Oh, he can play Santa all right, but Porter, 42, a Salt Lake City bus driver, isn't getting his Christmas wish this year: to change his name legally to Santa Claus. And that takes a lot of the jingle out of pseudo-Mr. Kringle. "All I'm asking," he says, "is to keep a little of the holiday spirit going year-round."
Porter says it warms his heart when kids ask, "Aren't you Santa Claus?" So last year he asked the Utah Transit Authority if he could change his name tag to "S. Claus." No, the company said, not unless it was his legal name. "After 13 years," says transit spokesman Kris McBride, "patrons have become accustomed to the badge name Mr. Porter supplied."
Undeterred, Porter, married since 1987 to Alise, 44, a customer service representative, decided to go to court to make the name change legal. To his surprise Judge Timothy Hanson—concerned that a name change "could allow for substantial mischief"—rejected his request in September. "The ruling," says Porter, "is ridiculous. I look like Santa. Why is a name such a big deal?"
Porter is appealing to the Utah Supreme Court, although it will be well into next year before a verdict is rendered. "Even as a kid," he says, "I always thought it would be fun to be Santa. I'd love to be Santa for real."