It’s early in the morning at Santa central, an auditorium in the headquarters of the Volunteers of America, New York’s largest supplier of Santas. For 80 years now, the Volunteers of America has been placing down-on-their-luck Santas on the streets of midtown Manhattan to raise money for charity.
In one corner of the auditorium sits a thin, moustached, half-dressed Santa hunched intently over the day’s racing form. His graying hair is cut short, he’s missing a front tooth, and his face furrows deeply each time he frowns — which he does a lot — as he suits up for the day’s work. This is Eddie Surwinski. Not your typical Kris Kringle, he prefers to be known as Cynical Santa. And at 8:15 precisely, he’s out the door.
Recorded in New York City. Premiered December 23, 1990, on All Things Considered.
This documentary comes from Sound Portraits Productions, a mission-driven independent production company that was created by Dave Isay in 1994. Sound Portraits was the predecessor to StoryCorps and was dedicated to telling stories that brought neglected American voices to a national audience.