SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — Call it San Francisco’s version of the classic Christmas-time film, “Miracle on 34th Street.”
Santa Claus was fired from the Macy’s store in San Francisco’s Union Square for being a bit too jolly, but he has now been hired by a famed restaurant and lounge – also along Union Square – to play Santa as part of the San Francisco Fire Department’s annual toy drive.
John Toomey, who played Santa at Macy’s Union Square store for 20 years, was told that his “ho-ho-hoeing” days at the department store were over because an elderly couple complained about his jokes.
Toomey was profiled a few years ago by KPIX-TV CBS 5’s Mike Sugerman. (Watch below)
But late Tuesday, Lefty O’Douls owner Nick Bouvis said he had hired Toomey and would pay him more than Macy’s did to help in the effort to collect 10,000 toys by Christmas day for the SFFD.
Bouvis said he was building a special throne for Santa John at his Geary Street establishment.
The 68-year-old Toomey said he was fired because he had asked older people who sat on his lap at Macy’s if they had been good. When they answered yes, he replied: “Gee, that’s too bad.”
If they asked why Santa was so jolly, Toomey said it was because he knew where all the naughty boys and girls lived.
Toomey said the jokes are ones he has told for decades without any problems, and he emphasized that he didn’t make such jokes with kids.
“Everything was going OK until this couple came in. I don’t know why they reported me. I don’t think I said anything untoward,” Toomey said.
He said he had asked Macy’s to reconsider their decision to terminate his employment, but apparently to no avail.
Macy’s spokeswoman Betsy Nelson said Tuesday that the store wouldn’t comment on personnel matters.
A number of Toomey’s co-workers at Macy’s said they were devastated by Santa John’s firing.
Santa John’s supporters were utilizing Facebook to rally support for him, which apparently resulted in the job offer from Lefty O’Douls.
“He’s totally the best Santa ever, very jolly and very authentic. “I’ve been coming to see him for years. There’s just nobody better,” said Sharon Owens, 56, of Oakland.
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