Archive for 2010

A Christmas Story Cast: Where Are They Now?

December 28th, 2010 by Ralphie

Peter Billingsley (Ralphie Parker)
Then: Before fist-fighting bullies on his quest for a BB gun as Ralphie Parker, Billingsley was a child actor in well over 100 TV commercials — including him portraying Messy Marvin for Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. As the dumb-lucked Ralphie Parker, Billingsley delieverd one of the most famous child actor performances in film history. The image of him, with glasses and a smile on his face, getting pushed down a long slide by the boot of a stern department store Santa Claus is indelible.
Now: Billingsley has acted regularly his entire life, but much of his work recently has been on the other side of the camera. After striking up a friendship with Vince Vaughn in the 1990 made-for-TV movie ‘CBS Schoolbreak Special: The Fourth Man’and subsequently friending Jon Favreau, Billingsley has gone on to produce several projects with them (‘Dinner for Five,’ ‘Iron Man,’ ‘Four Christmases’). In 2009, he even directed his pals in the comedy ‘Couples Retreat.’


Darren McGavin (Mr. Parker, aka The Old Man)
Then: Until ‘A Christmas Story,’ McGavin had been known primarily for his TV acting; he played the title roles on ‘Mike Hammer’ and ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker,’ as well as a series regular on the western ‘Riverboat.’ McGavin stole scenes as the sailor-mouthed Parker pop, who was as delusional about his handiness with home appliances as he was about his own swearing, and in the end, he “heroically” buys the boy that air rifle.
Now: McGavin continued to act in movies and TV until his death in 2006 at the age of 83. The highlight of this acting career (besides playing Adam Sandler’s dad in ‘Billy Madison’) came in 1990 when McGavin was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for ‘Murphy Brown.’


Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker)
Then: Melinda Dillon played the matriarch of the Parker family and the first to warn the main character that he could lose an eye with the infamous BB gun. Dillon’s most acclaimed prior performances had come in two Oscar-nominated performances, in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and ‘Absence of Malice.’ She had also earned as a Golden Globe nomination for the Woody Guthrie biopic ‘Bound for Glory.’
Now: Dillon is largely a private person, but has continued to act. After ‘A Christmas Story,’ she appeared not only in ‘Harry and the Hendersons’ but also had a memorable role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Magnolia’ as TV game show host Jimmy Gator’s wife.


Ian Petrella (Randy Parker)
Then: Petrella’s acting career had begun at age three but landing the role of Ralphie’s younger brother, Randy, in ‘A Christmas Story,’ was his big break. Interestingly, while Petrella was not recognized immediately for his strong performance, two years later he was nominated for a Young Artist Award for the role.
Now: Petrella continued to act, and at 17, was the youngest member of the famous L.A. comedy troupe the Groundlings. Later, Ian discovered a love for puppetry, which he worked on and studied around the world. He also studied animation and continues cartooning to this day.


Scott Schwartz (Flick)
Then: Before being “triple dog dared” into licking a frozen flagpole as one of Ralphie’s friends, Schwartz had made his film debut in the Richard Pryor and Jackie Gleason comedy ‘The Toy.’
Now: In 1987, Schwartz, with his father, began managing a sports and movie memorabilia collectibles store ingeniously named Baseball Cards – Movie Collectibles Etc. After a questionable foray into adult films in the 1990s, Schwartz returned to the collectibles business and, in 2006, started a line of celebrity-based trading cards. He still appears in the odd direct-to-video movie.


R.D. Robb (Schwartz)
Then: Robb made his acting debut in ‘A Christmas Story,’ playing Ralphie’s other friend, Schwartz. (He was involved in the “tongue stuck to the flagpole” gambit.)
Now: Robb went on to appear in several TV shows and movies, most notably ‘The Brady Bunch Movie’ (as Charlie Anderson). In the past decade, Robb has transitioned to a producer role; he has half a dozen direct-to-rental features to his name. Robb’s most interesting post-’ACS’ project was ‘Don’s Plum,’ the scandalous 1995 short film he directed, which featured Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. Robb and co-producer John Schindler tried to release the short as a feature-length movie, but were blocked by a law suit from DiCaprio and Maguire.


Zack Ward (Scut Farkus)
Then: In the long list of great 1980′s bullies, Ward’s portrayal of the yellow-eyed Scut Farkus sits near the top. This role marked the Canadian born Ward’s acting debut.
Now: But it certainly did not mark the end of his career, because Zack Ward has continuously worked in TV and movies ever since. From 1983 to 2010, he appeared in 80-plus projects — he’s turned up in everything from ‘Dollhouse’ to ‘The Transformers’ to ‘Deadwood’ to ‘Resident Evil: Apocalypse’ to ‘CSI’ and so on and so on.


Yano Anaya (Grover Dill)
Then: Born in London, England, Anaya played bully Scut Farkus’ “toadie” pal Grover, who helps antagonize Ralphie.
Now: If you’re a fan of Van Halen (and who isn’t?), you may remember Anaya as the young Michael Anthony in the music video for ‘Hot For Teacher.’ Anaya also appeared as a paperboy in ‘Better Off Dead,’ but stopped acting not long after that.


Patty Johnson (head elf), Drew Hocevar (male elf), and Jeff Gillen(Santa)
Then: In a crucial scene in the movie, the two villainous elves manhandle children waiting to sit on the lap of Santa, who then inadvertently scares the kids and shoves them down a slide (trust us, it’s funny). Hocevar and Johnson had no professional acting experience, but both had worked at one time or another as elves at Higbee’s, a department store in Ohio (where the film was shot). As for Gillen, he had appeared in several of director Bob Clark’s earlier movies, such as ‘Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things’ and ‘She-Man.’
Now: Like many others, Johnson, Hocevar and Gillen reached their thespian zenith with ‘A Christmas Story.’ Gillen created Great Southern Studios, a production company in North Miami Beach, Florida, and was its president until 1995, when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Patty Johnson and Drew Hocevar continue to live in Ohio, where both are employed as teachers.


Jean Shepherd (writer, narrator)
Then: Jean Shepherd narrated ‘A Christmas Story,’ giving voice to the adult Ralphie Parker, which makes sense because he wrote the Christmas adventure based on semi-fictional stories from his own childhood in Hammond, Indiana. Shepherd’s screenplay includes previously released material from several of his books. Also, Shepherd knew his way around a microphone, as he had a very popular three-decade radio career, during which he told stories, read poetry and organized listener stunts.
Now: Jean Shepherd never stopped creating and delighting audiences. From 1948 onward, he put on live shows at major universities and theaters, and after ‘A Christmas Story,’ he successfully focused his efforts in television, most notably on PBS. Shepherd died in 1999 of natural causes.


Bob Clark (director)
Then: Before directing this perennial holiday classic, Bob Clark had helped pioneer two now-ubiquitous films genres: the slasher flick and the teen sex comedy. The former he touched on with the 1974 horror film ‘Black Christmas,’ and the latter with the phenomenally popular 1981 romp ‘Porky’s.’ Clark wrote, produced and directed ‘Porky’s’ as well as its not-so-memorable 1983 sequel, but ultimately he left the franchise and had no hand in the trilogy-completing ‘Porky’s Revenge.’
Now: Clark continued to direct TV shows and movies up until his untimely death in 2007. His list of credits is populated by many B-movies, and Clark was the brainchild behind the largely panned ‘Baby Geniuses’ and ‘SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2.’ Bob Clark also directed a movie that has arguably the most hysterical premise ever: the 2004 made-for-TV movie ‘The Karate Dog.’

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Big business for ‘A Christmas Story’

December 23rd, 2010 by Ralphie

Variety Logo for A Christmas Story Article

Link to Original Article

Big business for ‘A Christmas Story’

Merchandising, home video a boon for Warner Bros.

From humble beginnings, a cottage industry has grown.”A Christmas Story,” the 1983 MGM/UA release starring Peter Billingsley as a 9-year-old Indiana boy who yearns for a BB gun for Christmas, has not only joined “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” on the list of holiday movie classics through its perennial airings on Turner cablers, it has spurred a merchandising business that is a gift that keeps on giving to Warner Home Video and Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

Rabid fans of the pic, set in 1941, turn out by the thousands to the Christmas Story House and Museum in Cleveland, where much of the film was shot. The house, acquired via eBay by a San Diego entrepreneur in 2004, serves as a clearinghouse of memorabilia related to the pic, and it hosts an annual “Christmas Story” convention in November.

The biggest moneymaker for Warner Bros., of course, has been homevid sales. The pic helmed by Bob Clark has sold more than 6.5 million copies on DVD and Blu-ray over the past 10 years. Since the dawn of the DVD in 1997, Warner Home Video has shipped 500,000 copies to retailers every year, even though “Christmas Story” has no shortage of exposure on TNT and TBS. For the past 14 years, one of the Turner cablers has carried a “24 Hours of ‘A Christmas Story’ ” marathon that begins at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve. (TNT started the marathon tradition in 1997; it moved to TBS in 2004.)

” ‘A Christmas Story’ has achieved cult status and is an evergreen film,” said Jeff Baker, senior veep and g.m. of theatrical catalog for Warner Home Video. “The annual multiple airings that drive high ratings on Turner networks only serve to feed the demand for the film in packaged media.”

As an adult, Billingsley has branched out into producing and directing, and he is involved in a legit tuner adaptation of “A Christmas Story” that opened in previews this month at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater. With holiday-themed shows performing well on the Rialto, it’s a no-brainer that producers are hoping for an eventual Main Stem transfer.

Back in 1983, there were few indications that “Christmas Story” would have such a prosperous afterlife.

The pic bowed in about 900 theaters on Nov. 18, 1983, during an ebb in MGM/UA’s fortunes, so there wasn’t much of a marketing push. Clark was coming off the success of the raunchy hit “Porky’s,” which gave him the clout to push through a passion project he’d nurtured for a decade, based on an autobiographical story by humorist and radio raconteur Jean Shepherd.

“Christmas Story,” which also starred Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon as the boy’s parents, grossed $19.3 million. It was popular enough to play in some theaters through January 1984, and it had a brief limited re-release during the holidays that year.

The title came into the Turner fold in 1986 through Ted Turner’s acquisition of the Lion’s pre-1986 film library. But the pic didn’t make its Turner debut, on TBS, until Dec. 1, 1992. Since then, it has aired about 260 times (and counting) on TBS, TNT and TCM, according to Turner.

Viewer appreciation for the story of Ralphie’s quest to persuade his parents to buy him the Christmas present of his dreams — or, as Billingsley recites, “an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time” — snowballed quickly. Pic’s sweet but not syrupy tone and universal themes of childhood fantasies, holiday pressures and family idiosyncrasies continues to resonate with auds and critics.

One of “A Christmas Story’s” most distinctive touches involves McGavin’s character winning a “major award” in a contest, which turns out to be a leg lamp. Those lamps have become a merchandising bonanza for numerous manufacturers.

Brian Jones began selling leg lamps out of his San Diego home in 2003. His parents had sent him a homemade one to raise his spirits when he failed to make the cut for Navy flight school. Based on the amount of interest the homemade lamp generated among his friends, Jones started thinking about a “Christmas Story” market opportunity.

“I was getting out of my second tour of the Navy and trying to decide what I should do with my life,” Jones said. “I decided I should sell leg lamps.”

As his business prospered, another acquaintance informed Jones that the house where “Christmas Story” was filmed was for sale on eBay. Jones bought it in 2004 for $150,000 with the goal of turning it into a tourist stop. But first he had to completely redo the inside to make it look like the film, because most of the movie’s interiors were shot on a soundstage in Toronto.

An additional $240,000 later, Jones opened the Christmas Story House and Museum in 2006. After an initial hiccup with Warner Bros.’ legal department, he worked out a licensing agreement with the studio. He averages about 30,000-35,000 visitors a year — July is the third-busiest month behind November and December. He’s since bought up adjacent properties to expand the museum and gift shop, which sells leg lamps and nearly 200 other products tied to the pic (Christmas ornaments, action figures, T-shirts, mugs, hats, etc.). In a good year, Jones said he moves about 5,000 leg lamps of various sizes.

Jones’ inaugural fan convention, which encompasses a weekend of “Christmas Story”-related activities and guest appearances, drew about 5,000 dedicated fans. This year’s event, held Nov. 26-27, drew about 2,500. Jones said his big regret is that helmer Clark never made it to the house before he and his 22-year-old son, Ariel, were killed in April 2007 by a drunken driver.

What is it about “Christmas Story” that makes people travel from as far away as South Africa to spend a weekend at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel playing Ralphie trivia and hobnobbing with actors who had small parts in the pic? Jones credits the heart, humor and timelessness of the yarn spun by Shepherd and translated onscreen by Clark.

“Everybody seems to relate to this story regardless of where they grew up,” Jones said. “It’s about that time in your life where there’s just that one thing you want bad for Christmas, and it’s about family life at Christmastime. It’s just a little bit more real than most films about Christmas.”

Contact Cynthia Littleton at cynthia.littleton@variety.com

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Can’t get enough “Christmas Story”? You’re in the right place: Best of Cleveland

December 22nd, 2010 by Ralphie

CLEVELAND, Ohio — It’s not the Rock HallCleveland Clinic or Cleveland Browns . . . nope, the biggest tourist draw this time of year has got to be the “A Christmas Story” House in Tremont. Media across the country are covering it, and film fans from around the world are making the pilgrimage to the museum that pays homage to the 1983 classic about young Ralphie Parker’s dream of getting a Red Ryder BB gun from Santa. So start a new tradition for yourself or for your visiting friends and family this Christmas week. Read on for some of The Best Ways to Get the Full Cleveland “Christmas Story” Experience.

“A Christmas Story” House and Museum, 3159 West 11th St., Cleveland, 216-298-4919, achristmasstoryhouse.com: Ground zero for “Christmas Story” fans is this impressive house and museum, opened by uber-fan Brian Jones in 2006. Tour the house, lovingly restored to its movie splendor, then cross the street and visit the museum, where you will see original props, costumes and memorabilia. These include toys from the Higbee’s window, Randy’s snowsuit, the chalkboard from Miss Shields’ classroom and the family car from the film, plus rare behind-the-scenes photos. There’s also a gift shop for all your “Christmas Story” shopping needs. Leg lamp, anyone? Adults, $8; children 7 to 12, $6; kids 6 and under, free; and seniors, $7.

christmas story house 2.JPG
The exterior of Ralphie’s house in Tremont.

“A Christmas Story” package at Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, 24 Public Square, Cleveland, 216-696-5600, marriott.com: Make it a very special day — and night — with this fun package offered by the elegant downtown Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. Available through Jan. 30, it includes deluxe accommodations for two, two tickets to the “A Christmas Story” House and Museum, a “Christmas Story” goodie bag, breakfast and parking. Packages start at $169 per night.

Take home a leg lamp: You don’t have to win a “major award” to take home a leg lamp just like the Old Man. Several area boutiques sell the, er, unique fixtures, including the “Christmas Story” House Gift Shop and Big Fun, 1814 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights

“Chinese Christmas turkey”: No “Christmas Story” experience is complete without a complete — and I mean complete — Peking duck dinner, head and all, just like the family had on Christmas Day. Aficionados can order and stay close to the house and visit the “Official Chinese restaurant” of “A Christmas Story” House, Bac Asian eatery, 2661 West 14th St. It’s not really Chinese — more pan-Asian — and the chic clublike space looks nothing like the kitschy joint in the film, but it is very good, and you’ll get 10 percent off your bill with a receipt from the House.

Public Square: Higbee’s played a major role in “A Christmas Story,” from the opening frame with Ralphie peeking in the window to the infamous Santa scene. Sadly, the downtown department store is long gone, but the lovely building still stands — with a lively retro Christmas window in what is now Positively Cleveland‘s space. And after you take a peek in the window, turn around and take in the festive lights that line all the quadrants of Public Square. While you’re there, don’t miss Tower City’s beautiful holiday decorations.

Overheard

A weekly look at people and places in the national press: This week, we look at a recent article in the Boston Herald about “A Christmas Story” House.”

“Combine Christmas with a healthy dose of nostalgia and you’ve got a heady gumbo that drives people to do strange things. Like travel to Cleveland,” begins the article.

(Oh, ha, ha, a Cleveland joke.)

“That’s where an honest-to-goodness living monument to Christmas exists: The “A Christmas Story” house. Fans of the classic 1983 film can relive that 1940s-set holiday where a bespectacled Ralphie triumphed over seemingly insurmountable obstacles (‘You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!’) and got his dream gift of a BB gun.”

“What better time to visit than just before Christmas?” concludes the story by Bill Burke, which even provides driving directions to the house — 9 hours and 18 minutes from Boston!

Outside opinion

Each week, “Outside Opinion” asks a visitor what he or she likes best about Cleveland. This week, we talk to Beth Schneider, 31, of Cincinnati, who is in town to visit family — and “A Christmas Story” House.

“I’m a huge fan of the film. I can’t even wait for the marathon on Christmas Eve,” says Schneider. “Every time I come home, I want to visit the house but never have the chance. So this year I came up even earlier to make sure there was time . . . and to celebrate my mom’s birthday, too.”

So, was it worth the wait?

“Very much so,” she says. “It was so cool to see the inside, and all the snow outside really set the mood. It looked very authentic. I kept waiting for the neighbors’ dogs to run in [like in the film].”

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Randy Parker from ‘A Christmas Story’ is back in Cleveland

December 22nd, 2010 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

By: Pete Kenworthy

CLEVELAND – When Ian Petrella played the role of Randy Parker in A Christmas Story in 1983, he never expected the movie to become a cult classic. Now, he’s repaying fans who’ve supported the film over the years.

“That’s part of the reason why I’m here, to say thank you,” Petrella said. “The fact that we can be here 27 years later is really due to the fans keeping this movie alive.”

In June, on an invitation from the W. 11th Street house’s owner Brian Jones, Petrella moved in to the home and has been a tour guide ever since. He answers questions from people who visit – he also takes plenty of pictures and signs autographs.

A Christmas Story was made when Petrella was 8 years old. He remembers shooting scenes outside this house where he now lives (the interiors were actually shot in Canada). Petrella also has a fond recollection of shooting scenes at the now defunct Higbee’s department store in downtown Cleveland.

While he’s living in Cleveland, Petrella also works as a graphic designer and cartoonist.

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Ralphie From ‘A Christmas Story,’ All Grown Up

December 21st, 2010 by Ralphie

Every year a new audience is introduced to “A Christmas Story,” the 1983 movie about a Depression-era family that became an unlikely Christmas classic when TBS started playing it nearly around the clock every holiday season. Peter Billingsley memorably played Ralphie, the bespectacled blond boy who wanted just one thing for Christmas: a Red Ryder BB gun. Now Billingsley is all grown up and making movies himself, and talking in depth about “A Christmas Story” for the first time.

Monday night, ABC’s “Nightline” caught up with Billingsley on the occasion of the world premiere of “A Christmas Story: The Musical” in Seattle. Billingsley, who produced the musical and hopes it gains a wider audience in other cities, talked about the role that still gets him recognized on the street regularly.

“No one wanted to make it,” Billingsley says of the film today. “It was, you know, a kid wants a BB gun, not the greatest most cinematic pitch in the world.” Billingsley explains on “Nightline” that the movie’s director had to agree to make a separate horror film just to get the studio to make “A Christmas Story.”

Audiences who remember Billingsley as Ralphie, as well as from the over one hundred commercials in which he starred in the late ’70s and ’80s, might be surprised that he’s now enjoying success behind the camera. Billingsley frequently works as a producer on films like “The Break Up” and directed the hit comedy “Couples Retreat,” and is a regular collaborator with Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn. He also had small roles in those movies—you might even be one of the people who exclaimed “It’s Ralphie!” when you saw him on the screen.

In the “Nightline” interview, Billingsley also talks about one of the most beloved and hilarious scenes from “A Christmas Story,” in which a classmate of Ralphie’s licks a frozen flagpole on a dare and his tongue gets stuck. Billingsley says he learned not to do that from the movie, joking “It’s 100% true: if you do that, it will stick.” He also reveals that the pole itself was fake, and it’s good to know that no child actors were tortured in the making of the holiday classic.

Once again this year, TBS will air “A Christmas Story” for twenty-four straight hours starting at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and a new generation will discover Ralphie and his chaotic family.

Before “A Christmas Story,” Peter Billingsley was already a well-known face, playing the hapless “Messy Marvin” in commercials for Hershey’s Syrup:

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Play where Ralphie and Randy lived in ‘A Christmas Story’

December 19th, 2010 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

by Jay Jones / LA Times

Reporting from Cleveland — — The occasional car crawls down 11th Street, its driver and passengers looking for a parking space not too far from their destination, a nondescript residence that is becoming a popular tourist destination in a working-class Cleveland neighborhood.

Visitors often recognize the mustard-yellow house, with its equally unattractive army-green trim, well before they spot the sign welcoming them to “A Christmas Story” House. This was home to the Parker family in the 1983 movie about 9-year-old Ralphie’s wish for a Red Ryder air rifle, despite cautions from adults — including a department store Santa — that “you’ll shoot your eye out.”

The film was a box-office flop. “Nobody went to go see it,” lamented Ian Petrella of Pasadena, who, as a child actor, played Randy Parker, younger brother of Ralphie, played byPeter Billingsley. “It got a ton of wonderful reviews, but nobody, I guess, was really interested in seeing it at the time. Movies like ‘Scarface’ [and 'Terms of Endearment'] were coming out, so those were its competition.”

Thanks to frequent holiday-season screenings on cable TV, “A Christmas Story” has developed such a reverential following that one of its fanatic fans decided to buy the Parker house and open it to the public.

“I took all of about 10 seconds to decide to buy it,” recalled Brian Jones, who learned the house was for sale on EBay in 2004. He paid $150,000 for the property, then pumped $250,000 into its restoration.

“Most of that 10 seconds was [spent] going to MapQuest to figure out where Cleveland and, for that fact, Ohio were located,” said the California native. “It seemed like an obvious opportunity of a lifetime.”

Jones also bought the house across the street to use as a movie memorabilia museum. Both opened in November 2006. A gift shop, in a third home, was added about a year later.

“When families come, it’s not just the parents and kids. The grandparents often come too,” said Steve Siedlecki, the museum’s executive director. “There’s something in the movie that everyone can relate to.”

That’s definitely the case for Greg Dudichum, who first saw the movie on Christmas Day 1983 and stopped by the house during a business trip to Cleveland. He laughed as he remembered the constricting snowsuit that Randy’s mom forced him to wear.

“That snowsuit — that was how my mother dressed us,” he said of growing up in New Jersey. “You could hardly move.”

Randy’s fire-engine-red snowsuit is among the many props on display in the museum. Many were donated by Petrella.

“It was a big part of my childhood experience,” he said of the influence the movie had on his life.

Petrella will greet guests at the Cleveland house through the first week in January. While in town, he’s living in an apartment upstairs from the living room that contains a 1940s-era Christmas tree and the movie’s memorable leg lamp. It shines brightly in the front window.

The museum’s director said visitors are welcome — and even encouraged — to act out their favorite scenes. That includes climbing into the cupboard under the kitchen sink, as young Randy did in the movie.

“We’ve replaced those hinges a couple of times,” Siedlecki said.

Petrella, who as a youngster easily squeezed into the cupboard, looked on as visitors reenacted his role.

“Usually, I’m answering questions about the film and my experiences,” he said. “People have shown great interest. They’re fascinated by the idea that there’s somebody from the movie that’s here and that they get to hang out with that person.”

Petrella now works behind the scenes in movie production. He hopes to carve out some time next summer to once again take up residence at “A Christmas Story” House to help share the movie’s wonders with its growing number of fans.

“The impact that it’s making now [on cable], you just kind of realize what you’re a part of,” he said. “And you realize you’re a part of something pretty big and pretty exciting.”

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A Christmas Story House on MSNBC

December 19th, 2010 by Ralphie

A Christmas Story House was featured on MSNBC Your Business on 12/19/2010   Click the image below to watch.

MSNBC Your Business A Christmas Story House

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What’s Christmas without a visit to Ralphie’s house in Cleveland

December 11th, 2010 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

By ALGIS J. LAUKAITIS / Lincoln Journal Star

CLEVELAND — Christmas memories are as unique as snowflakes.

But there is one Yuletide memory that millions of Americans share: watching “A Christmas Story” during the holiday season.

Ring a bell? Just think of Ralphie (You’ll shoot your eye out!) Parker and his relentless quest for a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun from Santa Claus.

Depending on where you live, the film is hard to miss. Some TV stations show the film continuously for 24 hours. Its popularity is right up there with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

If you’re crazy about the movie, you’ll want to visit Cleveland and see the house where the film was made in 1983. Yes, it’s there, fully restored to its movie splendor and open for tours year-round.

Since its opening in 2006, more than 156,000 people have stopped by to see the house with its “Major Award” shining in the living room window, according to a tour guide.

The Old Man, played by Darren McGavin, won the award, a garish lamp in the shape of a woman’s leg. Mrs. Parker was not amused and “accidentally” broke it.

A replica is in the house now, and if that one gets knocked over, there are plenty more leg lamps across the street in the gift shop. They range from a full-size model for $199 down to a night-light model for $14.99. (For $239 they will ship it in a wooden crate.) You also can find the shapely legs on Christmas ornaments, key chains and tacky ties.

Like the pink rabbit pajamas from Aunt Clara that Ralphie wore on Christmas morning? You can buy a pair in the adult size for $99.99. They come in women’s and children sizes, too.

But the real draws are the house and the museum, featuring original props and costumes and memorabilia from the film and hundreds of rare behind-the-scenes photos. You’ll find the red snowsuit, worn by Ralphie’s little brother, Randy, and also his silver zeppelin. There’s also the ratty coat that McGavin wore while he changed the flat tire. The family car is parked in a garage next to the gift shop.

Remember the scene in the bathroom, where Ralphie had to put a bar of Lifebuoy soap in his mouth for using a cuss word? You can do the same. Lifebuoy soap bars are available from the gift shop.

Kids also can crawl under the sink, just as Randy did when he was scared that “The Old Man” was going to kill Ralphie for getting into a fight with the neighborhood bully, Skut Farcus.

But the big draw is the living room, where a Red Ryder BB gun sits in its box in the corner behind the desk — just like in the movie. And McGavin’s blue bowling ball rests under a Christmas tree. Visitors like to pose with both the gun and bowling ball — along with the leg lamp.

After touring the rest of the house, which includes Ralphie and Randy’s bedroom (check out the original wallpaper) and the old-fashioned kitchen complete with a plastic turkey, visitors can go into the backyard to see the garden shed that the bad guys crawled over.

Depending on the time of year, you might find a BB gun range in the backyard, where you can practice with a Red Ryder. But be careful so you don’t shoot your eye out!

But if you’re looking for the Bumpus hounds next door, they’ve been replaced by pit bulls.

“A Christmas Story” has become so popular that annual conventions are staged in Cleveland. This year’s convention was held Nov. 26-27 and featured appearances by seven original cast members — Randy, Flick, Scut Farkus and toady Grover Dill, Miss Shields the teacher and the two evil elves from Higbee’s department store.

The great thing about visiting the house and museum is that you might get to ask questions and learn interesting facts about the movie.

Like how they made Flick’s tongue stick to the flagpole. They used an air compressor and hose that created the needed suction through a small opening in the flagpole.

Or how “His End Up” got labeled on the wooden shipping crate containing “The Major Award.” It seems the union carpenters made the box too big and it wouldn’t fit through the door, so they had to saw off 2 inches. And that’s how the letter “T” disappeared.

And the reason they chose Cleveland? Many of the scenes were shot in Toronto, Ontario, but director Bob Clark was looking for a friendly department store to shoot the Santa Claus scenes.

They found Higbee’s in Cleveland and a house in a blue-collar neighborhood near downtown. The rest is ‘Christmas Story” history.

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Billingsley Joins Production Team for A CHRISTMAS STORY

December 3rd, 2010 by Ralphie

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Peter Billingsley, the actor who starred as the nine-year-old bespectacled hero “Ralphie” in the 1983 irreverent holiday film classic A Christmas Story, has signed on as a producer of the new musical adaptation of the perennial favorite, currently in previews at Seattle’s5th Avenue Theatre. Billingsley, who has since gone on to a successful career in Hollywood as an actor, producer and director, will be in Seattle to give production notes and to meet the 11-year-old actor Clarke Hallum, who plays Ralphie in A Christmas Story: The Musical.

“A Christmas Story has always meant a lot to me personally and to audiences worldwide,” said Peter Billingsley. I’m excited to bring this film to the stage because the story and the characters lend themselves so well to the exciting ingredients that become available in the world of musicals. Just think about the idea of a Leg Lamp Kickline! I am honored to be part of this brand new musical and look forward to bringing it to audiences everywhere.”

Peter Billingsley has been a member of the Hollywood community since the age of three, appearing in television commercials in the 1970s before jettisoning to fame with the holiday classic A Christmas Story in 1983, where he portrayed the unforgettable Red Ryder BB gun-seeking Ralphie Parker. Since then Billingsley has taken his talent behind the camera, bringing his comedic genius and impeccable timing to both film and television. As a producer, he has earned an Emmy nomination for the critically acclaimed Independent Film Channel TV show “Dinner for Five,” and has also worked as Executive Producer on the hit films The Break Up and Four Christmases with his longtime friend and collaborator Vince Vaughn, as well as working as producer on the 2008 blockbuster Iron Man. As a director, his most recent film was Couples Retreat, starring Vaughn and Jon Favreau, along with Malin Ackerman and Kristin Bell. Currently he’s developing the big screen adaptation of Melissa Marr’s fantasy novel “Wicked Lovely,” which Billingsley will produce along with Valeri Vaughn.

Peter joins commercial producers Gerald Goehring (Frankenstein: The Musical) and Michael Mitri (Frankenstein: The Musical), who have guided the production forward since its World Premiere at Kansas City Rep last season. Broadway producer Roy Miller (The Pee-Wee Herman Show, West Side Story revival) recently came onboard to help lead the production forward along with Pat Addiss (Promises, Promises; Spring Awakening), Louise H. Beard, Mariano Tolentino, Timothy Laczynski, Bartner/Jenkins Entertainment, Angela Milonas, and Bradford W. Smith. The producers are in the process of formulating post-Seattle plans for A Christmas Story: The Musical!

More about A Christmas Story:  The Musical!
Based on the stories of radio humorist Jean Shepherd and adapted from the hilarious 1983 family holiday film, A Christmas Story: The Musical! follows young Ralphie Parker, as he schemes his way towards the holiday gift of his dreams — a Red Ryder 200 Shot Carbine Action Air Rifle.  With its sparkling original score by Broadway’s hottest young composer/lyricist team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, its wicked wit, and its heart of pure gold, A Christmas Story: The Musical! plays through December 30, 2010, and is a yuletide delight for the whole family.

Tickets for A Christmas Story: The Musical! are available by calling 206-625-1900 or toll-free at 888-5TH-4TIX (584-4849). Tickets can also be purchased online at www.5thavenue.org and in person at the box office located at 1308 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101. Box office hours are Monday-Friday, 9:30 AM-5:30 PM.

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Peter Billingsley to Executive Produce ‘A Christmas Story’ Musical

December 3rd, 2010 by Ralphie

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Peter Billingsley — star of 1983’s A Christmas Story — has signed on to executive produce the musical adaptation of the film.

A Christmas Story has always meant a lot to me personally,” says Billingsley, who played 9-year-old Ralphie Parker. “I’m excited to bring this film to the stage because the story and the characters lend themselves so well to the world of musicals.”

With previews beginning Wednesday at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre (and running Dec. 9-30), A Christmas Story: The Musical! will remain loyal to the film adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s short stories and includes an original score from Broadway composing duo Benj Paske andJustin Paul.

After gaining household recognition as the Red Ryder BB Gun-seeking hero, Billingsley went to work behind the camera to produce such films as 2006’s The Break Up and 2008’s Four Christmases. He most recently made his feature-length directorial debut on 2009’s Couples Retreat.

“I am honored to be a part of this project and look forward to bringing the play to more stages,” says Billingsley. “Just think about the idea of a leg-lamp kickline.”

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