Behind the Sleigh: Stories of Reindeer After Flight

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Fame, fortune, does it all come too quickly? When Gene Autry sang “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” all of a sudden, workhorses were turned into superstars. Sure, there always has been and always will be a Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, a Comet, a Cupid, a Donner, and Blitzen, and of course the story of Rudolph, but it was the 1940s era Reindeer that we remember most fondly. Sadly, many came to tragic ends after they and the jolly fat man parted ways. This is not a happy Christmas story but one familiar to many. Here at Gunaxin, just in time for Christmas, we present Behind the Sleigh: The Biography of Rudolph and the Eight Tiny Reindeer.

Dasher

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Dasher's is an angry story as he was not only the best runner but also the darkest of the reindeer, which led to conflict his entire life, not only with Blitzen but with the entire world. But it was not always that way; he was once lighthearted and happy, as that picture with Jesse Owens from the Berlin Olympics will attest. He felt the world was a place of equality and good hope. He would soon have his eyes opened.

It started in World War II when Dasher was segregated from the other Reindeer during USO trips. He would experience more hatred in the fifties. He was moderately successful in Harlem during the forties in the hotel business, but unscrupulous friends bilked him of most his money. Disenchanted, he moved to Alabama in the fifties and found life wasn't any easier there for a reindeer of color.

He had to endure cries of "pack animal" as well as listen to how he should just try to live in a brown reindeer's world. By the sixties, he was heavily involved in civil rights and started hanging around with Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver. Public sentiment turned against Dasher when he accepted the Muslim faith and changed his name to Dashima Muhammad Abdul. He eventually started his own Mosque in the suburbs of Boston, which did not go over well, and against the teaching of Allah became more bitter and eventually started the Black Reindeers.

Dashima still believes that his arrest on charges of drug possession were trumped-up by the CIA because he claimed they were infiltrating the Black Reindeer community. Dashima protested the war in Vietnam and stayed at the center of controversy even after his finances eroded. Dashima was eventually murdered in the early seventies -- some say by his own followers -- at a Mosque in Oakland California. We can only hope that he found peace.

Dancer

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Dancer lived up to his name and starred in movies alongside Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire as well as Judy Garland and Ginger Rodgers. Dancer had the Hollywood life, but enjoyed it far too much. He was an undeniable natural talent and we all have fond memories of his dancing and carrying on with Rat Packer Sammy Davis Jr., as well as others.

Of course, beyond the glamour and the glitz was the drinking and drug use with stars like Garland and Vivian Leigh. He also developed into a rather nasty reindeer and treated his kids badly all the while maintaining the perfect public image. The fall from grace hit Dancer especially hard and he degenerated into drinking, and even Vixen (whom he called the one true love of his life) could not manage her own life much less his.

Everyone saw the end coming and some tried to help. Dumbo still recalls trying to tell Dancer about his own experience with drinking. Daffy Duck was regrettably doing LSD with Dancer the night before he died in an L.A. apartment at a party with four Does, who of course left him to die alone. Bambi said at his eulogy in 1967, "When he flew he was magical, but when he crashed, he left us all less..." We here you Bambi and we understand.

Prancer

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He was friends with Liberace and Rock Hudson, regularly dined with J. Edgar Hoover, and his personal attorney was Roy Cohn. He was the driver at Tony Perkins wedding. He had a summer lodge with Truman Capote. Yes, there was a time when Prancer was as they say "stabled," but he came out of that stable in a big way in the sixties.

Where would gay rights be without Prancer boldly "coming out of the barn" at Stonewall. Activists everywhere shudder at the thought. But long before he helped Rob Morrow get into acting, Ellen Degeneres get in touch with herself, and supported Clive Barker's writing career, he had to live the "stabled" life.

During the '40s, there was no room for homosexual reindeer in Santa's sleigh and the current sponsor of Rudy Gulindo on his professional tour was no exception, but he handled himself with grace and dignity and still can be seen flying over gay pride parades and donating his time to various charities, including Flying High which helps fund pediatric animal AIDS research. Prancer currently lives in New York City with his companion Stuart and his a live-in caretaker named Miss Ellie.

Vixen

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They say she put the ANIMAL back in ANIMAL ATTRACTION. She had four husbands including both Dancer (whom she called the love of her life) and Cupid (who she is legally bound to not discuss). She was a feminist pioneer as she was the only female reindeer, but she also had several fawns out of wedlock and a rumored abortion before getting the Santa gig.

Vixen did too many drugs, had arguably too much sex, and wound up dead in a tragic accident. Yet she remains a role model for her work in charities as well as her public stint in rehab. Her grandson Prancer was also featured in the Disney movie by the same name years later.

Of course, when she was just about to turn her life around, she flew in front of a train during a drunken binge. The world will never know what she could have done. Her very public funeral was attended by three Lassies as well as Rin Tin Tin and Trigger (her second husband who sent flowers to her grave site until his own stuffing).

Comet

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 Comet's primary calling was flight and he worked as both a pilot and astronaut. He took a particular interest in the space program, but was not the first animal in space. The program was looking for monkeys at the time and they couldn't get enough funding to build a pod around him, but Comet stuck in there and was active in NASA until the shuttle program in the early eighties. He was nearly on the moon before the program ended.

Comet retired to stud in West Virginia and thoroughly shuns the public life in favor of a quiet existence in the mountains. He has never publicly discussed the private lives of his fellow reindeer or his own for that matter. He does enjoy going to a coffee shop in the morning called Tippy's and shooting the breeze; he is accessible but doesn't like signing autographs. He has a large family and is very well-adjusted in his old age.

Cupid

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Cad? Rogue? Womanizer? Bad actor? Friend of JFK? All this and much, much more was true of Cupid throughout his life. The fight over Vixen between him and Dancer led to them never speaking, but by all accounts Cupid was a lush and an expert skirt chaser. His main problem was that he had no concept of age or birth control and eventually wound up being exiled to Norway of all places.

He did some really bad monster movies in the fifties and played a few Godzilla villains in the sixties before he got into Buddhism and followed the Dali Lama. He spent a few years on the mountaintop before scandal again broke with a local Mongolian fawn (you can pretty much guess where it went from there). He was a target of Prancer's friend J. Edgar Hoover as well as McCarthyism and the Red Scare; no one believed the probably true statement that he was only at the meeting to pick up tail.

The seventies saw his return to the states and having to take soap opera and more B-movie jobs in order to pay for no less than twenty paternity suits against him. He has had nine wives, at least 22 children, and last we checked was a practicing Zoroastrianism, which is his fourteenth religion.

Santa disavowed him in the fifties and he has publicly railed against the "North Pole scene." Today he lives in Manhattan Beach which is a suburb of Los Angeles and can be seen in local bars and on the occasional movie set.

Donner

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Without a doubt, the most bizarre disturbing odyssey in the entire pantheon of flying reindeer. After leaving Santa's service, he started his own cult to himself called the "Donnie’s," in which the followers would sit naked in bowls of chili as he flew above and singing Buddy Holly songs.

Of course there was much illicit sex and drug use involved as Donner took on a herd of wives, and for a while was a contract agent for the CIA to get close to Dasher as well as making at least one attempt on the life of Castro, which was later made into the film "Day of the Donner."

After Donner's untimely demise, which we will get too, his house was found out to be covered with Reindeer heads and deer skin. He also liked to run around the woods with a chainsaw as well as wear his mother's harnesses. Donner was also famously bisexual and had a fetish for leather as well as screaming out the poems of Sylvia Plath. His eccentricities included an attempt to have his feet webbed as well as drinking his own urine. Donner was also into self-mutilation and once expressed a desire to be crucified.

At any rate, it all came to a screeching halt in the early sixties when he and three friends went out into the woods. Donner suffered from a rare disease which not only limited flight, but also caused green spotted genitals which he reveled in. At some point in the trip, one of the followers either ate him after he died of natural causes or killed him and ate him. We may never know the truth as the follower burned out his own eyes with chili and attempted to fly off a cliff like his hero. From what we understand, Charles Manson carries a Donner hoof to this day as well as Mike Myers.

Blitzen

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There has not been a turncoat like Blitzen since Benedict Arnold. He joined the Nazi party after becoming a worldwide sensation when he became the first reindeer to solo fly the Atlantic. His Nazi sympathies could not be ignored and in a very famous defection, he became a member of Hitler's Germany wishing to breed a master race of Flying Reindeer, and participated in the Blitzkrieg bombings, as well as two attempts on Dasher's life.

He also became a symbol of hate as well as an SS officer who brutally controlled a concentration camp. He was a proud Nazi until the very end and refused to kill himself after the Nuremburg trials, instead electing to proudly die as a member of Hitler's Germany. He was eventually hanged and then drawn and quartered. Even though there is still a Blitzen that flies for Santa, it does tend to serve as a cold reminder of wartime hostility.

Rudolph

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Don't you wish you could just remember the "thin" Rudolph of the forties? In the days before the bloating and prescription drugs. Don't you wish you just remember the simple reindeer from down south with the red nose and the heart as big as Texas?

But no, what do you remember, the Vegas lighting shows, the Hawaii flights when he was trying get his bloated ass up and his nose to shine just one more time. You remember the Kung Fu, and the Pink Sleighs and how he died while still in the stall.

Yes there was only one Rudolph and yes he will always have a special place in all our hearts, but he did end up addicted to painkillers and TV and weird burnt food. While he was generous to a fault and his nose did shine brightly, he is dead, people. Sorry, get over it. He's dead.

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