Archive for the 'News Stories' Category

‘Christmas Story’ house gives back to Cleveland

December 25th, 2014 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article and Audio Interview

Ten years ago, San Diego entrepreneur Brian Jones bought a ramshackle house in Cleveland.

But don’t write this off as your standard fixer-upper yarn, as that rickety heap was used in the filming of the 1983 holiday classic “A Christmas Story.” You know, the one with little Ralphie wishing for a Red Ryder BB Gun, but forever warned he’ll “shoot his eye out.”

Jones took a brave shot himself at saving the house, which he has turned into one of Cleveland’s biggest tourist attractions.

Coming in from the cold, the day’s first tour — about 20 people — squeeze into “A Christmas Story” House. They’re greeted by tour guide Jeff Woodard.

“Come on in, welcome to Ralphie and Randy’s,” he says with a smile.

The visitors play with a Red Ryder BB gun or pose with the infamous leg lamp by the window. There are also elf hats and other novelty head wear, though the “pink nightmare” bunny pajamas are across the street in the gift shop.

Woodard explains how this house was used during filming of “A Christmas Story” in 1983.

“Basic rule of thumb is, if you can see a shot through a window or through a doorway into outdoor ambient light, that shot was filmed in this house,” he says.

But after filming wrapped up, 3159 West 11th St. became just another address in hardscrabble Cleveland. Nature, via economic downturn, took its course.

Then in 2004, Jones – a fan of the movie who had also launched a thriving leg lamp enterprise the year before – learned that the home was listed on eBay for $99,000.

“Never mind that the houses in this area are $25,000 and $30,000 homes,” says Woodard. Jones “doesn’t know that, he doesn’t care. He calls the two brothers who own the house, and he says, ‘Make you a deal. You take this off of eBay today, I will write you a check for $150,000.’”

The visitors gasp.

Flash forward to today. Jones, who lives in Florida now but drops in now and then on business, reflects on the time and money spent restoring the house to its cinematic grandeur, inside and outside.

“You’re looking at about one and a half million dollars invested over the past decade,” says Jones.

The house now sees visitors from all over the world.

“There was guy from South Africa,” says Jones. “He was crawling under the sink, just like Randy: ‘Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie.'”

And last year, Jones launched the A Christmas Story House Foundation, which helps fix up other homes in the immediate neighborhood. Last year it raised $60,000.

Rich Weiss was a beneficiary. He applied for funding and got approved this past year. “A completely painted house exterior, and a completely replaced porch, that isn’t inexpensive,” Weiss says.

While the operators of “A Christmas Story” House and Museum wouldn’t disclose annual revenues, it’s safe to say, with most of its 50,000 annual visitors paying the $10 adult admission, its profits are cozier than a set of pink bunny pajamas.

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Couple spend night in ‘A Christmas Story’ house

December 25th, 2014 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article and Video

CLEVELAND – What’s it worth to spend a night in the ‘A Christmas Story’ house? A Seymour, Indiana couple shelled out thousands of dollars for the honor.

“If you want something and you want to do something you just go for it,” says Lonny Kincaid. “Spending $5800, this is really nothing for us we do other things that people say man I wouldn’t have done that.”

Lonny and Angela Kincaid say they were beat out at first.”We got an email saying that the people who bid us up, that they weren’t going to take it.”

There are other gifts included for the winners of the Christmas Stay Auction, like tickets to Winter Waterland at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, dinner at Horseshoe Casino and items from the ‘A Christmas Story House’ gift shop.

“We can actually sleep in Randy and Raphie’s bed if we wanted to,” says Angela, although she admits they’ll sleep in the queen bed available in the apartment above the house.

“This movie means a lot to me so being here to experience it is a dream come true,” says Lonny.

All proceeds from the stay go to charity and will pay for restoration and upkeep of homes in the Tremont neighborhood.

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Spend Christmas in the ‘A Christmas Story’ house

December 17th, 2014 by Ralphie

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How the House from “A Christmas Story” Spawned a Small Business

November 14th, 2014 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

by Neil Cotiaux

Sometimes, the quirkiest things can spark a novel business idea. Like a lamp shaped like a woman’s leg in a now-classic holiday film.

That lamp, along with an ill-fated turkey and other rib-tickling reminders of A Christmas Story, beckons tens of thousands of visitors a year to A Christmas Story House, tucked away on a side street in Cleveland, Ohio.

Spun from radio monologist Jean Shepherd’s memories of his Indiana boyhood, the 1983 movie in which the kitschy lamp appeared has become must-see TV each year for tens of millions of viewers who delight in the hijinks of Ralphie, The Old Man, and other quintessentially American characters.

“It was a hit right out of the gate for our family,” says Brian Jones, founder and owner of A Christmas Story House and several affiliated businesses.

When a failed vision test dashed Jones’s dreams of becoming a Navy pilot, his parents cheered him up with a homemade replica of The Old Man’s leg lamp, an oddball gift that got Jones’s entrepreneurial juices flowing.

Working out of his San Diego condo in 2003, Jones single-handedly assembled hundreds of lamps to sell on his website,, with his pickup truck serving as collateral for parts. When sales took off, he outsourced production to China.

A year later, Jones learned that the Cleveland house where exterior scenes of the movie were shot was for sale on eBay.

Sight unseen, Jones offered $150,000 to stop the bidding so the house could serve as a tourist attraction and promote his lamps.

“I thought I was getting a steal … a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he remembers.

But when a friend backpedaled on going in as a partner, Jones needed help — and fast.

Enter Steve Siedlecki, a museum guide whose family grew up in the Cleveland neighborhood where the 1895-built house stood. Siedlecki read an article about Jones, emailed him, and said he’d take on the task of transforming the property to reflect the 1940s look and feel in the movie.

“He was the only person who actually believed I wasn’t nuts,” Jones says.

Restoring the house and creating a museum and gift shop across the street were no easy tasks.

Since most of the movie was shot in Toronto, “You had to bring this larger soundstage into a smaller house,” Siedlecki explains. That meant scouring the community for appliances and furniture to “keep the house time-period appropriate,” being mindful of plumbing, and leaving floor space for visitors.

“The upstairs, when you watch the movie, is actually reversed. … The kitchen is reversed as well,” Siedlecki notes.

A bare-bones version of the house opened in November 2006, but the project kept growing through its association with the film and Jones’s leg lamps, as well as by word-of-mouth.

Ultimately, $1.5 million was sunk into the complex using profits from the lamp business, two lines of credit, and proceeds from admissions and gift sales.

On a recent fall day, visitors from three states ambled up the stairs of A Christmas Story House for one of its half-hour tours. They beheld replicas of Ralphie’s sled, the iconic leg lamp, and the kitchen-dining room where Christmas dinner went to the dogs, then traipsed upstairs to see the bedroom where Ralphie fell asleep on Christmas night, his beloved Red Ryder BB gun at his side.

Across the street at the gift shop, fans eyed a 50-inch leg lamp on sale for $179.99 and milled through aisles filled with Hallmark ornaments, “I Triple Dog Dare Ya” T-shirts, DVDs of the movie, and bars of Lifebuoy — the soap used to wash Ralphie’s mouth out. The shop sells more than 200 items in all — with Warner Brothers collecting licensing fees and royalties.

The museum next door features props, costumes, and behind-the-scenes photos from the film’s production. The movie shrine attracts up to 45,000 tourists a year from at least 30 countries.

“They come here and they start quoting the movie,” relates Siedlecki, who holds the title of executive director at a 19-employee operation that’s given him the resources to buy a home for his own family. “It’s on their bucket list,” Siedlecki says.

“Let’s face it, most of us are scoffers,” Ralphie says as an adult at one point in A Christmas Story, “but moments before zero hour, it did not pay to take chances.”

For Jones, taking a very big chance on leg lamps and doubling down with A Christmas Story House turned out to be one of the best decisions of all.

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A visit to A Christmas Story House and Museum

December 29th, 2013 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

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 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

Link to Original Article


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

Link to Original Article

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

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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

Link to Original Article

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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