Special/Signature Issues » 2012 Holiday Almanac

Ralphie's Family Ties



Some of us still recall when Peter Billingsley, the actor who played young Ralphie in the classic holiday film, "A Christmas Story," was known as Messy Marvin from the Hershey's chocolate syrup commercials of the early '80s.

Ahhh, Messy. You broke the mold.

But Paul Fletcher, publisher and editor-in-chief of Richmond-based Virginia Lawyers Media, has an even better connection: He's Ralphie's cousin, though the two have never met.

"My mom has met him and his brother Neil, who also was a child actor — their mother and my mom see each other about once a month," Fletcher says in an e-mail. "Peter's given name is Peter Michaelsen. ... His mom is Gail Billingsley Michaelsen (my mother's maiden name is Billingsley). He used her maiden name professionally, and so did Neil, who appeared in soap operas before going into business in New York."

In case you're wondering, Billingsley, 41, is still in show business but mostly behind the scenes. Fletcher notes that Billingsley and actor Vince Vaughn met as children and remain close friends — Billingsley produced "The Break Up" and directed "Couples Retreat."

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