It only stands to reason that Santa Claus received the kindest cut of all.
Yes, in the drama that played out Wednesday night at the Bootlegger Bistro on Las Vegas Boulevard South, Santa got what was coming to him.
Dr. Michael Colletti, bless his heart, slit Santa's throat.
And because of Colletti's skill with a steak knife, the man with the white beard who was choking to death can breathe again.
"If it wasn't for what that doctor did in the restaurant to cut open my husband's throat, my Santa wouldn't be making any more rounds to make people happy," Santa's wife said Thursday as she sat inside a waiting room at the St. Rose Dominican Hospital, Siena campus.
Surely, the "unkindest cut" suffered by Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's iconic play is far less compelling than the reality of a Las Vegas physician cutting Santa's throat.
It was about 8 p.m. Wednesday when 57-year-old John Adams, a federal employee from near Barstow who has long enjoyed playing Santa in California and Nevada at Christmastime, bit into a piece of white bread.
"All of a sudden Santa started coughing and motioning like he couldn't breathe," said Denise Adams, who calls her husky husband Santa not only because of the striking resemblance but because "he's such a good man."
Seventeen members of the Adams family from across the country were on hand in Las Vegas for the birthdays of 82-year-old Marie Adams and 27-year-old Eric Adams.
Tommy and Jimmy Adams did the Heimlich maneuver on John. So did Bootlegger waiters.
But the series of under-the-diaphragm abdominal thrusts seemed to make Adams choke even more. And then he fell limply to the floor, unconscious. A restaurant employee called paramedics.
"Natalie DeWitt, our general manager, knew there was a doctor in the house, and she went and got him," said Lorraine Hunt-Bono, an owner of the restaurant.
As usual on Wednesday night, Colletti came to the restaurant for dinner following ballroom dancing lessons with his ladylove, Erica Raley.
As soon as the 60-year-old Colletti, a former president of the Clark County Medical Society, saw the man on the floor, he knew he didn't have much time.
"It appeared he was going to die in front of us," he recalled Thursday as he sat in his offices off Eastern and Harmon avenues. Colletti, a rheumatologist, in other words a specialist in the nonsurgical treatment of illnesses such as arthritis, said he immediately asked for a knife.
"I had no choice," he said. "But what I was about to do, I had never done before. I'm glad I had the guts to do it."
The knife he received from restaurant staff was great for cutting a steak, and Colletti said he prayed it was also good for performing a cricothyroidotomy, a procedure that provides a temporary emergency airway in situations where there is an obstruction at or above the level of the larynx.
"It was so hard to see his neck because it was dark and this guy had this huge beard," Colletti said.
Feeling his way down Adams' neck, Colletti said he felt the membrane where he could cut a hole into the windpipe without damaging vital anatomy, allowing air into the fallen man's lungs.
When he cut, Denise Adams remembered that blood start pooling all over the restaurant floor.
"Santa was really bleeding," she said. "There was blood every where, and the doctor's arms were full of it."
Once he sliced open Adams' neck, Colletti asked his dance partner to get him a drinking straw. After she did, he placed it inside the cut.
Santa, or rather Adams, started to breathe.
The paramedics showed up and gave Colletti a better breathing tube that he quickly inserted.
The whole incident, from when Adams began choking to when he was whisked into the ambulance, took about 15 minutes.
After Adams was taken to St. Rose, Dr. Scott Manthei did some clean-up surgery.
The surgeon told hospital employees that it was "the cleanest cricothyroidotomy" he had ever seen done in an emergency.
"I remembered how to do it from medical school," Colletti said. "I never did it, but I remembered the lesson."
Colletti, a graduate of the University of Illinois medical school, received his medical training more than 30 years ago.
Hunt-Bono, a former Nevada lieutenant governor, still can't believe what Colletti did.
"If he hadn't been there, that man would be dead," she said. "I wish there were more doctors like him. He wasn't worried about liability issues, he was worried about a man's life. He's my hero."
As he lay in his hospital bed Thursday, his neck covered in bandages, Adams was asked whether doctors gave him a good prognosis for recovery.
He gave the thumbs-up sign.
And then Denise Adams asked for Colletti's address.
She had a feeling, she said, that this Christmas Santa would have something extra special for him.
Contact reporter Paul Harasim at email@example.com or 702-387-2908.