You probably don't give Santa a second look when you see him in a department store or on a street corner every December...but maybe you should.
By December 2001, Mafia fugitive Francesco Farina had been on the run from Sicilian police for more than five years. Holed up in what he thought was a great hideout -a flat in downtown Catania- Farina was able to look out his window and see whether the cops were closing in on him. But all he saw were the regular assortment of Christmas shoppers, schoolchildren, and a Santa Claus ho-ho-hoing on the street corner. A few days before Christmas, thinking that the coast was clear, Farina decided to go out on the town. Bad idea: the guy in the red suit wasn't Santa after all. A succession of surveillance cops dressed as Santa had kept their eyes on Farina, who ended up spending Christmas in jail.
An unidentified Santa was cruising down a LeHigh Acres, Florida street in his convertible when he was approached by 20-year-old Jonathan Danzey, who asked Santa for a present. Informed there was nothing for him in Santa';s sack, Danzey got angry. Words were exchanged, Santa got out of the car, and Danzey tried to punch him. According to Katherine Phillips, who witnessed the altercation, "Santa Claus whipped his butt." He ripped Danzey's shirt, knocked him to the ground, then drove away. The cops soon arrived and arrested Danzey on drunk and disorderly charges. "He won, " Danzey conceded, "but he was stronger and more soberer."
One of the oddest sights in the history of sports took place in Newtown, Wales, in December 2002. More than 1,000 runners -both male and female- participated in a four-mile race for charity …all dressed in full Santa Claus garb: black boots, red pants, red coat, and a big white beard. Said one of the runners: "It's a lot easier to run in a Santa suit than to try to hold a normal conversation in one."
What if Santa were banned from Christmas? That's what they tried to do in the small town of Kensington, Maryland in 2001. Some of the townspeople complained that it made them feel uncomfortable having a "religious figure" participate in the annual tree-lighting ceremony, so the town fathers decided to ask Santa to stay home. Unfortunately, not everyone in town agreed with the decision. Result: 50 Santas showed up and marched on City Hall. Pro- and anti-Santa factions clashed; one Santa was arrested.
Shortly before Christmas in 1999, Kelley Fornatoro placed her 19-month-old son next to Santa for a holiday portrait in a Woodland Hills, California shopping mall. The baby immediately started crying. So Fornatoro suggested that Santa put his arm around the boy to calm him down. That's when Santa had a fit of his own. "I will not imprison your child!" he yelled at her. "Was it worth it for you to torture your child for a picture? You must be an evil person." As Fornatoro retrieved her baby, she said she'd be filing a formal complaint. "You can complain about me if you want, but I am Santa Claus. I am the best person in the world!" Then he got really mad. While parents rushed to cover their shocked children's eyes, Santa began undressing. He took off his hat, beard, wig, coat, and belt, and was down to his red, baggy pants and a tank top when security guards escorted him out of the building.
In a quest to find Great Britain's ultimate Santa, organizers at Guinness World Records sponsored the first-ever "Santathon" in December 2001. The event included a field of eight top contenders donned in full beards, red suits, and black boots. Competitive events included sack-hauling, pie eating, chimney climbing, stocking filling, and ho-ho-hoing. First prize was awarded to David Broughton-Davis, 43, from Croydon, a professional department store Santa. "I'm not very proud to admit that my best event was eating three large mince pies," Broughton-David lamented after being awarded the Golden Boots trophy. "I just wish that event hadn't taken place before the chimney climb. It was hard on the stomach."
Top image by mikeledray/ShutterStock
The article above was reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Unstoppable Bathroom Reader.