Gary Haupt (right) dressed as Santa at a recent Christmas market at Penticton’s Shatford Centre takes a silly photo with a woman who asked him to pretend to drink from a flask. This is one of the photos on Haupt’s personal Facebook page that landed him in hot water with the Cherry Lane Shopping Centre, which decided to terminate his upcoming contract as their mall Santa. (Photo from Facebook)

Crude photos land Penticton’s Santa on the ‘naughty list’

Gary Haupt said his upcoming contract to be the Cherry Lane Santa has been terminated

After years of smiling politely for the camera, Penticton’s Santa Claus decided to get a little naughty in a couple recent photos he took – which ended up costing him his job.

Gary Haupt, known to many as the city’s Santa Claus with his cheerful smile and white beard, was supposed to work this Christmas season at Cherry Lane Shopping Centre starting on Nov. 30. However, a complaint about photos he shared on his personal Facebook page has resulted in his termination.

One photo taken in his home shows Santa reaching down to grab VIP Mobile Spa owner Michelle Prystay’s breasts as she is sitting and smiling.

“Michelle is in and out of our house all the time. So she’s there doing the nails, so I go and put my tunic jacket on and come out and Sharon (my partner) grabs the camera and we take a few pictures,” said Haupt, adding the photo was taken in jest.

“Part of this is my naivety because I thought this was really funny, and Michelle and Santa are well-known around town so I put them on Facebook because I thought it was something people weren’t going to get anxious about.”

The second photo depicts Haupt as Santa, leaning back into a woman’s arms as he pretends to take a swig from a metal flask. Haupt said this was taken at the Shatford Centre during a recent Christmas market at the woman’s request.

“She walks up and said she wanted a photo with Santa apparently drinking out of a flask and sort of laying back in her arms,” said Haupt. “So I said sure, I’ll do that. Why would I not? So I thought that was pretty funny and posted that as well. So those are the two pictures that everybody is all wound up about.”

READ MORE: Cutting Ties: The Okanagan School of the Arts to consider a future without the Shatford Centre

Haupt said someone saw the photos on his profile and sent a complaint to the management of Cherry Lane. He added that he has no qualms with the person who complained, since it’s their right to do so, but he believes the mall should have shown leadership, instead of terminating his contract.

“What I do on my time has nothing to do with (the mall). Somebody took exception to it and spoke to someone with the mall,” said Haupt. “I think from there it went to the owners, and the decision was made to terminate me on Nov. 27.

“I told them that this has nothing to do with you folks. But that didn’t matter. They had received their instructions and that’s what it was.”

Haupt has a long history of playing the part as Santa, both professionally and in his personal life. He said he is now fearful that the other jobs he had lined up this holiday season may follow suit after Cherry Lane’s decision.

“I’m Santa, I’ve been him for years … It’s not just a four-week gig at the mall. Being Santa is a full-time occupation because people make it so,” said Haupt.

“I have children come up to me multiple times a year and ask ‘Are you Santa?’ like I have lived this as my life. It’s one of the things that I do and I’m really good at it. It’s not just put on the suit and become the character.”

When asked if he still stands by the crude photos, Haupt said he absolutely does and that, while social media may have led to him losing his position, it also led to an outpouring of support for him as the beloved Kris Kringle.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
JordynThomson 
Send Jordyn Thomson an email.
Like the Western News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Blacktail Haida Gwaii working to reopen with new covered patio

Chef-owner Edi Szasz hopes to reopen on June 25, the one-year anniversary of the restaurant

Skidegate daycare staff recognized for creative care during COVID-19

Staff have been using social media to share isolation activities, read stories and sing songs

Village of Queen Charlotte approves business facade improvement grants

Applications from Gather, dental clinic, A Level Up approved, leaving about $14,000 up for grabs

Recycling services in Queen Charlotte, Port Clements expanding next week

Residential plastics will be accepted again, but most residential transfer stations remain closed

‘At least they’re safe:’ Arrival of new Syrian refugee family to Haida Gwaii delayed due to COVID-19

Operation Refugees says family stuck in Lebanon with no flights, ‘but at least they’re safe’

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Vancouver Island First Nations gather to remember woman fatally shot by police

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council requests an independent investigation

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Most Read