At age 80, Le Hook is a special Santa

By on November 30, 2023

Le Hook, OBX Santa, at one of his local appearances, has a full schedule. (Photos courtesy of Le Hook)
Le Hook, OBX Santa in one of his 14 beautifully tailored Santa suits. (Photos courtesy of Le Hook)
Le Hook, OBX Santa riding atop the KDH fire truck. (Photos courtesy of Le Hook)
Le Hook, OBX Santa on the docks in Manteo with two companions. (Photos courtesy Le Hook)
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It was the year 2000 and Le Hook was in Montgomery, Alabama at a Christmas lights show at the local zoo with his wife and two young sons. He decided to wear a Santa hat to be festive. As he sat on a train that guided folks through the lightshow, he looked behind him to find two wide- eyed little boys.

“Are you Santa?” they asked him.

Hook has had a long salt and pepper beard since 1978, and at age 57, he realized that his beard was mostly salt and that the jacket he was wearing was red. He could understand the boys’ presumption—and it put an idea in his head. “I thought, ‘you know, maybe I could do this. Maybe I could be the Santa thing,’” Hook recalled.

Not long after that, a member of his church in Montgomery asked Hook if he would be the Santa for their middle school Christmas recital. They had a suit he could wear. He quickly agreed and, as he noted, “it was a blast.”

After the performance, a nurse from the local Neonatal Intensive Care Unit asked him how much he would charge to be their Santa and come take pictures with all of the infants that couldn’t go home for Christmas. He spent that Christmas taking pictures with the infants, many of them hooked up to machines with tubes. When Christmas was over, he went to Target and bought a leftover Santa costume for 50% off. And so began his more than two-decade journey transforming into OBX Santa.

These days, at age 80, Hook’s beard is even longer and whiter, and instead of a discount Target costume, he rotates between 14 beautifully tailored Santa suits. Hook refers to his standard bright red outfits as Coca Cola suits because they look like the Santa suit from the Coca Cola commercials. But he prefers burgundy, a deeper, richer red color. As he rotates his suits throughout the season, Hook turns them inside out and hangs them in the sun to keep them fresh, a secret he learned from the costume director at The Lost Colony, where he’s worked on and off as a technical director, master carpenter and production stage manager since 1978—the year that he first moved to the Outer Banks.

Originally from Monmouth, Illinois, Hook has participated in theater in some way or another for as long as he can remember. He studied theater at Western Illinois University college before switching to social sciences and becoming a high school teacher in Illinois, and during his 12-year career as a teacher, he ended up directing the school plays.

Hook then went on to have a successful career working as a technical director across the country for well-known theater companies, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival before returning to the Outer Banks in 2012.

These days, Hook has a full schedule full in the winter months, making appearances at The Christmas Shop, The Elizabethan Gardens, Kitty Hawk Kites, Belk, various restaurants like Blue Water Grill and Blue Moon Beach Grill, as well as visiting various holiday fests, churches, nursing homes, schools, and private homes that invite him each year.

In typical Outer Banks fashion, the rest of the year, Hook works multiple gigs to make ends meet, including working as a substitute teacher during the school year and as a food delivery driver in the summer months.

As for his Santa training, Hook never went to Santa school, but instead took his lessons from the Santa in the original 1955 version of the movie Miracle on 34th Street, who was played by Edmund Gwenn, Hook’s Santa role model.

“Everything that I am, when I am Santa, is aimed at the kids and I try to make that time that the child is sitting on my lap or conversing with me, I try and let them know that at that point in time, they are the most important person in the world. That’s kind of the core of what I do as Santa,” said Hook. “That’s the best way to describe it is that while they’re with me, they are the most important person in the world to me.”

When conversing with the children, Hook credits his theater background to helping him be quick on his feet, when answering some of the sneaky questions the children sometimes ask to see if he is the real deal. Though Hook was always behind the scenes, he did teach improv for a while in Alabama when he was a technical theater teacher at a magnet school there. He says that experience was invaluable in helping him come up with quick answers to even the trickiest questions.

When children ask him if he knows their name, he responds, “Well, the elves have nicknames for everyone, so their name for you is this.” When they ask him if he knows where they live, he answers, “The reindeer have a built-in GPS system, so I just tell them your name and they know how to get there.” When a little girl once requested wings so that she could fly, he declared that “You have to be twelve years old to fly, just like you have to be sixteen to get a driver’s license. So come back once you’re twelve.” To which Hook said the mother gave him a secret grateful and relieved ‘thank you’ expression.

These kinds of stories and more are chronicled in Hook’s blog series Tales From Santa’s Lap, in which he recounts all of the memorable requests and conversations from his visits around the Outer Banks. He has heard it all, taking requests for a potato, a toothbrush, a box of bugs and a live mermaid. According to Hook, he even had one grown woman sit on his lap recently and wish for a divorce. You can find these stories at OBX Santa on Facebook or on his Santa’s Diary blog.

“If I, as Santa, can embody that love to the little ones I have contact with, I have been successful,” observed Hook. “Yesterday one little girl told me, ‘I love you, Santa,’ and she did, I could see it in her eyes. I told her, “I love you!’ And I do love each and every one of them.”



Comments

  • Sully52

    What a wonderful article. And a wonderful man. God bless you, Mr. Hook.

    Friday, Dec 1 @ 12:35 pm
  • Etta

    Aww…😇

    Friday, Dec 1 @ 5:13 pm