Archive for the 'News Stories' Category

Dancer pays $4K to stay in ‘Christmas Story’ house

December 22nd, 2009 by Ralphie

CLEVELAND — A reality TV star gets to spend a couple of nights living like Ralphie in the house used for the movie “A Christmas Story.”

The experience is a “major award” for Billy Jeffrey, who says he’s obsessed with the 1983 film. He bid $4,200 in an online charity auction and was scheduled to make his sleepovers Monday and Tuesday nights.

The house in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood is now a tourist attraction.

The Christmas cult classic film stars Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker, a young boy determined to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.

High bidder Jeffrey was a cast member on the ABC reality TV series “True Beauty” last winter and has toured as a Chippendales exotic dancer. He said Monday it was his first visit to Cleveland.

On the Net:

The Associated Press.

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Take a role in the Christmas Story House

December 6th, 2009 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

CLEVELAND — Even when it’s closed, they come, lured by “the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.”

Up the front steps they bound, cameras in hand, giggling. Then they stop on the porch, transfixed, before the familiar-looking window.

There it is!

Their holy grail.

The Major Award!


If your reaction is, “Huh?” then you must be one of the three people in the world who have never seen “A Christmas Story.” The 1983 movie has become a cult classic to the point that the TBS cable channel every Christmas broadcasts it continuously for 24 hours.

Of course, if you’ve seen the movie as many times as I and millions of others have, you know that the film’s main character is Ralphie, the 9-year-old who spends the movie plotting how to get an “official Red Ryder, Carbine Action, Two-Hundred Shot Range Model Air Rifle” for Christmas. And you know that Ralphie, his mom and dad, and brother Randy live in Hammond, Ind. And that Ralphie’s dad won the Leg Lamp, a large, gaudy, mesh-stockinged gam topped with a tassled shade, in a newspaper contest.

So, why are all these people going gaga over this house built in 1895 in Cleveland?

Because it’s the Christmas Story House, the house the movie’s creators chose when they were scouting for the 1940s feel they wanted, according to Steve Siedlecki, executive director for the house and accompanying museum.

Truth be told, though, most of the movie was shot on a soundstage in California that was built to mimic much of this house’s interior. Exterior shots of the house and back yard, location of the famous Black Bart shootout, were done here, though fake snow had to be brought in because of a scarcity of the natural stuff the year of filming. And scenes such as the tongue-frozen-to-the-pole and tire-changing were filmed in Canada.

But walk into this house, sit down on the couch, and you’ll feel as if you’re in the movie. Tucked away in a corner is the shipping box, labeled Fragile — “That must be Italian,” said Ralphie’s dad — that held the Leg Lamp.

Check out the upstairs bathroom and, of course, you’ll find a bar of Lifebuoy soap, just like Ralphie had to chomp on after uttering the dreaded f-word.

Californian Brian Jones bought the house, which had been “modernized” and was a rental duplex, in December 2005 after it was listed on eBay, and by the time he was done putting it back into a state that moviegoers would recognize, he had more than $400,000 into the project, according to Siedlecki. It opened Thanksgiving weekend 2006, and in August of this year it surpassed the 100,000 mark for attendance (which doesn’t take into account the hundreds of people who stop by during off-hours to peek through the front windows.

When the house first opened, it had plenty of “Don’t Touch” signs, Siedlecki said. But those signs have come down. “We encourage people to do what they want to re-enact the movie,” Siedlecki noted.

So, if you want to hide under the sink like Randy and have your photo taken, do it.

Just don’t be like Ralphie’s mom and break the Leg Lamp.

If you go Getting thereA Christmas Story House & Museum is at 3159 W. 11th St. in Cleveland, about 345 miles from Chicago via Interstate Highway 90. Get directions on the Web site (below), and don’t think you’re lost when you find yourself driving through a nondescript neighborhood.

VisitingThe house is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Until Dec. 31, it’s also open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and until 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It’s closed Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Tours run every half-hour, with the last tour at 4:30, and if you miss the guided tour, you can do a self-guided tour. Tickets must be purchased prior to the last tour at the gift shop. 216-298-4919;

In the vicinity On your way to or from A Christmas Story House, make a stop at the West Side Market, at West 25th and Lorain streets. The market has been operating since 1840 and is filled with tons of produce, spices and more sausages and other meat than you ever knew existed. Open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 216-664-3387;

And, don’t miss the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum downtown, whose big exhibit until spring is “From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen.” The hall is open 363 days a year from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and until 9 p.m. Wednesdays. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. 216-781-7625;

– Phil Marty, Special to Tribune Newspapers

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Quick-trip getaway was ‘Positively Cleveland!’

May 20th, 2009 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

by Jeff Barr | Kalamazoo Gazette

The Cleveland Zoo’s snow leopard has his eye on you.

CLEVELAND – Seems like I’ve been running a little bit of everywhere in the last little while, taking weekend journeys just far enough from Kalamazoo to call them getaways.

The lodge at Boyne Mountain, the Renaissance Center in Detroit and last weekend, it was the Hyatt and a surprise in Cleveland.

The surprise? The city long ago mistakenly derided as “The Mistake on the Lake,” is no mistake at all. It’s less than 5 hours from Kalamazoo, and the only mistake would be to forego the opportunity to get in the car and hit a truly happenin’ town.

It’s a positively great place to go. I packed three days with memorable activities that (how do I say this?) were positively …. positively …

Positively Cleveland!

Here are just three of countless reasons to take a quick trip to Cleveland:

Animal attraction: Rhinos and leopards. Giraffes and armadillos. Sharks and kangaroos. I went absolutely ape for the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

This is a zoo worth at least one full day on your calendar. It’s so much more than a place to see animals, although that is worth the price of admission.

Wildlife culture and conservation concentration area also big parts of the Cleveland Zoo. It has more than a few endangered species, including a condor, the largest flying bird in the world. There are less than 500 condors left and one of the magnificent birds resides in Cleveland.

A day at the zoo not only is sensory overload of beautiful sights and wild sounds, but it’s also a whale of a learning experience. No, there are no whales at the zoo. At least not yet.

Visit to check out the latest news.

“I can’t put my arms down!”: Those of you who count yourselves among the cult followers of the 1983 classic, “A Christmas Story,” might be surprised to know you can take a trip back in time with Ralphie and Randy at the house where scenes of the movie were shot.

Ralphie’s and Randy’s house lives on.

The home, in an old neighborhood a few miles from Downtown Cleveland, is both iconic and ironic. Surely, it’s a great time to be in the 1940s kitchen, living room, staircase and front porch of the Parker family. The irony of the home is that a place where the great fear was that “Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie,” actually brings to life a movie that’s become a holiday ritual for millions.

The place is authentic as it can be. From the old-fashioned radio in the living room, to the family Christmas tree, to the bar of Lifebuoy soap Ralphie was forced to put in his mouth for foul language. You want authenticity? The soap is imprinted with teeth marks.

And, of course, there’s the legendary Red Ryder Leg Lamp, which, by the way, is available at

No loss of the Boss: I just happened to be in town when a Bruce Springsteen exhibit was on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Downtown Cleveland. Lovers of the Boss have the fourth and fifth floors of the museum all to themselves.

Bruce Springsteen on display.

The Springsteen memorabilia included early publicity posters, hand-written songs, gold records, an Oscar, a sparkling Harley-Davidson and his vintage Corvette convertible. All of this is taken in while watching Springsteen performances on a mini-theater screen.

Even those who don’t care for Springsteen (are there any of you out there?) have plenty to view and hear on the first three floors at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The rockin’ museum’s top two floors are devoted to the New Jersey rocker throughout the spring, but the first three are rock and roll heaven year round.

Mementos, memorabilia and music from the Beatles, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and a full chorus of other stars make the place a rumbling hall of greatness.

For more information, visit

Jeff Barr’s column is published in Sunday’s Kalamazoo Gazette, and a second column is posted online during the week. Reach him at 388-8581 or

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Ralphie directs a movie! And it’s in Buffalo Grove

February 3rd, 2009 by Ralphie


Link to Original Article

By Dann Gire Daily Herald Film Critic

Peter Billingsley visited Buffalo Grove for several hours on Monday.

Nobody noticed.

But that’s OK, because he didn’t really want to be noticed, and besides, 25 years have passed since Billingsley became a holiday icon as little Ralphie Parker, the cherubic star of “A Christmas Story.” At 37, he only vaguely resembles that lovable kid forever clutching his Daisy Red Ryder BB rifle.

Monday, a bundled-up Billingsley stood kitty-corner from the Buffalo Grove Village Hall in a marrow-freezing wind chill to direct a scene from his romantic comedy titled “Couples Retreat.”

The shot consisted of a van making a turn off eastbound Lake Cook Road on to southbound Raupp Boulevard. In the final film, star Vince Vaughn – who grew up in Buffalo Grove – will be “driving” the van.

“It’s winter and I’m having a tough time talking!” Billingsley shouted above the frigid, whining wind, “and they tell me that this isn’t even that cold for Chicago!”

Billingsley wore a thick wool hat, heavy-duty coat and a pair of New Balance 587 runners. While waiting for his crew to set up, he extolled the virtues of making a movie in Buffalo Grove, and he almost sounded like a commercial for the local filmmaking industry.

“The characters in the movie are from this area, so it’s really nice to be shooting here,” he said. “I love it! Obviously, since Vince is from here, he has an affinity for it. Having come in as an outsider, it’s been a terrific experience. The film crews. The local cast. The film commission from the top down has been a class act.”


“Absolutely. You see these crews? Second to none! That’s why I hope the state continues to get work. We always look for an opportunity to bring films here.”

“Couples Retreat” marks Billingsley’s first feature film as a director. It stars his longtime friend Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis and Malin Ackerman in the story of four couples who attend a marriage retreat, only to discover that they can’t avoid the counseling services.

“Our last location was Bora-Bora,” Billingsley said. “You can’t get more severely opposite than going from Bora-Bora to this!”

On Saturday, Billingsley directed Vaughn and his co-stars for a few shots at O’Hare Airport. The crew remained behind on Monday to shoot the frosty exteriors.

Billingsley has appeared in numerous TV shows and movies as an actor, most recently in cameo roles in projects that he has produced. These include “Four Christmases” (with Vaughn), “Iron Man,” “The Wild West Comedy Show” (with Vaughn) and the Chicago-shot “The Break-Up” (with Vaughn).

How did this partnership with Vaughn begin?

“We met as friends when we were acting on an ‘ABC After School Special’ about the dangers of steroids,” he said, the cold daring him to change his facial expression. “I played his best friend, who was on steroids. We just became good buddies. He had recently moved out to Los Angeles from Chicago. We were both around 18 or 19 years old. We just became good pals.”

The crew was ready for the shot.

Billingsley called for action. The van rumbled down the street, then turned. The scene went perfectly. The crew packed up for an additional location in Chicago.

And Billingsley never shot his eye out.

Peter Billingsley Ralphie Parker

Peter Billingsley Ralphie A Christmas Story



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Local couple celebrates Christmas at Ralphie’s house

January 9th, 2009 by Ralphie

Daily Record/Sunday News 

Tom Streib opens a Red Ryder BB gun he found under the tree Christmas morning. He and his wife, who won an eBay charity auction, then got to shoot the guns in the backyard. (Submitted)

A Hopewell Township couple who won an eBay charity auction for $5,250 to spend Christmas in the Cleveland house where “A Christmas Story” was filmed says the experience was worth it.

Linda Campagna and Tom Streib had hoped that one or two of their three daughters would be able to join them on the trip, but it ended up being just the two of them. Members of the family are big fans of the 1983 classic holiday flick. Campagna and Streib are also both retired military, so they wanted to donate to the Wounded Warrior charity that the auction supported.

Tom Streib said the best part of the experience was “actually getting there, driving up and knowing that’s the house.”

It didn’t hurt that they were chauffeured around town in a 1938 Oldsmobile. Or that the guy who delivered the crate labeled “FRA-GI-LE” was the same person who did in the movie.

He lives in the neighborhood and was drafted as an extra, Campagna explained.

In the museum across the street, they perused original props and costumes from the movie. Christmas Eve, they dined at a local Chinese restaurant. Although Campagna chose filet mignon chops with ginger over the “Chinese turkey” Peking duck, Streib was all about making his “A Christmas Story” meal an authentic one.

“I had never had it before — and I probably won’t have it again,” he said. “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”

Streib said restaurant staff did not chop off the duck’s head like in the movie — “It was kind of an upscale place.”

When they returned to the house, they settled in to watch the movie while people drove by the place, beeping the horn, yelling and taking pictures of the leg lamp in the window. “A lot of people knew we were staying at the house,” Campagna said.

The local FOX news affiliate visited them both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to film segments for their broadcasts.

Campagna said her favorite moment was coming down the stairs Christmas morning, seeing the presents under the tree and having a pretty good idea of what they all were. They found plenty of extra surprises, too: “A Christmas Story” board game and monopoly game, lanyards, decoder pins, decks of cards and ornaments.

They took to the backyard to shoot the Red Ryder BB guns just like Ralphie did in the movie and completed their stay with visits to the nearby Rock ‘n’ Roll and Pro Football halls of fame.

“It was wonderful,” Campagna said. “We had so much fun.”

Streib said when he told people of his plans for the holiday, he got one of two reactions: “Those who were not familiar with the movie asked why I would want to go and do that,” he said. “Those who were said, ‘That’s so cool. I wish I could go.’”

Linda Campagna and Tom Streib of Stewartstown pose for a photo next to the leg lamp inside the Cleveland, Ohio, house where A Christmas Story was filmed. (Submitted)

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

December 29th, 2008 by Ralphie

by John Caniglia/Plain Dealer Reporter

Saturday November 29, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I had one just like it,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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Marathons only improve ‘A Christmas Story’

December 22nd, 2008 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

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

By Andy Dehnart contributor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly, people connect to “A Christmas Story.”

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

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

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

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

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

December 20th, 2008 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Handiboe: “Really?”

Petrella: “Come on.” 

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

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

Handiboe: “I do.”

Petrella: “Why?”

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

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

“I call it a seasonal celebrity,” Petrella told Handiboe. “Now, all of a sudden you have fans because you have spent most of your life not dealing with that and then all of a sudden people want you to sign things and want you to write. It is no longer bill collectors who want to get you to sign stuff now, it is people want it and now all of a sudden this name is worth $20 on a piece of paper.”
With the autographs, come the fan requests asking Petrella to re-enact one of the most famous scenes in “A Christmas Story” — one in which Randy’s mother eggs him on to “Show mommy how the piggy eats.”

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

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

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

Poor Randy never did get any turkey that day, which is kind of ironic. The Bumpus’ hounds are his favorite characters and the scene when the pesky pooches devoured the Christmas turkey in the movie, well, it didn’t go quite as planned.
Petrella: “They had them run through the kitchen and they were supposed to take all of the food. Well, they didn’t. They just ran through the kitchen. They ran through the kitchen on command and didn’t touch a thing. So they tried it again, they ran through and nothing. So, the handler said, ‘We’ll come back tomorrow and I’ll try something. I won’t give them dinner. I’ll bring them back tomorrow hungry.’ So, he did not feed them dinner, breakfast or lunch. He just didn’t feed them. So, when he brought them in they were actually vicious and this time they tore the kitchen apart. They started fighting. It was madness, so it almost worked out too well.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Local family wins a stay in original ‘Christmas Story’ house

December 11th, 2008 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

Daily Record/Sunday News

On Thanksgiving Day, a Hopewell Township family huddled around a laptop during the final moments of an eBay auction, debating how high they’d bid for a chance to spend Christmas in the house where “A Christmas Story” was filmed.

How much would it be worth to spend Christmas Eve eating a Chinese turkey?

What kind of price could you put on a tree bursting with presents such as a blue bowling ball, a can of Simonize and two Red Ryder BB guns?

eBay Giving Works — the charitable arm of the online auction site — had approached Brian Jones, who owns the house, about putting together a holiday package to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the iconic 1983 movie’s release.

Jones, who bought the house on eBay in December 2004, restored it to look like it did in the movie and offers public tours. Across the street, he opened a museum and gift shop.

He had plenty of requests to let people pay to stay there, but until this Christmas, no one — save for Jones and a few friends — had.

When eBay said he could pick his charity, Jones got local businesses to donate their products and services so all the money from the auction could benefit The Wounded Warrior Project for veterans.

“It seemed like a good idea,” he said. “If you’re a fan of ‘A Christmas Story,’ I couldn’t think of a better place to spend the holiday. You get to go and live Christmas just like the Parkers.”

The last minute of the auction, the price jumped and jumped.

“None of us thought we would get it,” Linda Campagna said.

Get it they did — for $5,250.

“That’s a lot — no doubt,” she said. “But we knew it was going to a good organization.”

Her husband, Thomas Streib, was driving to work the week before Thanksgiving when he heard a radio ad say that his favorite movie was filmed not on a set, but in an actual house in Cleveland — and that he could vie to spend Christmas there.

He called Campagna, told her to go online and submit a bid.

Streib loves the movie so much that when he and Campagna met — and he discovered she had never seen it — he made her watch it right away.

In July.

The couple are both retired Army First Sergeants, and a friend’s son recently returned from Iraq missing both legs, an arm and with hearing damage. So they wanted to support The Wounded Warrior Project.

“We didn’t do a vacation this year, and we’ve been budgeting and budgeting and budgeting,” Campagna said. “We’ll probably never have another opportunity to do this.”

So, this Christmas morning, they’ll go into the backyard and shoot the BB guns, just like the film’s Ralphie Parker.

They’ll snap pictures of themselves trying on pink bunny suits.

Receive bars of Lifebuoy soap.

They’ll use a crow bar to open a large FRA-GI-LE Major Award crate that will be delivered to the front door of the house.

And, on Christmas Eve, they’ll go to Pearl of the Orient Chinese Restaurant for Peking duck, just like the Parkers did.

Campagna said, “I think I’d rather have turkey.”




· The 1983 family comedy by Jean Shepherd tells the story of the Parker family during Christmas in northern Indiana in the 1940s. Nine-year-old Ralphie really wants a Red Ryder BB gun. All of the adults in his life try to convince him that’s not a good idea, hence the memorable line: “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

· TBS airs the movie repeatedly for 24 hours beginning on Christmas Eve.

· This year is the 25th anniversary of the film’s release. Read a related story at



Here is a list of memorable quotes from “A Christmas Story.” Add your favorites from this film or whatever is your favorite holiday movie on The Exchange at Type “favorite holiday movie” in the search bar to join the conversation.

· “You’ll shoot your eye out.” — Several adults

· “Only one thing in the world could’ve dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.” — Ralphie

· “Fra-gee-lay. That must be Italian.” — Mr. Parker

· “He looks like a pink nightmare!” — Mr. Parker

· “I double-DOG-dare ya!” — Schwartz

· “Those icicles have been known to kill people.” — Mrs. Parker




Members: Thomas Streib, 47; Linda Campagna, 48; Jamie Streib, 24; Kari Streib, 21; Kate Campagna, 21

Residence: Thomas and Linda live in Hopewell Township

Employer: Thomas and Linda are both employed by The Boeing Co.

Favorite part of the movie: When the hounds come in, and take the Christmas turkey.



What they get:

· Airfare for up to four people from anywhere in the lower 48 states to Cleveland

· Two-day, two-night stay for four at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel

· Christmas Eve accommodations for four at the “A Christmas Story” house.

· Christmas Eve dinner for four provided by Pearl of the Orient Chinese restaurant

· Christmas Day dinner for four provided by Sans Souci, a fine-dining restaurant in the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel

· $200 stipend for food and beverages during the stay

Duration of auction: 10 days (Nov. 17 to 27)

Starting bid: $9.99

Winning bid: $5,250

No. of bidders: 15

No. of bids: 33



Address: 3159 W. 11th St., Cleveland, Ohio

Square footage:1,792

Owner: Brian Jones of San Diego

Related buildings: Museum and gift shop across the street, where you can buy everything from leg lamps to decoder pins and see original props, costumes and memorabilia from the film, as well as hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos.

For more: Visit:

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‘Ralphies,’ leg lamp fans keep film thriving

December 8th, 2008 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

By A. Pawlowski

(CNN) – Of all the holiday films to depict the giddy anticipation of Christmas, only one has inspired a cable marathon, a booming leg lamp industry and fans who dress up in pink bunny suits.


“A Christmas Story,” released in 1983, starred Peter Billingsley as a boy on a quest for his dream present.

It has been 25 years since “A Christmas Story” arrived in movie theaters and soon vanished from the big screen and people’s minds.

Reviews of the film were mixed at the time, with a critic for The New York Times calling the cast “less funny than actors in a television situation comedy that one has chosen to watch with the sound turned off.”

But you’re triple-dog-dared to say that today to the fans who tune in to its regular holiday showings — including an annual 24-hour marathon on Christmas Day — and who have transformed a small house in Cleveland, Ohio, into a tourist attraction simply because it was featured in the movie.

(The film’s airings, including the annual marathon, are on TNT and TBS. Those networks, like CNN, are a unit of Time Warner.)

“It’s a film where almost every actor seems like they’re born to the role,” said Brian Jones, a fan and the owner of A Christmas Story House and Museum, which sees more than 30,000 visitors a year.

Jones bought the home for $150,000 on eBay in 2005, but he was already making a living selling leg lamps — replicas of the hilariously tacky “major award” one of the characters wins in the movie, complete with an illuminated base that looks like a woman’s leg in a fishnet stocking and a lampshade that looks like a short skirt.  See why Jones went from the Navy to selling leg lamps »

He now sells 10,000 lamps a year to fans like Rose Davis of Ashtabula, Ohio, who was one of the first people to visit the house when it opened and who has attended an annual convention devoted to the movie three times. 

Davis, 68, still remembers the first time she saw the film with her family when it came out in 1983.

“We just sat in the back row of that theater and roared with laughter. We were even missing some of the punchlines,” Davis said. “It was a disappointment that it wasn’t a hit at that time. But then it took video and television to really make it so popular.”

The Thanksgiving weekend convention in Cleveland attracted more than 4,000 people, including Davis.

Fans took part in a character look-a-like contest, met some of the original cast members and screened documentaries about the movie’s director and the making of the film.

The idea for the gathering came naturally, Jones said.

“They have ‘Star Trek’ conventions, ‘Star Wars’ conventions, why not have ‘A Christmas Story’ convention?” he said. Photo See photos of the look-a-like contest and the cast members as adults »

Famous tongue

If “Star Trek” has Trekkies, “A Christmas Story” has Ralphies, named after the hero of the movie: Ralphie Parker, a 9-year old boy growing up in 1940s Indiana. He’s on a mission to convince his parents, a cranky department store Santa and anyone who will listen that a BB gun is the perfect gift for Christmas.

“You’ll shoot your eye out,” everyone replies, to his exasperation.

Along the way, viewers meet Ralphie’s colorful family, friends, classmates and tormentors, who fill the nostalgic landscape with lots of humor and childhood angst. The film was based on the stories of radio host and writer Jean Shepherd, who drew from his own childhood in Hammond, Indiana.

“It transcends generations. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or you’re 85, you always remember that one particular holiday… when you wanted that one particular gift,” said Scott Schwartz, who played Ralphie’s friend Flick in the film. Are you a “Christmas Story” fan?

Schwartz was 14 when he was cast in the movie, appearing in one of its most famous scenes: Flick’s tongue freezes to a metal pole when he touches it on a dare.

“It’s very funny to have the world’s second most-famous tongue: [KISS frontman] Gene Simmons and me,” Schwartz said.

Filming the scene was actually much less excruciating than it looked. The pole was made of plastic with a suction tube inside and a little opening for his tongue, Schwartz said. When he touched it, the vacuum effect made it look like he was stuck.

“It was an absolutely painless experience other than the bitter, bitter cold,” Schwartz recalled.

Cable hit

Schwartz still keeps in touch with Peter Billingsley, who played Ralphie and continues a career in show business. Billingsley, 37, most recently produced the Vince Vaughn-Reese Witherspoon comedy, “Four Christmases” and had a cameo in the film.

Billingsley said he doesn’t mind that he’s most famous for a role he played as an adorable, chubby-cheeked, wide-eyed little boy.

“It’s nice to be known for a pretty great movie,” he told The San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year. “I’m certainly proud of it, and I’m finally at the point where I can watch it and appreciate it.”

The movie has been a hit on cable television. TNT began airing a 24-hour marathon on Christmas Eve in 1997. The all-day fest moved to TBS in 2004. More than 47 million people watched at least part of the marathon last year.

If the marathon isn’t enough, there are countless “A Christmas Story” plays staged across the country. A stage musical based on the movie is in the works.  It’s all amazing and gratifying for the original cast.

“It’s a phenomenon to some degree and part of Americana,” Schwartz said. “People go out of their ways to do things for us simply because we brought them so much joy for so many years. It’s a nice feeling.”

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