For SantaDan, fielding Christmas wishes from children is the next best thing to his youthful ambition to be a pastor. That career path never materialized, but this Santa gig has gone well for the last 17 years, with SantaDan getting commercial work and two Esquire magazine photo spreads as jolly ol' St. Nick. SantaDan has a huge scrapbook of his work, including photos with fans, young and old, and a newspaper clipping from his 2007 mention in this space. The item was about late WCCO-TV anchor Bill Carlson encountering a Santa when they were both getting chemo at the U. Last Christmas SantaDan said he was working at Edina High's "Breakfast with Santa" when some women decided to sit on his lap. To one, "I said, 'I know what you'd like, Nancy Nelson [an AM 950 radio show host and Carlson's widow]. She said, Oh, my goodness, you know who I am? And I said, 'Yes, I do, and I'm sorry my prayers didn't save your husband.' She said, Oh, my God, you are him. She started to bawl and she left crying."
Mrs. Claus (yep, she's bummed that her first name is not supposed to be disclosed) had a different kind of story about the time SantaDan marveled over the enthusiasm of a group of grown women who were sitting on his lap at a Southdale appearance. Their energy level was no mysterious miracle, SantaDan learned, when one of the elves working that appearance explained: "They're all drunk!"
Speaking of drinks, Kim Kardashian might want to consume the soothing beverage of her choice before reading this or viewing the accompanying startribune.com/video.
Q How does one become Santa Claus?
A First, you believe in Santa, then you don't, and then you are Santa. That's kind of the way it happened to me. When I got old enough to have a couple of daughters, my hair turned white, and I was fat, it started to pay off. People actually thought I was Santa Claus while delivering flowers for Chicago Floral. I liked it when the kids would run down the street after my truck and say Santa! Santa! I would stop and give them candies. The only time it got me in trouble is when I had six or seven around my delivery truck and this older grandma came up and she hollered at the kids, You get away from that man! They said, But it's Santa Claus! She said, I don't care if it's Jesus Christ himself, you get away from that man! I realized that not everybody likes Santa.
Q Who would play you in a movie about your life?
A I think probably the best person would be my old pastor, Jim Sbertoli. I used to think that man could walk on water. He was the nearest thing to Jesus Christ I ever met. My life has come full circle. When I first started out at age 18, I wanted to become a pastor. I didn't make it. But here I am, as close to being a pastor as I've ever been in my life. Children come to me now, jump up in my lap, and they look me in the eye and say, Are you God? I say 'No, I'm not God, but that's his son's birthday we're celebrating.' Then I get a chance to do my evangelism.
Q It's been a big year for Santa commercials: The Chevy and Luther Kia commercials, Xfinity, Target, Mrs. Claus reminding Santa via text to lay off the cookies. Is Santa's image getting too commercialized?
A I don't think so. I'm one of those persons [who] does a lot of commercials. After all, we have a very small window to make a living.
Q Which reindeer is your favorite?
That's easy. That's Olive. Olive is Rudy's -- Rudolph, I call him Rudy for short -- little sister. I made a song up about her so you would remember her name. "Olive the other reindeer..." (Readers: You'll for sure get the joke that caused Mrs. Claus to interject "Gotcha!" if you view the video.)
Q Ever been gored by your reindeer, perhaps for playing favorites?
A They do push me around a lot, but they're not that mean.
Q My friend Alex Tuss, 6, wants to know what other animals you see at the North Pole besides reindeer.
A Of course, we see the polar bears. Sometimes brown bears will wander in and seals and walruses. I especially like walrus milk. It's very cold, very good.
Q How much do you weigh?
A I'm down to a svelte 250 pounds. Before I had the cancer I was up to 360. I've lost quite a bit. It's a hard way to lose it; I would not advise it.
Q How many lumps of coal should I put in Kim Kardashian's stocking, given the opportunity?
A I'd think more in terms of weight. With her she could stand about 50 pounds of coal. I am really not one of her fans.
C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or firstname.lastname@example.org. E-mailers, please state a subject -- "Hello" doesn't count. Attachments are not opened, so don't even try. More of her attitude can be seen Thursday mornings on Fox 9.