Pat and I decided to kick off the holiday season with a visit to the famed house featured in the 1983 film, A Christmas Story, which has become a holiday classic. Almost everybody, especially here in Cleveland, is familiar with this film. It has become so popular that there is a 24-hour marathon that now runs every year on Christmas Eve.
Little do many people know that this film almost never got off the ground, and only after some skillful negotiating by the director (Bob Clark) did it ever make it to the theaters. Not to give too much away, Clark wanted to do the film but Hollywood didn't think much of the story.
The story was based on a book written by Jean Shepherd called "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash." Had it not been for Mr. Clark's previous film being very successful for MGM, he would not have been able to convince them for the money. So, in a way, he blackmailed them to get the project up and running by offering to do a sequel to that very successful movie. The name of that movie? Well…..
The Christmas House is open 7 days a week, except on major holidays (including Christmas, of course). Over the holidays, people bid on the opportunity to actually stay in the house. How's that for a special way to spend Christmas!?
There's a tour every hour that lasts about an hour, and includes the museum across the street from the house, and the gift store. Pat and I found no trouble finding on-street parking, which is free. During busy times, some enterprising neighbors sell parking space but check the streets first. If you can get there early in the day, particularly when they first open, your chances to find free on-street parking improve.
We started our tour in the gift shop, where you purchase your tickets. Adults are $10.00, Seniors $8.00, Children 7-12 $6.00, Children under 6 are free. They also offer group tours, but you have to call ahead to reserve your space.
Our tour guide led us across the street to the house and up a few steps to the front porch.
We then moved into the front living room, where the leg lamp sits proudly in the window. Decorated in style authentic to the era, it included not only period pieces, but props from the movie such as the old radio, the packing box from the leg lamp, and the Christmas tree, which was decorated with the old, large lights many of us remember growing up with.
Our tour guide was funny and entertaining. He went into great detail about the house, the movie, the actors (whose photos are on the wall), and even how they got their roles in the movie (would you believe that Jack Nicholson was actually considered for the part of "the old man" before Darren McGavin was chosen!?).
You are free to explore the entire house (except the basement - in the film, you never saw the basement, you only heard the "old man" fighting with the cranky old furnace down there, so you can't see the basement on the tour, either). There are stairs to the 2nd floor if you want to see the bedrooms, ironing room and bathroom, the rest of the house is on one level.
You're allowed to pick things up, like the infamous BB gun (which I did, and posed by the leg lamp).
You can take the turkey out of its pan in the oven (no, it's not a real turkey), sit under the sink like Ralphie's little brother, Randy, sit on the beds upstairs, try on caps from the coat tree in the front room, and for the really adventurous, don a pink bunny suit -- just like Ralphie's. Apparently some visitors have even reenacted the mouth-washing scene by trying out the bar of Lifebuoy in the bathroom. We don't advise this -- the teethmarks you see in it are real!!
After a quick tour of the back yard where Ralphie took his first shot with the BB gun and thought he had, indeed, shot his eye out, we moved across the street to the museum where actual artifacts from the movie are on display. There are also toys and displays from the old Higbee building, as well as posters and other memorabilia from the era. Most recently, one of the 6 actual BB guns made for the movie was purchased by the owner of the house, Brian Jones. It is now on display in the museum.
The tour ends at the firetruck that came to rescue Flick from the flag pole. How they got Flick's tongue to stick to the pole for hours while filming is worth the price of admission alone. The Parker family car is also on display -- remember the flat-tire scene!?.
We ended the tour where we started -- the gift store. If you are looking for gifts, or remembrances from your tour, you will find it here. Anyone want their own leg lamp? Maybe you'll be luckier than I and your spouse will allow you to have one.
Pat and I decided to end our adventure just like the Parker family did. After the neighbor's dogs ate their dinner they went to a Chinese restaurant, so we did, too. We ended up at the Siam Café on St. Clair for a delicious meal.
We are extra-eager to watch the movie this year in light of our new-found insider information. We had a fun time on the tour and think you would, too. Stay tuned for our next adventure!
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