Advertisement
Share

Over-the-top Christmas house in La Mirada is worthy of Clark W. Griswold himself

A house covered in lights and Christmas decorations
Neighbor Aria Sadler, 4, pedals past Jeff Norton’s La Mirada home, decorated in tribute to “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Norton’s faux second story drew scrutiny from city officials.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The glow danced on the faces of children and adults who gathered on a recent December evening at what’s become an annual Christmas tradition: the transformation of Jeff Norton’s La Mirada home into a “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” display.

This year’s design, which includes a faux second story on Norton’s home, was almost canceled by code enforcement, because the addition was unpermitted and deemed unsafe by the southeastern L.A. County city.

“What does it mean to take that down?” Norton, 46, said recently, pointing to the fake second story on his house, clad in a red Santa Claus cap. “It means Christmas is over.”

The entire display would have been put on hold if he had been forced to disassemble the plastic addition meant to make his home look more like the suburban Chicago house in the 1989 comedy starring Chevy Chase.

Norton said that at a minimum he had faced a $1,200 fine, which he’d planned to pay, viewing it as the price for keeping the display up.

An animated mannequin of movie character Cousin Eddie
Jeff Norton’s house in La Mirada includes an animated mannequin of movie character Cousin Eddie emptying his RV septic tank.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

But after receiving an outpouring of support from the community, news coverage from local media — and a Christmas miracle — the city relented, Norton said. The display can stay up until Jan. 1 as part of an agreement with the city, he said.

“The residents of La Mirada really fought hard for me,” said Norton, who takes donations from guests at his display and in return gives out merchandise such as commemorative magnets or the glass moose mug used in the movie. Norton jokes that he stopped counting how much money he’s spent on his passion project, but estimates it’s around $100,000.

The city of La Mirada did not respond to numerous requests for comment to corroborate Norton’s timeline of events.

Fake snow falls on Jeff Norton’s home in La Mirada. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Advertisement

Since 2018, Norton has wowed neighbors and visitors with his elaborate display, which glows like a Christmas beacon in the quiet, suburban neighborhood. Scenes staged from the movie sit in Norton’s frontyard, complete with mannequins dressed as characters from the zany comedy, along with vehicles from the movie and a wall of Christmas lights.

The characters include Clark Griswold, played by Chase in multiple “Vacation” movies as the dad at the center of everything that goes wrong, and Cousin Eddie, played by Randy Quaid, who is propped up near an RV emptying out a fake septic tank on Norton’s driveway.

Norton’s 1972 Ford Condor RV is mocked up to look like the one from the movie, after being salvaged from a campground where it sat for 20 years, before he rescued it, Norton said.

“I started with an RV and a regular store mannequin,” Norton said. “I noticed there was some excitement, and then I went out and bought three pallets of lights.”

Norton jokes that he and his wife divorced, not over the Griswold display, but because of his “childlike actions.” He says his daughters love the transformation of the home, but they think he’s a bit crazy.

Norton, who works in classic car sales, has painted his home the same shade of yellow as the Griswold home and installed green shutters. For the holiday season, a station wagon and a police cruiser are parked in front, along with other mannequins arrayed in various poses from the movie, such as Griswold in a hockey mask holding a chain saw ready to trim a Christmas tree that won’t fit in his living room, much to the dismay of his yuppie neighbors, also represented with mannequins. And the scene where his boss is wrapped up in a bow in a holiday gesture gone wrong.

Kizzy Peterson, visiting from Paramount, took a selfie in front of the home as fake snow rained from pumps installed by Norton.

“The owner definitely put a lot of time and thought into it,” Peterson said. “Around these times it brings a lot of holiday spirit. The detail is immaculate. I don’t think he missed anything at all.”

Daughter and mother Myranda and Minerva Zapper from Cypress have visited the “Griswold home” since 2019. In a sign of true dedication, they’ve brought crowds of family and friends to see the display.

Visitors take photos of Jeff Norton's La Mirada home.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“Last year, we brought a group of like 20 of us,” Minerva said. “I love it.”

“I love how colorful it is,” Myranda said. “Everything they’ve put into this house, it just makes it marvelous, and very wow.”

Albert Saldovar of La Habra said his 27-year-old son, Damian, recently watched “Christmas Vacation” for the first time. His parents looked on and chuckled as he stood in awe of the display.

“They told me that it’s hilarious, goofy, a funny movie,” Damian said. “This house is a pretty good replica of the movie. If you’ve seen the movie and you want to see the movie in real life, come on down here.”

Several of Norton’s neighbors, who did not want to be identified, said they enjoy the Griswold spectacle right outside their front door. One woman said she doesn’t mind the lights, but the crowds can get a bit annoying.

Another neighbor said it makes traffic and parking a headache around the holidays. Norton’s home is on a cul-de-sac, and the entire street is blocked off to allow pedestrians to see the display from the street.

A 1989 Los Angeles Times review highlighted how “Christmas Vacation” fuses imagery from “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” in a single visual gag.

To Norton, the marriage of seasonal sentimentality and raunchy humor that is “Christmas Vacation” makes it a timeless classic.

“This movie is it for Christmas. I can watch ‘Home Alone’ and do all that stuff, but for me ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ is the absolute funniest movie, hands down, period, dot com,” Norton said. “I love this movie.”


Advertisement