John Toomey, the man who portrayed Santa Claus at the Union Square Macy’s in San Francisco for 20 years, was fired over the weekend for telling an adult couple a “naughty” joke. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that “after thousands of tellings, the 68-year-old retired caretaker for the elderly finally hit the wrong recipients – apparently an older woman and her husband, who considered it inappropriate.”
So what’s the joke?
“When I ask the older people who sit on my lap if they’ve been good and they say, ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘Gee, that’s too bad.’ Then, if they ask why Santa is so jolly, I joke that it’s because…
…I know where all the naughty boys and girls live,” Toomey said. He stressed that children who visit him “get only his trademark laugh and questions about what toys they want.”
Macy’s employees and fans of the legendary Santa were devastated to hear of his firing and described the action as an “overreaction” on the part of management. A fellow employee told the paper, “People make a pilgrimage to see him every year, some for as long as 15 years…. Everybody’s just heartsick about this.”
Toomey seems like a delightful and caring man, who takes his role as Santa seriously. He says, “With the children, it’s important to listen carefully to them and make sure they’re doing things properly, like brushing their teeth, helping Mom around the house, things like that. Then when they tell you what they want, repeat it loudly enough so the parents can hear, and tell the child you’ll talk it over with Mrs. Santa and the elves. That way you leave it up to the parents.”
Thanks to a Christmas miracle, Toomey was not out of work for long. The Chronicle reports that Santa John, as he is known, “took a gig with Lefty O’Doul’s to sit on Santa’s throne for the Geary Street landmark’s annual Fire Department toy drive.” O’Doul’s is a sports bar, so Toomey’s cheeky sense of humor should fit in perfectly there.
I think it’s worth noting here that I respect the fact that some people are sensitive to off-color humor, and I don’t so much fault the customer in question for complaining about her experience, but what’s an old lady doing on Santa’s lap anyway? (Unless she wanted to get a closer look at his lumps of coal, am I right people?!) But seriously, folks… I’m a feminist, so I don’t want to make her sound like the bad guy, but I’m with everyone else who is dismayed that Macy’s would fire an employee of 20 years for one infraction when a warning would have been more appropriate. I mean, even Santa checks his list twice before making any final decisions about people. Sheesh!
The paper says that after their story broke Monday night, “Toomey’s voice-mail box filled up with calls from as far away as New York.” (Of course New Yorkers love a naughty Santa!) ”Among the callers were lawyers, publicity agents, people dangling gigs at several other big retail stores in San Francisco, and tossers of private parties around the Bay Area,” the Chronicle reports. According to ABC News, O’Doul’s is paying him “double his Macy’s salary, and all he can eat.”