Santa's Whiskers

Brady White.

He's known as the Santa to the Stars, but his glamorous life (he was once featured on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous") isn't simply about appearing at chic private parties and greeting stars and their children at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He counts among his longtime clients high-end retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Cartier. It's for this reason that one of his agents might call, when he's at his second home in southern Italy, to tell him he's needed for a mountaintop catalog shoot in Colorado. It wasn't always like this for him, and he doesn't forget where he came from. Mixed in with the money making work, he dons the red suit for charities and children's hospitals. White first entered the Santa game about three decades ago out of desperation. He was an unemployed actor in Los Angeles and nine months behind in his rent when he took a job as a mall Santa in Beverly Hills. That season the "Los Angeles Times" and the "Los Angeles Herald Examiner" polled children to find the best Santa around, and he won. The day after his win, two agents sought him out at the mall. Grow a real beard, they said, and he could make $5,000 an appearance.

Jim Manning

37-year-old Jim Manning has been a full-time professional Santa Claus for ten years, since about 2002. Known as “New England’s #1 Santa Claus”, Manning has been featured on "MSNBC", "The Today Show", and the cover of "The Boston Herald". It started in 1996 with a request from a friend to put on the suit for two nieces. Since then, “Santa Boston” has visited over 10,000 kids. The majority of Manning’s work is to visit with clients who hire him to act as Santa at various functions (weddings, parties, Christmas events, etc.), including lighting the tree in Boston every year. During the rest of the year his job is as a professional children’s entertainer.

Phillip Wenz

For 200 days a year, beyond the parades, parties, media appearances, ad gigs and more, he's been the Santa at Santa’s Village theme park in East Dundee, Illinois. He's also worked as a consultant for St. Nicholas Development in the restoration of Santa’s Candy Castle in Santa Claus, Indiana. He penned the Santa Claus Oath and created a foundation to preserve Santa sanctity. He's the Santa others point to for history lessons.

John Sullivan

Located in the Chicago area, John began work with Santas back in 1993 when he was employed to be the first manager of the Santa Claus set at the newly opened Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles, Illinois. His job was to hire the Santas, the helpers and photographers, and basically run the operation for the company that had the mall. The following year he came back as Santa full time, and he has been working as Santa ever since. While he occasionally plays Santa in the mall during the Christmas season, most of his work is at private parties in homes, or corporate and company events. He also runs the web site which features various Santa events and individuals in and around the Chicago area each year.


62-year-old Santa Gary puts in 210 days a year in the role of Santa Claus, including playing the Santa role in the summer for an entertainment company that requires him not to disclose his last name. “There are a lot of others who claim to be full-time Santas,” says Gary, “But I see more children in one year than most Santas see in four.” Gary got into playing Santa after, within a three month period, he lost his job and was diagnosed with cancer. With no job, and not caring about his appearance, he started to grow a bear. People started telling him he looked like Santa. That was enough to push him into the job.

Playing Santa Full Time

For most playing Santa, it is part time work or a hobby with a busy period of one or two months a year. Others move into playing Santa as part of their retirement. But there are a few who have managed to make playing Santa a full-time career.