Monday 24 December 2012

Secret Show-Biz Santa

Self-indulgent misbehaviour by celebrities has been going on as long as there have been celebrities, but these days we’re unwillingly inundated hearing about it. Sex tapes. Drug and alcohol abuse. Violence. Then there’s the other side of the coin where celebrities help others—but they want you to know what great, selfless people they are by tweeting about everything they’ve done, or getting their flak to send out a news release, or their agent to get them on an entertainment show to aw-shucks about it.

Enough, already.

Not all show business stars have been wrapped up in themselves. Here’s a fine example, reported by Aline Mosby of the United Press in her Hollywood column. The logical question you’ll have after reading this is “Who was it?” If Mosby every revealed the identity, I haven’t seen it. And it really doesn’t matter.

The first column is from 1952, the first year she took over the beat from Virginia MacPherson. The second one is from the following year.

Many Helped By Santa of Film Capital
UP Hollywood Correspondent

HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 16. (UP)—Thanks to Hollywood’s real life Santa Claus, a shivering invalid in Maine will get an electric blanket for Christmas this year. . . a California widow receives a wheelchair. . . and a North Carolina woman can pay her doctor bills.
Hollywood’s Santa is a celebrity of show business who anonymously hands out checks signed only “Santa Claus” to needy persons he hears about.
For five years he’s given away $30,000 a year, and every Yuletide I visit to find out whose chimneys he’ll climb down. He wears custom-made suits instead of that red outfit. He is beardless, his “North Pole” is a swanky office, and Santa’s helper is a gorgeous brunette who wears sweaters.
“I don’t want anyone to know who I am or I’d be criticized for seeking publicity,” explained Santa, a handsome, dark-haired man. “I get personal satisfaction from this, so it’s really a selfish motive.”
The town clerk in Owlshead, Me., wrote to “Santa Claus, c/o Security National Bank, Hollywood, 28, Calif.,” about a sick woman in a nearby town who needed the blanket to keep warm this winter. Santa sent a check with a comforting note and his usual set of golden rules.
A Bryson City, N. C., widow got $100 to pay milk and clothing bills for her two children. A Glendale, Calif., widow found money for a wheelchair in her mailbox. Santa also sent a Christmas check to a Van Nuys. Calif., man who walks three miles to work every day to support his two children and has only one suit. A Twin Falls, Ida., couple received $100 to help pay doctor bills.
Last year Santa helped a Detroit man get a new set of false teeth, and now all HIS friends are writing in. Santa has received 4,500 letters since 1948, and has helped 1,500 persons. He turned down the rest because “they were phonies, or weren’t needy, or wanted large loans.” His fame has spread even to Europe.
He refused help Tuesday to a jobless man behind the Iron Curtain, since “I was afraid the money wouldn’t get through.”
One grateful receiver sent Santa a painting, and others remember him with Christmas cards, socks and ties.
“But some never write to thank me,” mused Santa.

 Celebrity Is ‘Santa’ to Needy People

HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 22. (UP) — A television-radio celebrity said he “won’t feel so selfish” when he opens his Christmas presents. He’s given away $23,000 this season to needy people who don’t even know he sent it.
The checks, to pay for everything from alimony to a TV set, were signed merely, “Santa Claus.”
Hollywood’s anonymous Santa is a famous radio-TV man who for four years has been secretly giving money away to deserving persons. Each year I visit Santa’s “workshop”—his swanky office—to find out whose chimney he climbed down this year.
$100 for Test
A Bellaire, Ohio, father of five children who flunked the state barber’s test got $100 to try again. A Pasadena, Calif., boy received $50 for a new bicycle so he could sell papers and support his ailing parents. A Troutvale, Va., invalid received the price of a TV set, and a $100 check paid a Hollywood bit actor’s alimony bill and kept him out of jail.
“We had many more cases this year,” observed Santa, a handsome, dark-haired man as he leafed through stacks of mail on his desk.
“Only about one in a 100 turned out phoney when we investigated. We shy away from second requests, too. Santa wants everyone to know this is no gravy train! I just help people get on their feet.”
Many Letters
Santa gets thousands of letters addressed to Santa Claus at the Security First National Bank, Hollywood, which handles his checks. He also hears about cases from “Santa’s helpers,” friends who pass along tips. Producer Walter Wanger, recently in jail, gave Santa names of many ex-inmates who had no funds to eat on while they looked for jobs.
“We gave them $25 apiece—no more,” said Santa firmly.
Bigger Gifts
Others got heftier sums. A bed-ridden Hammondsville, Ohio, woman with a crippled daughter received $100 for doctor bills. A worried Wichita, Kan., father with Santa’s $100 check can look for a job in Arizona so he can move his sick son to the warmer climate. A New Haven, Conn., labourer was sent money for new teeth. Santa’s $100 helped repair a home demolished by a tornado in Worcester, Mass. He also helped a New Kensington, Pa., mother, who is going blind.
“This really is selfish because I get such a kick from it,” reflected Santa as he puffed on his pipe. “Besides I got about 700 Christmas cards and nice presents, such as some long-hair books. They think Santa is intellectual, I guess.
“Actually,” he grinned, “I read murder mysteries.”

We can only hope human behaviour is consistent. If there were stars who helped the needy for altruistic reasons then, there must be some today whom we also don’t hear about. It means amidst the war, the greed, the pettiness, there are some who are trying to see that the world isn’t such a bad place after all. A Merry Christmas to them.

Tomorrow: Santa is Uncle Bernie.

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