Archive for December, 2008

A Christmas Story Window

December 29th, 2008 by Ralphie

This year we had a window decorating contest in our town.  The theme was Christmas movies.  Attached is a picture of our window.  We lost first place by 1 vote.

Shannon Miller

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A Christmas Story Display, Geneva, Ohio

December 29th, 2008 by Ralphie


Here’s the square in downtown Geneva, Ohio……..A Christmas Story Display……
I found out it was made up by a local school art teacher at Geneva High School.
Geneva is about 10 miles West from my home in Ashtabula, Ohio.
I’ve attended the Christmas Story Convention for the 3rd year and our family sure enjoys the fun times!
Thought you might be able to use some of these pictures for your site.
And maybe give other people ideas how to decorate up their town square.
Thanking you,
Rose Davis
Ashtabula, OH  44004
A Christmas Story Displays


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‘A Christmas Story’ 25th anniversary draws crowds to Cleveland house

December 29th, 2008 by Ralphie

by John Caniglia/Plain Dealer Reporter

Saturday November 29, 2008

In this scene from the movie “A Christmas Story,” Ralphie Parker (played by Peter Billingsley) freezes up when Santa asks what gift he wants. Santa was played by the late Jeff Gillen, whose family is in Cleveland to help mark the film’s 25th anniversary.

The streets of Cleveland were still asleep Friday when the Gillens of Miami, Fla., bolted through the hotel lobby, ready to see the city that helped make their father famous.Like caffeinated shoppers tracking deals, the Gillens were a jangle of joy. After all, the city threads through the family’s past; it’s where their late father starred in “A Christmas Story.”

Twenty-five years ago, Jeff Gillen played the scary, worn-out Santa listening to a little boy in the movie classic that did much of its filming in Cleveland.

This weekend, his wife, Arlene, and children, Phil and Elana, are joining about 4,000 people to visit a convention at the Renaissance Hotel and A Christmas Story House in Tremont.

“It’s a film about being a kid and looking back,” said Brian Jones, who owns A Christmas Story House and the neighboring museum.

The weekend features actors who starred in the movie, three documentaries about the film and the original 1938 fire truck that drove to the rescue in the tongue-frozen-to-the-flagpole scene.

“It is unbelievable that a movie has touched the lives of millions of families,” said Phil Gillen, Jeff’s son. Jeff Gillen died in 1995, a dozen years after the movie was filmed.

Elana Gillen agreed: “A movie that has a museum just doesn’t happen, and to see images of my father is unbelievable.”

The original fire truck used in “A Christmas Story,” a 1938 Ford La France pump truck, gives movie fans a ride around the Tremont neighborhood Friday. The truck is owned by the Chippawa Volunteer Firefighters Association in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Hours for the house tour, museum and gift shop will be from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. today.

To many viewers, the movie grabbed them in ways that few films ever can. The story of Ralphie and his longing for the perfect gift — an official Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock — and his family’s oddities take on special meaning for all of us.And some have passed the movie’s meaning and its laughter on to their own families.

Mark and Becky Tompkins traveled 600 miles from LaPorte City, Iowa, just south of Waterloo, with their children, Madison, 9, and Brandon, 5.

They use some of the movie’s scenes for holiday decorations, inside and outside of their home. They even took a family picture around the leg lamp, the prize in the movie that Ralphie’s dad wins in a newspaper contest.

“It’s a Christmas movie that you can watch and relate to,” Mark Tompkins said. “Everyone, whether they want to admit it or not, really wanted a special gift one holiday.”

Tom Laughlin of Richmond, Va., holds his 6-year-old daughter, Abby, as they wait in line Friday to visit the West 11th Street house made famous in “A Christmas Story.” Tours of the house, its neighboring museum and gift shop will be from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. today.

Christa Puskar of Everson, Pa., near Pittsburgh, said she has tree ornaments and board games based on the movie. She even buys Lifebuoy soap, the kind Ralphie’s mother used to wash his mouth out after he swore. She also keeps the television on for the 24-hour marathon of “A Christmas Story,” which begins airing on Christmas Eve on TBS. The movie also will air at 8 p.m. this Wednesday on TNT.She laughed about the snowsuit that Ralphie’s brother Randy wore. The boy was so bundled up that he could barely move.

“I had one just like it,” she said.

Amid the fans Friday was a whirlwind of a man bouncing from table to table, shaking hands, hugging fans and setting up booths. Scott Schwartz, 38, was back in Cleveland but found a far different city than the one he had visited at 14.

Schwartz played Flick, who is triple-dog-dared to stick his tongue on the frozen post. Schwartz spent two weeks in Cleveland shooting scenes. At the time, he said, the city was in a horrible economic slump, with lots of stores boarded up.

“It’s a much better place,” he said of the city. “You have the baseball stadium, the Cavs, the stores.”

The actor who played Ralphie, Peter Billingsley, missed the event, as he was shooting a movie, according to published reports. Schwartz, however, was stumping the greatest treasure of “A Christmas Story.”

“It’s multigenerational,” Schwartz said. “It reaches people whether they are 5 or 85.”

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A Christmas Story homemade stockings by Melody Spangler

December 28th, 2008 by Ralphie

a christmas story stockings

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Convention Pictures from the Heid Family

December 28th, 2008 by Ralphie

Pictures from the Heid family trip to the Christmas Story convention.  We had a blast. 

Thanks for some great memories!
Joyce and Keith Heid

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Marathons only improve ‘A Christmas Story’

December 22nd, 2008 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

24 holiday hours of Ralphie, The Old Man, and the leg lamp? Bring it on!

By Andy Dehnart contributor

Repetition can sometimes kill otherwise great material. A song with a catchy beat and interesting lyrics can lose its punch after being overplayed, and or replaying movies can reveal their flaws over time. A lot of great pop culture can become predictable and lose its power once it’s been viewed, read, or listened to multiple times.

However, the reverse is true of “A Christmas Story,” the now-iconic film that captures cross-generational, near-universal mixed feelings about the holidays.

In fact, even after more than a decade of 24-hour Christmas eve and day marathons on television, repeated viewings of the film actually make it stronger.

The now-beloved but initially ignored 1983 film has its 25th anniversary this year, and TBS will once again air it for 24 hours straight. TNT started that tradition 11 years ago, and sibling network TBS eventually picked it up. In other words, “A Christmas Story” is viewable simultaneously as the holiday it attempts to deconstruct unfolds.

One of the advantages to its 12 consecutive broadcasts, which start at 8 p.m. on Dec. 24 on TBS, is that watching individual scenes is often just as satisfying as watching the whole film. Of course, that’s difficult to do without having seen “Christmas Story” from start to finish a few times, which is an absolute requirement. Without that, Jean Shepherd’s brilliant narrative (adapted, as was the screenplay, from his books) and Bob Clark’s engaging direction aren’t quite as obvious.

What’s so remarkable is how relevant their material remains, despite the fact that the film was produced a quarter-century ago and its story is set in the 1940s, more than 50 years ago.

How does a film set in the midwestern 1940s invoke nostalgia not only for those who remember that era, but even more significantly, work just as well for those who were born 50 years later and have never even visited the Midwest? That’s the film’s true magic, as “A Christmas Story” and its characters connect to universal, unchanging attitudes toward the holidays and family, never mind friends, bullies, school, and commercialism.

Reveling in the reality of being nine
The film does not over-idealize Christmas; instead, it revels in the reality. This is not some fantasy about the idyllic nature of anything, including what it’s like to be nine.

From relatives who give terrible Christmas presents (the hideous pink bunny suit) to crass attempts at marketing (the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring), from dealings with the school bully to his little brother’s constant presence in his life, poor Ralphie’s life is not exactly easy.

That the story adopts Ralphie’s point of view is a critical choice that makes a significant difference. At nine, he’s just on the edge of childhood wonder, where skepticism is growing but not yet enough to crush the magic of the holiday. And that’s something kids and adults alike can identify with, regardless of their age or how jaded they’ve become.

The now-legendary danger associated with Ralphie’s desire for an “official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle” is both real and a ridiculous adult overreaction, and the fact that adults declare it in such an immature way (“you’ll shoot your eye out”) makes that point flawlessly. Likewise, everything from Ralphie’s visit to the department store Santa to his interaction with his teacher are tainted with the unnamed recognition that something’s not quite right with adults, but they still hold power in his world.

The adults in the film are viewed through Ralphie’s eyes, but they’re also fully formed, realistic people, not the mere stock characters of lesser holiday films. The characters in “A Christmas Story” are familiar enough to have become archetypes, but they still avoid being caricatures.

Ralphie’s dad swears, makes irrational arguments, pretends he’s right even when he’s obviously not, and doesn’t communicate well with his wife. The scene where he receives his “major award” is hysterical (“fra-gee-lay”) and yet devastating, as he clings to some form of affirmation even when it’s revealed to be absurd.

Ralphie’s mom is passive-aggressive (the demise of the leg lamp is the best example), babies her kids, and says and does what she thinks she’s expected to, even as she realizes the absurdity of it all.

“A Christmas Story” pulls all of that together to construct a family that comes together in the final act. Its ending turns farce into such gritty realism that the Parkers’ dinner feels more authentic than other cinematic holiday dinner scenes. Of course, no place except a Chinese restaurant would be open on Christmas day; and they wouldn’t have turkey; and the ridiculousness of it all would cause the whole family to devolve into laughter instead of tears.

That’s why the film has such obsessive fans; there’s something here that is relatable even as it’s ridiculously entertaining. It’s easy to want the Parkers’ lives, because they manage to be both screwed-up and perfect.

Why else would the Parkers’ house now be a Cleveland, Ohio, tourist attraction with a museum of artifacts from the film located across the street? Why else would people by replicas of that awful, ridiculous lamp? And why would two fans have produced a documentary, “Road Trip for Ralphie,” that follows them as they visit all of the filming locations and uncover artifacts from the production?

Clearly, people connect to “A Christmas Story.”

That’s not true of all holiday films, which follow a familiar template now, as nearly every holiday season brings movies that attempt to make holiday dysfunction heartwarming and fun.

Such movies are sometimes successful in the short term, but it’s hard to imagine, say, “Four Christmases” being replayed in 2033, or having its sets visited by tourists. They’re too limited, too quick to ring familiar bells and not worry about the quality of their sound.

“A Christmas Story,” on the other hand, is perfectly orchestrated, at once celebrating, deconstructing, and transcending the holiday movie.

That’s the gift that Jean Shepherd, Bob Clark, his cast, and now TBS — never mind Ralphie and the Parkers — have given for years, and now multiple times every year.

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December 22nd, 2008 by Ralphie

Here are some pictures I took of the cookies made from the cookie cutters that came with the 20th anniversary special edition of “A Christmas Story”. I worked very hard on these, and hope all the fans will appreciate them!


A Christmas Story cookie cutters
A Christmas Story cookie cutter

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La Habra Chamber of Commerce A Christmas Story

December 22nd, 2008 by Ralphie

The La Habra Chamber of Commerce was decorated with A Christmas Story theme with special curtains and a Leg Lamp in the window. At our Christmas party Dec 17 we raffled off the Leg Lamp (A Major Award), a Red Ryder BB air rifle and assorted themed prizes. Attached are some pictures during the celebration leading up to the party and the Leg Lamp being picked up. It was a Major Success!
The pictures say it all. We had fun.
Mark Sturdevant, Executive Director
La Habra Area Chamber of Commerce
La Habra California 90631
(562) 697-1704
Finally the Leg arrives, set-up and being admired by the Exec. Director (kind of looks like an old Ralphie.) It was incredibly beautiful!
la habra chamber of commerce
There is sat in full display for all the world (La Habra) to see. Some on-lookers almost forgot they were driving but no accidents.
It was quite the buzz in this North Orange County, California town of 60,000
Re-opening the box marked “Fragile,” he thinks its Italian, the winner John Duenas admires his Major prize!
Shelly - ready for her own “A Christmas Story” marathon with cookies and goodies
to make. Let’s hope her neighbor’s dogs don’t eat it. She was very excited.
Two of our top elves Scott and Bobbi Olson kept things moving.
Alas, the Executive Director Mark Sturdevant who played the part
of the ole man (and Ralphie in his heart)
wished all, “a very Merry Christmas Story of their own.
Just don’t shoot your eye out!”

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Ralphie’s Brother Turns Narrator For Orlando’s ‘A Christmas Story’

December 20th, 2008 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

ORLANDO – The tree is trimmed, and Central Florida is getting ready for one of the most popular Christmas movies watched during the holiday season.

“A Christmas Story” is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and it is coming to life on stage right here in Orlando.

The best part is that Ian Petrella, who played Ralphie’s little brother, “Randy,” in the original movie, is in the stage production, switching roles and starring as the narrator.

Even with the star power, in order to create the cornucopia of Christmas chaos on stage, you must have all the ingredients that made the film a holiday icon.

You have to have the infamous leg lamp, and you can’t disappoint Aunt Clara — you have to have the pink bunny suit.

Of course, the story would not be complete without the Christmas presents of all Christmas presents — the official “Red Ryder carbine-action, 200 shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time.”

And then there was that blasted furnace, which has been going on the fritz for a quarter of a century.

Petrella was 8-year-old when he was first stuffed into his maroon snow suit as Randy.

John Handiboe:  “How fresh are those memories? What do you remember most?”

Petrella: “Pretty much every moment. People are usually surprised — ‘Wow you remember every moment?’ Yeah, it was 11 weeks. It was a big part of my life.”

However, the star power did not come right away. When the film opened in theaters a week before Thanksgiving in 1983, it was overlooked as a sleeper film. Over the years, it played here and there during the holidays on television. Then, in 1997, TNT began a Christmas tradition, airing “24 Hours of A Christmas Story.”

Petrella: “I have nothing to do with that. I’m terribly sorry. I apologize to everyone who comes up to me and says, ‘It is on for 24 hours,’ and I have absolutely nothing to do with it and if I had any power I would have that stopped and just do one showing on Thanksgiving or Christmas.”

Handiboe: “Really?”

Petrella: “Come on.” 

Handiboe: “I love it. It’s on for 24 hours at my house.”

Petrella: “I know. Who watches it for 24 hours?”

Handiboe: “I do.”

Petrella: “Why?”

Handiboe: “Because it’s fun it’s a Christmas tradition now.”

It’s a tradition for which over 45 million Americans tune in to watch at least one time during the marathon, and with more people watching, more and more became fans. The hardcore fans are called “Ralphies.” 

“I call it a seasonal celebrity,” Petrella told Handiboe. “Now, all of a sudden you have fans because you have spent most of your life not dealing with that and then all of a sudden people want you to sign things and want you to write. It is no longer bill collectors who want to get you to sign stuff now, it is people want it and now all of a sudden this name is worth $20 on a piece of paper.”

With the autographs, come the fan requests asking Petrella to re-enact one of the most famous scenes in “A Christmas Story” — one in which Randy’s mother eggs him on to “Show mommy how the piggy eats.”

Petrella: “During the mashed potato scene, that is the day that I got sick and was out for two days. I had gotten food poisoning.”

Handiboe: “You got food poisoning from the mashed potato scene?”

Petrella: “I don’t know exactly what happened. I got really, really sick. I don’t know what happened. What they did was after we shot that scene we went right to the unveiling of the leg lamp. So, makeup had to put mashed potatoes and red cabbage back on my face. So, standing there, I had stale mashed potatoes and red cabbage cooking on my face under the lights. So it was either that or the fish and chips I had that day.”

Poor Randy never did get any turkey that day, which is kind of ironic. The Bumpus’ hounds are his favorite characters and the scene when the pesky pooches devoured the Christmas turkey in the movie, well, it didn’t go quite as planned.

Petrella: “They had them run through the kitchen and they were supposed to take all of the food. Well, they didn’t. They just ran through the kitchen. They ran through the kitchen on command and didn’t touch a thing. So they tried it again, they ran through and nothing. So, the handler said, ‘We’ll come back tomorrow and I’ll try something. I won’t give them dinner. I’ll bring them back tomorrow hungry.’ So, he did not feed them dinner, breakfast or lunch. He just didn’t feed them. So, when he brought them in they were actually vicious and this time they tore the kitchen apart. They started fighting. It was madness, so it almost worked out too well.”

Director Bob Clark also wrestled with one of Petrella’s favorite scenes: A Flash Gordon fantasy sequence that was supposed to appear in the film as Ralphie wrote his theme.

“They had rented out a separate soundstage and built this moon vista with this galaxy backdrop and it was really beautiful. They had Ming the Merciless in this hot air balloon and Flash Gordan was wrapped in this monster. It was called the Cobra Plant. It was like this 1940s style Dragon Head. Like Ray Harryhausen, — dragon head with this octopus body. It was just an amazing scene.”

But it is a scene you will never see, Petrella said everything that was cut from the movie was trashed. The only thing left are the trinkets, props and costumes the cast and crew took with them.

Petrella admits he tries not to watch the film, but now he is reliving his childhood acting memories as a 34-year-old, starring as the narrator in the Orlando stage production of “A Christmas Story.”

It’s been 15 years since he has performed as an actor, and when he was in the biz he took mostly walk-on parts. Now, he is headlining, filling the clodhoppers originally worn by the film’s narrator, Jean Shepherd.   

“Now I have to basically carry the play and that’s, that’s terrifying. We’ll see what happens come tomorrow night. I may freeze up. I have no idea,” Petrella said.

I guess he is taking on a real-life triple dog dare.

“A Christmas Story,” runs Dec. 11 through Dec. 28 at the Plaza Theatre, located at 1001 E. Princeton St.

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A Christmas Story Windows

December 18th, 2008 by Ralphie

Each year we decorate the showroom windows in our 1915 automobile 

dealership. Again this year, the `theme` is A Christmas Story. We try to 

include as many elements from the movie as possible, including a snow suit 

which was made from an original 1940 pattern. We are located about an hour 

south/east of the house, in southern Portage county. Enjoy it thru January 


Merry Christmas,

Tim Long / Peggy Tyrakowski

6360 Waterloo Rd.

Atwater, Ohio 

A Christmas Story Window Display

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