All around Salt Lake City, there is a frenzied excitement about what is already being called A Very Burwash Christmas, referring, of course, to the multitalented Richard Burwash, recently unmasked as West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder’s alter ego, nom de plume and occasional body double.
In a very short period of time since he took the world of journalism by storm—winning lasting fame as a hard-hitting investigative reporter for the Deseret News and KSL—Mr. Burwash has distinguished himself in a wide array of disparate enterprises: dairy management, professional soccer, square dancing and, most recently, brain surgery.
Not since Leonardo da Vinci astonished the Renaissance with his versatile genius has someone so effortlessly employed his talents in the vast reaches of human endeavor. And now, Burwash da West Valley is gracing our holiday season in a variety of Christmas events and celebrations. Fresh off his boffo performance singing a medley of Christmas songs with the Viennese Boys Choir, Mr. Burwash is scheduled to appear at a command performance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, where he will reprise his signature version of “Working in a Winder Wonderland.”
Concert-goers are eagerly awaiting Mr. Burwash’s guest appearance in the always-popular Kurt Bestor Christmas. It hasn’t been confirmed, but word is that Mr. Bestor will serenade the charismatic Burwash with an arrangement of “Burwash Baby (Hurry Down the Chimney to Me).” Down at the Maverik Center, West Valley insiders say, Mayor Winder will stage a counter-concert in which he will entertain his dwindling loyalists with such Yuletide favorites as “I’ll Have a Burwash Christmas Without You,” “Burwash is Comin’ to Town” and “Burwash the Prose Man” (Runnin’ here and there all around the square, singing catch me if you can).
Perhaps the most eagerly awaited of Mr. Burwash’s performances is his turn as Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ perennial Christmas favorite, A Christmas Carol. The play has special significance for Mr. Burwash. Until now, it has been a well-kept secret that Mr. Burwash’s great-great-great grandfather was Ebenezer Burwash, who, among other things, served as a personal secretary, alter ego and body double for Brigham Young.
Ebenezer Burwash was also an accomplished masseur and phrenologist, but most significant for the historical record, he was also an aspiring novelist, and took the opportunity during Charles Dickens’ visit to Salt Lake City in 1855 to show the great author his work in progress, titled Scrooge Cooks His Goose. Dickens told Ebenezer to give up writing, and then proceeded to steal the manuscript and publish the story as his own. Besides coming up with a new title, Dickens changed the name of Lil’ Heber to Tiny Tim. Also, in early editions, Scrooge’s famous epithet was rendered as “Bah, Burwash.” Reluctantly, on the advice of his lawyer, Dickens substituted “humbug” for “Burwash.” The words have remained synonyms to this very day.
It’s hard to imagine that Mr. Burwash, with his singing and acting and part-time gig as a dental hygienist, could pack anything more into his busy holiday schedule. But somehow he manages to put in several hours a week playing Santa at the Fashion Place Mall, and then hurry downtown to don his costume to dance up a storm as the Mouse King in The Nutcracker. One dance critic was blown away by Mr. Burwash’s performance, saying, “He pirouettes like the great Nijinsky.”
Mr. Burwash somehow still has time to devout hours to his first love, which is writing. Before signing on with Mayor Mike Winder, he wrote under the name “Richard Paul Evans,” producing such Christmas classics as The Christmas Box (originally titled The Christmas Hoax), The Christmas Cookie, The Christmas Galoshes and The Christmas Shovel.
In addition to penning newspaper articles, romance novels, instruction manuals for scrapbooking and Christmas schmaltz, Mr. Burwash tosses off Christmas songs in his spare time. His latest hit is a take-off on a Christmas classic: “Winder got run over by a reindeer/ Coming home from milking Christmas Eve/ You may say there’s no such thing as Burwash/ But folks in West Valley City sure believe.”
How does Mr. Burwash do it? Still out of breath from a performance as the Mouse King, this latter-day Renaissance man gives a jolly laugh and says, “Christmas comes but once a year.”
In a related story, federal authorities say they have broken the D.B. Cooper hijacking case. The man who jumped out of a plane with hundreds of thousands in ransom cash was none other than “Dick Burwash Cooper,” truly a man for all seasons.
D.P. Sorensen writes a satire column for City Weekly.