Confessions of a Jingle Elf
December brings Christmas and memories of my time as a Marshall Field Jingle Elf. David Sedaris has this market cornered with his Santaland Diaries.
My Elf experience was a long time ago. Marshall Fields is now non existent as are the Jingle Elves. I auditioned for it. I was so good I became a ‘performing’ elf. I was not the one to just pass out candy. I performed Christmas skits at various places like schools and hospitals. Sometimes I did pass out candies at parades. And the mall.
I was at the large Orland Square Mall on Black Friday. This was before the cyber spending phenomenon. Thus it was loaded with people. I was in the office of the head manager. I overheard her calling all the other stores and corporate offices to share the numbers of sales and comparisons with other years.
The people at the mall were very fashionable and friendly. I would offer candy and a parent would say, “Now Jonathan, only one. And say please and thank you.” Another would ask about its contents, and where and how it was prepared. This contrasted vastly with my downtown Chicago experience which I’ll share shortly.
I was paid a lot more than the common candy passers.
I auditioned with a friend of mine. For some reason he wanted our backgrounds for the characters to be that we were leprechauns, so we had to use an Irish accent. I went along with it. It got us hired.
The uniforms were great. Bright red tights and bright green tunics and bells on our heads. The tunics went down to about my upper thighs. I asked one of the administrators, a young woman no less, what do I wear under the tights? It was a new, albeit thrilling, experience for me. I never wore tunics nor dresses. Okay, there was that one time in college. But it was Halloween and we had a costume contest. And I won. And for the rest of the year everyone called me Mom.
The bells played an important part, too. I had a disco song going through my mind, ‘You can ring my bellsssss.’ That was because many kids asked to ring my bells. And I would say, “You can ring my bells.”
Once we performed at a school in the gym. The teachers were all sitting on the side. I was being silly (if you can believe that) and I slid on the floor, unbeknownst to me that in so doing my tunic would fly up to my shoulders. The teachers were treated to a view of my dingle berries and candy cane. Thank heavens for those red tights. Had I been thrown in jail for illegal exposure, those Cook County prisoners would have had a real Christmas treat with this elf.
Then there was the big parade. I mean big. Donny Osmond participated. It went up Michigan Avenue. All of us Jingle Elves were there passing out the Marshall Field Franco candies. Mmmmmm. We had baskets but the baskets were not big enough. In the Chicago parade a policeman on a horse yelled, “Hey, Elf, gimme some candy!” I said, “Oh, I have to take care of the police,” as all the people yelled “Why, they don’t do nuthin for for us!” For the Christmas spirit, I am censoring what they really said. He took his share of the candy and the horse heaved and gave me a nasty look. Then I went back to the people and they greedily took the rest of my candy. I looked around and as the song says, the parade passed me by. My directional abilities were as bad then as they are now. I was lost. So I sadly searched for the Marshall Field store. The people around me were the types to get coal in their stockings. “Hey, Elf, give me some f_____g candy. What? No candy, you’re an……..” They called me many names that I cannot share here. Some I’m not sure how to spell.
The Elves were all supposed to turn in our costumes on Christmas Eve. A few others and I kept ours for Christmas and visited a hospital. Good deed but naughty elves. We returned our outfits later.
I was a Jingle Elf for two years in a row. It was a wonderful experience. So, Merry Christmas to all……..and to all, a good night. Or day. It depends on when you are reading this.