Step Into the Set of 'A Christmas Story'

On West 11th Street in Cleveland, the line of camera-toting tourists stretches around the corner. A man in an orange vest directs traffic. It is an unlikely sight in this neighborhood, which borders on a steel mill and has definitely seen better days.

The tourists come from as far away as Texas and Arizona to make their own walk-on appearances in the house where the film "A Christmas Story" was set. The quirky holiday movie about a young boy's obsession with a BB gun now rivals seasonal favorites like "The Grinch" and "It's a Wonderful Life."

Now, thanks to a 30-year-old California man's obsession with the film, the Cleveland house has become the city's hottest new tourist destination.

"It's like seeing a movie star, and it feels like you stepped onto the set and that you're actually reliving the movie when you come to see the house," said Brian Jones.

Jones bought the house -- sight unseen -- on eBay for $150,000.

"The first time I got here I felt like I was on the set. I'm running around like a little kid," he said.

Jones brought "Nightline" inside the mustard-colored three-story home, and it felt strangely familiar.

The Old Man's coat rack, the waist-high wooden radio where Ralphie and brother Randy listened to the Orphan Annie show. It's all here.

The Leg Lamp

And there, shining in the window -- is the leg lamp. The "major award" won by Ralphie's Old Man and scorned by Ralphie's mother -- the glowing replica of a woman's shapely leg, adorned in fishnet stockings and a high-heeled pump, and wearing a fringed lampshade as a skirt.

Few props in moviedom have had this kind of stature … this kind of glow, if you will.

"It all started with the leg lamp," said Jones, a former Navy officer who dreamed of going to flight school but couldn't pass the vision test. Like the bespectacled Ralphie character in the movie, Jones' eyesight isn't good. As a consolation, Jones' parents built him a prop from his favorite movie -- a leg lamp.

When it came time for Jones to leave the Navy, that gift took on new meaning. "It hit me one day like an epiphany. I should sell leg lamps."

Jones' wife thought he was crazy -- until the unusual business started making a six-figure profit.

Open for Business

Now Jones has used the proceeds of leg lamp sales to help renovate the house -- watching the film frame by frame, so that contractors could re-create the movie set inside the house. It wasn't easy, since the interiors were shot on a Canadian soundstage.

For instance, the stairway on which Ralphie reluctantly models his pink bunny suit pajamas didn't exist in the house.

"We actually had to re-create this part," said Jones. "They look exactly like the stairs in the movie, right down to the spindles."

Jones paid close attention to the authenticity of every detail. Each of the brown and white tiles on the kitchen floor had to be hand trimmed.

"We actually had to cut these down from 12 by 12," the size that's made now, "because in the 1940s the tiles they made were 9 by 9."

Outside, the line of tourists grows.

Travis and Lisa Campbell drove 2½ hours with their 8-month-old daughter, Zoe.

"I was relieved. I wasn't the only person out here," said Travis Campbell.

Hardly. Since the "Parker House" opened for business three weeks ago, more than 10,000 movie buffs have lined up for the $5 tour.

They recite lines from the movie, and snap an endless number of photos -- posing in the living room with the leg lamp.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...