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Little-Known Santa No. 30
Wow! Talk about a well-heeled cosmopolitan Kringle! For a guy with no shirt or shoes, Little-Known Santa No. 30 has certainly gotten around!
To begin with, it appears that our ol’ bare-headed bare-torso barefoot buddy Yule here was born in Vladivostok, Primorsky Kray, Russia, in a fourth floor dwelling that overlooked the teeming railyards and bustling port of Golden Horn Bay. Born to a mining engineer and an aspiring actress and singer, the lad’s lineage included Irkutsk Russian, Buryat Mongol, Swiss, Judaic and Eastern Orthodox antecedents.
As if that weren’t enough of a polyglot start, the young Mongol mongrel was schooled by the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) of Harbin, Manchuria — a region that is now a part of the northeastern-most People’s Republic of China— but later emigrated to Paris, where he befriended many of the local Romani ‘gypsy’ population of entertainers. Later still, he returned once again to Manchuria, then eventually made his way by steamship to New York City. (It’s unclear exactly when this chrome-domed Christmas figure finally set up housekeeping and related reindeer stables and elven sweatshop at the North Pole.)
On reaching Manhattan, this multilingual dude — already adept as a guitarist, singer and radio announcer — dove into modeling, performing and acting. He was perhaps the very first notable artiste to outrun his unsightly male pattern baldness by simply shaving his entire head, and then applying a bit of darkening makeup to the newly cue-balled cranium. Little do all the skin-headed athletes, singers, pop stars, and wannabes of today realize that they are continuing to sport what has for more than six decades been known as ‘the Brynner look’.
Despite his Irkutsk Russian-Buryat Mongol-Swiss-Judaic-Eastern Orthodox lineage, Yule is probably best known for imitating a Siamese. On more than 4,500 occasions, he has traipsed about a stage, singing and speaking in an exotically accented voice, wearing naught but red silk pantaloons. Such has been his appearance as Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramenthramaha Mongkut Phra Com Kiao Chao Yu Hua (a name most commonly, and thankfully, truncated to just ‘King Mongkut’ or ‘the King’). It is as that titular King of the famous 1951 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I that Yule developed his signature cross-arm stance and distinctive phrasing of “etecetera! etecetera! etecetera!”. He later parlayed that phrasing into an Academy Award for Best Actor for his film portrayal of the same Siamese King.
One might think that such a hairless, shirtless and shoeless condition would be inherently incompatible with life in a frozen Arctic wasteland among a bunch of elves and antlered lichen-munching ungulates. But it is amazing what 4,500 or more consecutive nights bounding about a dank and drafty Broadway stage in dishabille will do for one’s tolerance for temperature extremes. If one can shake off the shivers for the sake of an ovation or a positive review, one can certainly do it for the granting of wishes of the children of the world.
Besides, no self-respecting descendant of the great Mongol Emperor, Genghis Khan — no matter how distant or far removed — would ever admit to being chilled by a bit of subzero weather!
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