If you happen to be among the unfortunate few who don’t believe in Santa Claus, you haven’t met Charlie Jordan.
Jordan might not live at the North Pole. (He lives in Townville, South Carolina.) He may not be the CEO of a global toy-distribution empire. (He was a professional photographer for the same three decades that he also taught broadcasting at Tri- County Tech.) And he may be retired now. But he spends two months a year as the most beloved old man on the planet.
“I’m the only guy I know who gets paid for his looks,” Jordan, 69, says, “and on top of that, I get paid for sleeping. We do a lot of shots where I’m asleep and kids have to pull my beard and wake me up.”
What’s more, he belongs to the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas, a California-based organization boasting more than 1,000 members, all of whom must sport genuine white beards. He’s also super-specialized—no mall Santa here. He only plays ho-ho-host to children for two private clubs, the Poinsett Club and the Mountaintop Golf & Lake Club (Cashiers, North Carolina).
“That’s one of the things about my little niche,” he says. “I don’t know any other guys who do exactly what I do.”
Secret Santa // A former photographer and teacher at Tri-County Tech, Charlie Jordan now dons Santa’s red suit for the holidays. Members of the historic Poinsett Club may visit him during this month.
“He’s, straight-up, the real deal,” says Stacia Smith, the Poinsett Club’s member relations director. “He’s a fantastic Santa, he really is, and it’s a special situation here because he does see the same children year in and year out.”
Jordan started at the Poinsett about 13 years ago, but he took on the role after one of his Tri-County students brought in a magazine ad showing Santa and a little boy. “The students said, ‘Charlie this could be you.’ So I took it home and my son thought it was me.”
Smith says the jolly old man, who calls himself “a little bit overweight and a little bit under-short,” is brilliant with children and knows all the hottest toys.
Jordan’s rosy cheeks and hearty chuckle betray how much he enjoys his job. Sure, he has experienced terrified children, but, he says, “I think it depends on the kid. Some of ’em, it’s just a place to go and say what toys they want. Some of ’em, it’s a magical person they really love.”