A hard-nosed Santa Claus talks money

Bankrate: So there's cost in maintaining your image?

Santa Claus: Isn't there always? Beard care alone costs me in the thousands every year. If I wasn't so busy, I'd invest in that.

Bankrate: Is Mrs. Claus an employee of your company?

Santa Claus: She's an officer, actually. VP of Human Resources. She spends her days interviewing elves.

Bankrate: Are they tough to hire?

Santa Claus: We've learned some things over the years. Many of them are showbiz refugees -- got into Hollywood claiming they were midgets or dwarves. Everyone lies about something in Hollywood. We've found that if they've been in movies or TV, their work ethic generally stinks here. Not that they're bad people, they're just used to a different environment. I once had to fire about 40 at once after finding out they all lied on their applications. "The Munchkin Incident" ... That was a rough week.

Bankrate: How did they take it?

Santa Claus: Ran around destroying things. Got drunk on eggnog and ginger ale and had chicken fights all over the workshop. Nothing worse than an angry, drunk elf. Bad news.

Bankrate: We've talked about your expenses. What about income?

Santa Claus: Residuals, residuals, residuals. I get money from every Santa-related item in the world. All the shows -- "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "Year without a Santa Claus" ...

Bankrate: "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians"?

Santa Claus: You bet. Everything. Santa-related Christmas tree ornaments, cookies. Plus, I get ancillary rights to Rudolph and Frosty. Frosty's still hot about that. He let himself melt one year just to spite me.

Bankrate: And you allowed them to do "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians." Hmm. Do you stop anything?

Santa Claus: On the Web, I saw a site that had "Disco Dancing Santa." Yeah, right. Didn't even think about it -- just sent a cease and desist. Like I'd be caught dead dancing to disco.

Bankrate: You've had a few legal entanglements. What was the story with the class-action suit?

Santa Claus: I keep a list of every kid in the world, breaking them down into two categories -- "naughty" and "nice." Some kids' rights organization threatened a class action suit, alleging discrimination, emotional distress and even damage to future profits on behalf of kids branded "naughty." They called it a stigma. So, I had to come up with a whole objective justification for the "naughty" designation until I just said, "forget it." Now, every kid gets a Talking Elmo and we're done.

Bankrate: Seems to take all the fun out of it.

Santa Claus: Blame the lawyers.

Bankrate: You've had a few nuisance suits too.

Santa Claus: I actually gave some kid a PlayStation, and I got sued because he wanted an Xbox. What kind of garbage is that? I snuck back in before New Year's and took it back. Now you get nothing. Brat.

Bankrate: And you've had other controversy. Some point to you as the prime example of how Christmas has become so commercialized.

Santa Claus: Unfair. And, inaccurate. Remember, I give toys away for free. If anything, I'm surprised they don't call me a socialist.

Bankrate: Let's talk about your history. You started as St. Nicholas around the fourth century. Word has it you actually left gold for people back then. Is that true?

Santa Claus: It is. I left gold. Now, most things I leave are made of plastic. Times have changed.

Bankrate: You used to be St. Nicholas, and some people call you Kriss Kringle. Any other aliases?

Santa Claus: In the late '60s, I experimented with one I don't talk about much, a weird flight of fancy on my part. Jack Tripper.

Bankrate: Hmmm ... that would seem somewhat inappropriate.

Santa Claus: It was. Not sure what I was thinking -- the '60s turned everyone's head around. I ditched it two years later and gave it to John Ritter. I always liked Ritter.

Bankrate: What's your take on "The Night Before Christmas"?

Santa Claus: That's actually the only story out there that's fully sanctioned. My agency worked out a very generous royalty deal for me on that one.

Bankrate: That was in 1823. They had agencies then?

Santa Claus: Yup. Earlier versions of what we have now. I was with the Kansas City Railroad Profitry Generation and Blacksmithing Company. They eventually became CAA.

Bankrate: What's your take on Christmas music?

Santa Claus: I have a policy. Anyone who plays it before Thanksgiving gets nothing. And even afterward, please, use it sparingly. It's like wallpaper already.

Bankrate: What about that song, "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer?"

Santa Claus: Completely untrue. The reindeers have a 100 percent safety record. That song was really bad for their morale, by the way. A rumor spread that Blitzen did it. He was getting some awful letters, and we barely avoided a boycott from AARP. If you do business in America, don't mess with the Grandma lobby.

Bankrate: What about, "I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus?"

Santa Claus: No comment.

Bankrate: Really?!?!?

Santa Claus: Next question.

Bankrate: In your opinion, what has been the worst use of your image?

Santa Claus: Worst attempted use -- The Star Wars Holiday special. I had to sue to keep myself out of that one. Sure, I wear a big suit, but can we keep Chewbacca out of it, please? What an awful show. Harvey Korman, Bea Arthur, Ewoks, AND the Jefferson Starship. If I ever wanted to kill Christmas, that's sure as heck the fastest way I can think of to do it.

Bankrate: Politically, this nation seems more divided than ever, especially after this year ...

Santa Claus: I'll stop you there. I stay away from all that red state/blue state malarkey. Whether you're the son of an Iowa farmer or the daughter of a Hollywood executive, if you've been good, you're getting a toy. Period.

Bankrate: What are your feelings on the Grinch?

Santa Claus: How did no one realize that having your heart grow three sizes in one day isn't exactly healthy? He was a good man. He'll be missed.

Bankrate: What is the most surprising thing about you that people don't know?

Santa Claus: The Santa suits: Cashmere. Santa travels in style.

Bankrate: Anything new to look forward to in the years to come?

Santa Claus: One word -- Santapalooza!

Bankrate: You're kidding.

Santa Claus: Can't say much, but the Red Hot Chili Peppers are already on board.

Bankrate: Any last advice or requests for the children out there?

Santa Claus: Yeah. If your greatest Christmas desire is Girls Gone Wild tapes, you're officially too old for Santa. Stop writing me.


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