It wasn't actually the department store that the pair worked for, but the photography shop inside (the store rented space to people who would sell their wares). So, Jorge met the people from said shop and they figured he'd make a good Santa. Sachetti, who had already secured one of the two Santa shifts was a thin guy but the photography shop had padding and a very high-quality Santa suit. One of us would work the day shift and the other come in for the night shift.
Bob found playing Santa was a challenging acting gig, but he acquitted himself well. Jorge really enjoyed playing Santa. He did, however, learn to steer clear of the "Talking Christmas Tree," set up around the corner from Santa's throne.
It seems that the tree recognized Jorge as Rudy Cheeks and would heckle him whenever he walked by on his way to Santa's dressing room (where Jorge and Sachetti would often, in time-honored Santa style, take a quick shot of booze during the changing of the guard).
A couple of old friends would bring in their kids, not realizing at first that Santa was some guy they had gone to high school with. But Jorge's favorite Santa customer, perhaps, was Joanne, a downtown Providence regular who used to hang at the library on Empire Street and (according to sources inside the library) play Debbie Reynolds records in the listening room for hours.
Joanne would come in early during Jorge's shift and sing Christmas carols for Santa and the various parents and kids in line. If Joanne went on a bit too long, Jorge, employing his best Santa voice, would say, "Now Joanne, why don't you go over to the menswear department and sing for the people there? They'd really enjoy that."
There is no more Outlet Company and, these days, Jorge leaves the Santa Claus gigs to real pros like Brady "Santa to the Stars" White of Pawtucket, a former Hollywood Santa who's done lots of TV commercials and film work. But Jorge sure had fun back in the old days.
As many readers know, "Phillipe & Jorge's Cool, Cool World" is now in its 33rd year. We would imagine that few of you remember its origins in the long-gone Providence Eagle. We were reminded of those early years last week when Phillipe had lunch with columnist and reporter Bob Plain of rifuture.org.
Bob and Phillipe got to talking about a mutual influence, the late Alexander Cockburn, a pioneering progressive columnist for The Village Voice and later The Nation. Cockburn passed away in July and we had not noticed Plain's column about this brilliant journalist. After lunch, Jorge checked back in the RI Future archives and was delighted to read Bob's appreciation of Cockburn.
Bob worked for Alex as a laborer on the West Coast starting in 2001. And Cockburn helped him along in his journalism career. It is a touching story and we would encourage you to find Bob's piece.
But back to Cockburn's influence on this column. When we started the column in 1979, we emulated the work of a number of our favorite writers, among them S.J. Perelman and H.L. Mencken.
We also took inspiration from Private Eye magazine, the over-the-top ramblings of gossip columnist R. Couri Hay in the National Enquirer, and Cockburn's "Press Clips" column in the Voice. The format for the Cool, Cool World mimicked "Press Clips" with short takes on about a half dozen or so different topics.
Thanks to Bob Plain for reminding us of our roots and one of the great American journalists who influenced us all.
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