Meet Asshole Santa, the North Pole’s bad influence in East Atlanta

“It’s fun, and I don’t care if you like it.”

Asshole Santa

Photograph by Corey Nickols

Asshole Santa is coming to town, and he’s drinking Scotch, chain-smoking fake cigars, and ignoring whether you’re naughty or nice.

It started as a joke when Henry Owings offered to dress up as a sleazy Santa at Criminal Records in 2005 to raise money for pet-rescue charity Animal Action Rescue. The East Atlanta–based graphic designer, author, and record producer has harbored contempt for mall Santas since he worked at a greeting-card store right after college. “I have a general disdain for sentimental throwbacks,” he says. “You hate anybody whose job is one day a year.”

“It’s fun, and I don’t care if you like it.”

Wearing a $200 suit he bought at a costume shop, Owings sat through four hours of photo ops with kids and their parents who were in on the joke. After 13 years, Asshole Santa and his two elves are now an Atlanta holiday tradition in their own right, with nearly 800 people showing up and raising at least $1,000 for charity annually. (Though the event is usually in December, this year’s appearance by Asshole Santa will be on November 17 at East Atlanta’s 529 Bar and will benefit Olio, a local day camp to help kids experience nature in the city.)

Not everyone has appreciated the shtick. “I’ve had actual Santas think I’m being a heretic, but how am I disgracing the winter solstice by smelling like cologne and cigars?” he says. “As if charging $20 at a mall is more respectful. Give me a break.” All of Owings’s proceeds go directly to charity—and he even pays his own bar tab.

Over the years, Asshole Santa has perfected being a dirtbag. Owings prefers Glenlivet 18 and chugs two liters of Pedialyte afterward to prevent a hangover. And the suit has never been washed—for the authenticity. “I smell horrible, somewhere between a garbage can, cigars, and Brut cologne,” he says.

“It’s fun, and I don’t care if you like it.”

This article appears in our November 2018 issue.