Real Life

The wonder of Santa

Father Christmas by day, Elvis Presley by night, this Kiwi turned his passion for entertaining into a profession.

By Aroha Awarau

Rock ‘n roll Santa Barry Findon loves having a dual personality. One’s a saint; the other’s a king, but they have one thing in common – both bring joy into people’s lives.

For 40 years, the Auckland man has been one of New Zealand’s most sought-after Father Christmases, working at malls and functions. But at night, he swaps the beard for black sideburns, transforming into another iconic figure – Elvis Presley.

Despite the differences between the two characters, the 67-year-old takes both roles very seriously, and gets all shook up with excitement when he entertains the masses during the festive holidays.

“Its not unheard of for me to be Santa in the morning at somewhere like Te Awamutu Fire Brigade, then become Elvis Presley in the afternoon. It’s a double banger,” he admits.

Even when the Weekly comes to visit, Barry is still in character. Walking to the door, he lets out a gutsy “ho, ho, ho” and greets us in his Santa gear, holding a cup of tea. He’s just finished a morning shift!

“I’ve always wanted to bring smiles to people’s faces – and what better way to do that than as Santa and Elvis?”

The performer’s resemblance to the jolly man in red meant he was the perfect choice to don the Santa suit – something he’s been doing since the 1970s and as a paid profession for the last 12 years. A natural with children, Barry loves to see their faces light up.

“I like to create a magical atmosphere and make the little ones feel comfortable, especially when they’re nervous.

“I talk to them and tell them how much they have grown. I tell them they are wonderful and, of course, encourage them to be good to their parents and siblings.”

For five weeks throughout the year, Barry listens to the hopes, dreams and goals of thousands of children, as well as the all-important wish list.

“Teddy bears and Barbie dolls are still popular, and lots of iPhones and other modern stuff,” he says.

But, at times, some children ask for more personal gifts – such as hoping to see a deceased relative or having their parents get back together, which brings tears to Barry’s eyes. In these instances, all he can do is show empathy.

“I tell them that they are special and to live their lives to the fullest,” he says.

Barry has been doing Elvis impersonations as long as he has been Santa. His first show was a month after the King’s death in 1977.

“I have the same vocal tones, the power that he has. It’s a gift. The visual is not quite right, but put a wig on me and that sorts everything out.”

Throughout the years, Barry has accumulated many fans, but his number-one is wife Jean (also 66), who fell for Barry after seeing him in one of his Elvis shows 14 years ago.

“I feel I’m like Elvis’ wife Priscilla Presley and Mrs Claus rolled into one,” says Jean.

“I like to help him whenever I can. He’s good at being both characters. I love them equally.”

Barry has eight grandchildren and won’t let them see him as Santa because he doesn’t want to spoil the illusion.

“They would pick it up straight away,” he says.

As for spreading the festive cheer, Barry says he’s always in a positive, upbeat mood.

“I’ve got the Christmas spirit all year. It’s not about being a star; it’s about serving your audience, both children and adults.”

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