Hearne: The Time Has Come for ‘Secret Santa’ to Take a Dirt Nap

k-bigpicI’ve always been more than a little skeptical…

You know, about this Secret Santa business. For a couple of reasons, starting with I met and got to know the dude who played the role for just under 30 years. And I got a closer read on him, like the time he heartlessly dropped the hammer on a local single mom photographer for basically little more than minor league pissing him off.

He did so, after calling me one weekday afternoon at the Kansas City Star bragging about being on a private California beach and boozing with Alex Karras. Karras was a former footballer who played Mongo in the movie Blazing Saddles and knocked out a horse. I was supposed to be impressed. I was, but not in a particularly good way.

Still for people of the Mike Murphy generation – the former KCMO AM talk show host who died two years ago – “Secret Santa” was a BFD. Which was exactly the way Stewart wanted it and got it.

Which ties in with another reservation I had about Stewart’s motives.

Think of it as a Clark Kent / Superman thing.

Because one of the main tenets of being Clark Kent was not telling people you were Superman, right? Nobody was supposed to spill those beans. Can you picture mild-mannered reporter Kent running around bragging about being the Man of Steel to Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane and a buncha other people in Smallville or at the Daily Planet?

Me neither, and that’s my point.

Stewart was in love with having his big shot cake and eating it…each and every Christmas.

A close-up of the front of the United StFact is, lots of locals knew Stewart was Secret Santa.

And I’ll tell you how they knew, because he bragged about it. It conferred celebrity status upon Stewart, just like getting hammered with Mongo did.

I tried to get Star editor Mark Zieman to let me out him, but Zieman would have none of it. Was it because Mark was such a nice guy? Maybe, but I’m not sure how people many people who know him who subscribe to that thinking.

Nope, the reason Zieman wouldn’t let me expose Stewart was the newspaper was in on the deal.

They were too vested at 18th and Grand. For years, the Star got an exclusive, front-page payoff every holiday by following “Santa” around while he passed out 100 buck bills.

At some point in time the TV news guys wormed their way into the deal and it became a local media gang bang. And thus an even worse kept secret.

Another problem; while the Star prides itself in serious journalism – even in its fluff pieces – that all went out the door where Stewart was concerned. Because not once was it confirmed or accounted as to exactly how much money Secret Santa actually gave away.

A trimmed down Stewart when he was on his last legs after copping to being SS

A trimmed down Stewart when he was on his last legs after copping to being SS

There was no accountability whatsoever.

Meaning Stewart got to play media puppet master – implying that large sums were being handed out – with only him knowing exactly what those sums totaled. A couple thousand  bucks, a couple hundred thousand? Who knows?

Wealthy benefactors give out far greater sums each and every year but they’re only reported in very small stories and only after the numbers are verified.

Stewart’s post death Wikipedia page estimates he gave out $1.3 million since 1979.

However nobody will ever really know because it was a fake news PR stunt with no accountability. That’s the way Stewart wanted it and the local media obliged him.

Here’s another detail:

“Many suspected that his illness was the reason he decided to out himself, but according to Stewart, this is untrue,” Stewart’s Wikipedia page says. “In an interview on the Dave Ramsey Radio Show, Stewart said he came out because a tabloid was about to reveal his identity, and he wanted to tell his own story before they did.”

The Pitch was sure it was Delbert Dunmire

The Pitch was sure it was Delbert Dunmire

I’ll let you in on a secret, that tabloid was the Pitch and guess who told them?

When former Pitch editor Tony Ortega first asked me about it, he was convinced it was eccentric Harrisonville millionaire Delbert Dunmire. Not even close, but I finally did tell him.

Look, if I’d known Stewart wasa super nice guy and had closely guarded his Secret Santa identity, I’d probably have left him alone.

And in the wake of Stewart’s passing a local PR dude decided to try and replicate Stewart’s Santa Act by setting up a Secret Santa Foundation.

But times have changed and the last time I can find a notice of Secret Santa’s schtick in the Star is 2011 – two years ago. And if KSHB reporter Amy Hawley is to be believed, it appears that the bottom has maybe dropped out of the Secret Santa racket.

“Secret Santa, the man who makes thousands of people happy each Christmas season, invited me exclusively to go on another one of his sleigh rides this year,” Hawley reports. “I am the only reporter in town to go with this highly secretive man. A man who believes if his identity is ever revealed, the magic of what he does may go away.”

Eh, who knows? Maybe the Foundation is playing the “exclusive” card with all the stations.

But with Secret Santa down to maybe one station, looks like the magic may fading fast.

Do we really still need to have some old coot slogging about town and handing out hondos to make the holidays complete? At this stage of the game, Secret Santa’s still a secret, but does anybody really care? I mean, it’s not like he’s gonna turn out to be Craig Glazer or something.

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18 Responses to Hearne: The Time Has Come for ‘Secret Santa’ to Take a Dirt Nap

  1. CG says:

    Who told on me!

  2. No C for Christmas in KCC. says:

    So the first story is hating on a secret santa.
    The story after this is hating on comments over on TKC and the Editor in Chief of that blog. I’d say there is no C for Christmas in KCC. However I digress.
    Wilson clearly can’t take critics and Hearne 6 months ago praised Smartman as nothing short of a great contributor then decides to publish the Wilson manifesto.
    If the biggest problem in your day is that your wife got negative press on a blog site then your having a pretty good day. This KCC vs. TKC is frought with so much stupidity that one has to wonder if either is worth reading and KCC seems to be launching the offensive more then I see on TKC. I mean we are talking about one guy that lives in his mom’s basement and the other drives a fiat. Perhaps this war of words is over compensating for any other lack of machismo. Ohh and Wilson your wife isn’t the next best thing to hit the stage and forget about tracing the IP. At the first sign of negativity you cry lawyer up and your childish nature is evident by having the comments blocked for your latest diatribe.

    • the dude says:

      Hate! Hate! Hate!

    • admin says:

      Negative press on a blog site, huh?

      You obviously know nothing of which you write, No C.

      That’s what Chuck thought too…until he read the actual comments. Look, you’re free to make a fool of yourself while hiding behind a cute monicker. But not having a clue diminishes your points, so good thing you didn’t use your real name.

      Oh yeah, I no longer drive a Fiat, Sherlock.

      • No C for thee says:

        Well for not knowing it’s clear I struck a nerve.
        As for the clue everyone that goes to either site knows the story and that Willy flipped his lid. Now he’s leveraging his inside man to do his bidding. Who’s running your site Pulitzer you, Wilson or Glazer?
        Everyone knows there is clearly some sort of whizzing match between you and TKC. And with the salvo you just tossed I would say your clearly either loosing the hit war, jealous, desperate, or just like being the puppet to the pissed off husband.
        As for bad press on the political side who cares if some politician is hurting from comments be it truth or a lie. As for anonymous that is your problem you allow it or are you coughing up IP addresses to the pissed off husband – puppet?

        • admin says:

          Struck a nerve, eh? Keep dreaming, No C.

          Here’s an idea, based on some of your many assumptions; have you thought about a career in fiction?

    • admin says:

      Hey smartman was a great contributor AND since I’m assuming you can read, I continue to praise him in my other column.

  3. Davey Jones Locker says:

    Food for thought when Wilson or Glazer dies will Hearne bag on them? Hmmmm…

    • admin says:

      Better yet, will they bag on Hearne if he dies first?

      Who will be the first to visit…wait for it…Davey Jones Locker?

  4. Super Dave says:

    Good Point

  5. balbonis moleskine says:

    Be careful, he is like Beetlejuice. You can get backtraced by the internets police for even mentioning his name!

    • CG says:

      That little cartoon was top five in the International contest in Montreal. TJ wanted changes so it was dropped early, that was about six months ago, it is not up and hasn’t been for some time.

  6. No C says:

    HAHAHA Fiction. Is that somewhere your state of mind has gone to when THIS is the only website where a WRITER called out every person’s comment for a fight? Let’s face it attitude is a 2 way freaking street and YOUR contributor took it upon himself to brag about him and his 3 buddies waiting for a no show!! If my comments are fiction then there is no denying your position is hypocrisy. I’d rather be wrong than a hypocrit. So put your head back in the sand puppet. As for comments the rule of sticks and stones. YOUR boy went with his gang to do physical harm.

  7. DoctorGee says:

    Maybe Stewart was self-serving. Maybe he only gave out 2K instead of 20k. The reason and amount are not the point. People were helped by him and continue to be helped by the people that run the “Santa” program now.

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