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The kiss seen ’round the world

Posted: December 11th, 2015 | Cover stories, Features, Top Story | No Comments

By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor

Local activists continue to push the boundaries of love

Last December, local San Diego activists and indie musicians Danielle LoPresti and Alicia Champion were enjoying the holidays and watching the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” video, sung by Michael Bublé and Idina Menzel, with their young, adopted, mixed-race son Xander Lucian.

While the whole family loved the video, Champion said she and LoPresti were conscious of the cultural cues it offered and set out to find a holiday video Lucian could better relate to; something multiracial and that had same-sex parents.

“And would you believe it … we couldn’t find a single one,” Champion said. “So we thought that since we had access to the resources, maybe we should try to make one ourselves … to both inspire a trend for more holiday-themed videos that feature diverse families. It was meant as a gift to our LGBTQ community and hopefully one that society at large would appreciate, too.”

(l to r) Alicia Champion and her wife Danielle LoPresti in a screen shot from the video (Courtesy Sixty5 Media)

(l to r) Alicia Champion and her wife Danielle LoPresti in a screen shot from the “Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” video (Courtesy Sixty5 Media)

A progressive adaptation of the original 1952 holiday classic, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” was born.

The video, which features LoPresti, Champion and Lucian, portrays a same-sex couple on Christmas Eve — one pretending to be Santa Claus bearing gifts for their young son — who later sneak off for a little “naughty and nice” time thinking their son has finally slipped off into sugar-plum land, only to be caught in the act.

Filmed at the end of last spring and released Nov. 4, the video has already gone viral and been viewed more than 60,000 times on YouTube.

The shoot, which took four months to produce and 18 hours to film — split between LoPresti’s former home in Pt. Loma and a friend’s home in Los Angeles — involved Champion as producer, Asher Brown of Pollution Studios as director, and LoPresti on vocals. The musicians included top-end national and local talent. Alec Milstein, who has performed bass for Annie Lenox came on board, as did Stephen Snyder, musical director for Broadway’s “Jersey Boys.” They were joined by what Champion called a “San Diego powerhouse horn section,” consisting of Gilbert Castellanos, Chris Klich and Elizabeth Lea.

“I knew I wanted the musical arrangement to be something universally appealing, as opposed to our usual intense, activist brand of rock ’n roll,” Champion said. “I also knew that I wanted to ‘normalize’ our family imagery as much as possible — really try to show that there’s no difference at all between straight and same-sex families, that we all have the same challenges, joys … that love is love and parenting is parenting.”

“Watching the hours Alicia poured into every detail of this project was both impressive and beautiful,” LoPresti added. “As her wife and often collaborator, I am constantly in awe of how much she does and just how gifted she is. One of my favorite moments was watching her create pencil sketches of the storyboard and then put those to the temp track.”

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Then-3-year-old Lucian wakes up to find “Santa” delivering Christmas gifts. (Courtesy Sixty5 Media)

Deciding who would step into the boots of “Mr. Claus” and who would play the mom apparently didn’t take much thought. Champion said they knew immediately that to pull it off with any amount of “mystique,” LoPresti had to be cast as Santa, since she is the taller of the two.

“I loved playing the dude. So fun!” LoPresti said.

“I must confess that I actually do enjoy playing the femme every now and again,” Champion added. “And honestly, I’d probably do it more often if it didn’t take so much damn work!”

The film shoot included industry veterans, many of whom Champion said worked well below their market value or entirely for free to see this project through.

Filming also included plenty of friends chipping in to provide pampering, hair and make-up, and to keep 3-year-old Lucian — who stole every scene he shared with his parents — in check and attentive.

“[Lucian] was pretty amazing,” Champion said. “We weren’t sure what to expect. … It definitely came with challenges. Let’s just say we understood right away why almost all child roles in TV and film are cast in identical twin or triplet sets.”

“We also had Team Lucian on hand — that was key,” LoPresti said. “We were blessed by a handful of our beautiful friends Lucian really loves to spend time with. There was at least one person at all times just taking care of him, entertaining him, etc. That helped a great deal.”

The couple said they were “grateful” and “couldn’t be happier” with the final product and are thrilled to see the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the video. All the YouTube comments — which continue to be added daily — have provided them endless testimony as to how the video’s message is affecting people.

“Alicia and I are moved constantly by beautiful stories of love and family that feature straight folks, so why shouldn’t straight families be moved by love that features a same-sex family?” Lo Presti said. “Honestly, we all benefit so much as a community when we get to peek into people’s lives long enough to realize our similarities … the many ways we are connected. Especially with people who on the surface seem so very different than us.

“The truth is, we are often more alike than we could possibly imagine. Understanding this, seeing this, leads to less division — and more peace.”

“It’s reached people all over the world — the UK, Australia, Columbia, Canada, even GQ Italy did a piece on it,” Champion said. “It’s been exciting to see such widespread global love for it.”

San Diego resident Hillary Whittington, whose own video about her then-6 year-old deaf, transgender son Ryland also went viral two years ago — and was eventually adapted by CNN into a 15-minute documentary — put her two cents on the comment section.

“This is such an incredible Christmas video for so many reasons … not only was the music, videography, and editing perfectly done, the cast of characters gives me such joy, as the depiction of a modern family has finally shifted,” Whittington said. “For anyone who hasn’t met this family, they are some of the most loving, genuine, and thoughtful three people you will ever meet! I haven’t stopped smiling and hoping this will be a commercial I see on television soon. Danielle and Alicia have been raising one of the most polite, warm, kind, little boys I have ever met and you can feel the love for Lucian in their presence. Thank you for making this Christmas card and I am hoping the world can see why this message is so powerful and beautiful on so many levels!”

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After disrupting his parents’ “naughty and nice” time more than once, sleepy Lucian is finally ready for bed. (Courtesy Sixty5 Media)

As the video continues to gain momentum around the world, these activist co-parents and co-founders of San Diego’s IndieFest are just looking forward to releasing a new record in 2016 … and enjoying motherhood.

“It’s pretty much fantastic,” LoPresti reflected. “We’re really blessed … even when we’re exhausted, we rarely forget how lucky we are.”

To watch “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” visit tinyurl.com/q7rhqs2 or click “play” below

—Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at morgan@sdcnn.com.

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