December 18, 2005
The ultimate cinematic home for Christmas is Ralphie Parker's house in Cleveland. Ralphie was the little boy who yearned for a BB gun in the funny holiday classic "A Christmas Story" (coming soon to a cable channel near you). Earlier this year, San Diegan Brian Jones bought the house for $150,000 Ð sight unseen Ð after learning about its sale on eBay. The house was used for the film's exterior (and some interior) shots with Cleveland standing in for the movie's setting of a small Indiana town.
After a $160,000 renovation, starting in January, Jones is going to open it as a free museum with "A Christmas Story" memorabilia sold in the living room. The renovation will time-warp the four-bedroom house, built in 1895, back to the way it looked in the 1983 movie. "The contractors said it will take four months to complete the renovation, so that means it will probably take six." Jones said. Unfortunately the house "is in good condition because previous owners updated it and took out a lot of the stuff that made it recognizable as the movie house."
A Thanksgiving weekend fundraising event in Cleveland raised approximately $20,000 toward the contractor's tab. "The festival was good publicity, the more people know about the house the better," Jones said. Several of the movie's actors made special appearances, signing autographs for fans. Jones has become such a celebrity that "I was signing autographs, too," he said. "People were saying 'Thanks for doing this Ð the house reminds me of all the good times I had watching the movie.' A lot of them were tickled that the house is coming back to life." A special trolley delivered festival-goers from a downtown Cleveland hotel to the house in a nearby suburb. Another of the movie's architectural stars, The Department Store, was actually Higbee's, located in a building next door to the hotel where the festival was held. The store is gone, but the building still stands and was another magnet for fans.
Jones is more of a fanatic than a fan of the movie. He markets leg lamps, based on the kitschy lamp in the film on the Internet (www.redriderleglamps.com). "The closer to Christmas we get the brisker the sales," Jones said. "I thought the lamp would be something people might want to buy, but it was sort of a living room business. We now have two full-time and four part-time employees. It's gone way beyond what I expected it to be." In the movie, Ralphie's dad proudly displays the hip-high leg lamp, clad in fishnet stockings and a high heel, in the window of their home at Christmas, to the embarrassment of his family. Part of the proceeds from the leg lamps will defray the renovation costs of the house.
San Diego Union-Tribune