Ever since La Mirada’s Jeff Norton saw the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” when he was 15, he was an instant fan.
Norton spent years collecting memorabilia celebrating the 1983 Chevy Chase comedy. And four years ago, they paid off to film what might be the ultimate seasonal compliment—they turned their home into a Griswold Christmas house display for the holidays.
This year, Norton took the tribute one detail-sweat step further. He added a fake second floor to his performance on Golva Drive to make his home look even more like home in the slapstick holiday comedy.
La Mirada city officials were not pleased. They are asking her to take it down and cite it, which could result in a fine of hundreds of dollars for the landlord.
It’s just a prop, Norton announced in response. “The second story is not real and not functional,” he said.
“It’s just made to look like a movie,” he said. “It doesn’t get any more elaborate than Santa Claus blows up. It’s just part of my performance. I want someone to come out and tell me why they’re doing all this. It sounds ridiculous.”
In a Friday email, La Mirada City Manager Jeff Boynton said Norton does a great job with its performance—last year the city gave him its Holiday Home Decorating Award—but said the structure on the roof can be dangerous.
Boynton wrote, “The city is concerned that a non-permitted second-story structure could potentially cause unintended injury or property damage to members of the public if it were to be dismantled by a roof.” “No worries with other holiday decorations.”
Norton said their structure is like a plastic fabric and lightweight. He didn’t use any plywood.
Boynton said he is still concerned.
“The reindeer and Santa Claus on the roofs are usually made of fabric and wind, and potentially carry little risk of damage,” he wrote. “The city staff saw the property owner using wood and other construction materials on this structure. It’s definitely not made of fabric and air.”
Boynton said a follow-up inspection would be conducted within the next week. And if the structure persists, a final notice will be issued again requesting the removal of the structure.
So far, Norton has not been cited, Boynton wrote.
Norton said he just wanted to work with the city to resolve the debate.
“My whole point is that we should have worked together to do whatever it takes to make it safe,” he said.
Norton said that he became a fan of the film, the third of the popular “vacation” films written by comedy icon John Hughes.
“The movie is absolutely hilarious,” he said of the film, in which family man Clark Griswold wants to enjoy a perfect Christmas. He pushes his long-suffering wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and kids to make sure everything is perfect, including the trees and home decor.
However, things turn bad quickly. His bumbling cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his family of Bumpkins appear unplanned and begin living in their down-the-heels camper at the Griswold property.
Even worse, Clark’s employer withholds the vacation bonus, which she needs to fund her entire vacation.
“I gravitated to it,” he said of the film. “It was part of a family tradition when I was little. I wanted my parents to do housework like Clarke.”
He bought his current home 20 years ago—and four years ago a 1972 Condor motorhome that looks like the rough-and-tumble RV in the movie.
Norton decides to rebuild the Griswold house because of his sister, Julie, and father, Randy, who have died over the past three years. He was also a huge fan of the film and helped with the early incarnations of the performance.
“They were a big reason why I did it,” he said. “We had a really good time with it. Every year since I started, I keep building on the whole display.”
Thousands of people usually visit the house – and the road is usually closed to auto traffic for non-residents during the holiday season.
The original Griswold House, by the way, is not an actual home in an actual city, although it is believed to be in the Chicago suburbs. It is a prop house on the Warner Bros. backlot in Burbank and also appears in the Disney series “WandaVision,” according to IMDb.
Norton’s performance also included a Ford Taurus standing in for Griswold’s “Family Truckster” station wagon, and a 1983 Ford Limited in the role of a police patrol car.
Last year, he painted his home in the telltale yellow of the Griswolds film residence.
And so this year, another story.
“It appears we may have run into an obstacle,” he said of the city. “One option I’m not willing to make is to take it down.”