Alex Roshuk looks as much like the Santa Claus of your mind as any man possibly could. He’s a big, burly guy with a big, fluffy white beard, and regardless of what he’s wearing, people approach him on the street, struck by the resemblance.
"You got the long beard, you’re a jolly, older guy, they think ‘He’s Santa Claus!’" he told me. "Or ‘He looks like Santa Claus! Why would he look like that if he wasn’t Santa Claus!?’"
So a few years ago, he decided to stop just looking like Santa, and to start BEING Santa.
That brings out all sorts of reactions from New Yorkers. Some people are thrilled to find him on a bench in Park Slope, where he occasionally just sits in his Santa suit. One woman cackled as she confessed that she’d been naughty and badly wanted to sit on his lap. And some people, especially the parents of little kids who rush to him, find it all a little creepy.
Alex understands the protectiveness, but says, “Parents are just afraid of anything that’s not within their very tightly-tuned idea of reality.”
If, perhaps, he injected a bit of irony into his routine, people would wave it off as a harmless hipster thing. But he doesn’t, and that makes it all the more mysterious, and potent.
So, why does he do it?
"I could give you the cliche answer: ‘I do it for the children.’ I do it because… because I can. Yeah. I don’t have to be in the Actors Union and I can still have the joy of an Academy performance."
Listen to my WNYC radio story here.