The statue will sit outside a welcome center just south of Interstate 80-94 in Hammond, with today’s ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the release of the film, a sleeper hit that has become a seasonal staple on cable TV and introduced the warning “you’ll shoot your eye out!” into popular culture.
The city was home to author and radio host Jean Shepherd, whose lightly fictionalized accounts of growing up in pre-World War II “Homan, Ind.,” formed the basis for the movie.
Shepard’s baritone narrated the movie as the adult version of protagonist Ralphie Parker. Flick was the nickname of Shepard’s real-life pal, Jack Flickinger, who survived his tongue injuries well enough to run Flick’s Tap, about two miles north of the welcome center, into the 1980s.
Flickinger died in 1997, but his daughter is scheduled to attend today’s unveiling, as is Scott Schwartz, the actor who played Flick on-screen. Schwartz did his own stunts, according to media accounts, though his tongue was adhered to the flagpole with a suction cup.
The South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority is hoping to tap into a wave of nostalgia for the film, which opened to lukewarm ticket sales in 1983, only to have the story of Ralphie’s quest to get a Red Ryder BB gun go on to become a minor industry.
The film was turned into a Broadway musical last year, and an entrepreneur who first sold leg-shaped lamps inspired by the film went on to restore the Cleveland house where the movie was filmed to make it a tourist attraction.
Visitors Authority officials expect the statue situated near a flag pole will become an all-seasons stop for travelers on I-80-94, though they intend to post warnings lest fans attempt to mimic Flick’s pose in cold weather — and really, if triple-dog dared, who could resist?
“There will be signs,” said spokeswoman Nicki Mackowski-Gladstone. “If people choose to do so, it will be lick at your own risk.”