-- Twenty-five years after A Christmas Story opened in theaters, Ralphie Parker remains an adorable, apple-cheeked kid yearning for an official Red Ryder carbine action BB gun, thanks to the movie's heavy holiday rotation on cable TV.
In honor of the anniversary, fans (the true die-hards of whom call themselves "Ralphies') are convening in Cleveland today and Saturday to pay homage to the low-budget movie that has become a holiday staple. Events include appearances by cast members (Peter Billingsley, who portrayed Ralphie, is shooting a movie in Bora Bora and won't make it, but Zack Ward, who played yellow-eyed Scut Farkas will), costume contests (someone came last year as a kid with his tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole), opportunities to fire BB guns and the debut of three documentaries related to the movie.
The bash is the brainchild of Brian Jones, 32, who three years ago bought the house in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood that served in exterior shots as Ralphie's Indiana home and promptly turned it into a museum. Inside are 1940s-era toys and other props used in the movie, plus original costumes.
It's probably one of the few — if not the only — museums of its kind. Jones says he talked to a guy who's trying to build a likeness of Tara, the mansion in Gone With the Wind, outside Atlanta, and he read recently that new owners of the Woodstock, Ill., house that stood in for the bed and breakfast in Groundhog Day want to convert it to an actual B&B. But his Christmas Story House & Museum, which has attracted about 70,000 visitors since opening in 2006, is the only museum he knows of dedicated to a single movie.
It wasn't Jones' first foray into an enterprise related to the film. The U.S. Naval Academy graduate had always been a fan. After he was turned down for flight training because of poor eyesight, his parents cheered him up by sending him a lamp shaped like a woman's leg like the one the father in the movie proudly displays in the living room window, to his wife's horror. Jones' parents mentioned how much discussion the lamp had generated among their friends.
So Jones decided to have leg lamps made and sell them online (redriderleglamps.com). He has since sold about 20,000.
They're available in the museum's gift shop for $40 to $200, along with other Christmas Story-inspired stuff, including, in honor of the anniversary, a special-edition Red Ryder carbine action BB gun, just like the one Ralphie got for Christmas.