Baker, 62, is a trained Broadway actor and magician who's known as the Twisted Shockmeister at Coney Island's Sideshows by the Seashore, where he's entertained for 15 seasons.
Each summer, Baker works as the outside talker, using his gift of gab -- and an occasional sharp object inserted into his nose -- to draw throngs of people inside. But with 40 different acts in his sideshow repertoire, he's also performed one-man shows outside of Coney Island.
Come holiday time, Baker puts the sideshow aside. He's donned the red suit and beard since 1985, portraying Santa at some of the New York City's most prestigious department stores, including Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and, for the last nine years, Bloomingdale's.
"As Santa, I can't eat fire with the beard or do [human] blockhead. Sticking a candy cane up the nose would be rather shocking," Baker said with a laugh.
His sideshow training, however, has given him the endurance to stay jolly through long days and kids of all kinds. In fact, he holds a world record for the longest continuous sideshow bally: talking nonstop for six hours and 43 minutes.
"The sideshow has taught me to keep my energy and my voice up," Baker told AOL News. "A lot of people will lose their voice, lose their energy, but every kid is a new experience. You look into the eyes of those kids, the intense power of belief. That will recharge you like nothing in the world."
Despite the thousands of Santas parading around malls this time of year, Baker does his best to make children think he's the real deal. Before each child rushes to his lap, he learns his or her name and judges the child's age and grade level simply by looking at the number of lost or new teeth in the smile. By the time the child has hopped into his arms, it's as if they're already old pals.
Baker emphasized that Bloomingdale's makes a point to welcome all faiths, so even those not celebrating Christmas can enjoy the festive atmosphere.
"If a kid says, 'I don't celebrate Christmas,' we sing a Hanukkah song. Once, a kid yelled, 'Mommy, Mommy, Santa Claus is Jewish!'" Baker said. "Whether you're celebrating Christmas, the winter solstice, the birth of Christ or the silliness of Santa Claus, it's just a magical time."
Baker even welcomes those who aren't having any fun at all. There are always toddlers who are truly terrified of the bulky, bearded stranger and scream and cry for the camera. "I encourage the screaming, though," Baker said. "'Go ahead, scream out! What range! What vocal power!' We try to make it as non-traumatic at possible."
Happy, horrified, two-legged or four -- Baker lives for them all. "Santa is the ultimate sideshow!" he exclaimed.
Bloomingdale's declined to comment on this story.
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