Seasonal & Holidays

Chatham Artist Re-creates Leg Lamp From 'A Christmas Story'

As people celebrate the holidays from a distance this year, a Chatham man found a way to make people laugh and come together.

CHATHAM, NJ — Seeing a giant leg lamp might make you as horrified as Mrs. Parker was during its unveiling in "A Christmas Story." But that recognizable lamp has brought holiday cheer to a Chatham neighborhood.

Every night at 5:30 p.m., a light turns on at Steven C. Fleisch's North Summit Avenue lawn. From there, the wood-carved leg lamp gleams from lampshade to heel, all the way down the fishnet-covered appendage.

As people drive down the street, through some houses with traditional Christmas lights, Fleisch's newest creation always gives them a laugh.

"I've had people drive by and give me the thumbs-up," Fleisch told Patch. "Everybody that slows down is really happy to see it."

Fleisch built on his passion for creating art in the early '90s after a serious sports injury. Since then, he developed career in fine art and earned awards in paint, sculpture and digital manipulation imaging.

Earlier this year, Fleisch and his partner, Kris Dale, had two dead cherry trees to remove from their yard. Fleisch left one with a 3-foot stump so he could more easily pull it out with a truck.

But since Fleisch's neighbors know him for his artistry, they had other plans. People asked him what he'd carve out of it.

Originally, Fleisch had no intentions of making the stump into art. He was busy renovating his house and not thinking about his passion. But then a neighbor gave Fleisch the idea of carving it into the infamous leg lamp from "A Christmas Story."

Surely you remember the famous scene. But here's a reminder just in case:

Fleisch carved the leg with a chainsaw. Then his neighbor found a lampshade someone put on the curb to throw away. Fleisch spray-painted it to match the color from the movie and placed an LED lightbulb into his creation.

"I can't tell you how many people have come by," he said. "When I was carving it, they would ask, 'Is it what I think it is?'"

The leg lamp of Chatham brings a little light to a difficult year. For Fleisch and Dale, recent times have been especially challenging.

Five family members and two of their dogs have died in the past couple years, Fleisch said. Although nobody in their family died of COVID-19, the pandemic adds layers to their grief.

"With COVID going on, it just makes things feel even more weird or distant, being that I basically lost all my family," Fleisch said.

The year has been anything but normal, and that will continue during the holidays. But Fleisch found a creative way to bring people together — while maintaining a safe distance from each other — earlier this month.

About 40 neighbors showed up to watch Fleisch light up the Christmas leg. Somebody even brought fireworks for the mini celebration.

Now people drive by and slow down their vehicles, and they smile and laugh.

Even people born after the 1983 film instantly recognize the leg. Fleisch says a group of college students stopped while he carved it and said "fra-gee-lay," pronouncing "fragile" the same way as The Old Man when he read the leg lamp's box. (It is, in fact, not an Italian word.)

After the holidays, Fleisch will detach the leg lamp from the ground. He'll remount the carving so he can place it in his yard every Christmas season.

"From here on, we'll have an annual leg lighting," he said. "Hopefully by next Christmas, COVID will be completely gone, and we can have 100 or 200 people. The more the merrier."

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