The Real Story Behind the PEOPLE Issue Featured in a Memorable “National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation ”Scene“ ”(Exclusive)

PEOPLE makes a cameo during a notable scene in the 1989 holiday classic starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo

<p>Warner Bros.</p> Beverly D

Warner Bros.

Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

First released in theaters in December 1989, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation has gone on to become a holiday classic — with fans young and old often rewatching (and now streaming) the movie starring Chevy Chase as a father whose attempts to host a good old-fashioned family Christmas go increasingly and hilariously awry.

Over the years, there have been plenty of revelations shared about the making of the laugh-out-loud comedy written by John Hughes and directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik. But PEOPLE had one important unanswered query about a notable cameo in a scene featuring Chase and Beverly D'Angelo's characters.

In a new interview, Chechik reveals how a PEOPLE magazine issue featured early in Christmas Vacation came to be — and what he remembers about filming that particular scene. 

Related: The Cast of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: Where Are They Now?

Starting at nearly 11 minutes into the film, married Chicago couple Clark (Chase) and Ellen Griswold (D'Angelo) are seen lying in bed as they discuss their holiday plans. Following their struggles with chopping down a Christmas tree, the couple is questioning whether they're taking on too much by hosting family, including their parents, Clark Sr. (John Randolph) and Nora (Diane Ladd) as well as Art (E.G. Marshall) and Frances (Doris Roberts). 

After Clark — who is covered in sap from getting caught in their tree in the scene prior — is unable to turn the pages of the PEOPLE magazine he's reading without them getting stuck to his fingers, an exacerbated Ellen suggests "it's not too late to change our plans."

And unfazed Clark responds by saying it's "great" everyone is coming to visit, prompting his wife to remind him "how difficult" it is to have that many people under one roof for the holidays. "All I've ever wanted is a big family Christmas," Clark says.

During all of this, the PEOPLE issue's cover is clearly visible, featuring a mustachioed man in a suit and glasses with the headline, "The New Wall Street."

<p>Warner Bros.</p> Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase in 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation'

Warner Bros.

Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase in 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation'

While the cover itself is a fake rendering made for the movie, the man in the image is Chechik, the director confirms to PEOPLE. "Yes, it's me," he says.

Despite some previous claims that the photo is of Matty Simmons, the late CEO of National Lampoon and producer on the Vacation film series as well as National Lampoon's Animal House, Ellen Hamilton Latzen (who played Clark and Ellen's niece, Ruby Sue Johnson) first dispelled that rumor while speaking to HuffPost.

"I want to set the record straight about [lists] I've seen that claim that the person who’s on the cover of PEOPLE magazine is a producer of the film but it wasn’t," Latzen said at the time. "It was Jeremiah S. Chechik, the director."

So how did he end up as the cover star? Chechik tells PEOPLE, "I think I was the easiest to get permission to do that." Not only was it easier to approve himself for the prop, but it was also a fun way for him to pop up in the movie. "It was kind of a fun way of Hitchcock-ing myself into the film without a walk-on," he says.

Additionally, the director confirms that both the style of the cover and the headline is a reference to the 1987 film, Wall Street, which featured a shot of Michael Douglas' character, Gordon Gekko, on a fake issue of Fortune magazine reading, "The King of Wall Street."

<p>Warner Bros.</p> Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase in 'Christmas Vacation'

Warner Bros.

Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase in 'Christmas Vacation'

He explains that the "inside joke is that anybody who knows me knows that I'm sort of the opposite of that. So there was a little bit of an inside aspect to the 'New Wall Street,' which couldn't be further from the truth."

Why PEOPLE was used instead of another publication, is because it was the most relevant in the moment, the director says. "That's the kind of magazine people would be reading at the time," he explains, noting that "PEOPLE magazine was the Twitter of that age."

Chechik also says he remembers filming the scene "as if it were yesterday."

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Shot from overhead, it gave the moment between D'Angelo and Chase's characters a "kind of formal tone," he explains of capturing "the kind of intimacy that two married people with that kind of ease would have."

Of course, the sap is also a callback to the Christmas tree scene, "which led to some fabulous physical comedy with the lamp, of course, and all the rest of it." The director adds, "Chevy was the master of physical comedy at that point. So it was a fun scene to shoot."

In order to achieve the sap effect that causes Clark's fingers to get stuck to the pages, as well as to the lamp and Ellen's hair, the director says the prop team utilized Elmer's glue in order to make the actor's fingers "tacky but not super sticky."

Related: Chevy Chase Reunites with Christmas Vacation Costars Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid at Christmas Con 2023

As for the back cover of the magazine, the advertisement for Wade's Wintergreen gum is a commonly used prop that has appeared on the back of other fake magazines seen onscreen, including in scenes from April Fool's Day, Malcolm in the Middle, Married… with Children and Masters of Sex

According to British designer Craig Oldham, who has posted some great X (formerly known as Twitter) threads about movie prop design, Wade's Wintergreen was "the preferred gum of the best production designers of the 1980s," noting that the ad appeared in a newsstand scene from John Carpenter's They Live

<p>Warner Bros.</p> Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase in 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation'

Warner Bros.

Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase in 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation'

Christmas Vacation was Chechik's first feature film. "Up until then, I had done a lot of sexy, very moody, atmospheric commercials," he told Rolling Stone, revealing that once he started working with Warner Bros., "they started to send me scripts — and one of them sent me was Christmas Vacation. I laughed out loud when I read it."

Admittedly, the director didn't know the movie — which was a box office hit and the highest-grossing installment in the original Vacation series — would become a classic for over three decades.

But he tells PEOPLE he did make an effort to make choices in the film "that were somewhat timeless," which he believes has added to its lasting legacy. "I just wanted to make a great movie," Chechik says.

Of course, there have been other memorable versions of PEOPLE magazine issues that have appeared in everything from Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 to Taxi, with Jeff Goldblum notably playing a sex-obsessed PEOPLE journalist in The Big Chill and an issue of the magazine leading to a rift between friends on The Big Bang Theory.

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Read the original article on People.