(Bay City News Service) A man who gained fame when he was fired from his job as Santa Claus at Macy's Union Square last year for telling off-color jokes and then rehired to preside over a local toy drive has died.
John Toomey was found dead in his room at a Market Street residential hotel today, said Nick Bovis, owner of Lefty O'Doul's. Police said the 69-year-old was found by neighbors at 2:25 p.m. The cause was not immediately known.
"We're all really emotional here," said Bovis, who hired Toomey as his in-house Santa following his famous falling-out with Macy's. "He was a great person."
Toomey had been playing Santa Claus at Macy's for around 20 years when he was fired. The incident drew nationwide attention including a television appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
In his stint at Lefty O'Doul's, Toomey posed for photos in a specially constructed North Pole Winter Wonderland at $10 a shot to raise money for the Firefighters Toy Program. His presence gave the toy drive and fundraising program a major boost, Bovis said.