This Christmas season Best Fest Buddy Tom has fully embraced the role it seems he was born to play – Santa Claus.
Sure, crazy ass actors like Christian Bale dramatically lose and gain weight over short periods of time to become characters. Tom, the more intense method actor, spent a good portion of his adult years putting on the pounds needed to live large like Santa.
He has a daughter who to this day still tests the patience necessary for being Santa. My buddy babysits her grandchildren, further honing his fortitude.
How many times can one man tolerate the Baby Shark tune or the insanely annoying FamousTubeKIDS? Or change climate change-causing diapers?
Babysitting also teaches Tom how to deal with crying and with kids climbing all over him. It gives him a heads up on toy trends, too.
Plus, Tom befriended me, his sidekick in this scheme, Santa’s PR flack, Bucky the Elf.
We somehow convinced our gracious friends, Gary Mueller and Jamie Legner Mueller, to let us provide our holiday act during their recent Saturday morning Irish breakfast at their establishment, Rosie O’Hare’s Public House in East Dundee.
Painted burgundy red and trimmed in a forest green, Rosie’s looks perfect for a Christmastime event. The pub holds Irish lore of its own. And it stands close to the Fox River, a good substitute for Ireland’s River Liffey.
To promote the appearance, I sent a press release and hit social media. As far as I know, Russians, Chinese, North Koreans or other restaurants didn’t hack posts for nefarious reasons. It was free to see Santa. No purchase necessary, no $25 tab for adult breakfast and $10 for kids tab required.
I tried to stir up controversy-as-promotion by going on Elgin radio station WRMN AM 1410 as Bucky. During the conversation with morning host Marky B, Bucky went off on the Elf on the Shelf and the elves in Lord of the Rings. Alas, it didn’t lead to one of those beefs like rappers have to garnish publicity.
I also affected an Irish accent based on terrible ones attempted by Hollywood actors. That didn’t rile anyone either.
We put the details of the Irish breakfast on East Dundee’s electronic sign by the local Dairy Queen. Tom even dropped in on a holiday-themed Sip and Paint at Rosie’s. He offered, some say threatened, to drop his pants to pose in his Christmassy boxer briefs.
Yes, we even bought seasonal underwear. Frosty. Star Wars. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Elf! Seductive elf and Santa ones, at least by JCPenney standards.
If you’ve been reading Free Craic, you already know Tom dressed as Santa for the recent Chicago TARDIS Doctor Who convention. He also posed for publicity shots in a disco-ish Santa suit bought last year, out of season at a substantial discount, at Kohl’s.
Tom looks hot in the suit, probably because it’s made of flammable material. And let’s just say, baby’s got back in those pants, a regular bowl full of J-Lo.
The night before the Rosie’s appearance, Tom donned his potentially flaming outfit at the Village Vintner Winery & Brewery. Women, and some of the men, paid compliment to his look.
He wore tiny Christmas balls in his beard, like a festive, craft-brewing pirate. Some folks stared at the Jolly Old Elf, but as far as I know, nobody phoned the police.
We hit Rosie’s the night before the Irish breakfast, too. A Christmas miracle, Tom didn’t spill on his outfit or rip the bottom out of his pants.
Come breakfast morning, Tom wound up having to take his grandkids to a babysitter. Alas, they saw him change into his Santa garb. He told them the truth. He is the real Santa Claus, so they damn well better behave.
Just past the 8:30 a.m. opening, a half-dozen kids already were waiting for Santa’s arrival. I gave them coloring books and crayons we bought online from Oriental Trading Company – and peppermints Tom maybe or maybe not took from restaurants. I told them Santa was checking on some other kids.
Either way, when Santa Tom appeared, the magic began. Sitting on a bench next to a tree, next to a fireplace, he looked perfect. Okay, there were dart boards and a poster for $5 Hazy Hero drafts, too. But still.
This Krispie Creme Kringle told his best, kid-friendly dad jokes. He teased that he wasn’t sure if the crayons were crayons or firecrackers. He asked a girl who wanted an iPad if she meant an eye patch like a pirate would wear.
Bucky the Elf kept his mouth shut about his feud with the Elf on the Shelf. Two girls showed up with their skinny elves in glass jars. Their mom explained that elves on shelves can’t be touched by kids or they lose their magic.
Nobody told Santa to make their kids cry, which allegedly is a thing now, for the photos that result.
Friends stopped by with their kids and grandkids. Christmas music played in the background. Holiday movies ran silently on the televisions.
All the scene needed to be complete was a light coating of snow outside. Come to think of it, no on the snow. It was nice just the way it was. Relaxing even, which we all need more of this time of year.
“We had a lot of fun, too,” Jamie Legner Mueller said.
The reviews on Facebook were pretty good.
Irish raconteur/entrepreneur/traveller Shay Clark called his eats the “Best Irish American Breakfast in the Fox Valley, presented by Jonathan Paul (Chef J Paul). Well done Jon.”
AH said, “Rosie’s Santa was very much the superior Santa, I gotta say, as we’re going about the suburbs ranking them.”
TM noted her daughter has been shy around Santa but “finally met a Santa she approves of!”
Full disclosure. I happen to know these three people. But there was no quid pro quo involved in getting them to say positive things. I have nothing to quo about.
Tom and I waited until Sunday afternoon to celebrate our seemingly successful Santa day. For that, we headed to McGaffer’s Saloon in Forest Park to attend Mike Houlihan’s Annual Fundraiser for Hibernian Transmedia, The Hibernian Hooligan Ball.
Tom went Santa casual. In his disco Christmas suit jacket, jeans and belt with fleur de lis buckle he looked like a cross between Papa Noel and Al Hirt.
I wore a Yule-be-styling jacket, paired with my elf hat and a pink golf shirt. Why pink? Why not, especially since it was the third Sunday of Advent. At Santa’s request, I shaved my attempt at a beard down to a goatee for the weekend. I looked like an extra from a Christmas episode of Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy or Ozark.
The event spilled out from the pub into two tents. The tent with the band was a tad on the cold side. We braved frostbite to hear the Larkin & Moran Brothers, then the Irish trad fusion group, St. Stephen’s Green, featuring singer Liz Vee.
Both acts were kind enough to play weather-related requests I made. So we heard a snippet of Heatwave’s dance club classic Boogie Nights, while Vee belted a few bars of Let It Go from Frozen.
We stuck around until the end, catching a few Roses of Tralee, some of the Murphy Roche Irish Music Club as well as the comedy stylings of Pat Chase and Bridget McGuire. Everybody sang Happy Birthday to Houli.
Still in Papa Noel mode, next Tom wanted to try a new cajun place in Oak Park. It opened in a spot that once held an Irish bar. Since it didn’t look busy, and it was Sunday, after all, Tom decided to pass.
Instead, we headed back to Rosie’s, where Sunday is industry night for local bar and restaurant workers. Or it means there can be a taco bar. One or more of those.
Since Tom and I both hold Basset certification cards, I guess we’re industrial. And we like Mexican food.
Before we finished our first pints of Guinness topped with Christmas cookies, a rather large tipsy guy ambled in. I thought he might be the son Santa never mentions in public.
A happy drinker, our Big & Tall shop buddy bought a round of shots for the bar and hugged everybody in sight. I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
Actually, the maudlin mirth-maker rode off with his designated driver, whom he called Rerun. Praise Jesus for this own personal Uber.
Before he left, our XXXL buddy gabbed a bit about everyone being family. Sure, it was a little bit The Time of Your Life. Thankfully, it wasn’t The Iceman Cometh.
Either way, it was very Christmas. And time for Tom and me to head to our respective homes.