I Am Santa Claus is a documentary that’s been on my radar for a while now. One of its producers and subjects, WWE Superstar Mick Foley, has been talking it up for a long time. The author, stand-up performer, and former wrestler has been making appearances in the WWE and elsewhere as Santa Claus for the last few years, and it was his involvement with the project via Kickstarter, as well as the promotion of the film on podcasts and other media outlets, that has raised quite a bit of awareness for the documentary. The film premiered this past October in Hollywood and screened in limited release through November, but didn’t get a wide opening. I’ve been waiting to see it for a while now.
Throughout the film, we come to know each of these men on a deeper level. Santa Russell is a bit of a lush, and we see him overindulging at a St. Patrick’s Day party and telling risqué stories. Santa Jim is having a long distance relationship with a man named Alex, and that relationship develops over the film. Santa Gary attends church meetings that are put on by other Santas; at these meetings, a Santa preacher delivers a sermon and the congregation sings Christmas carols like “Jingle Bells” with the words rewritten as gospel songs.
Not coincidentally, Mick Foley comes with the coolest friends, which the film utilizes well, if briefly. Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and Jerry “The King” Lawler both show up for a couple of seconds to talk about how passionate his friend Mick Foley is about Christmas. ECW wrestler Blue Meanie talks about how Mick would ask the rest of the locker room if they minded him listening to Nat King Cole. Mick even has an entire room of his house devoted to Christmas. In preparation for his inaugural donning of the suit, Foley visits suburban Chicago to meet Santa Dana Caplan, who the film tells us has a “bachelor’s degree in Santaclausology.” Caplan, tellingly, lives on a street called “Santa Claus Lane.” One of my favorite moments in the film comes later, while Foley is attending a horror convention with fellow wrestling legend Rowdy Roddy Piper. When Foley shows Piper a picture of his meeting with Caplan on Santa Claus Lane, Piper’s reaction wonderful, and it makes me love both these men even more.
I Am Santa Claus succeeds in several things. First, it affirms how important Christmas is to a huge majority of people, and the lengths that we go through to feel happy. Second, it reveals a subculture of people who have found ways to incorporate Christmas into their daily lives all year long. It’s a group of people that I had no idea existed outside of the winter holiday season. And lastly, it shows how isolated and lonely many of those people within and without the subculture can be, even—especially—at Christmas. I respect the decision to show the more personal moments of sadness in a movie that could have steered clear of deeper emotions. I think the film is better for it.