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‘Santa John’ Remembered At San Francisco Memorial

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Santa John Toomey seen a decade ago as Macy's Santa (CBS)

Santa John Toomey seen a decade ago as Macy’s Santa (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A bar in San Francisco celebrated Christmas in August on Friday night to remember the life of “Santa” John, who passed away last week.

“Santa” John Toomey, 69, was the long-time Santa at the Union Square Macy’s until he was let go last December for telling dirty jokes to adult patrons—an event which launched him into the national spotlight when he appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Lefty O’Doul’s hired Toomey shortly after he was let go and Toomey’s presence at the restaurant’s annual San Francisco Firefighter’s Toy Program on Christmas Eve helped to raise the amount of donations from 9,000 toys in 2009 to 15,000 last year, his former press agent Lee Houskeeper said.

On Friday night, patrons were greeted by a brass band playing carols, while the back room of the restaurant was decked out with holiday trimmings—complete with a Christmas tree, lights, pictures of Toomey in a Santa costume, and presents beneath the tree. The presents will be donated to the toy program in Toomey’s honor.

>>Photo Gallery: ‘Santa John’

Toomey’s friends and colleagues took turns remembering the beloved Kris Kringle at the traditional Irish wake. They sang traditional Irish songs while partaking of the complimentary beer, whiskey and corned beef.

“He was always there for the kids,” Karl Vostrez, Toomey’s former manager at Macy’s said. “He was always there for us.”

A fellow Santa who worked with Toomey remembered his professionalism and passion for his work. “I’ve done Santa for 19 years, but I felt like a rookie after I met him,” retired Cal Fire Capt. Emmet Monahan Said. He told the mourners how Toomey had passed along some valuable Santa tips—like the best way to “ho ho ho” and how to whiten a beard.

Toomey loved playing Santa and he loved the theater, Housekeeper said. After his experience with Macy’s, what Toomey really wanted, Housekeeper said, was a “run of the show” contract, one that would ensure that he could never be fired or replaced.

According to Houskeeper, Toomey finally got what he wanted with his gig at Lefty O’Douls. “He finally got a run of show contract, but, unfortunately, the show outran him,” he said.

Toomey was found dead in his residential hotel room on July 29.

The cause of death has not been determined.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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