Homewood man writes mall Santa diary
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org December 18, 2013 1:00PM
Stewart Scott, holds the editing version of the book he wrote, "Diary of a Mall Santa," that he offered for free for 24 hours online and it was downloaded more than 17,000 times. He is pictured at his home in Homewood, Illinois, Thursday, January 3, 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media
Updated: January 20, 2014 6:02AM
A year removed from the last time he played Santa Claus, Stewart Scott still is entertaining folks with stories of what’s its like being the jolly old elf.
Scott, 71, of Homewood, wrote a book last year that proved wildly popular.
In just 24 hours, about 15,000 people downloaded free copies of his “Diary of a Mall Santa,” which is filled with stories about his experiences playing the big fella at Lincoln Mall in Matteson.
After four years there, however, he no longer is Santa at the mall. The scheduling conflicted with his plans for family time, he said.
However, the book still has been moving well online.
Some 6,500 downloaded it this year and, as a result, Scott has become a sort of media darling, with a feature about him on The Huffington Post and several interviews with radio stations around the country about his experiences as Santa.
“It’s really something. I’ve got two more to go. One on Friday and one on Christmas Eve,” Scott said Tuesday.
“I did one (Tuesday) morning for a station in Houston, WTEK 1110-AM. It’s been wild. It’s been fun. It’s been interesting,” he said.
While his giveaways and sales don’t put him in a league with wildly popular authors such as Stephen King, one can say his recognition is not bad for a guy whose book is about dressing up as Santa. Folks evidently want to read about what’s become a big part of Scott’s life.
Scott, who lives on a quiet street in Homewood with Jean, his wife of 48 years, had a sad, funny, heartbreaking and heartwarming ride, and one gets a feel for what it’s like by reading his book.
When he first started playing Santa, he recorded in a journal some of the interesting things that happened, with the idea of one day writing a book. All those little vignettes have resulted in the collection in which he shares 122 stories, including 11 that he’s added since last year.
Scott had read that a good way to boost interest in a book is to offer it free on Kindle. So he did and was surprised to learn so many had downloaded it a year ago.
“Sales continued, but not at that level, throughout the month (of December 2012). It’s a seasonal product,” said Scott, a former creative writer and director in advertising.
When a friend who worked at Lincoln Mall asked him if he knew anybody who could play Santa, he suggested himself. He got the job, and with some padding on his slender frame and fake beard on his chin, he becomes Santa.
He knows a bit about Santa lore because he is a father and grandfather. But actually portraying Santa takes things to another level.
“I tell people it’s the most fun I’ve ever had and gotten paid at the same time. The woman who hired me said I’d hear sad, interesting and feel-good stories. When she said that, I thought, ‘There’s a book idea here,’ ” he said at his home.
The book is written as if it’s all one season, but it tells tales from all four years. He did toy with the idea of a printed version, but that proved cost-prohibitive.
The book “was relatively easy to write,” he said.
Most of the stories, of course, deal with children and their sometimes detailed and interesting requests. They’re not all about toys.
In 2011, a girl sat on Santa’s knee and said, “ ‘I want my mother to get better. I want the pain in her jaw to go away because this will be her last Christmas,’ ” Scott said. “It was hard for me to continue after that. I just hugged her, told her I’m sorry, and that I’d pray for her.”
He sometimes asks children what they want to be when they grow up. Firefighters and cowboys? Think again.
“One girl said, ‘I want to work for the (American) Red Cross because I want to help people.’ What a mature little girl,” he said.
Then there are those mature big girls who would be on Santa’s naughty list.
One pretty young woman, who looked to be in her late teens, wanted a photo of Santa spanking her.
“That,” Scott told her, “may get Santa fired.”
She and her friend settled for a photo of them hugging Santa in front of the Christmas tree.
“They left a little disappointed,” Scott wrote.
He’s a little disappointed that he’s not dressing up as Santa this year.
“I really miss being with the kids and mixing it up. But if I had done this full time this year, I wouldn’t have been able to take care of all these interviews,” he said. “I would certainly like to be Santa again in the future, very much.”
To download a copy of “Diary of a Mall Santa” for $2.99, visit www.amazon.com/kindle.