Yes, it really was cold. Yes, it really was a flagpole. And,
no, you shouldn’t try the trick at home.
If Scott Schwartz sounds well-rehearsed in telling the story
behind the story of his famous
tongue-stuck-to-the-frozen-flagpole scene from A Christmas
Story, then that’s probably because he is.
“I get calls every year from [reporters], ‘Hey, we got a kid
that stuck his tongue to a pole. Can you give us a comment?’”
Schwartz says. “I go, ‘Yeah, he’s a schmuck.’”
Schwartz, now 49 and president of the child-actor advocacy
group A Minor Consideration,
played a schmuck by the name of Flick in A Christmas
Story, the nostalgic, 1940s-set film that, while briefly a
No. 1 box-office hit, made its Yuletide reputation as an
24-hour-marathon cable offering (and
soon-to-be live TV special on Fox).
Looking back, Schwartz estimates he worked for all of about six
weeks on the movie, which was shot in the winter of 1983. Age
14 at the time (but looking years younger), Schwartz came to
the set a veteran actor, with a Richard Pryor movie, 1982’s
The Toy, on his résumé.
Cast as Flick, loyal friend of aspiring Red Ryder BB-gun owner
Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), Schwartz traveled with the
production to the now-closed Victoria School, in
Ontario, Canada. The classroom scenes were shot there. So was
the flagpole scene.
If you’ve gotten this far — in this article, or in this century
— without knowing what the flagpole scene is, then you need to
get yourself in front of a screen that’s screening A
Watch the full scene:
In a movie filled with oft-referenced moments — the leg lamp,
the “You’ll shoot your eye out!” taunt, the pink bunny outfit —
the flagpole scene just might reign supreme. It’s a spot-on
distillation of schoolyard politics, an example of how things
get out of hand quickly and painfully: Flick, on the
“triple-dog dare” of a character named Schwartz (played by R.D.
Robb), sticks his tongue to the school’s icy flagpole.
Flick’s tongue doesn’t get unstuck until the fire and police
“Was it painful? No,” Scott Schwartz says, asking and answering
the anticipated question unprompted.
The actor didn’t suffer because he, unlike Flick, had a prop
department looking out for him.
Flick accepts the famous “triple-dog dare” while Ralphie
looks on. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
“They made a piece of plastic that they slid over [the
flagpole],” he says. “It had a little hole in it with a suction
tube that went into the snow — you couldn’t see it, it was a
little motor, like a small vacuum cleaner, [and] the
hole-opening [in the plastic] was about the size of your pinky
nail. So when you put your tongue there or finger or whatever,
it just stuck.”
“I can make the sound effect,” Schwartz adds, “but you can’t
Sometimes, Schwartz recounts, he tugged too hard and his tongue
came right off. But, again, there was no pain. The weather
conditions were another matter.
Flick’s classmates look on in horror at his icy predicament.
(Photo: Warner Bros.)
“The worst part about it was just the bitter, bitter cold that
we had,” Schwartz says. “We were two days out there, and it was
between 20 and 25 below zero with the wind chill.”
From those two days, Schwartz got his piece of movie
immortality. His bronze likeness —
in tongue-to-flagpole form — has stood in Hammond, Ind.,
hometown of A Christmas Story author and narrator Jean
Shepherd, since 2013.
And he once watched basketball great Michael Jordan re-create
the scene in the Chicago Bulls locker room.
“He was perfect. He was dead-on,” Schwartz says of Jordan. “I
was just beyond elated. I was lit up like a Christmas tree
Sounds about right.
[Editor’s note: A version of this story ran in December
Watch: The triple-dog dare redux in Fox’s ‘A Christmas
Story Live!’ teaser:
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