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Santa and Me

I was going up — no, not in a chimney, but in the elevator of 2 Rodeo in Beverly Hills — when who should I spot standing alongside me but a jolly gentleman in a bright red suit. Yup, there he was, smiling through his shiny white beard and moustache, and shaking his (own) gleaming white hair when I shook his hand. He was on his way to Mikimoto on Rodeo to set plans to launch the season on Rodeo Dr. His next appearance was to join Anne and Kirk Douglas as they again hosted their regular Thanksgiving dinner at the L.A. Mission. And Sunday, he, of course was in the Hollywood Christmas Parade.

He and Hollywood’s Mayor Johnny Grant, the creator of the Parade had met during the Vietnam War. Santa, Timothy Connaghan, that is, was in the Army. His black beard in those days was the result of not having shaved after days on patrol. This is now his 39th year playing Santa and he heads the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas — 1,100 strong. Their average age is 59.8 years, weight, 257 pounds. He will be part of a satellite press confab for Auntie Anne’s Pretzels this week, and heads to N.Y. next month for a Coca Cola commercial with 12 other “real Santas.” Sure, he’s made some special appear-ances for celebs. Steven Spielberg reined him in to bring season’s spirits to three of his staff locations — plus one at his equestrian arena — with reindeer? Ho ho ho.

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