Blitzen, 1545-2006

Party animal reindeer self-medicates to death after getting sacked by Santa.

For centuries, Santa's reindeer have essentially occupied a squeaky-clean place in the public mind-set, that of a cohesive, antlered pack of workhorses who get the Fat Man to the chimney with near-flawless precision. Yet with the tragic Christmas night booze- and heroin-induced death of Blitzen, it appears that this image was more a testament to the North Pole PR machine than the true lives of the reindeer. Blitzen was 461 at the time of his death (in reindeer years).

Like his brethren Comet and Dasher, Blitzen was regally bred in the mythical ice forests of northwestern Greenland, birthplace of Peppermint Patty, Papa Smurf, and Gregory Hines. But while Santa's nine reindeer developed an unparalleled symmetry while tethered to their big red sled, their lives are quite divergent in the off-season. Vixen and Cupid, as their names suggest, are quite amorous. Dancer and Prancer share a summer house in Key West, while Donner is a reclusive bookworm. And Blitzen was so prodigious a drinker that Claus himself had to plead with Modern Drunkard magazine not to include the reindeer in their "Clash of the Tightest" contest of historical literary drunks, where he was originally slated to be pitted against Jackie "The Juicer" Gleason.

Blitzen was notorious for getting so drunk at an annual Dec. 23 reunion of his out-of-town friends at the Jagged Antler saloon that he would show up late for work on the biggest night of the year, reeking of tequila. By the late 1800s, it got so bad that Santa considered replacing Blitzen with a reindeer named Frank; and by the time Jimmy Carter became president, Blitzen had expanded his substance-abuse repertoire to include heroin, partying with Keith Richards, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Iggy Pop, and Daniel Baldwin.

This past Christmas, Blitzen hit rock bottom, failing to show up for Christmas Eve and forcing Santa to make due with eight reindeer. Amazingly, they made all their deliveries on time, but Claus nonetheless gave Blitzen his walking papers upon returning to the North Pole, which touched off the inevitable epic binge that would lead to the reindeer's death. He is survived by his mother, Bernice, and half-brother, Shitzen.

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