You’re a Green One
A visit with a homegrown Grinch
By Maria Johnson
In the interest of avocado-tinted transparency, I confess that I love everything about the Grinch, especially the 1966 animated version of his redemption story, a masterpiece of visuals, narration and music.
I love how the Grinch gets a “wonderful, awful idea” to steal Christmas, causing the tuft of green fur on his head to part and unfurl with his smile.
How he saws off a tree branch and ties it to the head of his dog, Max, to make him a reindeer.
How he scissor-cuts material for his Santa suit, leaving jagged holes in the shape of a hat and jacket.
How he slyly nabs candy canes from the grips of sleeping children.
How he deceives little Cindy Lou Who, who is no more than 2, with a promise of taking her Christmas tree back to his workshop to mend a light: “I’ll fix it up there, and I’ll bring it back here.”
How his heart grows three sizes that day, breaking the frame around it with a sproing!
How, when he returns to Whoville with trumpet blaring, the circle of Whos swings open like a gate.
And, naturally, how he — “he himself, the Grinch” — carves the roast beast.
So you can imagine the thrill I felt upon learning that McLaurin Farms, on the northern edge of Greensboro, would be offering pics and visits with the Grinch at its Christmas Festival starting later this month.
Keep in mind that McLaurin Farms is the same operation that funnels tens of thousands of people through its bloodcurdling Woods of Terror haunted attraction around Halloween.
But in the last dozen years or so, the farm, which is run by Eddie McLaurin and his wife, Peggy, has grown into a year-round destination. They’ve added warmer-and-fuzzier draws such as a kid-friendly Pumpkin Patch, Trunk-or-Treat, an Easter Egg Hunt, the tulip-centric Blooms & Butterflies, a Summer Fun Festival and a farm market featuring ice cream and milkshakes.
So I was a little surprised and a lot delighted to see the farm touting the presence of the Grinch at the yuletide event.
Yes, Virginia, the plus-size guy in red fur will be there, too — ho-ho-ho-ing, posing for pics and listening to endless lists — along with the uber-grouch, who will occupy his own little niche complete with a store selling Grinch-obilia.
That’s pure green genius in my book — in terms of both fun and finance.
Witness the enduring popularity of the character, who first appeared in a written story published by Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, in 1957.
The ’66 animated TV classic that won my heart was narrated by Boris Karloff.
In 2000, Jim Carrey portrayed him in a live-action movie.
In a 2018 animated movie, Benedict Cumberbatch voiced a Grinch with smoother edges, appropriate to his world of Minion-like characters.
A touring stage production of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, which debuted on Broadway in 2006, will run at Greensboro’s Tanger Center November 21–26.
And at McLaurin Farms, our homegrown Grinch, 29-year-old Nate Hudson, says the Green King of Mean outdraws Santa, maybe because Santa is more common at shopping centers, parades and the like.
“You would think it would just be kids,” Hudson says, reflecting on his fans. “But I have adults who come just to meet my Grinch. They’ll come dressed in their Grinch gear, and they’ll say I’ve been waiting the whole year to meet you.”
Hudson, who graduated from Southeast Guilford High School and snared a theater degree at Indiana Wesleyan University, gets it.
At age 8, he started memorizing dialogue from Jim Carrey’s Grinch, which his mom watched every Christmas season after it was released. About the same time, Hudson joined the family passion for spooky, dressing up as a scary clown for the haunted houses they put on. His dad was an extra in one of the Hellraiser movies.
After college, Hudson did a turn with a repertory company in Michigan and spent autumns working at haunted houses, refining his clown character.
He brought Rellik, which is “killer” spelled backward, to Woods of Terror about eight years ago. Two years later, the folks at McLaurin Farms asked him to help with the Christmas Festival.
“I said, ‘I’m not a fan of kids, and I’m not a fan of Christmas,” says Hudson. “They said, ‘Perfect! You’re the Grinch!’”
Hudson loved the idea. Bullied as a child, he identified with Carrey’s version of the Grinch, who is raised in Whoville and teased for being different until he finds love and acceptance one magical Christmas.
Likewise, Hudson says, he found a safe harbor among theater people and haunted house actors. He enjoys the same grace inside the McLaurin tribe at Christmastime, when he plays the Grinch with crackly-voiced snark.
People who ogle and smile at him are likely to be greeted with a terse, “What?!”
Ask him if he’s seen Santa, and he’ll shamelessly hack a line from the movie Elf: “You mean the fat guy dressed in red who smells like beef and cheese?”
If Olaf the snowman, a roving character from the movie Frozen wanders by and embraces him, Hudson will probably start singing “Let me go, let me go . . . ” a riff on the hit song “Let It Go” from the same movie.
The only time he breaks character — or actually adheres to character — is during the last show before Christmas. At that point, Hudson says, the Grinch becomes his better self, which is what people find irresistible about the character: the hope he offers.
“He has a story,” Hudson continues. “He was misunderstood. Everything was not all rainbows and sunshine with the Grinch. I think that’s where people sympathize with him. Toward the end, he grows his heart. He’s more human than Santa.”
It’s an evergreen thought. OH
Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.