the fraternal order of real bearded santas

A 501(c) Devoted To The Professional Claus


 How We've Kept The Order In Our Order...

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It all began in 1994, with a group of ten professional actors who were being featured in an Otto Versandt commercial to promote the German mail-order giant's Fall catalog-- the one with Cindy Crawford on the cover!
During the shooting-- which lasted nearly 12 hours at Paramount Studios' famed Brownstone Street-- the actors did what actors always do: they swapped "war stories"-- tales about their most & least favorite acting roles. 

Turned out, even limiting their conversation to SANTA-related gigs, the combined experience of these ten was too extensive to share during the shoot-- so they decided they would get together for lunch sometime to continue the camaraderie;  before long, one of them suggested that the group needed a name-- and since each had received a casting call  for a "Santa with REAL Beard", they soon settled upon a rather whimsical title for their merry band:

"Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas (AORBS)".


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A Pictoral History of the RBS Phenomenom

In the late summer of 1994, German mail-order giant Otto Versandt was planning its Winter sales campaign... 

Their catalog, featuring Cindy Crawford, was ready to go:

So they decided to shoot a TV commercial: (click to view)

(Sorry for the quality-- this is the only remaining copy)

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...word went out to casting agents throughout the Southwest

 that Santas were needed;

ultimately, 10 actors were found who were also professional Santas,

and the “Brownstone Street” set at Universal Studios was booked for a single day in September. 

Tom Hartsfield, selected as the Principal Santa, was shown sitting in his sleigh contentedly thumbing through the Otto Versandt catalog,

while the other nine Santas scrambled around,

bumping into each other as they delivered huge piles of wrapped presents

up and down the street depicted in the set. 

The shoot began at 3pm, and wasn’t over until 5am the next day

—so there was plenty of time between the shots for the Santas to get to know one another.

One of them had brought a camera, 


and as he snapped candid behind-the-scenes photos,

he promised to provide copies for the other Santas. 

At one point, Santa Ed Murphy suggested that they should get together for “a lunch or something”

—but they all agreed that, with the Christmas Season rapidly approaching, they should probably wait .

During subsequent breaks in the shooting,


it was agreed that they would meet for lunch on the third Sunday of the following January,

at the world-famous Northwoods Inn in La Mirada, CA. 

Hartsfield and Murphy were joking with Santa Jim Lewis that the group ought to have a name; 

since the casting call stipulated actors with “real beards” who portrayed Santa,

they wanted to keep that in the group’s title.

When Tom Hartsfield coined the phrase, “Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas”, the name stuck instantly!

When they gathered for that very first “Founders Luncheon”, only nine of the ten were able to make it.

Nonetheless, the klatch was an outstanding success; a good time was had by all of the Santas,

—and to a man, they agreed that they would do it all again the following year!

By January 1998, a few of the Santas had shared their little secret with OTHER Santas whom they knew, and the Founders Luncheons slowly began to grow…

...and grow...

...and GROW...

...and GROW...

...and GROW...

...and GROW...

Well, you get the idea...

My first & only group shot: That's me in the back row center, just to the right of the black hat, wearing a vest & sunglasses.

As AORBS videographer, I left the scrum after a few photos, to capture some video before the group broke up-- as luck would have it, I wasn't in the shot which was finally chosen...

(CLICK HERE to watch video of the group shot) 

When we met onboard the Queen Mary, I was Master of Ceremonies and due to technical difficulties, found myself unable to leave the stage as my fellow Santas met for the annual group shot.  The good news is that we were able to resolve the problems, and nobody ever knew how close we came to disaster that year!

(BTW:  Diva Claus and Elves Heather & Holly WERE able to attend the group shot: 


Again, as AORBS videographer, I had to duck out after a few shots to capture the video-- and AGAIN, the photo selected did not include me...

This year we also had a Mrs. Claus scrum:

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In two months, the Jolly Jents of Orange County would change their name and the FRATERNAL Order was born!!!

And THAT'S how we went from Claus Klatch to Christmas Kings! 

FORBS Remains Devoted To Our Annual Reunion!