From Super Heroes to Buddy the Elf, Shane Baker loves to dress up and make people smile
Some people are gifted to sing, dance or act, while others may be skillful in writing or drawing.
For 44-year-old Shane Bird Baker, his talent is “goofy ... show up and act stupid. I do that very well, apparently,” Baker said with a big smile.
Just a few weeks ago, Baker joined with Destin’s Recreation Department at the Destin Community Center in wishing young and old alike a Merry Christmas at the Christmas Drive-thru. Dressed in his “Buddy the Elf” costume, the 6-foot, 4-inch Baker greeted people as they came through with a huge smile and big waves.
“I smiled so much my face hurts,” Baker said. “But it’s worth it to watch the videos and see the kids.”
However, dressing up as the curly-headed elf is just one of the many characters Baker has dressed up as over the years.
Shane Baker as Buddy the Elf:Christmas drive-thru style at the Destin Community Center a big hit with a big Buddy
“Ever since I was a kid I liked to dress up,” said Baker, who works in merchandising at The Home Depot in Destin. "My mom got me doing it when I was little.”
Baker wanted to be an actor or a model when he was little.
“They played into it and hammed it up,” he said of his parents.
He said as a kid his dad always went to balls and dressed up in a tux. “They’d get me a little one so I would be a miniature version of him.”
Dressing up “was fun and something easy to do,” Baker said.
Some of the first things he dressed up as were cowboys — because his dad liked old westerns — and Batman.
“And you can be anything you want to be when you’re dressed up. You can be goofy acting … just like in a movie,” he said.
Baker explained he has had an issue with social anxiety since he was a kid. He later started to drink to accommodate for that.
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But when he quit, dressing up and taking on different characters were a way to have fun and make others smile.
Tami Scott, who recently passed away, was a big encourager for Baker. She would hold events at Kel-Aire for the kids and asked Baker if he’d come dressed as a Super Hero.
He would always dress as something scary at Halloween to terrorize the children in fun. But this past year, Scott wanted him to come dressed as the Black Panther.
“For a guy my size it’s hard to get that skinny. It took me almost a year to get down so I would fit in the spandex,” Baker said with a laugh.
He had to lose 45 pounds to fit into the Black Panther costume.
His mother, Ondella, who adjusts and alters all his costumes to fit, picked on him while trying to get down to Black Panther size.
“She would joke with me … ‘Hey, you need to do some more sit-ups,’ while she’s sitting there eating a bowl of ice cream,” Baker said.
Nevertheless, “Anytime I’ve ever wanted to do something, she made it possible. She’d go out of her way to help me find stuff,” he added.
COSTUMES AND CHARACTERS
Baker has bins full of costumes for various characters.
In addition to his Buddy the Elf costume, Baker had several other outfits he wore to work at The Home Depot over the holidays.
The Monday before Christmas he came dressed as Cousin Eddie from the "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" movie.
He wore the tight pants, crazy hat, white belt and white shoes (which he found at a flea market) for at least six hours.
“Oh, it was great,” he said, until he lost the heel on one of the shoes.
“It’s like Cinderella … I lost my slipper,” he said, noting the heel went flying off like a hockey puck across the concrete floor at the store.
“It’s hard to stay in costume when you work. So you have to make it functional, that’s the problem. Everybody can look good, but that’s hard to do for a long period of time,” he said.
Later in the week he dressed as a Hip-Hop Santa Claus in a red velvet jump suit.
“We’ve been wearing T-shirts and all kinds of crazy stuff all week long,” he said.
“It’s just another day to have fun. You’re stuck at work; you might as well have a good time,” he said, noting he told all his associates they could wear Christmas stuff during the holiday season.
Baker has pirate costumes, where his mother has picked up items at estates sales and such. “She’ll make it fit."
He also has a Joker outfit from the Batman movie, thanks to a preacher be met.
“He had a big long purple suit, so I made it a Joker outfit," Baker said. "It was huge, but it worked.”
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“It’s a process … you just accumulate stuff over time,” he said.
His favorite characters to dress up as are Super Heroes.
“Watching little kids see you when you are big like I am, they see you like it’s real,” he said.
“That’s what pushed me … I wanted to be something larger than life.”
His favorite character is Captain America, with Batman running a close second.
"I know Batman is great and everything, but Captain America truly is everything good. ... He stands for America and freedom. People can relate to that. People don’t like being oppressed,” he said.
And his costumes look like the real deal.
"I like to make them look real,” he said, noting he spent the extra money to buy the Marvel-licensed shield for Captain America.
The most Baker has ever spent on a costume is $800 for Batman.
He said he purchased a licensed outfit and modified it. It was such that when a kid would poke him, they were hitting muscle not fake pads.
“That’s another reason to keep me training. It keeps me working out. You can’t be a flabby Batman,” he laughed.
Baker recalled a time when he was at the grocery store and had his Batman workout gear on and a youngster dropped his pacifier.
Baker said he reached down and picked it up and the child was taken back.
“Oh no, I didn’t mean to scare your kid,” he said.
The parent replied, “He thought you were Batman. … You’re his favorite character.”
It’s memories like that that make it all worthwhile.
“It’s worth whatever you got to do to try … and it’s helped me to stay sober. I was an alcoholic for so long, but it keeps you going. Keeps me in line, makes you check yourself,” he said.
Other characters that Baker would like to try in the future are the new Batman, Predator and Mandalorian. He also mentioned Chewbacca from Star Wars.
“I’m big … I could do that easy,” he said as he made the crazy Chewbacca growl.
WORK AND PLAY
The Home Depot is the perfect job for Baker.
“So, we get to be like little kids here. I get to put out all the Christmas stuff and Halloween, which is my favorite. I get to play with all the toys before Black Friday. It’s fun. It’s like working with a big erector set you get to play with … I get to move all the stuff around. It’s every grown man’s dream. I get to play with tools all the time,” he said.
Baker moved to Destin in 2013 from Mississippi to follow a girl and to do rehab on his back. The girl didn't work out, but he got his back rehabilitated.
He got a job with UPS before starting at The Home Depot.
"I started getting into their community stuff and events," he said, such as events for veterans, Crop Drop and other community outreaches.
"Anytime they need somebody to be goofy or dress up or do something ... that's me.
What does Baker do for fun when he’s not working?
He works out a lot, rides motorcycles and is huge into movies. He said he just went to see the new Spider-Man movie.
“I like keeping up with it. I like all the Marvel movies,” he said.
Superman and Batman were two of his favorites as a child.
What does he plan on being when he grows up?
“Who, said I was ever going to grow up? I’m always going to be a Toys R Us Kid. You’ve got to keep going.”