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)

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

The City of Castlegar plans to move to renewable energy by 2050. Photo: Betsy Kline
City of Castlegar adopts West Kootenay 100% Renewable Energy Plan

It represents a commitment to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050

Dr. Cori Lausen, bat specialist. Photo: Submitted
Kaslo biologist questions logging at unique West Kootenay bat site

Dr. Cori Lausen, a bat specialist, studies a population of bats above Beasley

Columbia Avenue Redevelopment - Phase 2 will begin in February. Image: City of Castlegar
Contract awarded for Castlegar’s Columbia Avenue – Phase 2

Residents recently had the opportunity to ask questions about the project at an online open house

Robbie Campbell lost his livelihood when the pandemic shut down Shambhala Music Festival. Instead, he spent part of 2020 working on a children’s book called Tulip that is now available. Photo: Submitted
In a lousy year, a Kootenay man was saved by a pink T-rex

Robbie Campbell became a children’s author after the pandemic cost him his livelihood

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
RCMP: Small tin saved Trail man from stabbing

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
COVID rapid tests in long-term care key during vaccine rollout: B.C. care providers

‘Getting kits into the hands of care providers should be a top priority,’ says former Health Minister

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Pfizer shipments down until February, to be made up in March

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training announced funding to train community mental health workers at four B.C. post-secondary institutions. (Stock photo)
B.C. funding training of mental health workers at four post-secondary institutions

Provincial government says pandemic has intensified need for mental health supports

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
No Pfizer vaccines arriving in Canada next week; feds still expect 4M doses by end of March

More cases of U.K. variant, South African variant found in Canada

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

Most Read