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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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The house that Ralphie built

December 6th, 2008 by Ralphie

Fans make their pilgrimage to the Christmas Story in Cleveland, Nov. 29, 2008.
Leg lamps land in Canada

“We’ve crowned a Canadian leg lamp king,” jokes Brian Jones, American leg lamp marketer and owner of the Cleveland house used in the movie A Christmas Story.In addition to the small two-storey home where the 1983 movie’s exteriors were shot (purchased on eBay for $150,000 and restored for the 2006 opening for $250,000 more), he owns two more houses across the street that host a museum and gift shop.

Jones started selling leg lamps online in 2003 and now moves about 10,000 a year. In fact, “the house has been paid for through gift shop sales,” he says.

And some of those sales come from Canada. Cross-border shipping woes created enough headaches that Jones wanted a merchant north of the border to handle Canuck requests. Enter Tyler Schwartz , the new Oakville-based director of Canadian operations for A Christmas Story House Inc. (, and the aforementioned movie memorabilia monarch.

The product line mimics what’s available online in the U.S., from hats and action figures to a movie-themed Monopoly game, Christmas ornaments and even a figurine of the Bumpus hounds devouring the Christmas turkey.

But the lamp, with a satin shade perched atop a fishnet-stocking-clad leg in a saucy high heel – from 1.25 metres tall to a nightlight version – is the star seller. “The leg lamp has become as popular as a wreath on the front door,” says Jones of its seasonal sway.

Schwartz is a long-time lover of A Christmas Storyand became involved with the business side while making a documentary called Road Trip for Ralphie, on the Canadian scenes in the movie, with his fiancée, Jordie Smits.

The movie, shown for the first time at the Christmas Story convention in Cleveland last weekend, details how the pair found a wealth of movie treasures in and around Toronto, where much of A Christmas Story was shot (see map on facing page).

“I would like to see some sort of mini-festival in Toronto next year,” says Schwartz. “I think we could do something neat, maybe tours of places where scenes were shot on one of the old TTC trolleys you see in the movie.”

– Linda Barnard

No joy in TV Land
What’s worse than being forced to wear pink bunny jammies? The shocking fact that as of press time, no GTA channels were slated to air A Christmas Story.(TBS’s round-the-clock screening won’t reach Toronto because the station’s local incarnation, Peachtree, has no plans to get in on the marathon.)

All this could change, however, as holiday schedules take shape. For updates, check the Star‘s weekday Hot Box feature, or visit

Looking for another way to feed your Christmas Storycraving? The 25th anniversary collector’s edition on DVD or Blu-ray ($39.95) is out now in a vintage cookie tin with themed goodies.

CLEVELAND–For millions of fans, the best Christmas movie ever doesn’t end with an angel getting his wings, but a nerdy-looking kid unwrapping a BB gun.

To them, A Christmas Story, the Bob Clark film based on short stories by humorist Jean Shepherd (who also narrates the movie), has eclipsed the 1946 Frank Capra classic It’s a Wonderful Life as the top holiday flick.

It’s been a long climb for the relatively low-budget movie, shot for an estimated $4 million in Cleveland and Toronto by the director of Porky’sA Christmas Story didn’t do great box office when it was released in November 1983, and disappeared from theatres soon after. Nor was it nominated for multiple Oscars likeIt’s a Wonderful Life, although Clark did pick up Genies for Best Director and Best Screenplay.

But thanks to the 1997 decision by U.S. network TBS to run the movie 24 hours straight through Dec. 25, coupled with booming video and DVD sales, it has gained an army of fans who say it wouldn’t be Christmas unless they see Randy trussed up in his snowsuit, the Bumpus hounds making off with the turkey and Ralphie railing against those who predict “you’ll shoot your eye out, kid” if Santa brings his coveted Red Ryder BB gun.

Some 4,000 of these fans gathered at a Cleveland hotel last weekend for the fourth annual A Christmas Story convention to mark the 25th anniversary of the movie’s release, meet its stars and tour the home of the fictional Parker family.

“They’ve got Trekkies; we’ve got Ralphies,” quipped Brian Jones. For $150,000 on eBay, he bought the rundown house in a blue-collar Cleveland neighbourhood that was used for exterior scenes in the film.

“It’s bigger than It’s a Wonderful life,” insisted Scott Schwartz, who played Flick, the kid who gets his tongue stuck to a flagpole by taking a “triple-dog dare.”

“Even though it’s a Christmas film, It’s a Wonderful Life has nothing to do with Christmas,” added Ian Petrella, who played reluctant eater Randy. “My theory is we’ve all had Red Ryders in our life. We’ve all had that moment in time when we wanted something so bad it’s all we can think about.”

Petrella’s words ring true. Ask fans and they’ll recount stories of the year Santa brought them what they really wanted, said Oakville-based Tyler Schwartz (no relation to actor Scott), director of Canadian operations for A Christmas Story‘s online store. “When you’re a kid there’s no feeling like it. Your only recourse is to ask for it for Christmas and you just hope and pray that you’ll open up your present and it’s your toy.”

Toronto actor Tedde Moore, who played Ralphie’s teacher Miss Shields, said she had no idea how big the movie had become until she saw the huge crowd that came for the official opening of the Cleveland house two years ago. “It was kind of overwhelming,” she said. “In two days, 40,000 people went through the house. You couldn’t see the street for the crowds.”

Moore said not everyone understood what Clark was trying to do, especially Hollywood brass who made him cut two fantasy scenes that are believed to be lost forever. “They never got the sense of the bigness of it,” Moore added sadly.

The biggest loss is legend among the fans. It’s an elaborate sequence with Ralphie in outer space, helping Flash Gordon battle Ming the Merciless and a monster with the help of his trusty BB gun.

Here at the Cleveland convention, the cast sat behind cloth-draped tables in a small ballroom, Sharpie pens, cash boxes and hand sanitizer at the ready. Thrilled fans, kept in line by red velvet ropes, filed by. The actors were patient and eager to please; nobody was rushed through. After all, this was work and they stood to make some money on $20 autographed photos and memorabilia.

Zack Ward and Yano Anaya, who played bullies Scut Farkus and Grover Dill, signed pictures with the salutation: “Say uncle!” They posed for photos with fans while pretending to hold them in headlocks. At another table, the sarcastic elves from Santa’s castle, Patty Johnson and Drew Hocevar, enthusiastically sneered for convention-goers.

Fans peppered the cast with questions: Where is Santa’s slide from Higbee’s department store? (It’s long gone.) Where did the leg lamp come from? (Production designer Reuben Freed created it.) Where’s Ralphie? (Actor Peter Billingsley, now a successful producer of such big-league films as Iron Man, rarely makes appearances. Yes, he does have the only “pink nightmare” bunny suit.) Also missing was “the old man,” Darren McGavin, who died in 2006, and “mom” Melinda Dillon, who is still acting in film and TV. Director Clark, 67, and his son, Ariel, 22, were killed by a drunk driver last April.

A Christmas Story has had more traction in the U.S., where many people leave it on all day as background music to their holiday celebrations. “We even put it on in the middle of summer, just to feel good,” said fan Sandi McCormick, who came to the convention from Madison, Wisc., with three generations of Ralphie fans.

She stood in the upper hallway of the Parker house with replicas of the bathroom and the boys’ bedroom behind her. It’s merely a recreation: the movie’s interiors weren’t shot here. They were all done on a Toronto soundstage.

Meanwhile, a long line of fans patiently waited to get into the house. Once inside, they admired the leg lamp in the front window, while most kids – and a few agile adults – wedged themselves under the kitchen sink, just as Randy did in the movie to escape his father’s wrath. As they left, they tried their luck on the Red Ryder shooting range, aiming for a target on the back fence that read: “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

Later on Saturday, Jeremy Starkey, 27, of West Virginia, won the adult division of the character look-alike contest, nabbing first prize for his Scut Farkus – authentic down to the fake braces for his teeth.

“I’m sitting next to Santa’s son!” a woman announced at the standing-room-only screening of a new documentary, Shooting the Eye Out: The Untold Christmas Story. The ballroom erupted in smiles and applause to learn that Phil Gillen, whose late dad, Jeff Gillen, played the cranky Higbee’s Santa, was in attendance with his family.

When Tom and Marlene Fickes of Akron, Ohio, weren’t “doing everything” at the convention or house and museum, they were in their room watching the 24-hour screening of A Christmas Story on the hotel’s house channel. They left it playing all day “so it would be on when we came back,” said Marlene.

“It’s a phenomenon that nobody saw coming,” actor Scott Schwartz marvelled as fans lined up to buy a signed photo of him with his tongue stuck to a flagpole. “I have the second-most famous tongue in the world, next to Gene Simmons,” he added with a chuckle.

From one kind of flick to another

There was no big payday for Scott Schwartz in the years after he starred as Flick – the kid who succumbs to a triple-dog dare and gets his tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole in A Christmas Story.

There was no money from the action figures, T-shirts, lunchboxes or endless Christmas Day TV showings. And there was little work for a 30-year-old former child actor who had the lead in The Toy with Jackie Gleason and Richard Pryor 15 years before.

So he took roles in adult movies.

It’s practically an urban myth – hey, did you know Flick did porn? And he’s clearly unhappy to be asked about it by a nosy reporter. “I don’t promote it, I don’t want to promote it. It’s 10 years ago, it’s in my past,” says Schwartz.

All but one of his roles were what are called “non-sex parts,” he says, in which he played a bartender or chauffeur in movies likeNew Wave Hookers 5 and Still Insatiable, with Marilyn Chambers.

“You’re the first person all weekend to ask me that,” says Schwartz as he prepares to spend hours meeting fans and signing autographs at the Christmas Story convention a week ago. “It’s not important to these people. It’s not important to my history, so to speak. It’s something I did to put a roof over my head and put food on my table.”

Schwartz, 40, who now works for American trading card company Donruss, securing celebrity autographs, made $6,500 a week for six weeks’ work as a 14-year-old actor on A Christmas Story in 1983.

He was also “supposed to” make 5 per cent of any product with his likeness (as Flick) on it. It didn’t happen. “They have a thing called creative bookkeeping,” he scoffs. “I’ve seen $2,400 in merchandise money over the last five years.”

Despite that, the gregarious Schwartz revels in his almost ambassadorial role at the convention, posing with fans, keeping lines moving and people happy. He never seems to tire of hearing people talk about what A Christmas Story means to them, and is delighted that its fan base continues to grow.

“I got a chance to meet Michael Jordan and he’s a huge fan. He loves A Christmas Story. He was even doing an impression of me!”

– Linda Barnard

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Pennsylvania family wins chance to spend holiday in ‘A Christmas Story’ house

December 5th, 2008 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article

by Tom Feran/Plain Dealer Reporter 

Thursday December 04, 2008

The top bid in a charity auction on eBay Giving Works will give the full experience of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning in Cleveland’s A Christmas Story House to Tom Streib and Linda Campagna, right, and daughters Kari and Kate.

Spending a winter night in Cleveland doesn’t usually sound like a prize. But for one Pennsylvania couple, it’s going to feel like being in the movies.

Linda Campagna and husband Thomas Streib submitted the winning bid in a charity auction to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning in the West 11th Street house that was the setting for “A Christmas Story,” the classic movie that is marking its 25th anniversary.

Like young Ralphie Parker and his movie family, the couple and two of their daughters will eat a “Chinese turkey” dinner of Peking duck. They’ll unwrap gifts like a blue bowling ball and can of Simoniz, shoot BB guns in the back yard and have the chance to try on a pink bunny suit.

Just like the one Ralphie was forced to wear.

” ‘You look like a pink nightmare’ is the phrase from the movie I think I use most,” Campagna said. “We’ll try and relive the whole movie. We’ll take tons of pictures.”

No one besides owner Brian Jones and a few friends has ever stayed in the house since he bought and renovated it, and no one ever at Christmas. Campagna and Streib got their chance to relive the movie by bidding $5,250 on eBay Giving Works, the charity listings site, to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project that helps veterans.

Jones, a former Navy intelligence officer, picked the charity after eBay approached him about offering an “experience package.”

“It meant a lot to us,” Campagna said, because she and her husband are both former Army sergeants. “We went higher than we would have gone otherwise.”

They live in Stewartstown, Pa., work for Boeing in neighboring Maryland, and are — of course — longtime fans of “A Christmas Story.”

Until hearing about the auction on the radio, however, “we didn’t even realize there was a real house,” Campagna said. “My husband called and said, ‘Quick, go to eBay!’ ”

They topped 15 bidders to earn their first trip to Cleveland.

They will be flown from Baltimore to Cleveland as part of the package.

“When the whole thing is over,” Campagna said, “we’re hoping we’ll have time to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

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Visit the Christmas Story House and step into the holiday classic’s 1940s world

November 30th, 2008 by Ralphie

Link to Original Article in St. Pete Times

By Sean Daly, Times Staff Writer 
In print: Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Red Ryder BB gun and a bowling ball, both Christmas gifts in the 1983 movie, are props in the interior re-creation of A Christmas Story House. The movie’s interior shots were filmed on a soundstage.
The Red Ryder BB gun and a bowling ball, both Christmas gifts in the 1983 movie, are props in the interior re-creation of A Christmas Story House. The movie’s interior shots were filmed on a soundstage.

The home is located in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland.
The home is located in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland.

Bob Clark, who directed Porky’s, fought to get A Christmas Story made. The studio said okay, but only if he also made Porky’s II.
[A Christmas Story House and Museum]
Bob Clark, who directed Porky’s, fought to get A Christmas Story made. The studio said okay, but only if he also made Porky’s II.

Related Links


Twenty-five years ago, at the quiet end of Cleveland Street, a round-faced rapscallion with endangered blue peepers gazed from the window of his house and dreamed of the perfect Christmas gift:

An official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, a blue-steel beauty with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.

You go, Ralphie Parker.

And now, in front of that same mustard-yellow two-story with the wraparound porch, dinged-up mailbox and horseshoe door knocker announcing “major awards” — fra-gee-lay! — another round-faced kid gazes into that same window and dreams of that same gift.

Reel life, meet real life.

Ralphie Parker, meet Raul Gomez.

“I like that BB gun,” says 13-year-old Gomez, who lives a few doors down from that working-class home made famous in the 1983 movie A Christmas Story. The house is now a life-affirming tourist destination, a must-see for any fa-ra-ra-ra fan of the film.

Raul’s home isn’t that different from Ralphie’s old joint, although the “Latinos for Obama” sign is certainly a modern touch. Every day, Raul rides his orange bike down the sidewalk and stops in front of the movie house, the one with the fishnetted leg lamp in the front window —behold, the leg lamp! — which stays illuminated 24/7/365.

Raul and his family love the flick. “My mom says if it’s on 10 times, she’ll watch it 10 times,” he says. But despite living so close, Raul has never been inside the house, which draws people, day and night, to the blue-collar neighborhood of Tremont.

A few years ago, a San Diego businessman bought the house on eBay, sight unseen, for $150,000. He then spent another $250,000 having it restored. More than 600,000 people have made the pilgrimage here since A Christmas Story House opened in 2006.

And every day, Raul watches hundreds, sometimes thousands, of fans pay to enter, to get a whiff of nostalgia, to peer out the side window at the Bumpus house — the Bumpuses! — and listen for those howling hounds.

Raul won’t give up his dream of getting in there, though, especially when I tell him that Ralphie’s BB gun is still inside. I saw it myself, across from the Christmas tree with that crooked star on top. Ralphie’s bar of Lifebuoy, the soapy penance he chomped on after blurting out “the queen mother of dirty words,” is in there, too. With teeth marks.

Raul nods, smiles. He likes that. He wants to get in. He wants that BB gun. And why not? Whether it’s the 20th century or the 21st, fiction or fact, the Ralphie Parkers of the world should never give up.

• • •

I’ve come to Cleveland to pay my respects to the Old Man. I want to sit in his chair. I want to touch his blue bowling ball. I want to shake my fist and bulge my eyes and howl unintelligible threats at the neighbor mutts.

I also want the ultimate in yuletide bragging rights. That’s right: I’ve been to his house.

When A Christmas Story first came out, I was all about Ralphie and his Red Ryder. I’m 38 now. I have kids of my own. I have a car that sounds like it has a giant ball of aluminum foil lodged under the hood. I pay my bills and I complain about my sports teams.

I’m not about Ralphie anymore. I’ve become the Old Man, portrayed so brilliantly, so churlishly in A Christmas Story by Darren McGavin.

Not a fingah!

For the three of you out there who don’t spend great chunks of your holiday season watching A Christmas Story, it’s a subtly subversive comedy about the Parker family — the Old Man, Mrs. Parker, sons Randy and Ralphie — as they maneuver the times, trials and clinking furnaces of Christmas in 1940s Indiana.

A Christmas Story didn’t last long in theaters. But thanks to the power of cable TV and DVDs, a quarter-century later the film rivals Snoopy and the Grinch as the holiday season’s most beloved TV draw. TBS hosts an annual 24-hour marathon (this year’s begins at 8 p.m. Dec. 24). The movie has become a veritable goldmine of quotables.

Oh fuuuudge!!

It is sweet and sepia-toned. It is painfully, unmistakably, unerringly us. That’s also why I’ve come to Cleveland. Because in the screwy year 2008, we need A Christmas Story more than ever.

Despite the Indiana “locale” in the script, most of the movie was shot on a soundstage in Toronto. But for a few sweet weeks, director Bob Clark and his film crew set up shop in Cleveland, specifically downtown at Higbee’s department store (where Ralphie braves Santa and his elves) and at 3159 W 11th St. (a.k.a. Cleveland Street in the film).

Only exterior shots were filmed at the house, including Ralphie’s battle with Black Bart in the back yard and the Old Man’s sidewalk presentation of the leg lamp. But owner Brian Jones, 32, has done his best to match both the outside and the inside of the house to what you’ve seen 2,000 times on your TV.

As you drive down the tree-lined street and see the house for the first time, it fills you with such ridiculous joy, some folks (yeah, okay, fine, some folks like me) get misty-eyed. And when you finally walk up those steps, onto the green porch, and through the front door of A Christmas Story House, it is nothing less than going home.

• • •

In the years after the movie crew left, the house on W 11th Street lost serious cinematic magic. Drug dealers moved into the neighborhood. Houses were abandoned, boarded up. But Jones, a longtime fan, was undeterred.

Vinyl siding came down. Paint went up. There was no staircase in the original house, no way for boys in deranged bunny pajamas to trundle down the steps. That’s the first thing you see when you walk in: a wide yellow staircase opening up onto a leg-lamp-illuminated living room. The Philco radio is playing old tunes. The Old Man’s bowling ball gleams under the Christmas tree lights.


The Parkers’ 1940s-style kitchen was re-created and made fully functional, with a Maytag wringer washer, a GE icebox and an old gas stove, which now sports a plastic turkey awaiting canine catastrophe. Local contractor Mike Foster got so involved in the Christmas Story project, he demanded that the kitchen tiles in the movie match the ones in real life. He had to hand-cut dozens of 12- by 12-inch tiles to 9-by-9.

But the transformation is brilliant. The details are irresistible. When I open the small cabinet under the kitchen sink, PR rep Emily Vincent laughs, “Everyone does that!” I’m looking for Randy, of course, who hid under there when he thought the Old Man was “going to kill Ralphie.”

After a short talk, tour guides allow guests to browse the house on their own. It’s fun, like a scavenger hunt. In the upstairs bathroom, you’ll find that bar of Lifebuoy with the bite marks. Tour guide Dale Drottar, a 58-year-old retired cop, was in charge of the dental authenticity. “When I bit down, it stuck to the back of my teeth,” he says. “It was dripping on my tonsils. Horrible stuff.”

The back yard might be the coolest place at A Christmas Story House. The original shed, where Ralphie imagined picking off baddies, is still intact. (The door opens, so walk on in.) Peer over the back fence, and you’ll see an old steel mill, which was written into the original script.

Jones also bought three houses across the street, razing one and turning the others into a gift shop (Old Man action figures, leg lamp night-lights) and a museum for memorabilia, which includes Flick’s goggles, Miss Shields’ chalkboard and Randy’s tragically binding snowsuit. There’s also the door from Ralphie’s classroom. It was Room 3.

• • •

When A Christmas Story House opened on Thanksgiving weekend 2006, 4,300 people were waiting to get in. “The first day it opened, I had to drive around the block 12 times looking for a parking space,” says neighbor Dash Combs, 25.

The house has transformed the street. If the folks next door ever want to sell, Jones has even considered turning the Bumpus house into a B&B. Someday, A Christmas Story House could turn into A Christmas Story Land. And more than likely, fans will come for that, too.

Lisa Vosbury, 36, drove from Binghamton, N.Y., to see her ailing father, her own Old Man. It’s been a tough trip. She needed a smile. So she came here. “It looks exactly like the movie,” she says beaming. She wanders around the property, a small, goofy grin curling her mouth. “Oh, it’s just about the simple things,” she says of the movie’s allure. “We can relate to it on all levels, right?”

Diehard fans, called “Ralphies,” come at all hours to bask in the glow of that leg lamp. Huge crowds are expected for this year’s 25th anniversary. This weekend, there’s a Christmas Story convention at the Renaissance Hotel, right next to the Higbee’s building, now a visitors center. Thousands of Ralphies will descend on the city, giddily attending such events as A Christmas Story: The Musical! and “Character Look-alike Contest.”

A scattering of actors will also be in town, although none of the major players will attend. Bob Clark, Jean Shepherd and, alas, “Old Man” Darren McGavin have all passed away. Melinda Dillon, who played the mom, has declined invitations to visit. And Ralphie himself, Peter Billingsley, is now a Hollywood producer (Iron Man) who prefers to keep his past right where it is. Rumor has it the original bunny suit and Red Ryder are in his mom’s attic.

The movie doesn’t need actors to sell it, of course. Grandfathers and fathers and sons and brothers own the movie now. And as they descend upon A Christmas Story House this holiday season, bundled-up neighbors will be there to greet them, selling cookies and Ovaltine.

2008, meet 1940.

Snow will be falling. Music will be playing. And if you happen to meet a boy named Raul selling his own wares, you’ll know what he’s saving his money for. Wish him a Merry Christmas. And tell him not to shoot his eye out.

Sean Daly can be reached at or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at

Trivia | How well do you know A Christmas Story?

We triple-dog-dare you to delight your friends with these behind-the-scenes tidbits.

• Ever wonder how they got poor Flick’s tongue to stick to that frozen flagpole? Special-effects techs used a painted PVC pipe with a small vacuum inside.

• The snow falling outside the house on Cleveland Street was all artificial. So they moved the shoot to Toronto, where the white stuff was plentiful and free.

• Three leg lamps were used during the making of the film. Two were shattered, and no one knows what happened to the third.

• The chubby neighbor on the sidewalk who compliments the Old Man on his “major award” was played by the movie’s director, Bob Clark. The snotty man at Higbee’s who sends Ralphie to the back of the Santa line is Jean Shepherd, upon whose book the movie was based.

 The original Christmas Story script was pretty blue. The Old Man’s fantastical profanity, especially as he fixed his lousy furnace, was in fact four-letter cursing. Higbee’s would only allow the crew to film in the department store if the language was cleaned up.

Sean Daly, Times staff writer


A Christmas Story 
House and Museum

Master Ralph Parker’s residence, at 3159 W 11th St., is five minutes from downtown Cleveland in the Tremont neighborhood. Admission is $7.50 for adults, $6.50 for seniors, $5.50 for children (ages 7 to 12) and free for ages 6 and under. It’s open year-round Thursday through Sunday, and also on Wednesdays to Dec. 31. (The leg lamp stays on all day, all night, all year.) Entrance to the museum and gift shop are included in the price.

No food is available at the attraction (well, except for some chocolate leg lamps in the gift shop). For an authentic taste of Cleveland, try Sokolowski’s University Inn (1201 University Road; (216) 771-9236), a Polish landmark a few minutes away. Sokolowski’s provided the turkeys in A Christmas Story, but you’ll want to go with the pierogi platter.

For information on A Christmas Story House and Museum, go to www.achristmasstory or call (216) 298-4919.

For travel and hotel accommodations in Cleveland, go to or call toll-free 1-800-321-1004.

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