America's professional Father Christmases have been plunged into civil war amid accusations of profiteering, unethical behaviour and even Claus-on-Claus violence.
Rival Santa Claus leaders have been engaged in a decidedly unfestive power struggle that has polarised the lucrative US grotto market and forced hundreds of Father Christmases to choose between warring rival groups. The hostilities have spilled on to the internet, in this case Elf Net, an online chat group where Santas go to exchange information on belt supplies and beard dyeing.
Organisers of the annual convention in Kansas of the Amalgamated Order of Real-Bearded Santas, fear it will be disrupted by splitters from rival groups such as the Fraternal Order and the Red Suit Society. The trouble started last year with a row on the board of the Amalgamated Santas, a 700-member group which was set up in 1994 by 10 Santas doing a television commercial in Hollywood.
Tim Connaghan, the organisation's chief, was forced out after a rival board member, Nick Trolli, accused him of unethical behaviour by acting as a booking agent for 200 members hired for Christmas events and taking a $25,000 consultancy free from a film company. Mr Trolli took over but he also proved controversial, expelling some 20 members for offences that included maligning fellow Santas on Elf Net. In January, one of the banned members tried to gatecrash an Amalgamated Santas board meeting in California.
Before he was escorted out by security guards, he claimed the Elf Net's 6'4 tall administrator "used his elbow to bounce me off the wall" while Mr Trolli said the interloper charged into him "like a linebacker". The fracas prompted another ousted board member, Tom Hartsfield, to shut down the group's website in protest.
"They threatened me with the FBI, and called me a thief and a terrorist," he told the Wall Street Journal. Leaders of the group deny the charge. - telegraph
Besides being worthy of mention as just a strange story, this caught my attention due to a poem written by Becca Costello, a former reporter for the Sacramento News and Review. The poem is about a real humorous and bizarre experience at a festival called Burning Man where she encounters a large group of Santa Clauses as well as a large group of clowns all in the same room co-mingling. Imagine the picture above with much more ragged Santa's and an equal number of clowns.
UPDATE: The Santa war has now spilled into my email box. John Degel, who is also a reporter, posted a comment on this site inviting readers to write to him for more information. I did so, asking for a summary of his points and got his permission to post it. Other things kept me busy, so I didn't get around to doing that. Meanwhile, Jeff Germann wrote to me requesting that I remove John Degel's post as it was intended to defame him personally. Germann let me know that if I don't remove Degel's post my web site will be added to the information for the lawsuit and the depositions in taking Degel to court. Degel has publicly called Trolli a liar and a thief hoping he would, in fact, sue so he could subpoena his minutes and financial records for the organization and show that his statements were accurate and, therefore, a not defamation.
Given the claims of these men to me that they both want a lawsuit to settle this, I'm inclined to leave Degel's post up so Germann can sue him. If these men get into court things can get settled and perhaps they can all get back to Ho Ho Ho'ing before X-mas.