Archive for 2013

A visit to A Christmas Story House and Museum

December 29th, 2013 by Ralphie

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A Christmas Story House Visit

by Matthew Woods

For many, the idea of a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun with a 250 shot reservoir goes hand in hand with their memories of the Christmas holiday.

If that connection does not make sense, it is obvious that you have never seen the film “A Christmas Story,” which premiered in theaters 30 years ago last month. The film, roughly set in the time frame of the late 1930s to the early 1940s, focuses on the dreams of young Ralphie, played by Peter Billingsley. Ralphie does his best to convince everyone around him that he needs the air rifle to defend the family from bandits, bears and anything else that may try to invade his Indiana home. All through the film, Ralphie meets opposition to receiving his ultimate Christmas gift, with warnings from people that he will “shoot his eye out.”

And since 2006, A Christmas Story House and Museum has been created to celebrate the Cleveland, Ohio location where exterior shots were filmed in 1983.

The film, which runs for 24 hours straight every Christmas Eve on the TBS network, has gained a cult following that seems to grow every year among viewers, old and new. Hardcore fans of the film are often called “Ralphies,” and it is not unusual to see the film running in the background of many a family yuletide celebration.

The film is based on short stories written by author Jean Shepherd in his collection “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.” Director Bob Clark helmed the project, after his successful but very different previous film, “Porky’s,” was released the previous year.

In “A Christmas Story,” the house is set in a fictional town in Indiana, but location scouts could not find the exact home in that state to meet the needs of the director. The story goes that 20 cities were chosen as possible locations for the house, but after an exhaustive search, the house, located in Cleveland’s Tremont district, was chosen for the exterior shots of the film.

Interior scenes were filmed on a sound stage, but scenes like “the old man” pulling up in the driveway, as well as battling the hounds belonging to the neighboring Bumpus family, were filmed at the Cleveland location. Even the actual mailbox used in the film adorns the front of the property.

Higbee’s department store, located at the time in downtown Cleveland, also found a place in the film due to its vintage appearance. Shots of the elementary school were filmed on location in Ontario, along with the Chinese restaurant scene near the end of the film.

The house came up for sale in the mid 2000s. California entrepreneur Brian Jones bought the house, which was listed on eBay, to renovate it and turn it into a museum based on the film. Jones is the owner of The Red Rider Leg Lamp Co., an operation that manufactures replica leg lamps such as the one Darren McGavin’s character won in the film. Jones renovated the home back to its configuration in the film, after studying footage of the house and drawing up plans as to its layout.

The museum opened in November 2006. Original cast members have visited the site numerous times, signing autographs and telling visitors stories of their experiences of the film. The museum has grown over the years, with Jones opening an actual museum across the street, along with a third building that houses a gift shop. The props in the house are very close to those used in the film, from a Christmas tree complete with a blue bowling ball and a Red Ryder under its branches, to the infamous leg lamp in the living room window. Near the entrance to the house, another leg lamp is displayed in a packing crate just as it was in the film. A climb up the stairway reveals an authentic bedroom for Ralphie and brother Randy, and there is even a bar of Lifebuoy soap on the sink, just like the one used to wash Ralphie’s mouth after his infamous utterance.

“We ask that people not put the soap in their mouth,” laughed tour guide Michael Rae of Mentor, Ohio, as he escorted a group of people around the house.

Rae said the film resonates with people on a lot of levels, even if they did not grow up during the time period depicted in the film.

“Everyone had something they wanted for Christmas,” Rae said. “We can all relate to that one thing we wanted when we were a kid.” During his career, Rae has worn many hats, from being an Assistant U.S. Attorney to serving on an Organized Crime Strike Force. When asked why he chooses to work at the museum during his retirement, he said that he likes to stay busy, and he loves working at the house.

“You have to do things that you enjoy,” Rae said. “And I enjoy this.”

Rae said to date, more than 300,000 people have visited the house.

Upstairs, Jami Kinton of Mansfield, Ohio, was helping guests take pictures and pointing out facts about the interior of the house.

“I love it,” Kinton said of her job. “It is a blast.”

Kinton is an actress, and one of her recent jobs was in a Wendy’s restaurant commercial. When she is not giving tours or working one of her many other jobs, she is a regular on Disney Radio.

When asked what she thought made this film and museum popular, she said that the story reminds many people of their own Christmas traditions.

“It is such a simple story line,” Kinton said. “Everyone has people like this in their family.”

Tours last about 30 minutes, and the staff is more than happy to help guests with photos. Both Rae and Kinton said that it is not unusual to see a whole family dressed as pink bunnies, a homage to a scene in the film.

Across the street in the museum, guests can see many items that were actually used in the movie. The museum displays clothing worn by the actors, as well props from the film. Ralphie’s coat, toys from the windows of Higbee’s, along with many other items used in the film are on display. Along with the artifacts, a world map covered with pins detailing points of origin from visitors from all over the globe hangs on the wall in the museum.

“We have people that have come here from Italy and Japan,” said museum staffer Anne Chriszt of Bay Village, Ohio. Chriszt said that guests along with her coworkers make things fun at the museum.

“And it is pretty cool to have something like this in Cleveland,” said the Ohio native.

Just down the street, next to the museum, is the gift shop. Complete with many replica items from the film, the store stocks items like Daisy Red Ryder BB guns, pink bunny suits, decoder pins and just about everything else a Ralphie could ask for. And yes, they have several varieties of leg lamps to fit any budget.

“Our most popular item is the leg lamp night light,” laughed gift store manager Melissa Hamilton of Newbury, Ohio. “Everybody wants a leg lamp.”

So, if you or a loved one found a Daisy Red Ryder under the tree this Christmas, by all means, have fun. But don’t “shoot your eye out.”

For more information about The Christmas Story House and Museum, call (216) 298-4919 or visit www.achristmasstoryhouse.com The museum is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays, noon – 5 p.m. Cost is $10. In December, the museum is open until 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

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The Largely Forgotten, Cynical Genius Behind A Christmas Story

December 24th, 2013 by Ralphie

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Jean

by Chris Heller

Thirty years ago, a little movie called A Christmas Story debuted. The period comedy—set in fictionalized suburban hamlet of Hohman, Indiana—found mild success at the box office when it first opened days before Thanksgiving, but by late December, it was no longer playing in most theaters. (The New York Timessuggested “you [had] to possess the stamina of a pearl diver” to enjoy it.) If you celebrated Christmas in 1983, you almost certainly never heard of Ralphie Parker and his Red Ryder 200-shot range model air rifle, the greatest Christmas gift ever received.

Today, it’s difficult to imagine a holiday season in America without A Christmas Story. More than 48 million people watched a 24-hour Christmas Storymarathon last year, which airs annually from Christmas Eve until the evening of Christmas Day. It was adapted into a seasonal musical in 2011, with productions that appear every winter up and down the East Coast. There’s a Christmas Story museum in Cleveland, across the street from the house where the movie was filmed, stuffed with props, collectables, and other sorts of on-set ephemera. Fans can buy official Christmas Story leg lamps, vintage Red Ryder BB guns, and adult-sized bunny-rabbit onesies inspired by Aunt Clara’s “deranged Easter Bunny” pajamas. The movie even casts a cultural shadow as long as Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, according to a recent Marist poll.

While it’s all but impossible to make it through December without encountering A Christmas Story, though, relatively few know about the man who’s behind the story. His name was Jean Shepherd. An unconventional icon of the 1960s, Shepherd developed a cult following on late-night airwaves with his eclectic collection of improvised stories about childhood in the Midwest, military service during World War II, and life as an infamous radio personality. He was, in every sense of the word, a raconteur. Shepherd wrote bestselling books, two of which inspired A Christmas Story; he published columns in theVillage VoiceMad Magazine, and Playboy; and he starred in two television series. Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Harry Shearer idolized him. His storytelling defined a style of radio that was later adopted by the likes of Garrison Keillor. A wave of nostalgic sitcoms, epitomized by The Wonder Years, owe a significant debt to Shepherd’s work. His influence alone should have made him a pop-culture icon.

It didn’t. Now, as Shepherd’s greatest success celebrates its third decade of relevance, a question remains: Why did the man’s legacy fade away just as his story joined the pantheon of Christmas classics?

Understandably, there is no simple answer. Shepherd died in 1999, just as Turner Broadcasting had begun to make a tradition of its all-day marathon. That small-screen saturation is a huge reason—if not the reason—why audiences rediscovered A Christmas Story, so the most obvious explanation is a macabre one. Shepherd wasn’t around, so he wasn’t acknowledged as a significant part of the movie’s success. As the AV Club‘s Todd VanDerWerff points out, the marathon has turned the movie into “a kind of endless Mobius strip … like living in one of those holiday window displays full-time.” It oozes Yuletide out of every frame, and while that mood is largely created by Shepherd’s impeccable narration, it wasn’t the catalyst that transformed A Christmas Story into a holiday favorite. That’s the work of a shrewd cable-programming gimmick.

Shepherd’s famous wit soured into pessimism as he aged, too. During one of his last radio interviews, according to Time column published soon after his death, he repeatedly dismissed his radio years as “just another gig.” (In an essay for Slate, longtime fan Donald Fagen guessed that Shepherd “succumbed to that very real disease of self-loathing.”) At the very same time that A Christmas Story was growing into a latter-day cultural phenomenon, Shepherd was downplaying the bulk of his career. He sarcastically criticized his “night people”—the late-night devotees who listened to his wild, rambling stories—and disavowed radio as little more than a stepping-stone to television and film. To borrow his favorite slur, Jean Shepherd had become a fathead.

Mercifully, A Christmas Story doesn’t share even a smidge of that cynicism. The movie embraces all of Shepherd’s warm humor—tinged by the horror of childhood, of course—without any maudlin sentiment. Perhaps the movie outlasted the man because it’s bigger than he ever was, an ideal way to tell the stories he created decades earlier. It takes the greatest parts of Shepherd’s routine—his inimitable wordplay, the way he measured his voice to match a story’s mood, that friendly chuckle—and enhances them with on-screen magic. “The Old Man” and “Ralphie’s Mother” are ever-present in Shepherd’s work, but as played by Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon, they’re brought alive in a way they couldn’t be in print or on the radio. That’s what makes A Christmas Story special. Just as Shepherd narrates the movie as an adult, director Bob Clark presents it through the eyes of a young boy. This allows for a depth to Ralphie’s naïve viewpoint, while also making gags out of the things he doesn’t understand. When The Old Man wins a “major award”—a crude lamp shaped like a woman’s leg, which he won for reasons unknown—Ralphie lingers in front of it, smitten by the “the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.” It’s a bizarre mixture of adult temptation and childish fascination, and it epitomizes the movie’s conflicted, nostalgic perspective.

The differences between A Christmas Story and Shepherd’s stories are largely insignificant, for what it’s worth. If you listen to “Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid,” you’ll hear some many of his best lines. If you read In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, you’ll see that the movie is basically a collection of vignettes, inspired by his funniest work. The effect is clear: Without Jean Shepherd, there would by no Christmas Story—and the movie resonates so strongly because he had a unique talent for making his audience feel like his stories were their own. “You can tell a story about anything,” he told an interviewer in 1971, “but the only stories that have any fidelity, any feeling, are stories that either did happen to you or conceivably could have happened to you.”

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‘A Christmas Story’ turns 30

December 21st, 2013 by Ralphie

It’s been three decades since this Christmas classic was released. See what the cast looks like now. NBC’s Kevin Tibbles reports.

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A Christmas Story House Opens the Door to 80s Sentimentality

December 21st, 2013 by Ralphie

A Christmas Story by Thomas Kinkade

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By Paul Post

CLEVELAND >> Like Christmas itself, there’s something magical about the unassuming two-story home in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood where the iconic movie, “A Christmas Story,” was filmed 30 years ago, in 1983.

On sweltering hot summer afternoons or bone-chilling mid-December mornings, more than 50,000 people a year line up to see the place where Ralphie Parker, played by Peter Billingsley, realized his dream of getting a Red Ryder BB gun from Santa, despite warnings from all sides: “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

Somehow, his quest resonates with anyone who’s ever rushed downstairs and ripped wrapping paper off gifts beneath a tree on Christmas morning.

The house and back yard were only used for exterior filming. Interior shots were done on movie sets because rooms weren’t big enough to accommodate all the equipment involved.

However, visitors can’t tell the difference. The home’s makeover is almost identical to its appearance in the movie, from the crazy leg lamp in the front window to the second-story bedroom that Ralphie shared with his kid brother, Randy.

The story takes place in a fictionalized version of Hammond, Ind., in the 1940s.

After considerable searching, location scouts found just what they were looking for in Cleveland, a “Rust Belt” city with an old steel mill that sets the stage perfectly for viewers in the movie’s opening scene.

Anyone familiar with Cleveland will also recognize the downtown Public Square where parade scenes were filmed. The city’s imposing Civil War memorial, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, is visible in the background.

Higbee’s, a former 12-story department store that opened in 1931, is also shown prominently. That’s where 9-year-old Ralphie goes to ask Santa for his Red Ryder. In real life, the landmark business closed in 2002 and the massive building is now home to a downtown casino.

Brian Jones, an avid fan of the movie, hit the jackpot when he bought the “Christmas Story” house” for $150,000 in 2005. A year later, after considerable renovations, it opened as a tourist destination.

Last December alone, more than 24,000 people took the tour and souvenir sales at “A Christmas Story” house museum, across the street, are virtually off the chart — with everything from leg lamp tree ornaments to replica Red Ryder BB guns.

How big has it become?

Earlier this month, Cleveland hosted “A Christmas Story House” convention to celebrate the movie’s 30th anniversary and a musical version is currently on Broadway. This year, people could even place bids for a chance to win two overnight stays at the world-famous home. The winner paid $3,152 — equal to night’s stay in a posh Manhattan hotel.

All proceeds go to the Christmas Story House Neighborhood Restoration Project, a nonprofit foundation established to preserve and improve the neighborhood surrounding “A Christmas Story” house for future generations to enjoy. The foundation provides grants, both public and private, to projects that enhance and improve the surrounding neighborhood.

It might be too late to go see the house this Christmas, but it is well worth visiting at any time of year,

For information, call (216) 298-4819 or go to achristmasstoryhouse.com.

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Brian Billick previews Bears/Browns outside ‘A Christmas Story’ House

December 15th, 2013 by Ralphie

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‘A Christmas Story’ dinners and a party — wear those fishnet stockings

December 10th, 2013 by Ralphie

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by Debbi Snook

touch christmas story party

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A pack of dogs ran off with your Christmas turkey? Like Ralphie’s family in the Cleveland-based cult film “A Christmas Story,” you can make it all better again by going out for Peking Duck.

Two restaurants have something tasty tailored for the movie’s 30th anniversary.

Bac Asian Cuisine in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, the official restaurant for A Christmas Story House & Museum nearby, is cooking up a regular special: A $25 prix-fixe menu with your choice of appetizer, a Peking duck stir-fry with sauce and pancakes and dessert of your choice. The offer is good lunch or dinner. Find Bac at 2661 W. 14th St. (216-938-8960). The museum’s website says you can get 10 percent off your meal by bringing your museum admission ticket.

Touch Supper Club in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood is celebrating its eighth annual Christmas Story Dinner and Party on Dec. 21. For $30, you get a Peking duck dinner with lo mein noodles, miso soup and a wine tasting. You’ll also get invited to the evening dance party and holiday celebration later that night. Reservations are suggested. Call 216-631-5200.

Ralphie’s family not only got a duck dinner, they got full-scale cleaver action with a table-top chopping of the glazed duck.

Robert Ivanov, Touch owner, said there won’t be chopping unless the customer requests it.

“We have all the necessary equipment to come out and do it,” he said.

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‘A Christmas Story’ House Stay Auction Includes Leg Lamp

December 9th, 2013 by Ralphie

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by Susanna Kim

In the pantheon of classic Christmas movie characters, young Ralph “Ralphie” Parker, with his glasses and bright eyes, from the film “A Christmas Story” may be among the most recognizable. Now his house, or at least the one in which the 1983 comedy took place, is being auctioned today for a two-night stay in celebration of the film’s 30-year anniversary.

Brian Jones, 37, has been a fan of the movie ever since he watched the film with his family as a child in the 80s. When Jones got out of the Navy years ago, he went so far as to start a leg lamp business. Then in 2004, he bought the home in Cleveland that is depicted as the Parker family home for $150,000. It was a rental property for a couple years until his museum opened in Nov. 2006, after $240,000 in renovation costs.

The Cleveland home is known as A Christmas Story House and Museum, and is open year-round to the public for tours. While many of the film’s scenes were taped on a sound stage in Canada, some scenes were shot in the house in Cleveland.

Bidding for the home-stay auction, which includes two nights at the home plus a one-night stay at The Renaissance Cleveland Hotel for four people, ends on Monday night on eBay.

Proceeds from the auction will go to A Christmas Story House Neighborhood Restoration Project, a non-profit foundation that launched this year. The foundation, which has raised about $50,000 so far, restores and maintains the neighborhood surrounding the iconic house.

Because about 50,000 people a year visit the house, the foundation tries to give back to the neighbors by helping with basic needs for their homes.

“We put a lot of people through the neighborhood, so we owe them something,” especially during the holidays, Jones said. “It’s hard for neighbors to maneuver out of their driveways.”

Bidding reached over $3,000 as of Monday morning.

The auction stay from Dec. 23 to 26, is only eligible to bidders 18 years and older and doesn’t include transportation to Cleveland. But it does include over $800 in A Christmas Story related gifts, BB guns (careful, you’ll put your eye out!) and A Major Award Leg Lamp.

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one lucky winner and 3 guests will Spend 2 Days & 2 Nights Celebrating Christmas in A Christmas Story House!!!

December 6th, 2013 by Ralphie

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The winning bidder and three guests will get to spend two days reliving their favorite moments from the holiday classic A Christmas Story in this once in a lifetime opportunity!

CLEVELAND – On November 29th auction bidding on eBay began for one lucky winner and 3 guests to win an ultimate, VIP A Christmas Story experience complete with their very own Major Award, a hotel stay, BB-guns, decoder pins and much, much more!

VIP Experience includes 2 Day, 2 Night accommodations for four (4) at A Christmas Story House, and 1 Night accommodations at The Renaissance Cleveland Hotel.

The auction winner and their guests will receive a personal behind-the-scenes tour of A Christmas Story House & Museum, and then will check into the A Christmas Story House, where they will begin their other Christmas Eve activities will include a Large FRA-GI-LE Major Award crate delivered to the front door of the house (crow bar provided). They will continue their experience by climbing under the sink just like Randy, and checking the mail for Decoder pins delivered to the mailbox. In the evening A Christmas Story will be screened in the house it was filmed (popcorn and sodas provided), and spend the night sleeping in Ralphie and Randy’s bedroom!

The holiday celebration continues on Christmas Day, with opening presents left by Santa in the Parker Family’s living room. While enjoying a continental breakfast, defend the backyard from Black Bart and his marauders with your trusty old Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range model air rifle (but “Don’t Shoot Your Eye Out!!!”). Warm up inside with rich, chocolaty Ovaltine while playing A Christmas Story The Party Game in Mrs. Parker’s kitchen.

The next morning the auction winner and guests pack up the prized “Major Award” and check out of A Christmas Story House and extend their trip to Cleveland by checking into the Renaissance Hotel, where they can easily visit the historic Higbee’s window right on Cleveland’s Public Square, both filming locations from A Christmas Story.

This special once in-a-lifetime experience is available to one lucky winner only once a year, and all proceeds from the auction go toward the A Christmas Story House Neighborhood Restoration Project. To bid visit http://www.achristmasstoryhouse.com/index.php/30th-anniversary-events/christmas-stay-auction.

ABOUT THE HOUSE & MOVIE:
This year marks the 30th Anniversary of A Christmas Story starred the late Darren McGavin as The Old Man and Peter Billingsley as Ralphie. The film became a holiday favorite years after its theatrical release and is celebrated annually on TBS with a 24 hour marathon.

A Christmas Story House & Museum is located just five minutes from downtown Cleveland at 3159 W. 11th St. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. It is open year-round on Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Tours of the house run every 30 minutes. Regular admission tickets are $10.00 for adults, $8.00 for seniors, $6.00 for children (ages 7 to 12) and free for children ages 6 and under. For more information or for directions, visit www.AChristmasStoryHouse.com or call 216-298-4919. You can also purchase leg lamps and other items online through our online gift shop.

# # #

CONTACT:
Angela Dickerson
216-255-6651
adickerson@achristmasstoryhouse.com

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“A Christmas Story” house tour in Cleveland

December 6th, 2013 by Ralphie

13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

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The House from ‘A Christmas Story’ is Ready for Your Holiday Visit

December 6th, 2013 by Ralphie

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A Christmas Story House Cleveland Ohio

The TV movie marathon hasn’t started just yet, but it’s only a matter of a time before A Christmas Story is rolling 24/7 on screens around the nation. This year you can actually skip watching the film and check it out in real life, as the house used for some of the filming has been restored, is looking great, and is open for public tours all year long.

Yes—there is a leg lamp in the window—and there’s plenty of props, memorabilia, costumes, and other bits and pieces from the film. The place is one part movie set and one part museum, and of course there’s a gift shop where you can bring home a little of the movie back to where you call home. The address has seen its share of visitors thus far, as they’ve had more than 100,000 fans swing on through.

This year is better than most as the movie is celebrating its 30th anniversary, so there’s all kinds of extra events. If you haven’t already overdone it on the holiday cookies and are looking to score a major award, there’s both a 5K and 10K run hitting the streets of Cleveland this weekend. They’re still looking for a few volunteers to help run things (literally)—they even promise “a very cool Christmas Story Run T-Shirt” for helping out.

If you are more into sitting back and relaxing rather than running through town, that’s not a problem, asthere’s an opportunity to also spend the night at the place. A charity auction is now in progress on eBay—of course—and the bids are only up to around $3,000. Sure that’s a lot of cash, but we were sure some super-fans would push it to $5k or more.

The big winner gets a two-night stay for up to four people right in the house, and they’ll even throw in some decoder pins and a BB gun. Sure, this isn’t the most typical type of movie set travel, but then again—A Christmas Story isn’t a typical movie.

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