Monday, February 8, 2016

Eagles' Booed Santa Speaks!

Frank Olivo understands why he was booed, but says fans have flawed memories of what happened 40 yerars ago.

Eagles' Booed Santa Speaks!

Shown in this 1967 copy photograph is Eagles fan Frank Olivo, center, wearing his Santa suit in the stands of an Eagles game at Franklin Field in 1967. Olivo was the Santa who was booed and dodged snowballs during halftime at a 1968 Eagles game. (AP Photo)
Shown in this 1967 copy photograph is Eagles fan Frank Olivo, center, wearing his Santa suit in the stands of an Eagles game at Franklin Field in 1967. Olivo was the Santa who was booed and dodged snowballs during halftime at a 1968 Eagles game. (AP Photo)

Frank Olivo would like to set a few things straight about the Santa Claus outfit he wore to Franklin Field on Dec. 15th, 1968 - the day that pissed-off Eagles fans booed young Olivo and pelted him with snowballs.

I wrote a column about the infamous incident in the paper today, since it was the 40th anniversary of the ridiculous event. I wasn't able to track down Olivo before the column ran, so I relied on several eyewitnesses who who were there that day and eager to share their memories. (Including singer/songwriter Chuck Brodsky, whose song about the event you can listen to on my earleir blog post.)

Their memories, apparently, are flawed. So says the amiable Olivo, whom I was finally able to speak with a few moments ago, as he prepared to leave his Glenolden home for tonight's Eagles game against the Browns.

So here are Five Fun Facts From Frank about that Booed Santa Incident:

1. His Santa suit, owned by his uncle, wasn't grubby and threadbare, as disgruntled fans claim. It was only two years old, a high-quality get-up made of sturdy courduroy, and it cost $100 - "that was a lot of money back then," says Frank. However, the Eagles had given him a crumpled Eagles sack to carry the candy that he tossed to fans, so maybe that's what people remmber - the ratty bag.

2. He wasn't a skinny Santa, as people have claimed. "I was stuffed with pillows," he says. "I'm not a big guy" - 5-foot-6 - "so I don't cut an impressive figure. But I was definitely padded. I wasn't big. But I was jolly."

3. He was sober. "People say I was drunk. That's absolutely false! I was at the game with my uncles; when you were with them  you had to be on your best behavior."

4. He understands why fans pelted him with snowballs. "The team was horrible. They wanted to express their displeasure. So they booed and threw snowballs. I'd have done exactly the same thing, if I weren't on the field."

5. He loves being known as the Santa who got booed. "Every few years, I get interviewed. I've been written about in a book. I've been on an ESPN movie. It's been a blast. I think people will be talking about this for another 50 years."

Daily News Columnist
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When my phone rings here at the Daily News, nine times out of ten the caller begins the conversation with, “Yeah, so what happened was…”.

Because this is Philly, the caller doesn’t say, “My name is Bob” – or Mary – “and I wonder if I could have a moment of your time?” Philadelphians are too direct for that. They just say, “Yeah, so what happened was…”, and then tumble into a tale they think oughta be shared with a wider audience. I love getting these calls (even the ones where it becomes clear, after 30 seconds, where the caller sowed the seeds of his own misery), because they give me chance to connect with fellow citizens in a way that no other job allows. Well, okay, no other job for which I’m remotely qualified.

That’s why my blog is titled “So What Happened Was…”. To me, it’s the quintessentially Philly way of saying, “Once upon a time.” When I hear it, I know a good story is coming. And I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.

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