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December 13, 2002
Interview With A Reindeer

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, has been a focus of much adulation since his trials and tribulations as a young buck were first chronicled by Robert May in 1939. Now, on the verge of what will be his sixty-third trip as the leader of Santa's Christmas dash, Rudolph reflects on his life, his hopes, and his regrets, with Sand in the Gears.

Sand: So, Rudolph, your story has been chronicled in books, an all-time best-selling song by Gene Autry, and in a major animated motion picture. You've been going strong for sixty-three years, and you look tanned and rested. How do you do it?

Rudolph: I give a lot of credit to a good diet, you know, berries, leaves, an occasional elf-burger (chuckles). Just kidding, I love those little guys. Seriously, I just try to take care of myself. Pilate's is a big help, of course.

Sand: Tell me about the pain of being left out of the Reindeer Games.

Rudolph: It hurt; I can admit that now. I was in top form, you know? I could have taken silver, maybe even gold in the high jump. But they were all about the nose, the nose, the big red freakin' nose, and I . . . excuse me (covers face).

A few moments elapse.

Rudolph: I'm sorry.

Sand: It's alright (pats hoof).

Rudolph: Please don't touch me.

Sand: I was only trying to express sympathy.

Rudolph: I know, and I appreciate that, but it's cold and flu season.

Sand: Sorry.

Rudolph: Forget about it. Thinking about the old days still makes me a little tense. Please continue.

Sand: Critics.

Rudolph: What about them?

Sand: Some people say you were a sell-out. You had a chance, when Santa came crawling to you that foggy Christmas Eve, to say, on behalf of creatures the world over who suffer from glowing nose deformities, "screw you, Santa." Instead you became part of the establishment. How do you respond to that?

Rudolph: You know, it's really ridiculous.

Sand: Right, here, for the record, let's hear your response.

Rudolph: Who told you that? Blitzen? Let me tell you about that punk -- he's a total junkie.

Sand: If we could just stick to the question . . .

Rudolph: Oh yeah, everybody knows about it. He gets hopped up on like a case of Coca-Cola before the ride -- says he needs a little "pep."

Sand: . . . don't know if this is the right venue for that kind of allegation . . .

Rudolph: Total Coke-head, that guy. I'm just glad I don't have to fly behind him, if you know what I'm saying.

Sand: So did it cross your mind, to tell Santa and the other reindeer to just take a hike?

Rudolph: I won't deny it; it entered my mind. I mean, I was a nobody to them. Persona non freakin' grata. None of them wanted anything to do with me until a little fog hit, and then suddenly I'm everybody's daddy! (Pauses.) I'm sorry.

Sand: It's okay. Nice Pacino impression, by the way.

Rudolph: You caught the "Sea of Love" reference, huh?

Sand: I'm no stranger to the VCR, my friend.

Rudolph: It's faithful when nobody else is, let me tell you.

Sand: But now you have loads of fans, every schoolchild knows your name -- life is much different today, right?

Rudolph: It is and it isn't. Sure, there's the fame, there's the young hottie reindeer slinging their bells up on stage when I do a performance, there's the sweet royalties. (Pauses.) But let me tell you . . . (he pauses again, and a tear comes down his snout). You never know when it will end, right? I mean, look at this nose.

Sand: Yeah?

Rudolph: What's it doing?

Sand: Um, it's glowing.

Rudolph: Uh-huh, and why's it doing that?

Sand: I . . . I don't know.

Rudolph: Exactly! This light could go out tomorrow. You think they'll still want me around if that happens? Hell no! I'd be just another freak with a bulbous and slightly incandescent red nose.

Sand: Like Boris Yeltsin.

Rudolph: Yeah, and you don't see the chicks lining up outside his dressing room, now do you?

Sand: Just the old fat ones.

Rudolph: Yeah, well once you've had caviar, you don't go back to borscht so easy, capeche?

Sand: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: polyglot.

Rudolph: Well, I get a lot of fan mail from foreign kids. Plus I've been taking some community college courses. This sled-leading gig may not last forever, you know.

Sand: Santa is always so coy; tell us, how do you deliver all of those toys in just one night? You must have seen some of the physics analysis of that feat -- it looks pretty darn impossible.

Rudolph: Well, I probably shouldn't say. . .

Sand: (Leans forward, smiles) It can just be our secret.

Rudolph: (Whispers) Most kids don't get presents.

Sand: Get out of town.

Rudolph: Have you been to the mall lately? Little beasts, most of them. They're not even worth a lump of coal, unless you could hit them in the head with it. I tell you, Christmas gets easier on us every year. Five years from now we probably won't even need as many reindeer. (Louder) You hear that Blitzen, you punk?

Sand: You mentioned a couple of years ago, to a reporter for the North Pole News, that you don't like the way some people mingle your statue -- and Santa's -- with the more traditional nativity figures. Talk about that.

Rudolph: I think it's just wrong.

Sand: Sacrilegious?

Rudolph: Yeah, that's part of it. I mean, I'm Episcopalian, right, so it's not like I'm a big literal Bible guy or anything, but still, this is Jesus we're talking about here.

Sand: And Mary.

Rudolph: Right, right. Got a lot of Catholic fans out there. Love you guys. Jesus and Mary.

Sand: So it bothers you.

Rudolph: Heck yeah it bothers me. Remember the name -- Christmas. Christmas. This is the big guy's show. I'm just glad I can contribute.

Sand: Some people would correct you, and point out that the holiday was here before the Christians appropriated it. They'd tell you that the term Christmas is offensive, and that you should say "Holiday Season." They'd say mingling you guys in with the wise men is a good way to make such displays less offensive.

Rudolph: Yeah, let 'em say that when they're sucking on a hot coal in Hell.

Sand: Sounds like you've got some strong opinions on this.

Rudolph: I just hate the whining. "Oh, my feelings are hurt because I have to drive past that little plastic Jesus in a fake manger." Give me a break.

Sand: So, for the record, you oppose having your statue on display too close to Jesus and Mary.

Rudolph: I know my place, alright? Holiday Season. Season's Greetings. Yeah, God took on human form and got crucified as His own special way of telling everyone, "Happy Holidays." Give me a freaking break.

Sand: What about your Jewish friends?

Rudolph: I want to give a big shout out to my Jewish friends. Happy Hanukah, God bless.

Sand: So your criticisms of the non-Christmas types don't apply to them?

Rudolph: Heck no. They're God's chosen people, my friend. That deal is between Him and them, and I ain't one to get in the middle of it.

Sand: How does that work, anyway? Is it only the Christian kids who get gifts from Santa?

Rudolph: Well, the first screen is good kids, which narrows it down to about five percent right off the bat.

Sand: No way.

Rudolph: Yes way. Why do you think Toys "R" Us got so big? Parents need junk for their brats because we've cut them off.

Sand: So tell us, that five percent, are they only Christian kids?

Rudolph: Our attorneys have advised us not to discuss the specifics of how the decisions are made, other than to say that both God and Santa love many children of all faiths.

Sand: Well said.

Rudolph: Thanks. I love this job.

Sand: But there are regrets. Tell us about them.

Rudolph: My biggest regret is that I haven't taken more time to enjoy things. It's always busy busy busy, what with training, and hoofgraphs, and now I've got this motivational speaking program I'm putting together with Tony Robbins.

Sand: Follow Your Nose. Right, I've seen that.

Rudolph: Look for us in a major city near you starting Spring '03.

Sand: You mentioned being busy, but critics might say look, this guy works one night a year. His income per work ratio has to be right up there with Donald Trump and Peter Angelos. How do you respond to that?

Rudolph: Unbelievable how people who don't know anything can't keep their cakeholes shut.

Sand: Right here, on Sand in the Gears, set the record straight.

Rudolph: Look, I have one night a year to complete one of the biggest jobs in human history. You'd think, with the advent of UPS, that Santa would slow it down a bit. I mean it's not like we couldn't start mailing this crap out in June, you know? But the old man wants to stick to tradition, so every December 24th, after all the kids have gone to bed -- and believe me, with rotten parents letting their brats stay up later and later, this ain't easy -- and then we're out there, dashing from house to house, dropping presents down chimneys, creeping in windows, and in general trying to spread Christmas cheer worldwide in about eight hours.

Sand: True, that is hard, but eight hours of work versus . . .

Rudolph: I know, I know, versus poor Erma slinging coffee at Denny's twelve hours a day, yada yada. Spare me the working class hero crap, alright? I'm in training every day, 364 days a year, all so I can deliver under pressure that other professional athletes never feel. I mean, it's not like (points at nose) this thing is some great search beam or something. It's like, twenty watts, and I'm supposed to find our way to every house through a snowstorm with it? It ain't luck that gets the job done, it's training. I know from busy, my friend. I'm talking weights, aerobics, running and flying laps . . .

Sand: Pilate's . . .

Rudolph: You got that right -- you try keeping up with Denise with cloven hooves.

Sand: I hear you.

Rudolph: All I'm saying is, people only see the tip of the iceberg. I've always said, if somebody thinks he can do this job better, he can just bring it, any time, 24/7. Just bring it, and we'll see who's got the real snowballs.

Sand: Thank you for being with us today (extends hand).

Rudolph: Thank you, T. I thought I told you not to touch me.

Sand: Sorry.

Rudolph: Whatever.

Posted by Woodlief on December 13, 2002 at 08:05 AM


Ok no one is going to understand the extra giggle everytime I make a snowball this year, but it was worth it. Great interview. :)

Posted by: Cis at December 13, 2002 8:27 AM

It's hard to read with tea dripping off your monitor. Thanks, Tony, for starting my day out right.

Posted by: Roy Jacobsen at December 13, 2002 9:41 AM

This ought to go immediately on the Best of Sand page! I can almost see an elf with a cell phone headpiece bringing Rudolph a bottle of Evian during this.

Posted by: Ric at December 13, 2002 10:07 AM

Brilliant writing.

P.S. If you want more of the same type of irreverant humour check out Robbie the Reindeer episodes tonight on CBS at 9:00 EST. I saw it yesterday thinking it was a kiddie show. Wrong! Think Simpson's Christmas Special and then some.

Posted by: Biased Observer at December 13, 2002 11:04 AM

You are one strange guy. Notice that I didn't say it wasn't funny.

Posted by: Deoxy at December 13, 2002 12:58 PM

Ho, Ho, Ho, Great stuff, Tony. Merry Christmas.

Posted by: jim at December 13, 2002 1:44 PM

Brilliant! A classic! How do you do it?

Posted by: Llana at December 13, 2002 6:21 PM

That was fantastic, Tony.

Posted by: addison at December 13, 2002 9:14 PM

Nothing short of brilliant! I'm linking to it.

Posted by: Da Goddess at December 15, 2002 2:51 AM


Excellent post. If only I knew Rudolph like this when I was a kid! It would have made letting go of the whole myth so much harder.

BTW, Robbie the Reindeer was actually quite good. The episode with the Vikings and the thug rabbits (oh yes, it's that wierd) was the best, IMO.

Posted by: Charles Hueter at December 18, 2002 1:41 AM

I swear I didn't read this before starting to post at Santa's Blog! Too perfect.

Posted by: Solonor at December 20, 2002 4:51 PM