By Rich Figel
Our Christmas edition of Career Changers TV premiers Thurs., Dec. 2 at 8:30 PM on OC16. On this month's program we feature Mike Ching, a professional magician who also performs as "classic" Santa Clause (modern American version), Father Christmas (Old World style pictured here) and Magic Santa (includes optional Magic Chimney effect). Mike's story is interesting on a couple of levels. For instance, he talks about how his magic business was booming in the 80s because companies were trying to outdo each other with the best holiday parties... then the "sexual harassment" lawsuits began to hit, no doubt related to the yuletide cheer that was being imbibed at some of those Christmas bashes. While Mike was never involved in any of those cases, he felt companies used it as another reason for them to cut back spending on parties.
The drop-off in demand for his magician services led to him marketing his Santa services more actively. He hired a professional theater costume designer to create his Father Christmas and classic Santa suits, which he says would cost thousands of dollars to replace. They're very heavy -- and yes, he sweats a lot, so the suits have to be aired out and cleaned regularly. But you can tell from the twinkle in Mike's eyes that he truly loves playing Santa. Although he's normally hired to perform at parties for children, he says he never breaks character even when interacting with adults. And it's the grown-ups who seem to get the biggest kick when he says he remembers grandmom or dad from when they were kids themselves. Here's his Santa website link.
When we were shooting the interview at his place, I noticed some familiar-looking nature paintings on the walls. They were done by his brother, Patrick Ching, whose art was used on the cover of a Hawaiian Tel phone book a few years back. Coincidentally, his work has been on display at the Naturally Hawaiian Gallery, which is now part of the Sweet Home Waimanalo Cafe -- we just did a CCTV story on them last month! Small island, huh? Here's the link to Mike's website in case you'd like to hire him for a party.
We shot the introductions for the December show at Strictly Christmas in Kailua, which is also the Yarn & Needlecraft shop next to Agnes' Portugese Bake Shop. Sylvia Kruse, the owner of the Christmas/yarn shop, pointed out things such as the hundred year old Nativity display, plus some of the more unusual Christmas tree ornaments they sell. In addition to the Christmas village models for sale, they now carry Halloween-themed villages that were popular items this year. Since I live in Kailua, I love having small shops like this one in town where you can buy fresh, hot malasadas next door, then browse through Christmas decorations all year round, or look at her room full of yarn if you're into that sort of thing.
Anyhow, it reminded me of an old Heinrich Boll satire I remember reading in high school. I thought it was called "Christmas Every Day," but the actual title is "Christmas Not Just Once A Year" (translated from German) and it's an interesting take on the meaning of Christmas. In the story, a mentally unstable aunt causes her family to pretend it's Christmas every day because it comforts her. There are references to WWII, so some critics think it's a statement about Germans wishfully trying to block out memories of Nazi Germany and war. Others contend it's a commentary on commercialism and class warfare (the family must be wealthy since they can afford to hire actors to play family members who get tired of attending the daily Christmas activities). Eventually, wax dummies are purchased to replace children in the re-enactments. Ah, those fun-loving German authors!
Yet it does give one reason to pause and be thankful that Christmas only comes once a year -- except in Sylvia's Kailua shop, that is. Check out the new show Thurs. night or DVR it. You can find daily viewing times on our website and watch segments on our YouTube Channel (but it looks much better on widescreen television). Mele Kalikimaka!