PAWTUCKET — He's already rubbed his red suited elbows with the likes of Cher, John Travolta, Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor, Charles Bronson, Paris Hilton, and the entire Kardashian clan. Yet, “Santa to the Stars” Brady White has had an even more star-studded year than usual thanks to a new Macy's TV commercial he is featured in and an induction into the “International Santa Claus Hall of Fame.”
The Pawtucket native, who has achieved a good amount of fame and fortune playing the timeless role of Santa Claus, will be appearing for a special photo session at The Times office, 23 Exchange St., on Monday, Nov. 19, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Pat Zacks, owner of the Camera Werks, will be taking photos ($5 for one or $8 for two), with proceeds to benefit The Times “Merry Christmas Fund.”
For loyal Times readers and many members of the local community, the annual Christmas photo with White is an event not to be missed.
Some families have photos spanning two decades, and there are many area residents who once posed with the famous Santa and now return with their own children or grandchildren.
Despite it being the height of White's busy season and the fact that he spends half the year living at his villa in Italy, the much-in-demand Santa to the Stars graciously gives his time each year to help the “Merry Christmas Fund,” which, in turn, benefits the Salvation Army of Pawtucket. Then it's off to places like Los Angeles, where he is booked for some A-list holiday parties, and then Italy, where he is revered as “Babbo Natale” through the Jan. 6 Feast of the Epiphany.
For White, once a struggling Hollywood actor who found his niche 30 years ago playing a highly believable St. Nick, there are new additions to his lengthy professional resume. With his induction into the “International Santa Claus Hall of Fame,” White was delighted to be among such celebrated company as the late veteran actor Edmund Gwenn, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Kris Kringle in the original “Miracle on 34th Street” movie. “I felt so honored to be in the company of someone like that,” White stated.
White had a closer encounter with the screen legend during the filming of a TV commercial for Macy's that will be running this Christmas season. He was chosen because of his resemblance to the actor and outfitted to look like Gwenn's Kris Kringle in the 1947 “Miracle on 34th Street.” Aided by computer technology and use of a “green screen,” White was spliced seamlessly into original scenes from the classic movie portraying Gwenn as he interacts with modern day celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Donald Trump and Martha Stewart.
“In the commercial, Donald Trump does what Natalie Wood does in the movie. He pulls my beard to see if it is real,” White says. “And he had to do this 40 or 50 times.” Of the filming experience, White found Trump to be “fun...he liked to joke and kid around,” and said Bieber was “funny. A very nice boy” and Swift was “a nice young lady.” Of Stewart, he chuckled and said, “Well, Martha was Martha.”
The whole process was “really extraordinary for me,” said White. He added that Macy's has the movie rights for two years, so there could be other opportunities for him to reprise the Gwenn/Santa role.
White was in New York City earlier this week to unveil the store windows at Lord & Taylor, which have been decorated for the holidays for over 75 years. He was accompanied by actress/singer Megan Hilty from the TV musical drama “Smash.” As a person who “doesn't even have a phone that has a camera on it,” White said he enjoyed a Lord & Taylor window scene featuring Santa holding an Apple I-Pad. “I got a kick out of that,” he said.
While in Manhattan, White said he went out for a stroll one morning dressed in a leather jacket and other “regular” clothes, including a red wool cap. He happened upon a side street where the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was lying unadorned on a flatbed truck and decided to hang around and watch the proceedings. Even without his Santa costume, White's natural resemblance to the Jolly Old Elf came through, and before long, he was being asked to pose for pictures. Soon, an Associated Press reporter arrived and did a short interview with the Santa to the Stars as he watched the equally famous tree being erected and decorated.
“That day, I would have preferred to not stick out,” White said. “But it was a fun thing to watch. At least, once in my life, I got to see how the tree is put up.”
While appearing on a recent segment of the “Today” show, where he was helping to promote the 2012 Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog, White also had a brush with another current A-lister, although he didn't realize it at the time. “I was in the green room waiting and a girl walked by, and said 'Oh, Santa,' and began to chat. Then, the girl came back with a baby and said, 'I've been good this year, etc., and other things like that, and I posed for a photo with her.”
Later, White said he asked a “Today” producer about who that day's celebrity was, and learned it was Snooki from “The Jersey Shore.” He mentioned that he would like to meet Snooki and was told she had just gotten into a cab. “I have only watched that show for short moments and I didn't recognize her,” White said. “I missed my chance.” Yet, he added that the normally brash reality TV star had been “very regular, pleasant. She didn't seem obnoxious at all. And she's a tiny little thing,” he observed.
Besides his Nov. 19 appearance at The Times on behalf of the Merry Christmas Fund, White said he is looking forward to another upcoming charity event that will be held in New York City to benefit children with cancer. Joseph Paris, a noted wig maker who crafted the hairpiece that White wore in the Macy's commercial, makes wigs for children who have lost their hair to cancer treatments. White will be posing for photos with the recipients of the free wigs and their families and then heading to a Ronald McDonald House in the city. “It makes me feel good to see what he is doing for these children,” he stated.
For those attending “Santa to the Stars” on Monday, Nov. 19, parking is available in the lot in front of The Times building and in the rear of the building, as well as on-street parking along several nearby side streets.