‘Christmas Story’ house featured in 1983 movie sold to San Diego man
May 8, 2005
‘If it’s not made out of stucco, I don’t know much about it,” said San Diegan Brian Jones. But after buying the wood-frame house in Cleveland – sight unseen – that was the setting for the movie “A Christmas Story,” Jones is getting a crash course in how much of the world beyond California is housed.Jones is one of the many fans of the 1983 movie starring Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon and Peter Billingsley. Set in the ’40s, it’s about a little boy, Ralphie Parker (Billingsley), who wants an official Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle for Christmas. The film’s humorously wry look at family life is a Christmas staple, running 24 hours a day on some cable channels.
Jones heard about the house, which was used mostly for exterior shots and a few interior shots, when his wife, Beverly, an ensign on the Bonhomme Richard, sent him an e-mail about its sale on eBay. Beverly was on the U.S. amphibious assault ship heading to the Middle East when her captain told her about the listing.
“She thought it was something cute, but after I bought the house for $150,000, she said, ‘I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,’ ” Jones said.
Beverly knew her husband would be interested because the movie was a family favorite when he was growing up in Newbury Park. So much so that his parents sent him a gag Christmas gift of a “leg lamp,” a replica of the lamp Ralphie’s father proudly displayed in the front window of his family’s house in “A Christmas Story.”
The lamp proved such a hit with Jones that for the last 2½ years, he has been making and selling lamps made of a life-sized woman’s plastic leg covered in fishnet and wearing a high heel shoe with a fringed lampshade on top. It is sold on the Internet (www.redriderleglamps.com) and, locally, from Tap Lighting in Hillcrest.
Jones, 29, a former Navy man with a degree in aerospace engineering, sold the lamps part-time while he was in the Navy, but has since made it his full-time business. He’s sold over 3,000 at $139.99.
“My wife thought that selling the lamps was going to be a hobby,” Jones said. “After I got out of the Navy, she kept asking, ‘When are you going to get a job … you know, a J-O-B?’ But she’s warming to the lamp idea – and the house – now.”
Jones plans to turn his four-bedroom Cleveland house, built in 1895, into a free museum with “A Christmas Story” memorabilia for sale in the living room. It is still undecided who will be the “curator.”
“The former owner would get a couple of hundred people every year stopping by to look at the house, and someone actually stole a piece of fence, which wasn’t even in the movie, as a souvenir,” Jones said.
But first, Jones has to do a reverse remodel of the house to make it look more like the house in the movie. “Unfortunately, it’s in good condition because previous owners updated it and took out a lot of the stuff that made it recognizable as the movie house,” Jones said. Gray siding has to come off and the house repainted yellow with green trim; all the windows have to come out; and the duplex, which was a rental, has to be changed back into a single-family home.
Jones flew to Cleveland last week to meet with contractors, a Cleveland-area historical society, painters and a demolition company that will remove the siding. Several Cleveland companies are donating time and materials for the renovation. “I’m still going to have to pay a big chunk of change, though,” Jones said.
“A lot of people said I paid too much for the house, but in San Diego I couldn’t even make a down payment on a house for that amount,” Jones said.
Counting last week’s visit, Jones has only seen the house twice since buying it. The first time was Dec. 27, 2004. Stoked on a 24-hour marathon showing of “A Christmas Story,” Jones said, “It was so cool to be there. I ran around the back yard and I felt like I was in the movie. I felt like a kid all over again.”
The house can be seen at www.achristmasstoryhouse.com.