Barry Saunders

When you put on Santa’s red suit, you must remain jolly – Saunders

Your esteemed columnist, Barry Saunders, knows how tough it is to be Santa Claus. He played the role a few years ago.
Your esteemed columnist, Barry Saunders, knows how tough it is to be Santa Claus. He played the role a few years ago. News & Observer file photo

Santa Claus must’ve missed Santa class the day they taught tact.

Jolly ol’ judgmental St. Nick found himself being assailed far and wide after telling 9-year-old Anthony Mayse of Forest City to “lay off the hamburgers and french fries” when Mayse plopped onto his lap to present his Christmas wish list.

Under duress after reports of the encounter, Santa – identified as Earl Crowder – handed in his red suit and hat. When asked Saturday if the town would’ve given Crowder the old heave-ho ho ho had he not resigned, town manager John Condrey told me, “That would just be conjecture at this point. He did resign.”

Condrey also said a new Santa has been found for the town and this past weekend at The Santa House was “normal.”

That’s a great relief that can’t be taken for granted, because Crowder’s Santa predecessor was convicted in 2004 of taking indecent liberty with a child.

Crowder, a generally beloved and beneficent figure around whom many townspeople are uniting after the furor over his fatty foods faux pas, was hospitalized Wednesday with a blood clot in his lung. His niece, Kelly Butler, told a local television station he was also laid low by a broken heart. “In fact, his first thoughts,” she said, “he wanted to cut his hair and shave his beard.”

He did neither, but he apologized to Anthony’s family and to him.

Class act, dude. Such class is missing from many of Crowder’s allies who, because of the anonymity the internet provides – and because some people simply stink at empathy – think it’s appropriate to attack the kid and his mother, even to blame them, for Crowder’s health woes.

VIDEO: A Forest City, NC man who resigned as Santa in the town’s Christmas house after apparently telling a 9-year-old boy to “lay off” the burgers and fries has been hospitalized since Wednesday with a blood clot in his lung, his niece says. She

Town manager Condrey said officials have been inundated with international calls concerning their hypercritical Kris Kringle, and that he had nothing to add beyond his previously published statement. I, however, was able to reach Mrs. Claus, who had plenty to add. Her story would make a great episode of “Real Housewives of the North Pole.”

Despite being unable to bear children herself, she said, she was distressed by the putdown of the portly pubescent. She was not, however, surprised.

“If you think that’s bad,” she said, shouting to be heard above the noise of underpaid, overworked elves assembling toys for the big day, “you should hear what he says to me when he thinks I’ve put on a pound or two. I warned him that his big mouth was going to come back and bite him in the ...”

Hey, Mrs. Claus!

The head of Santa’s transportation department, who identified himself only as “Rudolph,” laughed at the irony of the unsvelte Santa criticizing someone else’s size.

“He said what? Oh, that’s rich. ... How do you think my nose got red?” he asked. “Busted capillaries from hauling tons of toys and him around in one night, that’s how. The reindeer union kept submitting grievances, and the only reason we overlook the weight limit on deliveries is so we don’t disappoint the children. Now he goes and says something like this. SMDH!”

Several years ago when Santa was suffering from what was reported in the news media as plantar fasciitis – word around the Christmas tree was that he’d actually failed the Christmas Eve breathalyzer after spending too much time guzzling 90-proof egg nog down at the Yule Log, a North Pole gin mill – I was enlisted to play the role.

Some people – OK, just I – called me the best Santa ever.

Among the things veterans tell you when you sign up for the gig is that you have to remain jolly regardless of who seeks to play hop-on-pop that day.

As an experienced Santa, you know there are times when those clambering onto your lap will cause you physical distress, either because they weigh so much or because they just ate an onion-and-sardine sammitch before sidling up to you.

Suck it up, Santas, we’re told. You just have to keep a stiff upper lip, bite your tongue and keep plenty Altoids handy. If someone beseeching you for, say, a video game, is dangerously overweight, the handbook says, you’re instructed to simply slip a treadmill under their tree, instead.

Anthony does not fit that category, and even if he did, what gives Santa the right to criticize?

The kid looks a lot like I did when I gave up sitting on Santa’s lap.

Did I stop out of fear that he would tell me to stop pounding pound cake and nog, a real possibility since my adolescent adiposity meant clerks were always directing my mom to take me to the dreaded “husky” section when clothes-shopping?

Nope. I bypassed Santa’s lap at an early age because in Rockingham, Santa was played by Police Chief Louis Allen, and he was known to generously hand out jewelry for Christmas – a pair of steel bracelets.

Too bad, isn’t it, that those and worse can’t be handed out to whoever thinks it’s OK to attack a mother and her 9-year-old son because they deigned to express outrage at Santa’s yuletide rudeness?

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, @BarrySaunders9

Watch kids react as they visit with Santa at Crabtree Mall in Raleigh, N.C.

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