Sitting Pretty : Downtown Santa Hears Wishes of Adults

Times Staff Writer

Perched on Santa's knee in the Broadway Plaza, Teresa Peacock was ready for the standard question.

"I want a new job and a new boyfriend," Peacock, age 31, told St. Nick with a giggle.

"Well, I'd advise you to look for a man with a gleam in his eye," her merry interviewer said. "But if he also has a gleam on his ring finger, he's not for you."

After Peacock and fellow secretarial supervisor Kathy Heinrich, 34, had paid to have their picture taken with the Jolly Old Gentleman in his sleigh, Heinrich remarked, "He didn't ask me what I wanted."

"Well, you're already married," Peacock scolded her.

The two women said they would give the photo to their boss to cheer her up, explaining that she was upset at how "messy the office is."

Sessions on Santa's knee are not limited to children in the shopping areas of downtown Los Angeles' financial center. There aren't enough youngsters around on weekdays to keep him from dozing in his sleigh.

"A lot of adults do come to see me by themselves," said Santa, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Just this morning, a man and woman in their 60s sat in my lap. When I asked them who the photo was for, they said themselves!

"Some people want it to cheer up co-workers or for their boyfriends. One group of lawyers had their picture taken with me and it's on their front door inside a wreath."

Receptionist Carina Russell, 28, posed with St. Nick to make up for lost time.

"When I was a kid I never did because I was really scared of him," she said.

Santa said it's not uncommon for men to climb into his sled.

"I had a major league baseball player that I recognized sit with me and his girlfriend," he said. "Afterward when we gave him the photo, he said, 'There isn't any negative or anything is there? This is the only copy, right?' We assured him it was."

The Jolly Old Gentleman said he even has repeat business from adults.

"A woman come up to me with a man and said, 'Remember last year when you told me to look for a man with a gleam in his eye?' Well, I found him. And we got married,' " Santa related.

Business, however, was pretty slow Friday at the Broadway Plaza, where about half the customers were adults.

In fact, Santa occasionally browsed through a copy of "Norman Rockwell's Christmas" to pass the time. But adult business will increase as Christmas grows nearer, predicted head elf/photographer Bruce Miller.

"That's when the office parties start," Miller said.

He added that he can usually tell when an adult feels the urge to bring his or her wish list to Santa.

"See that woman over there, putting on some lipstick?" he said.

Sure enough, she and three other secretaries--claiming "we're between 20 and 30"--came over for a group shot.

Asked whose idea it was, Rina Moore pointed to Jean Aceves and said, "It was hers," at the same time that Aceves pointed to Moore and said, "It was hers."

"I didn't believe they were serious," said Lya Momat, another member of the foursome, half-apologetically.

Adults aren't so different from children once they're in Santa's lap, Miller said.

"We had one guy, he demanded I use the puppet," the head elf said, referring to the rag doll that he employs to induce children to smile.

"And they all want a candy cane," Santa said.

But Miller pointed out that he's never seen an adult cry on Santa's knee.

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