a long red snake entering a smoky dark orifice. People in the bar are packed in as it is and after a quick drink the Santa’s depart for cooler temperatures outside the bar.
It hasn’t taken long for the Santa’s to get lost. A Santa throws up behind a car not far away. The walkie talkie screams in the night. The Santa’s in the other van are looking for us. How could we have gotten separated so easily? Then it makes sense, two vans, all that drinking and the night is winding down.
Santa Bash talks into his walkie talkie while a red hat slinks down his face covering eyes and nearly a mouth. Next stop, the Soapbox to rendezvous with the Cosmic Groove Lizards. Santa’s climb the lower downtown streets, moving block to block towards the Soapbox. I nearly get drawn into the City Saloon but we have the Santinerary to keep up with.
A young guy in a leather jacket stops me and asks if he can tell me what he wants for Christmas. I say sure. He says he wants a Playstation 3. I tell him he shall have it but he is worried about getting shot over one. I tell him to be safe and a young woman asks Santa if he wants to dance with her. I use one of Santa’s pick up lines, saying, “You must be interested in seeing the North Pole, well, that’s what the Mrs. Calls it.” She laughs and we keep moving. Walking past the Sidebar another young lady asks if I have any toys to which I reply, “only ones with batteries.”
We stop for a slice of pizza and out on the sidewalk across the street we see a few wayward Santa’s. This Santa got lost and we direct him to the Soapbox. Within a few minutes there’s a line of Santa’s outside the place. Once inside Santa’s are cleaning up the dance floor. One Santa break-dances until his clothing starts to come off. The Santas bounce around the dance floor like spider monkeys swinging from trees. Santa in long-john’s join Mark and Dave onstage to sing along with the Groove Lizards. It is a fitting end to a long night of traveling around the city spreading inebriated cheer.
Santa’s like to have a good time, Santa’s like to sing raunchy songs. SANTACON happens, here and abroad. On that night everyone rode the red and white wave of pandemonium. It will certainly happen again next Christmas and anyone and everyone is invited along to be a Santa, a Mrs. Claus or even be an elf. But it’s best to be Santa because Santa rules the night. Nothing can stop a gang of Santa’s.

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