Ralphie: Then and Now

Well, Thanksgiving is over. The house is back in reasonable order, kitchenware and dinnerware are washed (except for the bowls still containing a few unpopular left-overs), and pictures are semi-permanently in the camera rolls. Now, it’s everything Christmas! And what is Christmas without Ralphie Parker in the 1983 movie, “A Christmas Story?” Just who was this Ralphie in real life, and who is he now?

Before his legendary role as the unforgettable, BB gun loving, Ralphie, Peter Billingsley was a child actor in over 100 TV commercials. Perhaps the most memorable ad featured “Messy Marvin” promoting Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. If you lived in the 80’s, take a nostalgic peek at the video clip below.

Peter, also known as Peter Billingsley-Michaelsen, was born in New York City in 1971 to Alwin Michaelsen and Gail Billingsley. Alwin was a financial consultant. Gail was a cousin to Glenn Billingsley, husband of Barbara Billingsley who played June Cleaver, mother to Beaver Cleaver of “Leave It to Beaver.” With this connection to the TV business, Gail started taking her son Peter to auditions at an early age. His first break was doing a Geritol commercial with his mother at the age of two. His four older siblings also had acting careers as children. Peter’s parents who still live in New York City involved their children in acting as a hobby for them, like soccer or gymnastics, never envisioning it would become a consuming life for them, especially for Peter.

In January, 1986, three years after the filming of “A Christmas Story,” Peter was at Kennedy Space Center as spokesman for the Young Astronauts Program. He and the classmates of the son of teacher astronaut Christa McAuliffe were on hand for the launch of McAuliffe’s first flight in the space shuttle Challenger. Their excitement turned to horror as the Challenger exploded 73 seconds into flight. That dark memory haunts Peter to this day.

His childhood education included a blend of public schools in New York, private schools in California and Arizona, and some private tutoring on set. After testing early for his high school diploma, he attended Phoenix College in Phoenix, Arizona.

After Ralphie, Peter went on to play numerous TV and movie roles winning several Young Artist Awards and was nominated for an Emmy for the movie, “Writing on the Wall,” which starred Hal Linden. His post-teenage years drew him behind-the-scenes in film and TV production where he continued his successes as a producer and director of many popular shows and even a few hit music CDs.

Currently, at age 45, Peter, continues to be very active in his life-long career of acting, producing, and directing. He lives in Beverly Hills, California. Almost all of his work is behind the camera now, except for occasional cameo appearances in his films. As you can see above, he is a rather handsome man, 5’10”, weighing 175 pounds. He has never been married–hasn’t even had a serious girlfriend–which has led some to speculate about his being gay. However, his close acquaintances testify that he is very much straight and does date women on occasion.

His net worth is estimated at around $10 million. He has a reputation of being very generous contributing liberally and frequently to various charities, mostly those helping the underprivileged and poor both in America and around the world. He seems to lead a disciplined life with little fanfare and just enjoys using his talents to make others happy. He considers it a compliment that people he passes on the street still occasionally greet him with, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”

Now that you’re a subject matter expert on Peter Billingsley, won’t watching “A Christmas Story” for the umpteenth time be even more fun this year?




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