Review: I Am Santa Claus

Have you ever wondered about the personal lives of the various Santa Claus’ you have seen in malls, department stores, and various other Christmas functions all your lives? Have you ever wondered if they love what they do? If the Christmas spirit consumes them? Director Tommy Avallone captures the Christmas spirit, and the lives of these men (who perhaps we adults take for granted every year) in this heart-warming documentary.

This question is billed as “whose lap is my child sitting on?” This film answers that question by documenting a year in the lives of five men who don the “Red Suit” during that special time of year to bring joy to the hearts of the children who still allow their imagination to be swept up by Santa Claus. Bob Gerardi, a successfull real estate agent based in California, a devout Christian who we see if also working on a Christmas album. Frank Pascuzzi, a BBQ obsessed New Yorker who put a stop to being avoided on trains by bleaching his beard and hair to adopt the persona. Jim Stevenson, a proud homosexual male who has to deal with his lover living miles away from him. And finally Russell Spice, a man forced into retirement depending on Social Security, given a home (a basement) by his daughter.

I appreciated this documentary for the emotional punches it packed while following the stories of Jim Stevenson and Russell Spice in particular. Jim is head over heels in love with his partner Alex, who is awaiting a transfer so he can be closer to Jim, a man whose family has passed away we really capture the lonliness of Jim. The passion he still has for portraying Santa however is alive and well and it shows. Given his story this film tackles the age old debate of his sexual identity and whether it should matter. I know my live and let live stance on the issue, but the film just presents the question, it doesn’t try to force an answer and that was a different approach. Jim Stevenson desperately wants to move into a trailer park to regain some independent hold on his life, his story is a bittersweet one as his gig as Santa is a big factor on whether he can get this accomplished…but Jim never lets the stress rob him of what he knows this holiday means to so many people around the world.

These less than uplifting tales are contrasted by following professional wrestling legend Mick Foley as he prepares to finally portray Santa Claus at one of his favorite hang out spots Santa’s Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire. Foley has such an enthusiastic passion for the Christmas holidays that matches my own so it was easy to be swept up in the cheer he brought to the proceedings. As a wrestling fan it was great to see appearances by Jerry Lawler, Roddy Piper, and Brian Heffron (AKA Blue Meanie) the latter of which shared a great story that enforced the idea that Christmas has been an obession of Mick’s that has encompassed his whole life. Seeing the reactions of Mick’s family as he was finally decked out in Santa gear was a touching moment that I think captures what this documentary is all about.

In its essence, this film is about getting to know some of the men responsible for keeping the spirit of this holiday alive year in and year out. These men don’t treat being Santa Claus as merely a job, they know the importance of the smiles they put on the faces of these families every year and they cherish them. You see regret in their eyes when they realize it’s only something they can do once a year, but do they put aside the persona of Santa when Christmas Day is over? Something in my heart of hearts doesn’t think so. Being Santa is a year round gig for the real mccoy, so I think these men live their lives accordingly. And it was a treat to see it in action.

Rating: 10 yuletide cheers

Review by: Paul Huffman

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