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

A rendering of Victoria Wonderland, a drive-thru immersive holiday experience that has been cancelled due to COVID-19. (Courtesy of Transcend Victoria)
Victoria Wonderland drive-thru show cancelled due to COVID-19

Organizers hope to host a similar event, if restrictions allow, in the new year

Swiftsure International Yacht Race 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Popular Swiftsure yacht race cancelled for second consecutive year

International sailing race hopes to run its 77th event in 2022

Saanich golfer and top B.C. junior and juvenile player Willy Bishop was named to the 2021 Canadian National Junior Golf Squad on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy Jenny Bishop)
Saanich student to tee-off with national golf team

Willy Bishop, 16, named to Canadian National Junior Golf Squad in 2021

Island Health has reported a COVID-19 outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Four new COVID-19 cases added to Saanich Peninsula Hospital outbreak

Inital round of patient testing is complete, staff testing continues

Oak Bay High students Mimi Hill and Aine O’Donnell run along the Jack Wallace Memorial Track. The old track is due to be resurfaced. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Oak Bay track resurfacing delayed

Oak Bay commits $50,000 towards renewed Jack Wallace track

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

(AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)
POLL: Has COVID-19 changed your plans for the holidays?

The lights are going up, the stacks of presents under the tree… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 1

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Watch Messiah at home with the Sooke Philharmonic

Concert available to stream Dec. 12

Emergency crews used a backhoe loader to clear fire debris from the scene of a fire on Wesley Street Thursday as police and firefighters gathered up propane tanks, stoves and fireplaces used by camp residents to heat tents. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo dismantles downtown homeless encampment after fire

Four to six tents burned up in Wesley Street fire Thursday, Dec. 3

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

BC Ambulance Services reassures people that the service is well staffed and ready to respond. Photo by Don Bodger
BC Ambulance assures the Island community they’re ‘fully staffed’

‘Paramedics are not limited to a geographical area.’ — BCEHS

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read