I wear my face every day — it doesn’t matter if I have the suit on,” Santa Carlucci said. “Children will always look at me and say ‘Santa!’ If only you could see what this world looks like in my eyes. No matter where I am, I always get a warm, friendly, childish reaction. Even talking to parents on the phone — I say, ‘This is Santa.’ The voice on the phone typically goes into a giddy kind of response.”
The career of Santa Carlucci (the stage name of Carl Immediatio, yoursantatoo.com) began in 1993. “I had a good life, good wife, good kids. I had an epiphany — I had to do something to give back. I was in the process of being picked as the next Santa for the company party. I had watched the last guy suffering through putting on that wig and beard. I grew the beard. It came in looking like a Brillo pad — rusty brown, red, gray. I whitened it up, and the next day I called the Salvation Army and said, ‘Would you be OK if I rang bells as Santa Claus?’ I did it 10 hours a day, Friday and Saturday, for the whole season. A hundred and twenty hours later, I’m done. I said ‘What an experience!’ and did it again the following year. I did it for eight years.”
Although the most familiar Santas are the ones who appear in department stores and shopping malls, Santa Carlucci is part of a smaller world of home and special event Santas. “One of the biggest attractions is the diversity of events that I can do. I do a tree-lighting environment where I help the dignitaries light the tree, then I take a spot and the children come up and tell me what they want, a photo is taken, maybe a small gift is given. I’ve been a master of ceremonies, I’ve been at the birth of a child, I’ve done weddings. I’ve done parties with a thousand people, and yet I’ve done parties with inner city children that have never been with a Santa Claus,” he said.
Santa Carlucci’s stable of helpers includes not only reindeer but also musicians, caterers and face-painters. In recent years, Santa Carlucci has frequently partnered with Mrs. Cheryl Claus, whom he calls his “work wife.” They met at a Santa Claus convention, where he was teaching and she came for training. “She has really changed my ability to entertain,” he said.
How does someone get into the Santa business?
Santa Claus picks you — you don’t pick Santa. It is a gift. It is the most heart-wrenching, heartwarming factor of my life.
What did you do before Santa Claus picked you?
The thing that paid the bills all those years was the computer industry. Nothing from the computer industry moved through to Santa except the marketing aspects. I had the ability to be proactive on getting the website up and running, the Facebook page. I don’t go knocking on doors and I’m not actively carried by an agent. I do promote through my connections with restaurants and event coordinators.
Does Santa Carlucci ever have a bad day?
Any day can be a grumpy day. A teenager can be a very cynical person and very cruel sometimes. I generally try to turn that around. Sometimes you watch children in their best years taken sick by the most horrible diseases. That can be draining. You have to have a good thing to say. □