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A look inside A Christmas Story House and Museum: Leg lamps, decoder rings, bunny suits and a fascinating neighbor who was on the set

December 6th, 2013 by Ralphie

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by Laura DeMarco

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We have Higbee’s to thank for “A Christmas Story.”

Or so goes the local legend about the 1983 holiday classic — partly filmed in Cleveland and wholly loved in our fair town.

Director Bob Clark was looking for a Midwestern city to stand in for author Jean Shepherd’s hometown of Hammond, Ind. The city needed 1940s-looking houses – and a historic department store for the parade and Santa line scenes. He sent out 100 letters to stores.

Only Higbee’s responded. So Clark chose Cleveland for his cinematic labor of love. He chose the Tremont neighborhood for the Parker family house because he had loved how it looked in the 1978 film “The Deer Hunter.”

These are just two of the fun facts about the 30-year-old film I learned on a recent visit to the A Christmas Story House and Museum in Tremont, ground zero for fans of what has become an international cult classic.

The house, museum and onsite gift shop are the starting point for devotees of the movie about little Ralphie Parker’s solitary dream of getting a Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas.

Nestled in a working-class residential neighborhood at the corner of West 11th Street and Rowley Avenue, and overlooking the belching steel mills, the house looks very much like it did in the film, set sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s. There’s even a glowing Major Award, er, leg lamp, in the front window.

It’s just like you’ve stepped into the Parkers’ world – I half expected to see Randy toddling around in his snowsuit and Mrs. Parker cooking up her turkey in the kitchen.

Except that only exteriors were filmed at the Cleveland house, in addition to the Higbee’s and Public Square scenes. This was in part due to the fact that no snow fell in Cleveland in January 1983 when filming was slated, and in part due to Canadian actress Tedde Moore’s (Miss Shields) pregnancy. So they moved up to Ontario – where the snow was free, not a costly effect – for additional outside shots and soundstage work.

Fortunately for Cleveland fans, house and museum owner Brian Jones has re-created the inside of the Parkers’ house since he bought the home on West 11th Street in 2006.

Downstairs in the vintage house, visitors are greeted by the Parkers’ decorated tree. “Go ahead, crawl under the sink like Randy, or lie down in the boy’s bed – it’s all interactive,” says a tour guide. Upstairs, some guests on our tour did just that – others were fascinated by the bathroom, which featured Ralphie’s decoder ring AND a bar of Lifebuoy soap.

The backyard, where scenes WERE filmed, looked just like the movie. All that was missing were Ralphie and his gun.

While the house was fully interactive, items in the museum across the street were under glass – for good reason. Jones has amassed a large amount of memorabilia from the film since opening the house.

“A lot of it finds me,” he says. “People who worked on the film read about the house and call me up and say, ‘Guess what I’ve got?’ ”

Items include stills from the movie and clothing including the Old Man’s (Darren McGavin) coat, Mother’s (Melinda Dillon) robe and housecoat, and Randy’s (Ian Petrella) snowsuit. The coolest collection, though, may be the antique toys used in the Higbee’s window sequence, including the Toy Tank.

But the best part of the museum isn’t a what, it’s a who: Jim Moralevitz.

Moralevitz, 73, has lived two doors down from the Christmas Story House since he came from the hospital as a newborn.

He lived there in 1983 during the filming and became quite involved: He’s the guy who delivers the leg lamp. He also became friends with McGavin and a de facto caretaker for the kids on the set.

Today, Moralevitz still lives two doors down – and almost every day, he sets up a chair in the museum near his personal memorabilia collection and shares his stories.

And they’re great, like the one about how he and McGavin used to shut down the Rowley Tavern at night, then go back to his trailer for a nightcap , finally ending up sharing breakfast while he would listen to the actor recite his lines.

Or the one about how Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) and some of the other kids were missing from the set, and he found them chasing an alley cat behind his house, stopping them before the young actor could get his face scratched.

“I’m there every single day, greeting people from all over the world,” says Moralevitz, a retired salesman/polka band leader/Eastern Europe tour guide. “People really appreciate meeting someone who was there during the movie. It was a great pleasure for me to be involved, and I love to share my stories.”

So, how did he end up delivering the leg lamp?

“I was in the right place at the right time,” he says, “eating pierogi at the Rowley, and the casting director came in and hired all four of us who were in there.

“I never knew I would have such an important role, or that the movie near my house would lead to this Ralphie cult. As I like to say, ‘whoda thunk it?’ ”

Perhaps Christmas Story House owner Brian Jones.

“It’s just a really good movie about childhood and growing up and Christmas,” he says. “It’s a great, real story about being a kid.”

A Christmas Story House and Museum is open seven days a week, year-round, at 3159 West 11th St. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. Call 216-298-4919 or emailinfo@achristmasstoryhouse.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.Monday through Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Tours of the house run every 30 minutes. Regular admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $6 for children (ages 7 to 12) and free for children ages 6 and under. More info: achristmasstoryhouse.com.

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Here’s your chance to sleep in ‘A Christmas Story’ house

December 5th, 2013 by Ralphie

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Thirty years after A Christmas Story made the Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun, leg lamps and an apple-cheeked kid named Ralphie staples of the holiday season, die-hard fans can bid on a chance to spend two nights at “Ralphie’s house.”

The house, in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, was featured in exterior shots of the movie, which has become a cult classic, thanks to heavy seasonal rotation on cable. The house was purchased 13 years ago by Brian Jones, who created A Christmas Story House & Museum and hosts an annual convention for fans. (They call themselves Ralphies.)

The house museum features 1940s toys and props and costumes from the movie, along with a newly expanded gift shop selling, among other souvenirs, leg lamps.

As in past years, true fans can bid for a chance to spend two nights in the house. Bidding on eBay runs through Monday and includes a third night at The Renaissance Hotel Cleveland and $800 in extras. Proceeds benefit the neighborhood’s restoration project.

Other A Christmas Story specials: Red Roof Inn’s three Cleveland-area lodgings have “Ralphie Rates” that include admission for two to A Christmas Story House, discounts at its gift shop, and a free appetizer at Bac Chinese Restaurant. Rates start at $89.99.

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A Christmas Story tour: Where to celebrate the movie’s 30th anniversary in Cleveland

December 5th, 2013 by Ralphie

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By Laura DeMarco

A Christmas Story Leg Lamp at Bac

The A Christmas Story House and Museum is not the only way fans can celebrate the film’s legacy in Cleveland. Read on for a guide to all things “A Christmas Story”– just don’t shoot your eye out.

A Christmas Story House and Museum:Open seven days a week, year-round, at 3159 West 11th St. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. Call 216-298-4919 or emailinfo@achristmasstoryhouse.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Tours of the house run every 30 minutes. Regular admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $6 for children (ages 7 to 12) and free for children ages 6 and under. More info: achristmasstoryhouse.com.

A Christmas Story House & Museum Gift Shop: Newly expanded to 3,500 square feet, the mega shop includes everything you could ever want to know, wear or see from ACS, including: bunny jammies, Red Ryder air rifles, Lifebuoy soap, board games, elf hats, Flick’s cap, DVDs, books, magnets and leg lamps galore. There’s even a sexy leg-lamp dress for the ladies.

Public Square: Higbee’s is long gone from downtown – along with the rest of the department stores – but the store that played such an important role on- and off-screen in the history of “A Christmas Story” has come alive again for the holidays. For the second year in a row, the Horseshoe Casino has re-created “Holidays at the Higbee,” transforming 15 ground-floor windows in the former store space into the way the Parker family would have seen them.

While you’re in the area, look up at the facade and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which remain unchanged from the way they look in the film. The Terminal Tower looks a little different itself, though. Through December, a giant leg lamp will be projected nightly on the facade – part of Forest City’s new Step into Cleveland campaign.

Fun fact: Julie Matthews, who worked as a casting director on the film, said originally they had a very hard time lining up enough extras to fill Public Square for the parade scene: “So I got the word out to the TV stations and everyone I knew, and we filled the streets. But Cleveland wasn’t used to having movies made here in those days – there’d be a lot more buzz about it now than there was then.”

Climb Santa Mountain at Castle Noel: You can’t get into Higbee’s these days, but you can relive Ralphie’s climb back up Santa Mountain to grumpy St. Nick at Medina-based Christmas super-experience Castle Noel, 260 S. Court St. Info atcastlenoel.com.

“A Chinese Christmas Dinner”: Want the full ACS experience? Top off a visit to the house and museum with a visit to Bac Asian American Bistro & Bar in Tremont, the official ACS restaurant, where you can order your very own “Chinese Turkey,” aka Peking Duck, head and all, through the end of the month – just like the Parker family. Or, just use your ticket stubs from the house and museum for 10 percent off your bill. Bac is at 2661 West 14th St., Cleveland; 216-938-8960. The original Chop Suey Palace featured in the film, by the way, was in Toronto, where filming headed after Cleveland.

Leg lamp Twitter hunt: Follow A Christmas Story House on Twitter (@acshouse) for clues on where leg lamps are hidden in the Cleveland area. Check in when you find one for a chance to win a variety of prizes.

On the big screen: See “A Christmas Story” the way it was meant to be seen, whenCleveland Cinemas hosts two special 30th anniversary screenings: 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Cedar Lee Theatre (2163 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights); and 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, at the Capitol Theatre (1390 West 65th St., Cleveland). $5. 

A Christmas Story hotels: Want to stay the night downtown, or visiting from out of town? Stay at the historic Renaissance Cleveland Hotel – known as Stouffers back in 1983, when the cast and crew stayed there – and you’ll be just steps away from the decorated Higbee’s window. Rooms begin at $109; call 216-696-5600.

Or head to the burbs, where four Red Roof Inns (Independence, Willoughby, Westlake and Middleburg Heights) are offering special Christmas Story packages. The Ralphie Rate, beginning at $89.99, includes two tickets to the house and museum, 15 percent off in the ACS gift shop and a free appetizer at Bac. Call 1-800-733-7663.

Christmas in the Christmas Story House: Want to pose by the leg lamp, loll by the Christmas tree and open presents in your pink bunny jammies Christmas morning, hide under the sink like Randy and shoot BBs – but don’t shoot your eye out – in the Parkers’ back yard? You can! A Christmas Story House and Museum is holding aneBay auction for two nights (including Christmas Eve) in the house for four guests, plus your very own fra-gee-lay leg lamp, air rifle, a night at the Renaissance Cleveland and much more. The bidding, which closes Monday, Dec. 9, was close to $4,000 as of press time. Proceeds will go to the Christmas Story House Neighborhood Restoration Project.

24-hour marathon: What would Christmas Eve be without the ACS marathon? BO-ring. Turn to TBS at 8 p.m. Dec. 24 and let the fun begin.

Turn the page on “A Christmas Story Treasury”: Canadian ACS superfan Tyler Schwartz has written THE book, the definitive history of the Christmas classic. Schwartz, a Toronto native who also directed the 2009 fan film “Road Trip for Ralphie,” not only has compiled a rich, interview-filled history of the movie. His multimedia tome also includes audio from the Old Man and author Jean Shepherd, recipes from Mrs. Parker and the Chop Suey palace, a Major Award telegram, and even Ralphie’s Christmas essay – C+? $24.95, available at the ACS book store, Target, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com as well as area stores.

Movie mania: “A Christmas Story” first took off on Beta – remember that? – not the theater, so it’s only fitting there are several other DVD sequels and fan films (of varying quality, true). They include “My Summer Story” (1994), filmed in Cleveland and reuniting Jean Shepherd and Bob Clark, but with Charles Grodin as the Old Man, Mary Steenburgen as Mother and Kieran Culkin as Ralphie.

Also: “A Christmas Story 2,” a straight-to-DVD 2012 film by Brian Levant about a teenage Ralphie who only wants a 1938 Mercury convertible for Christmas; “Clarkworld,” a 2009 doc about Bob Clark that included much on ACS; and “Road Trip for Ralphie,” Tyler Schwartz’s fan film about tracking down sites in Cleveland and Canada used in the film. All are available at the ACS gift shop.

Your very own Major Award: In honor of the 30th anniversary of “A Christmas Story,” Positively Cleveland has launched a leg lamp contest. Yes, you too can win your own Major Award. To enter to win the full-sized 50-inch leg lamp, all you need to do is to take a photo of a festive Cleveland event, attraction, food or beverage – “whatever defines the holiday season for you.” Then, upload your photo to the “Win a Leg Lamp” tab on Positively Cleveland’s Facebook page or hashtag the image to #HomeinCLE on Twitter or Instagram. Entries will be accepted through Dec. 31. You may enter more than one picture. Each time a new picture is posted, your name will be entered. One winner will be selected at random to receive a 50-inch leg lamp.

“A Christmas Story” Leg Lamp fun run, Saturday, Dec. 7, Public Square: The 5K and 10K race entries are sold out, but you can still join in the fun run, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Public Square. Get a nice hot cup of Ovaltine when you cross the finish line. Really.

“A Christmas Story,” Cleveland Play House, through Sunday, Dec. 22: The Cleveland Play House reinvents one of the most popular shows in its history at PlayhouseSquare’s Allen Theatre. Expect to see footie pajamas. Plain Dealer theater critic Andrea Simakis calls it an “entirely new ‘Story,’ with a fresh cast, director and, most dramatically, a completely reimagined set designed by Robert Mark Morgan.” Tickets are $25-$72. Go to clevelandplayhouse.com or call 216-241-6000. Note: “A Christmas Story, the Musical,” at Near West Theatre through this weekend, is sold out.

 

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30th anniversary celebrated at Ohio home of ‘A Christmas Story’

December 2nd, 2013 by Ralphie

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CLEVELAND – Fans of the 1983 movie “A Christmas Story” still can’t get enough of its quirky humour and heart-warming family theme and are relishing this season’s 30th anniversary celebration.

Hundreds stood in line Saturday to get into the Ohio home in Cleveland, where some of the movie was filmed and 9-year-old Ralphie dreamed of getting an air rifle for Christmas. The story’s 1940s trappings are all there: the iconic leg lamp, a typewriter and globe, a BB gun range in the backyard.

At a hotel in the city’s Public Square, some of the original cast members signed autographs. And thousands were thrilled during the city’s annual winter festival when a gigantic image of a leg lamp was projected onto a tower.

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A Christmas Story, a classic American movie that Cleveland has taken to heart: editorial

November 30th, 2013 by Ralphie

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It was hardly a box-office smash when first released 30 years ago, opening across the country in only about 900 theaters.

It grossed a little more than $19 million, placing it just below “Breathless” and just above “Max Dugan Returns” on a list of top movies of 1983.

It was no “Return of the Jedi.”

And yet, since then, “A Christmas Story” has taken off like few movies have — thanks to video and a TBS television marathon — evolving into a feel-good Christmas classic that warms hearts and feeds a love of nostalgia (even though Jean Shepherd, whose writings inspired the movie, claimed to despise the notion of nostalgia) without being sappy or serious.

It’s a Christmas movie that actually has us rooting on the pursuit of material gain – in this case, Ralphie’s desire to own a Red Ryder BB gun – and looking forward to it being consummated. Even if Ralphie does nearly shoot his eye out.

Better still, for Cleveland, the movie has fans beating a path to a 19th-century Victorian house in Tremont where the exterior shots of Ralphie’s house were filmed.

Brian Jones, a fan of the movie from San Diego, bought the house at 3159 West 11thStreet and in 2006 A Christmas Story House & Museum opened. The inside of the house has been renovated to replicate the set used in the movie. And as part of the movie’s 30th anniversary celebration, the backyard is being fixed up to look more like it did when Ralphie imagined himself with a Red Ryder BB gun fighting off Black Bart.

The house, museum and brand-new gift shop now employ about 25 people, said Angela Dickerson, the chief operating officer who was employee number two when she helped out with the first restoration fundraiser in 2005.

Other scenes from the movie were shot at the old Higbee’s department store in downtown Cleveland, including Ralphie’s memorable climb up Santa Claus mountain, which ended with him being kicked down the slide after finally summoning the courage to ask Santa for a Red Ryder BB gun.

In a nod to that scene, Mark Klaus features a Santa Claus mountain at his Castle Noelattraction in Medina, Dickerson said.

Just as the Christmas season accounts for a large chunk of a retailer’s annual sales, nearly half of the house and museum’s 50,000 annual visitors come in December, Dickerson said. And they come from all over the world, as a push-pin map in the museum will attest. Recently, a group of about 15 young women from South Africa stopped by, Dickerson said.

Part of the movie’s universal appeal is that it doesn’t have religious overtones. It’s based on Jean Shepherd’s book of short stories called “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash” and was directed by Bob Clark. It has spawned a musical and a play.

“A Christmas Story” is running at Cleveland Play House through Dec. 22, after having been on hiatus for a while, and “A Christmas Story, The Musical” is at the Near West Theatre after first appearing on Broadway.

Now that’s a modern way to celebrate a movie that has stood the test of time.

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Oh fudge! Cleveland celebrates 30 years of ‘A Christmas Story’

November 29th, 2013 by Ralphie

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by Rob Lovitt

Forget the pseudo-space travelers with their pointy ears and Worf masks. If you want to experience true fandom, consider a trip to Cleveland this weekend, where several thousand people are expected to gather to celebrate the 30th anniversary of that kitschy classic of holiday cheer and childhood trauma: “A Christmas Story.”

“Star Trek has its trekkies,” says Tyler Schwartz, who may just be the world’s biggest fan of the movie. “’A Christmas Story’ has its Ralphies.”

For those who have never seen the 1983 film, the original Ralphie is Ralphie Parker, the bespectacled 9-year-old who wants nothing for Christmas except a “Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot Range Model air rifle.”

His efforts, as told via voiceover by author Jean Shepard, generate the oft-quoted adult response — “You’ll shoot your eye out!” — and form the backdrop for a series of universalchildhood experiences involving tongues and flagpoles, the distasteful consequences of using the “f-dash-dash-dash word” and confrontations with neighborhood bullies and menacing department-store Santas.

A Christmas Story, convention, Cleveland

Courtesy Brian Jones
Fans gather outside the house in Cleveland that served as the main setting for “A Christmas Story.” Thousands are expected to show up this weekend to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary.

“It’s a delightful take on family dynamics and all the rituals around Christmas,” said Matthew Bernstein, chair of the Department of Film and Media Studies at Emory University. “It’s a much-beloved film that sits alongside ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ ”

So much so, in fact, that the film was one of 10 films named to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry by the National Film Preservation Board last year because they’re considered “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

Not bad for a movie that received mostly negative reviews when it was released. Rex Reed of the New York Post groused about it being “a silly piece of tinseled fluff” while Ernest Leogrande of the (New York) Daily News dismissed it as “bizarre and boring” and “as real as wax fruit.”

Roger Ebert may have captured its offbeat style best when he described it as “Norman Rockwell filtered through the pages of Mad Magazine or National Lampoon.”

Critics notwithstanding, the movie has since taken on a life of its own. It runs in 24-hour TV marathons (Christmas Eve on TBS); it’s been remade into a stage play and musical; and it’s been credited with creating a cottage industry for leg lamps, pink bunny outfits and other movie-themed collectibles marketed to die-hard fans.

Schwartz, for example, grew up in Toronto watching the film with his family — “I was about Ralphie’s age the first time I saw it” — and became such a fan that he and his soon-to-be-wife Jordie embarked on a two-year adventure back in 2006 to chronicle the film’s original shooting locations in Cleveland and Toronto.

Along the way, they rescued movie props, found long-forgotten costumes and produced a documentary DVD called Road Trip for Ralphie. Now 38, the couple makes a living selling “Christmas kitsch,” including enough Parker-phernalia to outfit a whole horde of Ralphies.

“We’re the Canadian leg of the leg-lamp business,” he said.

But even the Schwartzes may pale in their passion for the movie compared to Brian Jones. Like millions of other fans, Jones also grew up watching the film but he achieved uber-fan status in 2005 when he bought the house in Cleveland that served as the film’s main setting and restored it to its former glory.

Brian Jones, A Christmas Story House & Museum, leg lamp

Scott Meivogel / Positively Cleveland
Brian Jones, a lifelong fan of “A Christmas Story, went from selling leg lamps and other movie collectibles to buying and restoring the house that served as the Parker family home in the classic holiday film.

Today, the house is one-third of complex that includes a gift shop and a museum filled with movie props and other memorabilia. The main attraction, of course, is the house itself, which looks just like it did in the movie, complete with a lopsided Christmas tree and a leg lamp in the window.

“The idea of the house is that you can relive your favorite Christmas movie inside and out,” said Jones.

That’s also the idea behind Friday and Saturday’s 30th anniversary celebration, which will feature tours, theatrical performances and appearances by cast members, including Ian Petrella (Ralphie’s brother Randy), Scott Schwartz (Flick the flagpole-licker) and Zack Ward (aka, neighborhood bully Scut Farkus).

Attendees will also be able to buy signed copies of Tyler Schwartz’ new book, “A Christmas Story Treasury,” attend a charity luncheon — think meatloaf, mashed potatoes and red cabbage — and see if they can avoid shooting an eye out with a genuine Red Ryder BB gun and a target.

All told, Jones expects 4,000 to 5,000 people to attend the weekend festivities, which is certainly a testament to the movie’s continued appeal for both kids and adults.

“It was the first Christmas movie told from a kid’s perspective but the story’s told by an adult looking back,” said Jones. “It’s real life for kids — doing dares, dealing with bullies — but adults can also relate to it.”

The film and the festivities celebrating it also speak to the nature of fandom itself, Bernstein said. “People are proclaiming their affection for the movie but they’re also asserting their identity. To gather and celebrate together; that’s great. I wish I could go.”

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“A Christmas Story” film celebrates its 30th anniversary

November 29th, 2013 by Ralphie

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‘A Christmas Story’ at 30: now part of the family

November 28th, 2013 by Ralphie

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by Thomas J. Sheeran

CLEVELAND — Even after three decades, the triple-dog dare doesn’t get old.

The film “A Christmas Story” opened 30 years ago to mixed reviews but has shown its staying power as a holiday family favorite. Cleveland, where parts of the movie were filmed and hard-luck Ralphie dreamed big, is celebrating the anniversary with iconic leg lamps, holiday store windows like the ones that drew Ralphie’s wide-eyed stares and stage and musical versions of “A Christmas Story.”

“It becomes part of your fabric for your whole life,” said Kevin Moore, managing director of the Cleveland Play House, where the stage version of the story has become a holiday staple.

In the film, starring Darren McGavin as the father, 9-year-old Ralphie was transfixed by the brightly decorated storefront windows. And he dreamed of getting an air rifle as a Christmas gift, despite warnings that he might shoot his eye out.

The plot follows his determined gift-begging, his encounters with bullies and his family’s daily hopes and dreams — including a lamp in the form of a shapely leg.

The Cleveland house where Ralphie’s film family lived will highlight the anniversary Friday and Saturday with appearances by original cast members and a BB gun range in the backyard.

The movie wasn’t widely acclaimed when it debuted, with favorable reviews barely outnumbering bad mentions like the one that grumped, “Bah, humbug” in the headline. But its quirky humor and love-in-family message struck a chord with audiences.

Like any holiday favorite, a sense of wonder is needed for “A Christmas Story” and 8-year-old Colin Wheeler thinks he has one to match Ralphie’s.

“We both have really big imaginations,” boasted Colin, who plays Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” musical at Cleveland’s Near West Theater.

It’s not easy playing Ralphie in that ill-fitting pink bunny suit, Colin said.

“I’ll tell you one thing that’s hard: it’s really hard not to laugh” while wearing that suit, Colin said.

Across town, the Cleveland Play House production of “A Christmas Story” attracts multigenerational audiences of children, parents and grandparents, Moore said.

The appeal in Ralphie’s blue-collar hometown is simple, Moore said. “It’s just a really quirky and yet incredibly sweet story and that resonates with Cleveland,” he said.

The Horseshoe Casino Cleveland has been decorated for the season to highlight the film’s roots in the department store now housing the casino, with leg lamps atop some of the slot machines.

Sheryl Peet, emerging from the casino, said she appreciates the movie and its humor, without regard to its Cleveland connections. “I like it. It’s got comedy, fun, Ralphie,” she said.

At “A Christmas Story” house overlooking humming steel mills, visitors can re-enact movie scenes including ducking under the 1940s-style kitchen sink or looking out the back door where Ralphie trudged through the faux snow.

The movie “snow” was actually mostly firefighting foam, pressed into service amid a cold but rare snowless stretch during filming in winter-hardy Cleveland.

Jim Moralevitz, now 73, lives down the street from “A Christmas Story” house and landed a cameo role in the film helping deliver the crate carrying the leg lamp.

The entrepreneur who developed the house as a tourist attraction, Brian Jones, gave Moralevitz a leg lamp seven years ago and it’s mounted in a 6-foot outdoor Plexiglas box near the peak of the front roof. People sometimes mistake it for “A Christmas Story” house and stop to visit.

In the neighborhood, “I’m known for the most drive-by shootings (filming),” said Moralevitz, a retired tour guide stepping back into his old role for comic effect.

Like many of the best holiday classics, the risky business turns cheerful at the end. Now families get together at holiday gatherings to watch the movie or crowd theater performances.

“It fills up the seats because it’s a family experience,” Moore said.

The anniversary of the movie will be marked beyond Cleveland, with versions on stage from Boston to California. The musical has returned to Broadway for another run.

A new bronze statue of the “triple-dog dare” tongue-grabbing flagpole scene is on display in time for the holidays in Hammond, Ind., hometown of Jean Shepherd, whose stories inspired the 1983 movie. One of the boys in the movie takes the dare and gets his tongue stuck on the icy pole. The Hammond reproduction has become a big hit since it was dedicated in October, with families stopping by to take their Christmas card photos.

But mimicking Hollywood might be risky, according to Nicki Mackowski with the tourist agency in Hammond.

“We’re working on putting up signs as the cold weather gets here. You know: ‘Lick at your own risk’ kind of thing,” she said.

 

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‘A Christmas Story’ house draws tourists in Cleveland

November 27th, 2013 by Ralphie

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by Dan Kane

About 50,000 visitors a year are drawn to an unassuming two-story house on West 11th Street in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.

Why? It’s Ralphie Parker’s house.

As legions of fans worldwide can tell you, Ralphie is the boy hero of “A Christmas Story,” the beloved holiday film that is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Shot in Cleveland, the nostalgic 1983 comedy used this 11th Street residence for the home of the Parker family. In 2004, it was bought by a “Christmas Story” fan named Brian Jones, who proceeded to convert it into a tourist attraction.

“Brian restored the house back to its original movie splendor. At the time, it was totally updated with blue vinyl siding and new windows,” said Angela Dickerson, chief of operations for A Christmas Story House and Museum. “He purchased it for $150,000 then spent $250,000 to renovate it back to the way it looked in the movie.”

Since its opening during Thanksgiving weekend in 2006, the house and museum — directly across the street — have wecomed visitors from all 50 states and countries all over the world, including Germany, England, China, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, Netherlands, Ireland, Mexico and Thailand.

“When you step into the house, you step into the Parker family home from the 1940s,” Dickerson said. “The house is completely interactive. We want them to feel they are in Ralphie’s world. You can climb under the sink, grab the BB gun from behind the desk and put the Lifebuoy soap in your mouth. You can touch and feel everything.”

The accompanying museum has behind-the-scenes photos, costumes and other memorabilia from “A Christmas Story,” including toys from the Higbee Co. display windows, the chalkboard from Mrs. Shields’ classroom and the Parker family car.

Opening Friday in a building next to the museum is a new souvenir shop, expanded from 500 square feet to 3,500. “We have over 300 products related to the movie — leg lamps, bunny suits, BB guns, houseware items, ornaments,” Dickerson said. “Pretty much anything you can think of, we have.”

While there’s an understandable increase in visitors at Christmas time — with 24,000 visitors last December alone — “Summer is actually quite busy for us. We have a lot of out-of-town guests then,” Dickerson said. “We have a map in the museum where you can put a pushpin where you are from. It’s fun to look at the places literally all around the world.”

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Show your Cleveland love and enter to win a “Major Award,” er, leg lamp, in ‘A Christmas Story’ contest

November 20th, 2013 by Ralphie

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(Marvi Fong, The Plain Dealer)

(Marvi Fong, The Plain Dealer)

Cleveland, Ohio – Want to win your own “Major Award” – just like the Old Man? In honor of the 3oth anniversary of “A Christmas Story,”Positively Cleveland has launched a leg lamp contest. Yes, you too can win your own Major Award to show proudly in your window – it sure beats that Ovaltine decoder ring!

Even better, you can do it by having fun. To enter to win the full-sized 50-inch leg lamp all you need to do is to take a photo of a festive Cleveland event, attraction, food or beverage – “whatever defines the holiday season for you.”

Then, upload your photo to the “Win a Leg Lamp” tab on Positively Cleveland’s Facebook page or hashtag the image #HomeinCLE on Twitter or Instagram.

“The contest is a way for Clevelanders to spread not only  their holiday cheer, but the positive message of all the exciting events occurring in the region this holiday season” says Communications Manager Jennifer Kramer. “Using the iconic leg lamp as the contest’s ‘Major Award’ gives Clevelanders another way to showcase their hometown pride and perpetuate the magic of a truly classic holiday film, created right here in our own backyard. ”

Entries will be accepted through Dec. 31. You may enter more than one picture. Each time a new picture is posted, your name will be entered. One winner will be selected at random to receive a 50-inch Leg Lamp.

The contest is just one of many events going on around town in honor of the 30thanniversary of the classic 1983 holiday film about little Ralphie Parker, his Old Man and his dreams of a Red Ryder BB Gun. Others events include theaters productions, a convention and cast appearances.

Look for extended “A Christmas Story” coverage on Cleveland.com and in The Plain Dealer, including stories by Movie Critic Clint O’Connor, Television Critic Mark Dawidziak and Theater Critic Andrea Simakis. I’ll also be doing a guide to all things “A Christmas Story” in Cleveland. Share your favorite ACS memories in the comments section below.

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