In the summer of 1991, I briefly knew a radical mall-Santa who believed that reptilians from the Pleiades were taking over Earth.
This was in Tucson. I was killing time, waiting for graduate school to begin, so I auditioned for and got a part in a community-access TV production. An homage to the Marx Brothers, its title was Soup to Nuts. The director, Vern, had written a pun-laden script and, so he said, provoked interest from a relative of one of the Marx Brothers. (Yes, this person must have been a relative of all of the brothers, but this is how Vern expressed it.) So this production would constitute his and perhaps our ticket to the Big Time. I can’t remember what my role was, but it entailed yelling full-force for about a minute.
Vern was a horrible director but a stellar waster of others’ time. Thus, the numerous members of his unpaid cast had plenty of opportunity to gab with each other while waiting for their moment to perform. That’s how I started listening to Santa.
Santa (not his real name) looked like Santa. He was burly, upper-middle aged, and about as pale-pink as a Tucsonan can be, and he had grown a big white beard and mustache: Santa! At rehearsals and taping, he generally wore suspenders over a t-shirt, and he brought his daughter, who was a personable but not boisterous kid about eleven years old.
My first conversation with Santa occurred after I overheard others bubbling with mirth. He had just revealed that he had been a mall Santa for years. I asked him what he did during the rest of the year. He said that he refused to work because the minimum wage was too low to be a living wage. No matter how much we prodded him, he never quite explained how he obtained food and shelter away from Christmas. Elves, perhaps?
Santa had confident opinions about all sorts of things, and younger members of the cast frequently gathered around to hear him pronounce on political topics. I suckered myself into countering some outlandish claims he made, but it was pointless because he was dealing with different facts. For example, in a discussion involving the U.S. Constitution, he insisted that it mentioned “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Sigh.
It was in this vein that he mentioned our reptilian overlords. Tucson, typically, had hosted a UFO convention a year or two before. Santa had attended it and later followed up with some independent research. The upshot was that reptilian beings from “the Pleiades” had already invaded Earth and informed world leaders that they would take complete control on some very specific date not long in the future – something like June 13, 1993.
A reasonable man, he cited evidence. For example, someone on Saturday Night Live had compared President Bush to a “lizard.” Supermarket tabloids had printed photos of reptilian aliens. And world leaders were acting recklessly, playing games, because they knew that nothing mattered: aliens were soon to take their power, anyway. Thus, the Gulf War.
But, I asked, why would the Pleiadian reptilians announce themselves and then wait to take over? And what would they do with us then? It turns out that these were mysteries he was pondering, too. …
The production, by the way, never got finished. Cast members tired of sitting around unproductively, and then they tired of Vern’s changes to the script and to the taping schedule, so they started to drift off. And that led him to make more changes, which led to more down-time. And so it slowly spiraled into the drain.
In the ensuing years, when I saw some other sucker from the cast, we would approach each other sheepishly and talk about the disaster. But whenever I saw Santa, I just let him be. Different circles.