Just Claus

You better not pout

He sees you when you're sleeping; he knows when you're awake. And if that doesn't completely freak you out, how about this: He spends all his time with elves, has access to an army of men who look exactly like him, and he can bend time and space to suit his needs.

Santa Claus is a man, sort of, whose multitasking skills put a nation of personal assistants to shame; a giant elf who can be in a thousand places at once, who can summon the governor with a phone call, and who's both immortal and a saint. But Santa's no genius: He accepts payment in cookies and isn't entirely sure how his reindeer can fly. And if you dare to ask him his true identity, question him about who's under that polyethylene beard and fur-trimmed velvet cat suit, he's suddenly just a befuddled old man with a secret.

New Times: So. You're Santa Claus.

Santa Claus:It's true. The one and only.

NT: If you're the one and only, what's with all the guys in the malls dressed like you?

Claus:Well, I can't be everywhere, so they help me out -- they're sanctioned impostors. And they always get all the children's requests to me.

NT: I've always wanted to ask you this: How do you get down a chimney? You're huge!

Claus:I can't explain it. It's like this: Santa Claus has a car. Santa Claus doesn't have the slightest idea how the transmission in that car works. He just knows that it does.

NT: Well, why go down a chimney in the first place? Why not just break a window?

Claus:When I started doing this, windows hadn't been invented yet. Chimneys were the only access to a sleeping household, because the door was usually barred to keep animals out.

NT: Could people maybe leave a door unlocked? It's not like they don't know you're coming.

Claus:You need to stop worrying about this. When Santa Claus can't get into your house, that's when you need to worry. Let's talk about something else.

NT: Okay. How about how you manage to get literally millions of toys onto your sleigh?

Claus:Well, I'll have to use quantum physics, if you don't mind, to describe this. No, wait. Let Santa just say this: Toy deliveries happen. Like Jesus feeding the masses with a loaf of bread: It just happened. There's a certain magic that occurs.

NT: Speaking of Jesus, it's supposed to be his birthday, but you get all the attention. You must have an amazing press agent.

Claus:It's unfortunate. You've got marketing teams, and they put the emphasis on the wrong thing -- me. It's the spirit of the season that should be emphasized, but to focus on one person is just plain wrong.

NT: Finally, how do you manage to deliver toys to millions of kids in a single night?

Claus:I have a little help. The name Santa opens more doors than any amount of cash ever could. The [Governor's Christmas] party for homeless children that I hosted last week didn't cost a penny. I called the governor and said, "I'm throwing a party in your name in the park by your office. Thank you, goodbye." Santa can do such things, and the governor -- or the mayor, or whoever -- shows up and smiles, and it's all very nice.

NT: Speaking of the governor, thousands of people are dying to know: What's it like having Janet Napolitano on your lap?

Claus:Amazing. She's a very gracious lady. One year she was at an event in her honor over in Scottsdale at the same time as my [homeless kids] party, and she excused herself to go use the facilities, and went out the back way and jumped in her car and came to our party and spent an hour and a half with the kids.

NT: Wait. She snuck out of her own party and was gone for 90 minutes?

Claus:And there wasn't even any media there. You're talking homeless children here, who don't lobby real well and don't vote yet. She was there because she wanted to be there.

NT: Santa, do you remember that time in 1967 when I wanted a Barbie and the new Beatles album, and you brought me a G.I. Joe and the Archies? What was that about? Because I wrote to you and told you exactly what I wanted, and somehow you got the order screwed up.

Claus:I'm really sorry about that. It was my fault. There were two kids with the same name who placed different orders, and I got them mixed up.

NT: Right. Because there are a lot of kids named Robrt with no "e" out there. You know, that Christmas really screwed up my life. Now I have terrible taste in music and I can't stop buying Barbies. I have 7,000 of them, and it's getting kind of crowded in here.

Claus:I said I was sorry. Forgive and forget, right? I've gotten bifocals since then. I do a lot better now about reading letters from children.

NT: What do you really do with the cookies? Because although it's clear that you're at least a size 46 pant, you can't possibly eat every cookie that's left for you.

Claus:Santa tastes the cookies. They're a way to say "thank you," and it wouldn't be Santa-like to not at least try them. But I have quite a sugar buzz by the end of the night, let me tell you.

NT: You're awfully cheerful. What really pisses Santa off?

Claus:How about when I can't find the remote? I'm stuck on a station I don't want to watch and I'm trying to get to American Chopper. Boy. Don't get me started. And another thing that puts me out of sorts is that the part of my job where I give to underprivileged kids keeps getting bigger every year. That's sad.

NT: I understand you're the official Arizona Santa. Was there some need to make that distinction -- was there, say, an unofficial Santa running around?

Claus:I have a driver's license with my name, Santa Claus, on it. Sometimes children who come to see me ask me to prove that I'm Santa Claus, and I pull out my license. That worked for a few years, but kids are more suspicious all the time. Now they ask to see the reindeer.

NT: Okay. Dick Cheney: Naughty or nice?

Claus:Oh, ho ho! I'll never tell.

NT: How about Patti Kirkpatrick: Naughty or nice?

Claus:You'll never get that out of me. That's confidential information.

NT: Scott Peterson? (Sound of bells chiming.) Hey, do you hear "O Little Town of Bethlehem"?

Claus:Sorry. That's my cell phone.

NT: Santa has a cell phone?

Claus:(Speaking into phone.) Hello, Gary. It's Santa. Yes. Three girls and 20 boys? What ages? Okay. No problem. Goodbye. (Hangs up phone.) Sorry about that.

NT: That's okay. Hey, aren't you going to ask me what I want for Christmas?

Claus: I know what you want for Christmas. I'm Santa Claus. I know everything. But I'll play along. What do you want for Christmas?

NT: I want a different president.

Claus: Ho ho ho!

NT: I want Jana Bommersbach to come to my house for lunch. I could use some more Fiesta Ware. And would you please pay off my car? The insurance is killing me.

Claus: Jana I can do. The dishes are no problem. You're on your own with the car. Sorry.

NT: That's okay. Does it bum you out that so many people just flat out don't believe in you? That must be hard on your ego.

Claus:It doesn't matter what people think of me. When I'm doing what I love to do, I'm happy. And whether you believe in Santa or not, he's got you on his list.

E-mail robrt.pela@newtimes.com

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