Charles Bishop Kuralt (September 10, 1934 – July 4, 1997) was an American journalist. He is most widely known for his long career with CBS, first for his "On the Road" segments on The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, and later as the first anchor of CBS News Sunday Morning, a position he held for fifteen years.
Charles Bishop Kuralt was also a friend of William McReynolds (February 8, 1930 – September 2, 2002). William or 'Bill' McReynolds a former journalism professor was fond of dressing up as Santa every Christmas and traipsing around shopping malls meeting excited children and their parents
"REAL SANTA' DROPS IN ON DESERVING DECORATORS
December 23, 1996
DROPPING BY: Penny Happs, center, can't hide her joy at being paid a random visit by Bill McReynolds as Santa Claus, right. McReynolds sat with Happs' 18-year-old son, Jake.
Five minutes after he walked into her house Sunday night, Penny Happs had stopped screaming - but her hands were still shaking. Happs had always wanted to meet the real Santa Claus, who dropped by her Cana Court house unannounced Sunday night after admiring the festive light display outside. "I can't believe this is happening," Happs said, a grin as big as the long stocking hanging from her staircase. "Imagine my surprise when I hear a knock on the door and here's the real Santa."
Bill McReynolds, who as Santa Claus has warmed the hearts of thousands of people on the Downtown Mall the past three years, took some time Sunday to make random visits to several houses with attractive holiday displays. McReynolds, who has considerably scaled down his Santa schedule since major surgery in August, was followed this weekend by the watchful eyes of a camera crew that will feature Santa Claus on a nationwide broadcast next year.
McReynolds will be profiled on a new television series called "An American Moment with Charles Kuralt," which will be hosted by the veteran CBS reporter who has traveled the nation searching for interesting people. McReynolds' segment, part of an hour-long special, will air sometime around Christmas 1997. The program won't be the first national television exposure for McReynolds, who several years ago began growing his authentic white beard. Two years ago, he was featured on a CBS "Eye on America" segment proclaiming him the real Santa Claus.
The 66-year-old retired University of Colorado professor decided to scale down his Santa schedule this year - including his Downtown Mall duty - after having surgery to replace the aortic valve of his heart. The surgery left him 60 pounds lighter, but his spirit is perfectly intact.
And for those who see him, he's still the real deal. The television film crew that followed McReynolds around Saturday and Sunday caught him preparing to be Santa in his Rollinsville cabin, collecting donations at his church, performing at a private party and going door to door surprising people whose light displays caught his attention. "The man has a gift," said Derek Reich, a free-lance photographer from Boulder who filmed McReynolds. "Just to see the response - kids and adults alike, they seem to be truly moved by his spirit."
For McReynolds, visiting individual homes days before Christmas is a relatively new event. Last year he walked in on a party in Lafayette and after being offered cookies, milk and warm hospitality, he thought he'd try it again.
The first stop on Santa's tour was a house on Bass Circle basking in the glow of luminescent gingerbread figures, a snowman, candles, candy canes, a manger scene - even a replica of Santa himself, reindeer included. Four-year-old Jessica Garcia smiled widely and offered a "Hi Santa!" when the man entered the room. She clutched a plush white teddy bear while reciting a five-minute list of things she wanted for Christmas.
At Santa's next stop, Happs had difficulty controlling her emotions, dumbfounded by why Santa Claus had picked her house to visit. "He's perfect - he's it," she said, turning to look at everyone in the room. "Look at him. Look at his eyes - they twinkle." Santa sang Jingle Bells with Happs and her son, politely declined a slice of pizza and went on his merry way. But not without making a lasting impression. "As far as I'm concerned, he's Santa Claus," said Jake Happs, 18. "Not so much the twinkling eyes and the beard. He knows what Santa Claus is all about. Santa's really about giving love...
"This is the activity I've always wanted to do," he said, looking for houses from behind the wheel of his white Honda Civic, which he drove to give his sleigh the night off.
Bill McReynolds was also known to the Ramsey family and for the two Christmases prior to the one of 1996, had played the Santa at their Christmas parties. The Ramseys had not planned on holding a Christmas Party that year 1996, they had just had a very busy year with lots of parties, Patsy's 40th Birthday party November 30, Access Graphics Christmas party December 1, Foyer Dinner Group party December 14, Access Graphics Billion Dollar Sales Mark party December 20 as well as JonBenet's December pageant and parades events. But then Bill 'Santa' McReynolds intervened
As mentioned in the article above, McReynolds' friend Charles Kuralt was profiling him for his television series. McReynolds then went and told Patsy about the film crew that would be following him around on December 23 and that if she was willing to have a 1996 Christmas party that night, parts of the event could be filmed for inclusion in the show. Patsy agreed
From John’s 1998 interview where he is asked about the 1996 Christmas Party
13 So we kind of decided not to do the Christmas
14 party. I think we were going to ask a friend or
15 two over. (INAUDIBLE). The Santa Claus which
16 normally came called us and said she had got
17 Charles Kuralt here doing a documentary on me and
18 he's been kind of following me around and I'd like
19 him to come to your house, you know, for your
20 Christmas party because I think it's a nice one
21 and it's one of my favorites.
22 And Patsy kind of threw together a Christmas party
23 quickly because she thought that would be fun for
24 the kids. And Patsy is a born publicist, I guess.
25 She enjoys that kind of thing. And so we invited
1 the regular crowd that always came and we put
2 together the Christmas party.
3 And Santa Claus came and passed out gifts and it
4 was the standard party that we had every year. The
5 kids decorated. I think they decorated a
6 gingerbread house that night. Patsy went down and
7 bought a bunch of these pre-made gingerbread
8 houses and got big buckets of frosting and the
9 kids were in the kitchen decorating them. One
10 thing I always wondered was whether it was really
11 Charles Kuralt.
12 LOU SMIT: Who was the person that said that?
13 JOHN RAMSEY: Bill Reynolds.
Patsy wrote about how she came to throw the 1996 Christmas Party in Death of Innocence (2000):
"I had not planned to have a family Christmas party in 1996, but Bill McReynolds called me on the twentieth. He told me that Charles Kurault and his "On the Road" television program were going to be in Boulder and would be filming him as Santa. Bill wanted to include our party in the filming, if possible, and he strongly encouraged me to have the event. I agreed. After all, the children would love the excitement of the TV cameras, and we had a number of friends we could invite. Why not?"
But then what seems to have happened at the last minute is that Kuralt and his film crew bowed out after getting tired of following McReynolds during the daytime.
KURALT'S BLOWN 'MOMENT'
Daily News (New York)
February 21, 1997
BY A.J. BENZA & MICHAEL LEWITTES
Independent film crews have already logged a bunch of hours for Charles Kuralt as the former CBS newsman puts together a TV show for next season called "An American Moment." But in their haste to get home for the holidays, Kuralt and his team missed what would have been a chilling prelude to the country's No. 1 murder mystery.
Kuralt and crew were compiling footage for a profile on Bill McReynolds, who bills himself as a "real-life Santa Claus." The crew shot footage of McReynolds in his mountain cabin in Rollinsville, Col. (pop. 40), and followed the man while he made his rounds about town.
But the crew failed to capture the moment when McReynolds asked them if they'd like to accompany him to his friend Patsy Ramsey's home on Dec. 23. This, of course, was two days before Patsy's daughter, JonBenet, was found slain in the basement.
"They were worn out," McReynolds who has given blood samples to the Boulder Police told us. "They said they already had seven or eight rolls of film on me, plus they wanted to get home to their families. I bet they're kicking themselves now, though."
What the crew would have captured was McReynolds pulling JonBenet onto his lap and asking what she wanted for Christmas. The little tot, who'd known McReynolds since she was 3 years old, responded, "Same things as you, Santa love, joy and peace."
An assistant at Kuralt's office confirmed the story, but Kuralt didn't return our call.