Buda real estate agent takes his seasonal side job seriously.
A Buda real estate agent who has been playing Santa Claus professionally since 1994 talks about his side job.
KYLE — Santa eats grass-fed beef.
At least the Buda real estate agent who plays him does.
He used to be a fast-food junkie, but burdened with diabetes and other ailments, he eliminated processed foods from his diet.
Before his red beard faded, he used correction fluid to hide the color.
He’s shaved only twice in his entire life.
His real name is Bruce King, and he’s played Santa Claus professionally since about 1994.
His business card blends both worlds. Ostensibly, it advertises his services as a Keller Williams agent, pointing recipients to his website, www.brucekingsells.com, and a similar Hotmail address.
To the left is a portrait of King, 59, with a ruddy face, wearing a Santa hat and smiling. He’s holding his dog, Chaser, a bichon frisé whose small, pink tongue is showing just enough so that he seems to be smiling too.
King’s beard is shorter in the photo than it was earlier this month at the Kyle Public Library for “Story Time With Santa Claus.” He trims about 4 inches off after Christmas and spends the rest of the year growing it out again.
Right now it reaches the top of his vest, a red number covered in tiny reindeer that he wears over a white buttonup. He has four red suits, but lately he’s stopped wearing the jacket and white gloves donned by department store Santas. He thinks it scares children not to see his hands, and so far, the experiment seems to be a success. He estimates he’s seen 80 percent fewer criers this year.
Posing for photo after photo at the library, King smiles bravely at the camera as 2year-olds with tears rolling down their cheeks roar in his lap. He cajoles the shyest children into telling him what they want for Christmas.
He was relieved when one boy asked for a pogo stick.
Almost everyone wants something Justin Bieber, something electronic or something with a remote control, he said. “PS3 or PSP or whatever.”
Wesley Tamez, a fifth-grader from Kyle, said he asked for a Lego remote-control train.
“It comes with a lot of track,” he explained.
He was one of about 200 children who lined up that day to see Santa at the library, their parents saddled with diaper bags and clapping their hands to encourage smiles.
He averages about 50 such gigs a year at $100 per hour. But he said he won’t turn people down if they can’t afford to pay him.
He’s been giving since he was a teenager. His father died when he was 13, a few months after his brother Michael was
Almost everyone wants something Justin Bieber, something electronic or something with a remote control, Santa said.
born. It was then that King started spending all the money he earned on his new sibling for Christmas. He worked at the Isle of Capri, an Italian restaurant. It was his first job.
He takes his work as Santa just as seriously. He’s creating memories for children that could last a lifetime, he said. He still gets chills remembering the look on the face of his friend’s son, who woke up to find him rustling under their Christmas tree.
“It’s a pretty important job,” he said.
Companies hire him for gift
exchanges. He’s a regular at apartment complexes and senior centers. When he first performed at the Dell Children’s Medical Center, he said, he walked away with the fullest heart he’s ever had.
Some days, he never takes his costume off.
But he said he never planned to be Santa. It’s just that once his beard started to gray, children confused him for the holiday figurehead, and people started asking him to come to parties in costume.
“They picked me to be Santa,” he said.
Statues of his namesake decorate his home, and a doormat with the words “joy, peace and love” lies in front of his entryway.
Recently he moved into a community for people over age 55. He’s started playing bingo, and he’s a huge fan of “American Idol” and “The Voice.”
Not that he has much spare time toward the end of the year. Christmas Eve is usually packed with as many as 12 appearances at people’s homes, he said. Driving to the last one can bring tears to his eyes. It’s the end.
“In January, I’ve always got a full heart,” he said. “It’s been an absolute gift to spread joy.”
Eventually, he’ll trim his beard. The new season of “American Idol” will premier. The dog groomer he hires once a week to keep Chaser clean and cut will come.
And in a few hundred more days, when his beard has grown out once more, he’ll put on a suit, smile and pose.
Bruce King reads ‘The Night Before Christmas’ to more than 200 children and parents at the Kyle Public Library. Afterward, the children got their pictures taken with Santa.
Atticus Banks, 3, of San Marcos, got a candy cane after sitting with Santa.