‘Home Alone’ changed the neighbourhood, but they’re OK with it

‘Home Alone’ changed the neighbourhood, but they’re OK with it
WINNETKA, ILL.—Never mind that the irrepressible Kevin McCallister, a.k.a. Macaulay Culkin of “Home Alone” fame, is now nearing 40, and those bungling bandits Harry and Marv would be bona fide senior citizens.

For Winnetka residents living near the “Home Alone” house on Lincoln Avenue, the holiday classic remains timeless, with a steady stream of sightseers still stopping by their neighbourhood nearly three decades after the release of the 1990 John Hughes holiday classic.

“That house brings us a lot of joy, and some inconveniences, but we all survive it,” said Linda Martin, a longtime Lincoln Avenue resident who lives near the stately red brick Colonial selected by the late Hughes and director Chris Columbus as the fictional McAllister family home.

Martin recalls a handful of hitches that accompanied the arrival of the “Home Alone” cast and crew in her neighbourhood during early 1990.

Her children’s school bus was sidelined by blocked streets, the movie crew’s high-voltage equipment and props prompted power outages and the Martin family’s black Labrador developed an allergic reaction to the fake snow blowing around the neighbourhood.

But for Martin and many of her neighbours, witnessing the joy the “Home Alone” house and other filming locations in the village have brought to countless visitors during the past three decades has outweighed the occasional inconvenience of having their suburban street transformed into an iconic Hollywood landmark.

Martin holds fond memories of the time Culkin visited with her children’s pet rabbits, Frosty and Moose, and recalls Daniel Stern, the actor who played the bandit Marv, as “genial, kind and considerate,” who bought hot cocoa from the neighbourhood kids.

Nonetheless, Martin said she never imagined that nearly three decades after the film’s debut her neighbourhood would still be a popular attraction for visitors from across the world.

“When the marketing people from the studio visited our neighbourhood before they started filming, they said it would take them about eight days, but it ended up taking them about 30 days,” Martin said.

“The ‘Home Alone’ experience in our neighbourhood really never ended and it continues to this day,” she added.

Longtime resident Terry Dason, executive director of the Winnetka-Northfield Chamber of Commerce, remembers stepping onto the fake snow outside the Community House with her two-year-old and eight-month-old in tow.

Longtime resident Ann Smith said, despite the occasional overeager sightseers who park illegally before snapping selfies and group photos, most folks in the neighbourhood are proud to live on the so-called “Home Alone” block.

“Most people who live on the street love it and think it’s a lot of fun,” Smith said. “It was a big deal having the movie filmed here and it’s still a big deal. Any time I’m walking by that house I see someone out in front, taking pictures.”

Actor Kate Johnson appeared in the film as the police dispatcher Rose, who takes a call from frantic matriarch Kate McCallister, played by Catherine O’Hara. She said the scene — which features the line, “Hyper on two” — was filmed in a classroom at the west campus of New Trier High School.

“Larry (Hankin), the actor who played police officer Larry Balzak, was eating a doughnut and a piece got stuck on the phone, and that is the take that Chris (Columbus) kept,” said Johnson, an Evanston resident.

Unbeknownst to the casting director, Johnson was more than four months pregnant with her son, who is now 29, when she shot the police station scene.

“I had on a polyester skirt and it fit just like a pair of Spanx,” she said.

She and her family attended the recent performance of “Home Alone in Concert,” featuring the movie on the big screen, as accompanied by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing composer John Williams’ score.

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“The scene that always gets to me is when Catherine O’Hara finally arrives back home and says, ‘Oh, Kevin, I’m so sorry,’ which still makes me cry,” Johnson added.

“We were hiking in Kenya and when a man who was taking our photo asked where we were from, I made the movie sign with my hand and said, ‘Home Alone,’ and he was so excited, he wanted to take a picture of me,” Martin said. “People all over the world love ‘Home Alone.’ After they made the movie in our neighbourhood, the crowds came and they’ve never really left.”
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