Monday, March 22, 2010

Elfing around Grampa-Santa's Neighborhood

One of the fun ways of sharing my rich Santa experience with the neighbors has been to invite 8-18 year olds along to be elves of their own design.

This Santa team of elves is led by Ohio Santa Bill Dieterle

The only direction I give my excited little neighbors as the coach of our little rag tag band of elfin goof balls is that inside the house where the party is being held, they cannot talk! They can only pantomime and sometimes remain motionless to direct everyone's attention to Santa.

In the theater being crazy or dancing around at innapropriate times is called UPSTAGING or DRAWING FOCUS and it's easier said than done, especially for neighborhood amateurs.

The following notes may offer some suggestions for Grampa Team Building. Let me know with an email if you picked up on any of the little nuggets I share herein.

Much in the same way George Bush had a cute nickname for nearly everybody he hired or met, one of the fun things about "ELFING" is to make up your own nickname and do your own costume.

Like Charlie Chaplain put together his own tramp costume from the costume closet on the lot at Mack Sennet's studio: (Fatty Arbuckle's too big pants and Harold Lloyd's too small coat) One of my Santa bags has an afgan vest, a striped red and white elf style "footy" P.J.s Assorted elf caps and hats, a white gorilla mask with luminous green see through 3-D eyes and on and on.

Our oldest son, Jeffrey, 34, retired quite a few years ago as ZAPPER the Reindeer Ranger was named Snippit when he was a little guy. When he turned 16 and got his drivers' license he "graduated" to a red beret with an antique reindeer pin, black coveralls and combat boots. He was santa's driver and the Clausonian body guard.

Sally, now 32, played Sammi wore a Canada Sweat shirt complete with maple leaf and a little version of my own Santa Hat. (Sally went along at 14 when I, as a computer trainer, taught a group of IBM executives how to make Powerpoint presentations. She dressed up and was most professional. I was so proud of her that day---still am! She has learned to meet the public long before shebecame an Opthamalogic Tech working for several Eye Doctors at the Salt Lake Clinic. She got her start interacting with the public as one of my little elves.

Sproket was really our neighbor Scott McLean. I remember visiting the late James Johnson and his extended family down the street at their home on Thanksgiving with Sproket. Scott wore my big black frosty hat, yellow snow glare goggles, the striped elf PJs and the Afgan vest sent to us by the late Larry and Hazel Parker.

The Parkers were my folks best friends during WWII. They all gathered at Milo and Delma Howe's home about once a month to cut everybody's hair--well the boys anyway. Larry and Hazel were my scout leaders. They both died in Botswana after traveling the world --Scotland, Afgan and several South African Universities. He was one of the world's leading experts on Wool. I prize the little trinkets and costume pieces they sent us from all over the place and the memories of the great family they represent. Their son Daryl is a Dentist in Green River Wyoming. His younger brother Lyle is a Podiatrist in Southern California)

Scott and I skulked around the neighborhood together that Thanksgiving day in costume, waving at family gatherings and occasionally dropping in to jump start the Christmas season. He was 11 then. I wore a Santa cape like Jolly Old English Santas wear. What fun!! Scott graduated in political science in Florida and has gone on to become one of the up and coming political operatives for Democratic candidates around the country. He's also tall, dark and handsome and about to be married to a great gal in Pennsylvania.

We've had same age friends of both son and daughter elf with us and the effect of a silent elf is really interesting to our young client/party goers. The No Talking attracts little ones especially. The pantomime is fun to watch for all the skill it builds in the elf, and all the fun the child on the visit has. Moving slowly and being quiet make the elfs especially "MAGICAL"

The Bed ridden end of a Romantic Elf's Adventure!

Once I travelled to Utah County and one of my favorite boy elves was the only one to come with me. He was taken with the daughter of the hostess and when I picked up on it, I kidded her for wanting to marry the little guy (who was her own age--maybe 5th grade at the time)

That's where I pioneered Santa's ALMOST MARRIED GAG* that I used often on stage with the Osmonds in Branson,Missouri, Las Vegas, Atlantic City and all over the country. The little audience interaction closed my 10 minute contribution " in place of intermission". During my "act" Marie went backstage to change her dress and get a drink 'a water before coming out and doing the second half of their wonderful production entitled, "The Magic of Christmas!"

The upshot of our elfing visit was, when it came time to leave the little church where we had the family party, the Elf fella had disappeared! I found him in a dark hallway french kissing the little daughter of my friend the hostess. He was a smooth talker even at that young age. No wonder he can negotiate a deal on auto parts or with real estate principals. He started young with me.

Well, the next day he came down with a fever and my wife and I realized that he had "picked up" a little bug from his junior love interest. (And you thought mononucleosis was a college affliction!)

The lesson of all this for good Grampas is clear, a point I've made before. For their little grams, especially at a young age, Grampas can be MAGIC! Grampas can keep that magic alive or break the trust in so many different little ways.

Boris Pasternack expressed it a little differently. The nobel laureate author of Dr. Ziavago wrote, "all women are mothers of great men-it isn't their fault if life disappoints them later."

Grampa: if you do disappoint, and we always seem to, somewhere along the way, make amends and build that trust and simple magic again for your near and dear. JRH

P.S. *More about the nuts and bolts of the ALMOST MARRIED GAG on Santa's Electric Sleigh Blog (not yet operational, but building) If you're a Santa and would like to find out more about these unique and interesting things, send me an e-mail and I'll be glad to respond. I plan to give away all my Santa secrets.

Luther Burbank, the prize winning biologist, once said that, " If you happen to get a new idea don’t build a barbed wire fence around it and label it yours. By giving your best thoughts freely others will come to you so freely that you will soon never think of fencing them in."

In the early days of Microsoft the Bill Gates team gave away the idea of Microsoft Excel and all the codes and secrets they had developed inside the company. Independents added lots of useful bells and whistles and knocked Lotus off the top spot in the competitive spreadsheet field.

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