The house from A Christmas Story. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
It was the house where legends were made, where soap was consumed, Black Bart met his demise, toy B.B. guns were dreamed of, and electric sex gleamed from the living room window. The house on “Cleveland Street” has become an iconic symbol of the heralded holiday movie, A Christmas Story, and anyone who either grew up watching the flick or ever stumbled upon TBS’s annual twenty-four hour marathons knows it like the old man knows how to change a tire.
Entrepreneur Brian Jones is one of the many that grew up watching the movie every year with his family. Starting in the late ’80s, he enjoyed the time-honored tradition of sitting back and watching Ralphie’s quest to receive an official Red Ryder carbine-action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle for Christmas. As he got older, his admiration for the movie never ceased. It followed him as he joined the Navy to pursue his life-long dream of becoming a pilot. Unfortunately, things did not go as Jones expected. He failed the vision test that was required in order to go to pilot school.
To cheer him up, Jones’ parents sent him a large wooden box in the mail with a big black word across the sides that might have been Italian (pron: frah-gee-lay). Inside lay a grand prize to the likes of which he never imagined — a leg lamp.
“The snap of a few sparks, a quick whiff of ozone, and the lamp blazed forth in unparalleled glory.”
After consulting the gift with his parents, Jones came to find out that they made the lamp themselves over the course of a month. Seeing this as a potential business opportunity, he decided to start making them himself. Before long, sales soon took off to the point that would wet the appetite of the entrepreneurial gurus on ABC’s Shark Tank.
One year after making his first lamp, Jones had developed a full-time business, Redriderleglamps.com. His wife was still in the Navy and, while on deployment, she had heard that the house the movie was filmed in had gone up for sale in Cleveland, Ohio. Mostly because she thought he would get a kick out of it, she sent him the link to the eBay listing. Jones had never visited the land of Drew Carey and Kid Cudi, but considered the offer a triple-dog-dare. After a half an hour of pondering, he made the decision to make an offer and within another day, he became the proud, new owner of an old house, and a sizable piece of cinematic memorabilia. All on a whim, he decided to convert the houses interior and exterior to the exact detail as seen in the film. Unfortunately, this was easier said than done.
Unfortunately, the majority of the interior shots of the movie were not actually filmed in the house Jones had just purchased, they were all produced on a soundstage in Canada. Therefore, some major renovations were needed if it was going to look at all like the familiar Parker residence we all know and love.
The first steps were to remove all of the renovations that had been completed over the years by stripping the interior and exterior down to their bare structures. Then, by examining the film scene-by-scene and still-by-still, each area of the house was transformed to look identical to Ralphie’s family’s 1940s abode. This included building the staircase that our hero walks down in his favorite pink-bunny suit. To do this, a hole was cut into the ceiling and the set of stairs was built from the floor up.
“He looks like a deranged Easter Bunny!”
Slowly the house started to take hold and Jones’ vision was becoming a reality. He acquired all the essential 1940s decor through either donations or antiquing and the project was almost complete. However, he didn’t stop there. Jones went on to purchase a house across the street to turn into A Christmas Story museum filled with actual props from the movie such as Randy’s winter suit.
After investing hundreds of thousands of dollars and almost two years of hard work, the project opened to the public in late November 2006. The opening drew in thousands of people who were able to meet some of the cast of the movie there to greet them.
“Scut Farkus staring out at us with his yellow eyes. He had yellow eyes! So, help me, God! Yellow eyes!”
The museum is open year-round for visitors to come and take a trip inside one of Hollywood’s greatest Christmas movies. The leg-lamp greets guests in the front window while a Christmas tree with a bowling ball and a zeppelin underneath is waiting inside. The kitchen has a turkey doomed by the fate of Bubkus’s dogs and a cabinet to crawl under if anybody fears their dad will come home to kill Ralphie. The second floor has soap waiting to be eaten if a slip of the tongue produces the “F-dash-dash-dash” word and a secret decoder ring is readily available to decipher any of Little Orphan Annie’s messages.
“Be sure to drink your Ovaltine. Ovaltine? A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch!”
All of this was created because of a man from San Diego who decided to start making leg lamps as homage to his favorite movie. Jones took what was potentially a setback in his professional life to a full-fledged business that people from all over the world have come to enjoy.
And luckily, he managed to pull all of this off without shooting his eye out.