Santa’s Publicist

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The name’s Mickey Starlight, and my friends in the biz call me Galileo. But I don’t just find stars; I make them.

Three years ago, Sam came to our firm, Garble and Gook, telling us he has a good message, but he doesn’t know how to get it out there. Wanted to spread holiday joy to all the boys and girls, and sure, get famous on the side. I told him let’s do lunch at Mulligan’s on 34th.

We sat down in a booth. I said, “Sam — what kind of a name is Sam, anyway? Everybody’s a Sam. I have a cousin named Sam. You know what he did? Stole a cough drop from CVS, and now he has to wear a GPS collar on his ankle so he can’t jump parole. Is that who you want to be compared to?  No way. You’ve got three days to think of a new name.”

“Steve,” he offered. “Or Glorkon.”

“No,” I said. “And on your face — what is that?

“Technically it’s foot cream.”

“I mean the other stuff. It’s not stubble, but it’s not a full beard either. I don’t know whether it’s coming or going. Do you live in Brooklyn or something? That could be a problem. When people think Christmas, they think Manhattan. They think New England. They think skiing off a cliff in the mountains. You should move north. Move as far north as you can, and quit shaving altogether. This is called ‘pulling a Bon Iver.’”

“He played Gandolf,” he said.

“No.”  I said, “OK, your clothes. Smart slacks, a sweater, brown shoes, pink dreadlocks. You look like a cross between Bill Cosby and a rhythmic gymnastics competition. Your only accessory are those conspicuous 1980s-style glasses. But nostalgia for the 1980s and 90s — it’s been done. You know what hasn’t been done? Nostalgia for the 1790’s. They didn’t even have glasses back then. You know what they had? Spectacles. Go out and buy some full Moon spectacles, and get back to me when you’re completely off the grid.”

“Is it a problem if I plan on never marrying, and hate cookies?” he asked.

I took a bite of my pickle. “Yes,” I said. “Let’s talk about your physique. Largish frame, rosy cheeks, washboard abs.”

“Although I like Fig Newtons.”

I said, “You should go the fat and jolly route. Yeah it’s classic, but I’m appealing to a primal mythos, Sam — the collective unconscious. This is how we’re going to get you front and center. We draw them in with a familiar archetype, but then we give ‘em a show. Like a turkey sandwich with mayo, that’s exploding. Do you have a catchphrase?”

“I was thinking, ‘Only you can prevent forest fires.’”

“What? No. Try this on for size: be kind and generous to all people.”

“Be kind of generous to all babies,” he said.

“Too long, too intellectual. You gotta loosen up, Sam. Speak from the belly: hi, hi, hi!”

“Hi, hi, hi,” he said.

“Better, but we’re not there. Record yourself sleeping and see what happens.” I put a straw in my cup and had a sip of Coke. “So what you do now is, you just show up at people’s front doors and give them presents after pretending to be a stripper?”

“Yeah.”

“Terrible idea,” I said. “People hate answering the door. And they hate answering the phone, and they hate email.”

“And they hate getting a receipt for a bagel,” he said.

“Right. You need an alternative entrance.”

“I could crawl up their pipes and into their toilet,” he said.

“Well that’s a damn fine idea, Sam,” I said. “You’ve got a brain in there after all. Jumping through windows would make you look like a criminal, fire escape would create an emergency, and those are the only ways I can think of.”

“I’ve also been experimenting with hiding in people’s trash cans,” Sam said.

I nodded thoughtfully. Sam shrugged. I said, “Now these toys you give away — they can’t be from China. China toys are like acid on the fingertips because face it, times are tough. And it’s an uphill battle because people are just so-so on giveaways right now. What you’ve got to do is create jobs — good middle-class jobs for people feeling down-and-out. I’m talking skilled factory work. And hire people who are good with kids. Do you know any elves? I don’t, but we have a contact who does out past Paramus. They’re great with kids and work long days no problem. How’s your social networking platform?”

“I have a tumblr called Texts From Samuel Beckett.”

“Please delete that,” I said. “Now just because you’re going to live off the grid in a snow-infested polar bear igloo, doesn’t mean you can let the social networking aspect slide. It’s the only way to cultivate a following with the youth demo. People love lists. Have kids write lists to you; you write your own lists; make out with kids’ mommies and make sure they see you doing it. I want you exploding on YouTube. You need a song. Songs. An album. Get celebrities to sing about how when you show up, everyone sits down, stops acting like idiots, and gets jolly and bright.”

“What if I start a Podcast with my buddy Rob?” he asked. “Like about culture and politics and stuff.”

“Kindly don’t,” I said. “As for delivering the presents, you’re going to want a special way to get around.”

“Yeah, like Rollerblades,” he said.

“I think you should use a green-certified, reindeer-led magical sleigh.”

“Or those wheelie shoes,” Sam said.

I paid, gave Sam my card, and left the restaurant, saying we should grab coffee next week. But I never heard from him again. Then last Christmas, who do I see crawling through my toilet because I don’t have a fireplace? That’s right. But he wasn’t Sam anymore. He was Santa Claus. TC mark

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