Saturday, December 19, 2015

High Culture in Cleveland

Mid-century modern design
I'm in Cleveland this week for a family event. Cleveland is of course one of America's great tourist destinations, a true cultural landmark, as shown succinctly by this pair of tourism videos. And while we're in town we have sought out the very best of Cleveland, the height of its cultural offerings. Sure, there are museums. There's a symphony. But why see those when you can go see the house where A Christmas Story was filmed 

I feel like this is a good time to mention that I, a red-blooded American, have somehow managed to reach my early 30s without ever having seen A Christmas StoryBut I've seen enough TV ads to get the gist - sad kid in a pink bunny suit, you'll shoot an eye out, kid gets his tongue stuck to the flagpole, the leg lamp. You know, the highlights. And I'm pretty okay with that state of affairs.

The house has been restored to its movie-set state and carefully furnished and stocked to represent the set as closely as possible. I liked the 1940s-era kitchen with the wringer-washer and the icebox. And it's interactive, so one can take pictures posing by the Christmas tree with the BB gun, pulling the leg out of the crate, or moping on the stairs in any of a number of pink bunny suits and matching slippers in a variety of sizes thoughtfully provided for you. People even bite the Lifebuoy soap and lick the flagpole. (I declined.) There's also a museum with costumes and other memorabilia from the movie, including the prize of the collection, one of the actual BB guns used on set, enshrined in a special glass case. 

Kitsch for the whole family
And of course a gift shop, lavishly provisioned with all kinds of relevant kitsch. They have pink bunny suits, and sexy pink bunny suits. They have Red Ryder BB guns. There are aviator caps and bars of Lifebuoy soap. There are models of every building and scene from the movie so you can build a little Christmas Story village. And there are leg lamps everywhere. On mugs, on T-shirts, on blankets. You can buy working full-sized leg lamps, leg lamp nightlights, strings of tiny leg lamps for your Christmas tree. Things I would never have imagined anyone could possibly want except that I could see with my own eyes the happy consumers queuing up at the cash registers. 

For me the best part of the whole experience was the background story. The whole complex is essentially a monument to superfandom. The owner, not an especially wealthy guy, bought and redid the house, extremely dilapidated at the time, basically because he just really loved the movie. The man had a dream, and he made it come true. Good for him. It almost makes me willing to forgive that his plans for "improving the neighborhood" include knocking down 100-year-old houses to build a parking lot. Almost. 

So Cleveland! Keeping it classy. 


(Photo credit baby sister Laura)

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