SANTA CLAWS: Talking With Professional Santa & Horror Film Actor Sal Lizard by Owen Keehnen

Sal Lizard is a professional Santa and he has the job for a good reason. He looks like him. Anyone who has seen the 2009 horror movie 'The Box' with Cameron Diaz will remember him as Jolly Old Saint Nick. He's also got a number of other credits under his belt such as 'Wicked Business' , 'Hillbilly Bob Zombie' with Brenna Roth and Lloyd Kaufman, 'I Am Legend' with Will Smith, 'Abe's Tomb' , 'Seepage' , 'Mountain Mafia' , etc. Not only that - but the Kentucky born actor and horror convention favorite is also Commander of Starfleet, the International Star Trek Fan Association. Sal was also sweet enough to take some time from his busy schedule for this exclusive interview.

(To keep up with the latest developments in Sal's career check out his website at )

  First off, when did you start working as a professional "real bearded" Santa?

I began appearing as Santa for friends and certain businesses over 25 years ago. But it wasn't until about 2002 that I created the website that evolved into GenuineSanta,com and began spending my Christmas seasons as "the man in the red suit" consistently. Now, I appear in media, in parades, and in various other events, as Santa.

You played Santa Claus in last year's horror flick 'The Box' with Cameron Diaz. Why don't you tell me a bit about that experience?

It was a wonderful experience! It was actually filmed during the Christmas season and every time I put on the suit, people treated me with warmth and regard. One location, in particular, had a lot of children in the shoot: I arrived at the background holding area with my suit in a large duffle. After checking in, I proceeded to an area where I could put on my suit and as I got ready, I saw parents and children watching me. After I was dressed, someone asked if he could get a picture of me with his daughters. Then a couple more asked. On the following day, after I got dressed, I learned that almost everyone had brought cameras so that they could get their pictures taken with me! It was like a day at the mall, as children and adults alike queued up to get their photos taken. There were several other "magical" moments on that film project that I'll never forget. Of course, I also met, and briefly spoke with, Cameron Diaz -- a real treat in itself! It was a love scene, I'll never forget! Oh wait -- that only happened in *my* recollection!

So what is the craziest thing that has ever happened to you as Santa Claus?

I have so many wonderful stories from my experiences as Santa -- and many of them are quite enchanting. But the craziest experiences come from my times at horror conventions. During one visit to Cinema Wasteland, in the Cleveland area, Brenna Roth asked me to don my Santa suit so that she could film some "virtual Christmas cards". Afterward, I walked around the dealers' room wearing the suit and many there asked to get snapshots with me. At subsequent "Wasteland" visits, I would put on my Santa bib overalls and boots and put in my black sclera lenses and many of the "Wasteland partiers' would ask me to pose with them -- some, quite provocatively! Last year, one fellow even asked to "motorboat" his girlfriend while he snapped a photo. Occasionally, one of these photos gets "leaked" out onto the web.

You've also recently starred as Hillbilly Bob in 'Hillbilly Bob Zombie' with Brenna Roth and Lloyd Kaufman. Give me a little teaser about the movie that will make it irresistible to the readers.

Hell, just an opportunity to see my scantily-clad daughter, Bobby Sue (played by Danielle Webster) should be reason enough but since you asked.... "Hillbilly Bob Zombie" was Ray Basham's first movie and there are a number of filming and continuity issues in it. But Ray knew that he would make some mistakes but at least had the balls to do it, anyway. And he wanted the movie to be a disgusting, distasteful, zombie spoof. In doing so, some of the "ooops" moment contribute to the hilarity of the movie. For instance, at one point, I threw open the door and it's very obvious that there is no wall behind me -- but that simple oversight drew big laughs from the audience. That movie pokes fun at everyone and is an equal opportunity offender -- nothing is off limits! But no matter how disgusting the content, Ray still left out a particular bit of footage where I was in bed with Brenna Roth, At one point, while I was getting out of bed, my "walnuts" made their own appearance! While Ray joked that I had already signed the release, he spared the viewer that sight! For your readers who haven't seen the video, it can be purchased online at either or on my site at . By the way, did I mention that I got to sleep with Brenna Roth?

I also want to hear a bit about your recently completed horror project 'Wicked Business'. Anything in particular you would care to share?

I played "Grandpa" in that suspense thriller. It was the most professionally ran Independent film set that I was ever on. I also met a great many actors and actresses from mid-Ohio that I consider good friends. It's also where I met Ray Basham, who played a homeless man in that film.

In addition you have also been in a few more horror pics like 'Seepage' and 'Abe's Tomb' as well as non-genre films like 'I Am Legend'. What is the wildest, scariest, or strangest that has ever happened to you on a film set?

"Seepage" was later renamed "Creature from the Hillbilly Lagoon" and was my second Richard Griffin film. It was Richard's film, "Feeding the Masses" that started my feature film career. It's also where I met actress Nikky Irene. In that movie, I performed as three different zombies, and as Dr Scott Shannon, the scientist TV commentator on the growing zombie problem. In "Seepage", I had the role of Buford. The night before we were to shoot my scenes, I drove the entire night from south-central Ohio to Connecticut for the shoot. When I got to the location, I was pretty tired and had to learn some new lines. there was one particular line that i just could not recall, for some reason. But it was a fun shoot that lasted all night long and I finally got to bed at daybreak before continuing on to Boston to do a stand-up gig, that evening. I have the utmost respect and hope for Richard and have enjoyed each acting project with him. I hope to work with him again, someday. My appearance in "Abe's Tomb" came about from my previous experiences with Ray Basham and Nikki Irene. When I met Carl Merritt, at his casting call, he gave me the role of Ted Williams without an audition, because of what these two actors -- close friends of his -- had told him about me and my acting ability. And when I think of "I Am Legend", the first thing that I recall is how cold it was! I was a part of the big NYC evacuation crowd that was filmed in January at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. Those scenes were shot over a period of six nights and it was very cold. But, on that set, I was really impressed with Will Smith, the actor. On a very cold night, there was a problem with his mic, and the director asked him for a sound check. Will Smith began a five-minute rap about everyone being out there and freezing their butts off.

Do you have any other projects lined up you would like to let the readers know about?

Well, I am really proud of a movie titled "Hooked" that's currently in post production. I've seen most of the footage and it is absolutely great! I play the role of a crusty ol' fishing boat captain -- Captain DeBarko. I am hoping to have a copy to take with me for some of the horror festivals that I'll be attending this year. I am also scheduled for a New Hampshire film project with my friends, Michael Berryman and Nicole Kruex, this year. Other actors that will be in it include Brandon Quintin Adams, Cindy Morgan, Bill Moseley, and Lloyd Kaufman. It is a Matthew Dunont project and I can hardly wait to get started filming. I have also formed Laughing Zombie Productions, to produce feature-length films and am producing my first film, "Next Door". I have worked with Andy Sawyer, an award-winning director and editor. Andy co-wrote the screenplay with Allison Lahikainen and the cast includes Christina Rondano, Nicole Kruex and Lynn Lowry. I will also be making some appearances this year as a guest at the Dark Woods Horror Convention (Pikeville, Ky) and Cinema Wasteland (Strongville, OH). My manager, John Campanello, is working to schedule appearances at other horror conventions, this year.

You are also the current Commander (President) of Starfleet, the International Star Trek Fan Association. Why don't you tell me a bit about the group and your duties as President?

I have been a member of STARFLEET, the International Star Trek Fan Association, Inc, for just over 18 years, now, and I am currently in my third year of a three year term as the STARFLEET Commander. STARFLEET is incorporated as a non-profit social organization comprised of over 4000 members world-wide. Many of my closest friends were met through STARFLEET activities. As a fan club, STARFLEET provides opportunities for fans to organize for group activities and opportunities afforded large groups. Many of our members meet together for community service, to hold conventions and conferences, and to celebrate their fandom. Others get together through various online venues and create virtual experiences through chat channels and gaming. We have members from all walks of life: doctors, nurses, attorneys, school teachers, police officers, scientists, truck drivers, accountants, actors, retirees and students -- the list goes on and on. In more common terms, I am the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors. It is a very demanding job, at times, and there's no pay but the rewards are great if you want to see them. If anyone here is interested in learning more about STARFLEET, check out our website at

Do you have a favorite Trek episode or movie?

A favorite, no. I really have enjoyed most of the episodes and movies that I've seen. I was really impressed with the latest movie, though, and I do look forward to the next.

Vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches, creatures, aliens, Santas, telemarketers...what does it for you horrorwise Sal and why?

I am really fond of zombie films. Other than the idea of re-animated dead, there are many variations out there. Some crave all living flesh while others seem to only want brains. Some move very stiffly while some run and jump, some speak while most don't. And the make up is so diverse. Anyone can be a zombie and most films need a lot of them! After that, I like vampire movies. I was thinking the other day that I would like to do a horror film involving IRS agents -- that would be great!

What was the first movie to scare the shit out of you?

I think I was 8 or 9 years old. I was living in Indianapolis and was watching "Nightmare Theater". The movie was "The Screaming Skull" and while I don't remember anything else about the movie, I know if really scared me. Fortunately, my sixteen-year-old baby-sitter let me crawl under the covers with her and she hugged me tightly. It was the first time I ever felt "boobies" and that fascination replaced the fear, if I recall correctly.

And what was the last horror movie you saw that seriously annoyed you?

I can't say without pissing someone off.

Okay, we're pulling into the Sal Lizard Drive In. What three horror flicks are on the triple bill for > tonight and what goodies are they going to be serving up at the concession stand?

Well, I'd have to show "Hillbilly Bob Zombie", first. It's funny and I'm in it. Next would be something like "Wrong Turn 2: Dead End", I loved all the chopping, and dicing -- the gore! And it had the elements of being a cooking show, so there might be some ideas there for some culinary cannibals. But I would have to include "Night of the Living Dead" as it was the original zombie film! I don't think about food at the drive-ins. I usually focused on the film or who was sitting next to me.

And your favorite horror flick death scene?

Is "Lifeforce" a horror flick? I really liked Patrick Stewart's death scene in it -- with all of his bodily fluids leaving the body and collecting as a "stew of goo" on the ceiling? Actually, I really like the scene in Wrong Turn 2 where the actress gets killed. As we see one of the brothers raise a long-bladed axe, the camera shifts to a point behind her ankles (looking through her legs). We see the splash of her blood and then both legs as they fall away from each other -- her body "cleaved in twain".

What's the best Halloween costume you ever had?

I dressed as "The Grim Reaper" when I was in my 20's and working as an autopsy assistant at a hospital in Indianapolis. To make it as real as possible, I shaved of my moustache and beard and wore a latex "skinhead" cap. Also fashioned exterior teeth for outside my lips and had a robe made for me. After visiting several Halloween parties, I stopped by the hospital and upon hearing of a death; I went down to the morgue and greeted the orderly when he brought the body to the morgue. I knew that this guy was "creeped out" by dead people but I didn't expect him to leave the hospital, never to return.

What scares you in real life?