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A Christmas Story cast entertains Western New York

BY: Rikki Cason | December 22, 2013

It’s been 30 years since “A Christmas Story” first hit the big screen and became a favorite holiday film.

The story of Ralphie Parker and his dream of owning a Red Ryder BB Gun is one that many look forward to watching every Christmas for 24 hours.

On Saturday, at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda, “A Christmas Story” came to life as six cast members made an appearance, interacting with the Western New York community. A holiday parade was also held, along with rides on the original fire truck used in the movie.

The day before, despite the snowy weather, four cast members — Ian Petrella who played Randy Parker; Scott Schwartz who played Flick; Yano Anaya who played Grover Dill; and Zack Ward who played Scut Farkus — spoke to members of the media about their trip to Western New York and their time filming the move in 1983.

Petrella was returning to North Tonawanda for his second year. Last year, he posted on his Facebook page he was looking for people interested in showing “A Christmas Story” on a movie screen.

North Tonawanda’s Joe Lavey, Jr. responded and soon the Riviera Theatre event was planned. When asked if he wanted to do it again this year.

“Why the hell not,” said Petrella. “So here we are again.”

“Then he decided to bring everyone else along with him,” said Yano.

Though more than 30 years after the movie was filmed, the cast still shares a close bond with one another, filled with a lot of jokes and humor.

“It’s a side benefit,” said Schwartz. “We made friendships that lasted many, many years.”

Every holiday season some of the cast members get together to do signings and screenings of the film. This was not always the case before the modern technologies of cell phones, the Internet and social media sites.

“We weren’t together for many years,” said Schwartz. “We didn’t know how to get a hold of each other.”

He said he was able to locate Ward and then the Christmas Story House in Cleveland was able to find the rest of the cast and put them in contact with one another. The movie’s 20th anniversary celebrating in California was one of the last time most of the cast members were all together.

For Petrella, Schwartz, Ward and Anaya, being a kid and making a movie is the memory they will never forget.

Schwartz said on the production side of it, the places where they filmed were very cold. The school scenes, including the infamous flagpole scene, was shot in St. Catharines, Ontario.

“We were freezing,” Schwartz said. “It was 20 to 25 below with the wind. So when people ask, ‘did you have fun?’ No. We had fun when we went inside.”

When they filmed the other scenes in Cleveland, they said where they filmed in Higbee’s square, at the time, was run down and the city hadn’t put any money into it.

The cast remembers it being all boarded up. A railroad station with a mall attached, with only two stores open: one being a deli that sold video games.

“It was the biggest play land for hide and go seek for us,” said Petrella.

For most of the cast members, being recognized it not something that happens on a daily basis.

“It’s nice,” said Petrella. “I do enjoy the fact I don’t get recognized.”

He said when going to get a cup of coffee he doesn’t have to always worry about people asking how he kept his arms up. He said when meeting new people, he can wait to “bring that little surprise up” that he was Randy Parker.

“Especially when you’ve been out with a girl for a month … you always save that for last,” Petrella said. “Some of them have ran.”

“Other’s have made him a plate of mashed potatoes,” Schwartz added.

Ward is the most recognized member of the cast, acting in both movies and on television throughout his career.

Schwartz said on a trip to Disney, an English women came up to him and asked, “excuse me, are you in the movies?” When Ward said yes, the women said “Oh My God, ‘Freddy vs. Jason.’ I love that movie. You’re wonderful.”

“That happened three or four times just walking in the park,” said Schwartz. “Nobody bothered me. It was great. They just all bothered him.”

Petrella remembers going to a show with Ward and at the concession stand he went first, ordering a popcorn and a drink.

“They said, ‘$22.50, please,” said Petrella, who then paid and Ward walked up behind him, ordering the same thing.

“’Freddy vs. Jason,’ you’re Zack Ward, aren’t you?” Petrella remembers the cashier asking. When Ward asked how much he owes them, the man said “not to worry, that is on me.”

Ward then introduced Petrella, who asked if he, too, can get it free.

“The guy literally looks at me and goes, ‘well, you already paid,” said Petrella. “So to go back to the question, does it bother me when I don’t get recognized … I could have saved $22 that day.

“So whenever we go somewhere, Zack goes first.”

For Ward, Petrella, Schwartz and Anaya, fans love for “A Christmas Story” is always something they appreciate.

“We’re four guys that enjoy what we did and enjoy the process,” said Schwartz. “It’s appreciation that (fans) appreciate something we did so many years ago. There are thousands of movies that are made and thrown up on the wall and only a very few stick. The fact that we’re part of one that stuck … it’s a major compliment.”

Also joining the cast on their visit to North Tonawanda was author Caseen Gaines who recently published “A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic.”

The book features behind the scene photos, interviews from cast members on their memories and tells the complete story of all things “A Christmas Story.”

The book is now available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

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