|Marching to Mars
Joined: 01 Apr 2006
|Posted: Sat Dec 09, 2006 7:22 am Post subject: Man fixes up and recreates house from 'A Christmas Story'
|CLEVELAND, Dec. 4 — If Denny Renz were a boy again, he said, he would love nothing more than to re-enact Ralphie Parker’s childhood.
Brian Jones, with a Red Ryder air rifle, started a business that sold the leg lamp made famous in “A Christmas Story.”
He would crawl under the kitchen sink the way Ralphie’s brother, Randy, did to hide from Mr. Parker, their father in the 1983 movie “A Christmas Story.” He would swing from the tree in the backyard, he said, dodging imaginary BBs fired from Ralphie’s coveted “official Red Ryder 200-shot carbine action range model air rifle.”
“I’ve never seen this house before, but it’s like I grew up here,” said Mr. Renz, 62, who drove 103 miles from Fairview, Pa., to see the home here where exterior shots of “A Christmas Story” were filmed.
Though originally panned by critics as a dark depiction of the holidays, “A Christmas Story” has earned status as a movie classic, rivaling long-time seasonal favorites like “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Now fans from as far away as Los Angeles and Phoenix are flocking to a gritty Cleveland street overlooking a steel factory to visit the Parker family house restored to its movie glory.
A San Diego entrepreneur, Brian Jones, bought the house sight unseen on e-Bay for $150,000 in December 2004. He grew up watching “A Christmas Story” every year with his family. After Mr. Jones failed the vision test required to become a Navy pilot, his father tried cheering him up by building him a lamp with a woman’s leg as the base, similar to the one that enchanted Ralphie’s father in the movie.
Mr. Jones loved the gift so much that he started manufacturing copies of the lamps himself. Complete with fishnet stocking and a black high-heeled shoe, most lamps sell for $139 each; more than 7,500 have sold. Mr. Jones used the proceeds to cover the down payment on the house.
“When I first saw the house, there was snow on the ground, and I started running around the backyard,” said Mr. Jones, 30. “It felt like I was a little kid again.”
Unlike the Parkers’ single-family home in the movie, the Cleveland house was a duplex. (All the movie’s interior scenes were filmed on a sound stage in Toronto, Mr. Jones said.) Previous owners had installed modern windows, and covered the original wood siding with blue vinyl.
Watching the movie frame by frame, Mr. Jones drew plans of the Parker home. He spent $240,000 to gut the interior and transform the house into a near-exact copy of the movie set. (Darryl Haase, a tour guide, apologizes that the new stairwell is a few inches narrower than the one where Ralphie modeled his pink bunny pajamas.)
“Now I watch the movie and I catch myself looking at the background for anything we’re missing in the house,” Mr. Jones said.
To make the home feel more authentic, Mr. Jones hopes to install a stereo that recreates the sounds of Mr. Parker in the basement, swearing at the furnace. He briefly considered a Cleveland businessman’s offer to blow artificial smells of food, including Mrs. Parker’s cooked cabbage, through the house’s heat ducts.
Mr. Jones borrowed $129,000 to turn the house across the street into a museum and gift shop. Displays include the comically immobilizing snowsuit worn by little Randy, who famously cried, “I can’t put my arms down!”
Fans can buy a copy of the movie script for $40. Chunks of the house’s original wood siding cost $60.
About 4,300 people toured the house on opening weekend in November, Mr. Jones said. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children 12 and under. He has no official attendance projections, but expects at least 50,000 visitors a year.
In a city starved for jobs and tourist dollars — the Census Bureau ranked Cleveland as America’s poorest big city in 2006 — the house has sparked a miniature tourism boom. For $159 the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel offers “Christmas Story” packages, which include overnight accommodations for two, tickets to the house and the movie playing continuously on the room television set.
Patty LaFountaine-Johnson, an actor from Cleveland, sews red-and-green felt hats like the one she wore as an elf in the movie. Autographed, they sell in the gift shop for $35 each. “A veritable steal, made personally by the elf from hell herself,” Ms. LaFountaine-Johnson said.
At C&Y Chinese Restaurant, the official restaurant of the “Christmas Story” house, waiters copy the movie’s Christmas turkey scene by taking a roasted duck to customer’s tables, where they chop its head off with a giant cleaver. The promotion has doubled the restaurant’s weekend sales to over 1,000 people a day, said Jimmy Fong, the manager.
“Before last month, I never heard of this movie,” Mr. Fong said. “Now I’ve seen it over 100 times. I like it very much.”
Who you rollin with??? Bob. Bob Saget.