‘Secret Santa’ is Gates County native’s latest offering

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Gates County, N.C. native Beth Polson’s latest production is a made-for-TV movie, &uot;Secret Santa.&uot;

Polson weaves a magical tapestry in telling the tale of a cynical reporter in search of the truth behind a mysterious Christmas-time philanthropist. In this quest, the reporter, played by well-known actress Jenny Garth, discovers the real meaning of the holiday.

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Polson’s newest novel is about newspaper reporter Rebecca Chandler, who has just been dumped by her boyfriend. She’s tired of covering the usual Christmas fluff – and in no mood for warmth and cheer. Still, she accepts her editor’s assignment to travel to Hamden, Ind. and cover the story of Secret Santa, a benevolent stranger who appears mysteriously every Christmas Eve to bestow the perfect gift to some less fortunate soul. But Rebecca has her own ideas. Instead of &uot;wasting her time&uot; on another sentimental holiday tale, she intends to unmask the charitable St. Nick leaving him as the &uot;bleeding heart do-gooder formerly known as Secret Santa.&uot;

However, Rebecca didn’t count on the small town coming complete with a main street diner and an annual Christmas pageant. She also didn’t know that Hamden is home to a cast of loveable and quirky characters including one character who is the most unlikely of all.

That part is depicted by Steven Eckholdt (&uot;Providence&uot;), who joined the cast of &uot;The West Wing&uot; this season as President Bartlet’s son-in-law. In &uot;Secret Santa,&uot; he is John Carter, the town’s generous and handsome millionaire, who quickly becomes Rebecca’s prime suspect.

Determined to uncover Secret Santa and show off her investigative skills, Rebecca learns that things are not always what they appear, and in the process she finds love, along with the true meaning of Christmas.

Some of televisions most familiar faces will bring Secret Santa to life. Jennie Garth (&uot;What I Like About You&uot; and &uot;Beverly Hills 90210&uot;) portrays the lead character, Rebecca. Charlie Robinson (&uot;Night Court&uot;, &uot;Miss Lettie & Me&uot;) plays Russell, and Barbara Billingsly (&uot;Leave it to Beaver&uot; and &uot;Airplane&uot;) is Miss Ruthie.

Robert Tate Miller is the writer. Ian Barry (&uot;The Christmas Wish&uot;) is the director. Polson (&uot;The Christmas Wish&uot; and &uot;The Last Dance&uot;), is executive producer of the presentation from The Polson Company. Polson, nicknamed &uot;The Christmas Movie Maven,&uot; is an Emmy-award winning producer who has worked for all the major networks. She is the co-author of &uot;Not My Kind&uot; and &uot;Go Toward the Light.&uot;

The endearing story of the Secret Santa unfolds on CBS television at 9 p.m. today. Those who miss it may purchase the book at Johnson’s Gardens at 3201 Holland Road, or call Doris Hawkins at 252-465-8333 to obtain a copy.

It is published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.