Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mr. 5000 - Kris Kringle

Every so often, a man comes along whose impact on the world is simply immeasurable. Kris Kringle, popularly known as "Santa Claus," is one such man. Since his meteoric rise to prominence, the often-loved, sometimes-maligned Kringle has been the subject of countless stories, movies, songs, and legends. Most people think they know about his life, often erroneously recounted in stories, movies, and songs. As Kringle recently told GMYH, "I just want to set the record straight. People see some shoddy made-for-TV, stop-animation movie and they think it's the gospel. Yeah, like some fucking mailman knows my story. Anyway, there's been a lot of shit written about me over the years -- most of it untrue -- and there are a lot of people out there who don't even believe in me. I'll be honest, I haven't exactly been the best role model, but it's time for everyone to learn the truth about Santa Claus." Kringle's story is as old as time: family turmoil, alcohol abuse, womanizing, and, ultimately, unparalleled success.

His exact date of birth is unknown, even to him, but as he has said, "I'm pretty much old as shit." Born in what is now Belarus, Kris Karl Kringle (in the 1870s, he officially changed his middle name to Tyrone, so as to prevent any possible inference of affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan) had humble beginnings. His parents, Vladimir and Veronika Kringle, were hard-working and strict. All of their children worked on the family reindeer farm, which, as Kris described, was a "24-7-12-52-365 job." Kris was in charge of keeping track of the farm's inventory. His older brother Claus, who Kris looked up to, was in charge of making sure the reindeer had enough food and enough exercise. The oldest sibling, Natalia, was in charge of birthing, while Olga, the youngest, was in charge of gathering the reindeer's milk each day, which the family would use and would also sell at the market.

Tragedy struck Kris in his early teens. As Kris looked on, Claus tripped and fell while leading the reindeer on their daily run. By the time all 200 reindeer had passed, Claus had been trampled to death. Kris had not only lost his brother, but he also lost his best friend and his mentor.

On the farm, Kris bore the brunt of Claus's death. His parents gave all of Claus's responsibilities to Kris. Tension was high on the farm, as Vladimir and Veronika constantly prodded Kris to be quicker with his work, especially on the inventory side of things. Kris's innate habit of double-checking his inventory was not meant in any way to anger his parents, but it did just that. Kris constantly argued with his parents, trying to make them understand that he needed to check everything twice in order to ensure that the farm was fully stocked. What his parents (and Kris) did not know is that Kris had what today is called obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD.

Kris eventually had enough of the bickering. In the middle of a July 332 night, he left the family farm and headed west, not knowing what the future would hold for him. For several years, Kris wandered throughout what is now Poland, Germany, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, working as a blacksmith.

Then in 335, he met a man who would change Kris's life forever. The man was Nicholas, and he was from Myra, which is in modern-day Turkey. Nick, as he was known to his friends, was a very generous man, who liked to travel around Europe (then called "The Roman Empire") sampling the mead, wine, and women in every town, and delighting each town's children by leaving treats in the shoes of the well-behaved children while the kids were asleep.

Nick and Kris became fast friends, and Kris liked Nick's way of life, as well as the message he sent to kids. As Kringle explained, "Nick and I were drinking buddies. We'd travel all over Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. He had a habit of getting wrecked and going around house-to-house, leaving candy in shoes. Then there was this one little bastard who kept egging Nick's house. Instead of leaving this kid candy, Nick found a big horse turd that he put in the kid's shoes. We could barely do it without busting up. Long story short, the kid killed himself the next day when he found out that he was the only kid in town who got poo in his shoes instead of candy. I guess it was his only pair of shoes. Anyway, that's when he decided to put lumps of coal in bad kids' shoes instead of shit."

Several years passed, and Kris was enjoying his travels with Nick, whose health began to dwindle. He had kept in contact with his sisters, Natalia and Olga. In December of 341, Kris received a disturbing message from Olga: Vladimir and Veronika had died from a bout with dysentery after drinking some sour reindeer milk. She wanted Kris to come home for the burial. At first Kris was hesitant, but Nick told him that going home was the right thing to do. Before Kris left for home, Nick told him that Kris was a good person and that as long as he continued to spread joy to the hearts of children everywhere, Kris would never die. It would be the last time Kris would ever see Nick, who died 2 years later and was cannonized as a saint about 200 years later.

When Kris returned home, the farm was in shambles. Natalia and Olga had tried their best to keep the farm running, but the onset of winter had taken its toll on the reindeer, as well as the equipment. Only one sleigh and 8 reindeer remained (Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen). Kris used the money he earned as a blacksmith to buy out his sisters' shares of the farm, giving them enough money to live on for many years. He then used the reindeer and the sleigh to carry out Nick's work. Traveling across the Empire, Kris delivered toys once a year to the Christian children who had been good throughout the year.

"In the early years, I was pretty modest. A lot of times I would visit houses and accidentally wake someone up. When they asked who I was, I would get flustered because I was pretty shy and because I didn't want someone to think that I was breaking in. So I'd give 'em a fake name, usually St. Nicholas or Santa Claus, in honor of Nick and my brother. Those names stuck, I guess."

Word of "Santa Claus" and "St. Nicholas" soon spread, and Kris found it to be increasingly difficult to keep track of all of the children. "That's when I came up with the idea of the Nice List and the Naughty List," he later recounted, "Of course, I still had to make sure that it was correct, so I started checking it twice a year, rather than just once."

Kris was also finding it difficult to deal with the ever-growing population and the continual growth of Christianity. After a year of rigorous training, Kris had taught the reindeer to fly. This allowed Kris's efficiency to increase 100-fold. However, with the increase in efficiency came an increase in the number of children he could reach, and a resulting increase in demand for toys. To deal with this, Kris hired about 100 elves from a neighboring community. Elves had a reputation as hard workers and good company men and women.

A side-effect of Kris's growing popularity and notoriety was that he was swarmed wherever he went, whether it was by angry children who thought they had deserved presents, good children who were awestruck and thankful, or enamored women who would do anything to make it onto the Nice List. It got to the point where Kris couldn't even walk down the street or go to a restaurant without getting bothered by someone.

This prompted Kris to sell the family farm, using the proceeds to buy the entire North Pole, a region that had not been previously inhabited. Land and labor was so cheap in the North Pole that he was able to build a huge toy production facility, a giant distribution center, a state-of-the-art mail center, heated stables for his reindeer, and a house for each family of elves.

Things went smoothly for years, until one unusually foggy Christmas. Kris's sleigh had no lights, and his 8 reindeer could barely see six inches in front of them. Luckily Donner's son, Rudolph, had a birth defect that made his nose shine like a red lightbulb. Kris redesigned his sleigh so that it would work with 9 reindeer, with Rudolph by himself out front, leading the pack. To this day, Santa has kept that same configuration. Interestingly, Rudolph has developed a bit of a cult following, with at least one song written about his exploits.

Always a perfectionist, Kris became better and better at his craft, to the point where he could deliver presents to every kid on the Nice List in just one night. As his gift-giving prowess became legendary with children, his libido became just as legendary with the world's women. As Dasher explained, "Santa had a way with women like I've never seen before or since. I mean, imagine you're a lady sitting at home late one Christmas Eve, and who comes slidin' down the chimney but Kris fuckin' Kringle with a bag of shit that you want. The irony, of course, was that to get off the Naughty List, you had to do something naughty. Back in the old days, we would sometimes be waiting on a roof for an hour or two, knowing damn well what -- or should I say, who -- that fat son of a bitch was doing inside. Because of his shenanigans we almost had to make Christmas a two-day holiday."

Kris recalled, "I had some great times back in the day. There wasn't a woman I couldn't bag. Back in the '30s, Errol Flynn and I had a running contest. Last I checked, I was way ahead." Kris pledged himself to 2 things: making sure the good little boys and girls of the world were rewarded for their deeds, and making sure he remained a bachelor forever.

But that all changed on December 25, 1942. While visiting an apartment building in Los Angeles, Kris came to the dwelling of a 20-year-old aspiring actress, Missez Claus Jones, known to her friends simply as Missez Claus. "It was love at first sight for both of us," she explained. Luckily for Kris, her presents were the final delivery of that year's Christmas. He and Missez Claus spent the night getting to know each other on a carnal level. They married three days later in the North Pole.

Kris Kringle, the man who once deemed himself "the eternal bachelor," was married. Marriage, however, didn't quell Kris's indelible sexual appetite. Visiting millions of homes thousands of miles from his own home, both on Christmas and during the rest of the year when he tried to keep tabs on who was naughty and nice, Kris succumbed to the temptations of life on the road. Most women just couldn't resist a man draped in red velvet, and Kris just couldn't resist them.

With the burgeoning popular music market, it was especially hard to keep his flings from the rest of the world, much less Missez Claus. In 1953, Eartha Kitt released "Santa Baby," a tawdry song that included an invitation for Kris to "come and trim [her] Christmas tree," which Kris had done the year before. Darlene Love released "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" in 1963, recounting all of the fun she and Kris had on December 25, 1962. And, of course, there was the extremely obvious "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," which Kris discussed in a 1968 interview with Playboy: "A lot of people have the misconceived notion that 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus' is about a kid who thinks he sees his mom kissing me, when it's actually the kid's dad dressed up as me. Well, it was me. The guy who wrote the song, Thomas Connor, saw it when he was a kid, and his mom told him that I was actually his dad dressed up like Santa. Man, she was a good lay."

Eventually, Kris realized how hollow and materialistic these little trysts had become. "They wanted one of two things: one, to be taken off the Naughty List so that they could get a present, or two, the chance to say they got railed by Santa. I was living a lie. For goodness sake, I was telling millions of kids to be good, when I wasn't being good myself."

Kris came clean to Missez Claus in 1965 (and has been faithful since then). After a six-month trial separation, where she went to stay with her sister in Omaha, she returned to Kris and the North Pole. Missez Claus explained, "I realized that he had well over a thousand years of this kind of behavior, and it was silly of me to think that I could just expect him to change at the drop of a hat. It was going to take time, but I know that he has a good heart and that he and I are soul mates."

Unfortunately, Kris's OCD began to emerge in other facets of his life. Beginning in the late 1970s, Kris became a compulsive overeater. He recalled, "Anytime something went wrong, whether it was Blitzen tearing his ACL, another kid who stopped believing, or a toy that didn't come out of the elves' workshop the way I wanted, I would turn to the fridge for solace."

Technological innovations didn't help his state of sloth either. The advent of computerized spreadsheets and databases allowed Kris to update his Lists with ease, rather than by hand. GPS systems meant that he didn't have to spend time getting to know each and every new street in the world. And by 1995, Kris had installed infrared, night-vision cameras in every house to determine whether people were sleeping or awake. The cameras also meant that Kris didn't have to do nearly as much traveling to determine whether people were naughty or nice. As he noted, "All I had to do was sit on my recliner and watch a whole bunch of monitors. Whenever I saw someone on the Nice List do something naughty, I would eat a whole pizza and a pecan pie."

By 2000, Kris's weight ballooned to over 400 pounds. The reindeer could barely support his weight while pulling the sleigh. "I was a complete mess. I could barely walk up a flight of stairs without throwing up the entire turkey and sheet cake I had just eaten. It was pathetic." Kris's problems also spilled over into the bedroom. As Missez Claus recalled, "He could barely survive 30 seconds without being drenched in sweat. It was like trying to ride a wet manatee. So then, we would have to stop before either of us got off or before he had a heart attack, which resulted in him crying, which resulted in him running for the fridge for several gallons of ice cream and a couple pounds of roast beef, which just resulted in him gaining more weight, which resulted in him lasting an even shorter duration the next time we tried to have sex, which sent him back to the fridge again. It was a vicious cycle."

On December 25, 2000, the cycle ended. While delivering presents to a home in Shermer, Illinois, Kris had a heart attack after seeing what he described as two large, living M&Ms. "It was a scary experience. The last thing I remember is saying something along the lines of 'They do exist,' and then the next thing I know I'm waking up in a hopsital bed. That's when I finally realized I had a problem."

Kris underwent therapy to overcome his compulsive overeating. He installed a workout facility at the North Pole and hired a year-round personal trainer. By Christmas 2003, he was down to 185 pounds and could bench press 350 pounds. In 2004, he authored a best-selling book about the battle with his waistline, entitled "You Don't Have to Be Fat to Be Jolly."

Unfortunately, not all has been jolly for Kris in the past few years. Running a multi-national enterprise is expensive, and Kringle's operation felt the crunch of the economic downturn that plagued the first several years of the 21st Century. In 2002, he was forced to lay off several hundred elves, the first such layoffs since the Black Death. In 2003, Kringle outsourced his mail operations. He explained, "Most kids think that when they send a letter to me and address it to the 'North Pole' that it actually goes to the North Pole. In actuality, it goes to our new mail processing center in Bangalore, India."

Fear not, though. He is fully prepared for Christmas 2005 and will make every scheduled delivery. That is, after all, what keeps him alive. Call him a shrewd businessman, call him a misunderstood genius, call him a pagan diety, but just don't call him Kristopher. "I've been called a lot of things, most of which I don't mind: Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, and St. Nick, even though that's not technically me. But I can't stand when people call me 'Kristopher.' It's 'Kris.' It's only one fucking syllable. How hard is that? At least Missez Claus and I know a telemarketer is calling when they ask for 'Mr. Kristopher Kringle.' Bastards."

So what's next for Kris Kringle and Missez Claus? "Well, we've talked about having kids, but right now we figure what's the rush? Hell, we got time -- we are immortal. But wouldn't that be a trip? Me with kids? They would always be trying to sneak into the toy factory or sneak a peek to make sure they were on the Nice List. At least they would have to believe in me. In the meantime, I'm just gonna keep on doin' what I'm doin', making sure the good boys and girls of the world are rewarded and the bad ones get lumps of coal. And you know what? Even if only one kid on the Naughty List makes it over to the Nice List, then it's all worth it."

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