Santa Johnny 

"My wish is for a more loving and peaceful world. I've seen many changes over the years, but Christmas still brings a bit of hope."

It's not every day that you get an email from or spend quality time with the man who calls himself Santa Johnny, but this winter, Boise Weekly must have made the "Nice" list.

Now, if by some chance a Santa-believing toddler happens to be reading this interview over your shoulder, quickly turn the page and come back later. You see, for the record, Santa Johnny is John Dorman. Yes, he's from Idaho, and no, he doesn't live at the North Pole. But make no mistake: Santa Johnny is a magical fellow who has brightened the holidays for countless children, including all of the little ones who saw him at the Boise Holiday Parade, spotted him at the D.L. Evans downtown branch or might visit him at Winter Garden aGlow at the Idaho Botanical Garden this season.

What's your earliest memory of your own relationship with Santa as a boy?

It was seeing Miracle on 34th Street. It was so exciting, and I knew I wanted to do something like that with my life. When I reached the right age, I started looking into the possibility of being Santa. I started watching a lot of other Santas at shopping centers, studying their wardrobe, their movements and listening to children interacting with Santa.

Other than being Santa, what else have you done professionally?

I went to broadcasting school and stuck with that for a few years. My first job was at a radio station in Arizona, and I moved around to a number of other cities when I was with the military. I was an MP with the military when I was first sent to Idaho and fell in love with Boise. That was back in 1972. I worked at KBOI [in] radio and television for a while but decided to go back into the military. Eventually, I came back to Idaho in 1980, when I began working at Saint Alphonsus, and remained there for 23 years.

Can I assume that your Santa suit has traveled with you wherever you've gone?

Absolutely. From the first one that my wife made for me to the ones I buy now from high-end shops.

I'm sorry, you said that she made your first Santa suit?

We were dating at the time. I think it was 1975.

Has she ever appeared as Mrs. Claus?

Occasionally. She particularly likes to accompany me when I visit with children.

Tell me a bit about your Santa schedule.

I start most years in mid-November and work straight through Christmas Eve.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that you're a graduate of the International University of Santa Claus.

That's where we take a very serious look at Santa's history, dating back to the year 720 in Asia Minor, now Turkey. We studied a lot about his theology. In some of the other courses, we study proper Santa dress and how important hygiene is. We learn how to listen and talk with children, and to never make a promise for a specific gift.

What's the secret of a great picture with Santa?

Always have a great expression on your face. Plus, we like to wear white gloves because they stand out so well in pictures. And you always want your gloves visible, so people don't think we're doing something with our hands that shouldn't be done.

That's a sobering thought.

In addition to being members of an international Santa association, we all go through local, state, federal and even international background checks. Because of legal issues, we carry liability insurance.

The world is quite different compared to when you and I were young.

This past spring, I went to a training session in Denver with about 400 other Santas and the name of the class was "Santa, There's a Shooter in the Mall." That really opened my eyes.

I have to assume that for every fun moment with a boy or girl, there's a heartbreaking story from another child.

Some children will ask for a mom or dad that could have passed away or may be in jail, or perhaps the parent has been deployed overseas.

I'm not sure if many people ask you what you want for Christmas, but what's your wish this year?

A more loving and peaceful world. I've seen many changes over the years, but Christmas still brings a bit of hope. I call myself a full-time Santa. I dress colorfully every day of the year, and when children see me in the summer and ask, "Santa?," we have very lovely conversations. I like to carry special postcards with pictures of myself and my reindeer.

And does your business card say Santa Johnny on it?

No, just in case a child gets ahold of it.

And where will you be on Christmas Eve?

Mrs. Claus and I will be at Winter Garden aGlow for the whole evening. Often, Prancer the reindeer will join us there. It's terrific.


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