Magazine article Insight on the News

Ho, Ho, Hot ... Santa Suits Up for the Season

Magazine article Insight on the News

Ho, Ho, Hot ... Santa Suits Up for the Season

Article excerpt

Comedian Tim Allen has a clearcut sense of vocation. "I live to make people laugh," he attests in the course of a breezy conversation on the subject of his first movie, a potential new classic of yuletide comedy and sentiment titled The Santa Clause.

The punning title alludes to a curious set of circumstances that gradually transforms Allen's character, a toy-company executive and divorced dad named Scott Calvin, into Santa Claus. The process begins with Allen signing a contract reading: "In putting on this suit and entering the sleigh, the wearer waives any and all rights to previous identity, real or implied, and fully accepts the duties and responsibilities of Santa Claus until such time that wearer becomes unable to do so, either by accident or design."

It's conceivable that the movie already has covered its production costs, which Allen admits were subject to somewhat miserly constraints, until the first week or two of rushes made ardent believers of the Walt Disney management. "Costuming was about the only aspect that got adequate attention before shooting started," Allen recalls. "Pains had been taken with my Santa suit. That had been the test capsule, in a manner of speaking. I climbed into it, they took pictures of me and those photos went into a secret room where I was morphed into shapes that made me as chubby as Santa. The trick after that was to duplicate those simulations through costuming and makeup."

Allen had been in a Santa suit only once before he shot the initial photo tests for his movie. "Funny you should ask," he muses, "but it was during my three-year hitch in the penitentiary in Minnesota." Convicted for drug dealing while pursuing a fitful college career in his native Michigan, Allen described this interval behind bars as the "wake-up call that saved my life" during a recent televised chat with Barbara Walters.

"One of the few ways to get out for a day," Allen explains, "was to volunteer for a goodwill Christmas excursion to the state mental hospital. It was thoroughly depressing. I got dressed up as Santa and handed out candy and little gifts. But it was mostly a gesture for the staff. The patients, young or old, had no comprehension of what I was supposed to be. It made Christmas even less cheerful. I didn't repeat the mistake."

Don't expect Allen to don his Santa disguise readily in the wake of The Santa Clause, either. "It took five hours to get costumed and made up," he notes, "and then about two hours to shed the disguise. The preparation itself can seem like a grueling workday, and I don't mind admitting there were times when I got real hard to be around. …

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