Ian Petrella, who played Ralphie’s kid brother Randy in the 1983 holiday classic “A Christmas Story,” has answered the same questions hundreds of times.
No, he doesn’t really hate meatloaf. Yes, he owns a leg lamp. No, he doesn’t watch the movie that made him famous. And yes, he can put his arms down.
But after all these years, the film’s obsessive fans cannot get enough.
“People will ask me to re-enact scenes with them, and I usually don’t do it,” Petrella said. “Not because I’m a jerk, but because I’m 38 years old. Things just don’t sound the same coming from a grown man.”
Still, when a woman came to him during an appearance and pulled a plate of mashed potatoes out of a cooler, he happily posed next to her while she demonstrated “how the piggies eat.”
The film focuses on a family around the holidays in 1940s Indiana and also stars Peter Billingsley as 9-year-old Ralphie who wants “an official Red Ryder, Carbine Action 200-shot range air rifle” for Christmas; Darren McGavin (“Fra-GEE-lay. That must be Italian.”); and Melinda Dillon as his mother (“You’ll shoot your eye out.”).
Whether you can recite every line from the film or have merely caught the movie in passing during one of TBS’ 24-hour marathon runs on Christmas Eve and day, a 30th anniversary screening of the movie Saturday in the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda promises to be pretty cool.
For starters, Petrella and four other actors from the film will be there: Zack Ward, who played the bully Scut Farkus; Yano Anaya, who played his toady Grover Dill; Scott Schwartz, Ralphie’s beleaguered classmate Flick; and Patty Johnson-Lafountaine, the angry department store Elf.
At 11 a.m. Saturday, the cast will march in a Christmas parade down Main Street in the City of Tonawanda with the very fire truck that rescued Flick’s tongue from the frozen flagpole in the iconic triple-dog-dare-you scene. The parade will begin at Broad and Main streets in Tonawanda and march down Main Street, crossing the bridge onto Webster Street and ending at the theater.
Fire truck rides will be sold in front of the theater beginning at noon, with proceeds going toward the maintenance of the antique vehicle.
At 1 p.m., the cast will take the stage in the Riviera Theatre, fielding questions and sharing behind-the-scenes stories before the film begins at 3 p.m. Afterward, they’ll stick around for a meet-and-greet, selling autographs and posing for pictures. Two limited-edition Red Ryder BB guns autographed by cast members will be raffled at the screening.
The event is spearheaded by Joe Lavey, a superfan of the movie and president of Sweeney Hose Fire Co. No. 7, which will benefit from the sale of raffle tickets sold at the event. A smaller screening last year, attended by Petrella, raised $4,000 for the volunteer fire company.
Just more than a third of the theater’s 1,200 seats were filled last year, but presale tickets for this year’s show already have surpassed that, Lavey said.
Petrella was so touched by the welcome he received in North Tonawanda last year, he returned in July as grand marshal of its Canal Fest parade and helped rally his fellow actors to come back with him this year.
“Ian called the other actors and said, ‘We really have to go to North Tonawanda. The city was just amazing,” Lavey said. “He told me whatever help I needed to put the show together, he’d be there.”