Joined: 07 Dec 2006
Location: United States of America
|Posted: Sat Dec 16, 2006 9:42 am Post subject: Disney World Tells Santa Lookalike to Hit the Road
|By Hannah Sentenac
Walt Disney World resort gave an ultimatum to a Santa lookalike who was visiting the park Sunday, warning him to ditch his festive gear or get out.
J.D. Worley, 60, is used to being mistaken for Santa Claus. But it had always been something that brought him joy, until a recent visit to Disney World.
Worley, who has a long white beard and bears a striking resemblance to St. Nick, was followed around by many an awed youngster during his recent visit to the park.
"Adults and children alike came up to me and asked to take pictures with me. I even had my picture taken with groups of cast members and store managers," Worley said.
Several of the tiny tots asked if he was Santa Claus, to which he responded, "yes, I am."
But is Worley really Kris Kringle? He admits he is not.
"Christmas is supposed to be about kids, and how do you tell a kid that comes up to you and grabs your leg and calls you 'Santa,' how do I say, 'Get away from me kid, I'm not Santa?'" Worley asked.
Worley does, however, have some experience as Santa Claus.
"J.D. has been playing Santa for a long time," says his wife, Darlene. "He plays Santa and I play Mrs. Claus. We do it for charity, and we march in parades. We’ve done it for the troops in our local National Guard, and for disabled vets at the local VA hospital."
Disney, however, would prefer that the park's official Santa Claus remain the one and only.
"They told me I either needed to alter my appearance or I needed to leave the park because I was impersonating Santa Claus. They told us that Santa was considered a Disney character,' said Worley.
Darlene thinks the park was overreacting.
"Almost everyone there wears Santa hats and dresses in red and green during the holidays. The kids thought it was wonderful that Santa was actually a real person in the park," Darlene said.
Jacob DiPietre, a spokesman for Walt Disney World, said Worley was never banned from the park, only asked to stop impersonating the jolly man.
"We're very committed to protecting the magic of Santa Claus for all our guests, especially children. We asked him to stop presenting himself as Santa Claus and he agreed," said DiPietre.
Darlene says Christmas has lost some of its luster this year, in part, thanks to what happened at Disney World.
But Worley is working to keep his spirit alive.
"I'm still angry with Disney, I'm still hurt," said Worley, "but I'm not going to let it ruin my Christmas. I'm not going to let it stop me from going to Disney, if they let me in. I still look like Santa, and I'm not going to shave my beard off."
Freedom of speech is as much a responsibility as it is a right.