Lexington radio personality transforms into Santa Jack for the holidays
He may have the record for the longest run on Lexington radio at one station. Jack Pattie took the microphone on weekday mornings at News Talk 590 WVLK in 1975. Except for one year, the now 70-year-old has spent all that time at WVLK. But Pattie maybe even better known as Santa Claus.
His first opportunity to wear the white beard came in the fourth grade. “They had a Christmas program at school, and I got to be Santa because I was the teacher’s pet. And my mom stuck that beard on, and it smelled to high heaven, but I thought that’s the neatest thing I’ve done in my life. And that impressed me, that someday, I’m gonna be Santa Claus.”
In 2006 he grabbed the chance to try Santa Claus as an adult. “I got cast as Kris Kringle in the Miracle on 48th Street in Woodford County. And so that was a great learning experience.” Pattie went to a Santa Claus convention, grew a white beard, and began booking Christmas events around Central Kentucky. He admits to spending thousands of dollars on Santa costumes. “It gets to be a little bit of an obsession, I’ll admit it. And I probably have three times more wardrobe than I need, but I have a great wife who turns the other way, and never asks me what that cost.”
Pattie says the key as Santa Claus is to keep the focus on the children. “The first major thing I learned is don’t be loud and boisterous and animated because you’ll scare them to death. It takes the focus off the kids and putting it on you. It’s a scary experience for some kids so I speak very low in terms of volume.” In fact, Pattie sees himself more as an assistant to the man in red and white. “I also always tell myself, I’m not Santa Claus, I’m a helper. I get kids that come up to me at the holidays. It’s really interesting. I keep the beard all year. A child will come up to me at a restaurant, and say, are you Santa Claus? And I’ll always say no, but I know him.”
As I watched him at a Santa Claus appearance at a marina restaurant on Herrington Lake, I noticed a twinkle in his eyes as a photographer took pictures of him and the children. “I don’t know Sam, it’s not intentional. It’s just magic. It’s nothing that I have stood before a mirror and practiced. I kinda think I know how Santa would smile.”
Patience is also key to his Santa Claus experience. “It requires a lot of patience, and I don’t have a problem with that. I’ll take as long as we have to, to bring a child along. I do get inpatient with obviously spoiled children, and the good thing about my experience is I haven’t seen all that many.”
Pattie says he’s booked as Santa Claus nearly every day in November and December. Considering the time it takes to get into his costume, travel, and time at holiday events, I was surprised to learn he is not paid for most of his appearances.
Pattie says his payment comes in other ways. “There are a lot of other ways besides money that you get paid off. When you make a child happy and get a nice picture for their parents. I’ve worked with hospice and other organizations. And you’ve got children, the only way they’re going to get a picture with Santa is you go see them.”
Pattie says he sees no reason to stop wearing the red and white coat with black boots and white gloves. “I just turned 70, and as long as my health allows me, I don’t see any reason to stop. I’ll be doing this longer than I’m doing radio. The cool thing about Santa is you can’t age out because Santa is old to begin with so you can’t be too old to be Santa.”
Don’t fret radio listeners, Pattie says he just signed a two-year contract to continue at WVLK.
As for children’s holiday wishes for gifts, listen to our extended conversation with Santa Claus about the hot toy this year.
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