Penticton News

Penticton mall Santa fired for 'naughty' photos on Facebook

Gary Haupt, who worked last year as the Cherry Lane mall Santa in Penticton, lost his job after this photo, taken in a lighthearted moment with a friend, was posted to social media.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK / Gary Haupt

A Penticton mall Santa fired from his job before it even began thanks to controversial images post to Facebook, is trying to keep his spirits up.

The part-time Cherry Lane mall Santa was let go yesterday, Nov. 27, a couple of days before he was to start the job after someone complained about two photos posted to Haupt’s Facebook page last week.

“The more I talk about it, it either gets worse or better. I’m not sure how that works,” Gary Haupt said with a Santa-like chuckle on the phone this morning.

One of the photos shows Haupt in Santa gear with his hand placed provocatively close to a woman’s breasts. Another photo has Haupt sitting on a sofa with a woman while he takes a sip from a hip flask.

The posts to Facebook yesterday asked the public to weigh in and received lots of comments with a majority favouring Haupt’s position. He said the photos were taken for fun in his off time and that he had the consent of all involved.

“Someone didn’t like it and complained to the mall somehow. They called me in yesterday for an unscheduled interview and they said, ‘you’re fired.' That’s the long and short of it,” Haupt said.

He asked if it was a done deal and the mall's administration didn’t want to discuss it.

This would have been Haupt’s second season as the mall Santa. He says there were a couple of incidents last year in which a customer wanted a photo being spanked by Santa, and another where a customer wanted to spank Santa.

Image Credit: FACEBOOK / Gary Haupt

Both Haupt and the photographer thought it would be a fun thing to do, but after a complaint by a retailer in the mall who thought such photos inappropriate, the two agreed not to do such shoots.

“Both the photographer and I were chastised. If the mall says not to do something, we agreed not to. But these photos have nothing to do with the mall, I wasn’t even due to start work until Saturday,” Haupt said.

“No one has any balls to stand up to this and say, ‘whoever you are, talk to Santa but don’t talk to us because this isn’t our business' but they made it their business,” Haupt said.

“I’ve done lots of cool stuff. This is a lesson for me. I’d probably still have the photos taken but I wouldn’t post them to Facebook,” he said, pausing for a moment.

“But then again, I probably would,” he added.

Haupt said last year he posed for hundreds of photos with kids who were frightened of Santa, even after trying to hand the distraught children back to their parents.

“I didn’t want to be the one upsetting the child, but that’s what the parents wanted. I guess the motivation was to show the photo to the kids years later and have a laugh about it. That’s an adult doing that, and no one complained, not mall staff, anyone,” he said.

Haupt says there probably has never been much separation from a person's private and public life, but believes that lack of separation may be more prolific now.

“I’m not ashamed of me. This is the way I live, these were not dirty pictures, they were not inappropriate,” he said.

“In someone’s mind, they were. I support that person for having complained but I don’t support the mall for having acted on it,” he said.

Cherry Lane mall administration was not immediately available for comment


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