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Crazy for Christmas Lights

Keith O'Brien

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The Light Man
(Keith O'Brien)
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Electricians move in and out of Dominic Luberto's basement in Boston, lugging equipment over a river of orange extension cords. They walk with caution through the storm doors and down eight precarious steps, checking circuits, and then they hustle back upstairs to check the Christmas lights on his home.

But this isn't just any home we're talking about here. Luberto, 56, lives in an 8,500-square-foot castle-like fortress on Boston's fancy Arborway. And this isn't just any Christmas light display, either. Luberto has decked out his home in a half million lights.

And so, you can forget about Christmas carols and sleigh bells. Inside Dominic Luberto's Boston home, the sound of Christmas is the steady hum of burning electricity emanating from circuit breakers in the basement. And perhaps predictably, it has turned Luberto's home into a holiday destination and managed to upset a few neighbors along the way.

"This is not an easy thing to do," Luberto said one night recently as he tinkered with lights in his yard. "You don't just plug in things, go inside the house and go talk to people, just like that. You've got to be after it because you got light bulbs blowing out, fuses that get disconnected, cables that get disconnected as well. And you have to be after it."

Almost every American neighborhood has a guy like Luberto -- the guy who hangs more Christmas lights than anyone else on the block. But Luberto, an Argentina-born Italian-American, makes that guy look like a slacker. Because his house isn't some suburban ranch. It's one of the largest single-family homes in Boston, a $1.65-million mansion that rises above the Arborway, an eight-lane, tree-lined thoroughfare. People can't help but stop and admire his Christmas decorations, all ablaze.

"This is such a treat with the traffic jams and everything," cooed Bostonian Diane Burke, upon seeing the lights for the first time. "I've got to bring out my grandkids. Look at that big globe. We've got to bring the kids here."

People love it - especially kids - and that's what Luberto says it's all about. "I just do it for the kids and nobody can stop this," he said. "Whoever comes against me - listen - goes against the kids. That's it. That's all I can tell you."

But neighbors, like Rick Feeney, have a different perspective. Literally. Feeney lives in a home on the street just behind Luberto's. He's been seeing glowing Christmas lights since around September, he said. And he believes they're not just there for the children.

"My own take on it is Mr. Luberto is on something of an ego trip here," said Feeney, who loves Christmas and Christmas lights as much as the next guy. "He keeps talking every year about the amount of lights he's put up, which has surpassed the year before by some half-million, and about how it's going to be in the book of world records .. and I don't know - that doesn't seem to be the kind of thing that kids would pay much attention to."

Luberto won't say how he made his money. He grew up in blue-collar Revere, just north of Boston. There, he said, people always had Christmas lights on their homes. And so, when he moved to Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood several years ago, Luberto brought the tradition with him.

"I don't like to live in a dark city, so I brought some light."

Two-thousand lights became 12,000. Twelve-thousand became 32,000. And when he bought his castle two years ago, the light show exploded. This year, it's bigger than ever and includes a 650-pound, wooden, glowing crown perched on his home's giant turret.

Neighbors complained about the crown, and the city cited him for building it without a permit. But Luberto got a permit earlier this month. The crown remains. And so does a lot of other stuff, including more than a dozen inflatable Christmas characters that neighbors like Ellen Davis find most offensive. "Santa Claus - big inflatable Santa Claus - next to a big inflatable Winnie the Pooh, next to a big inflatable Mickey Mouse. Next to a big inflatable train, next to a big inflatable snow globe, next to a big inflatable another Santa, next to a big inflatable elf, next to a big inflatable snowman ..."

The list goes on and on. Davis says it's just too much. And others worry about public safety. Luberto's street is busy and dark. There's no parking and hardly even any place for people to stop. But they stop anyway, often blocking traffic. Even so, Luberto refuses to hire a police detail to handle the crowds, saying it's the police department's job, not his. And with hundreds of people gathering outside, Boston City Councilor John Tobin is really worried about it.

"Trust me when I tell you this," Tobin said while standing in front of Luberto's home. "Every morning I cringe when I turn on the television or open up the newspaper and see that something hasn't happened out here."

On a recent evening, cars stop outside Luberto's house so that people can get a closer look at his light show. The spectators, as Luberto calls them, stand on the sidewalk, snap pictures of the madness, linger for awhile in the glow. Inevitably, Luberto emerges to hold court.

"Listen all up," he told the crowd. "I'm in a contest. Kentucky Fried Chicken is running this contest. And they're looking for the best decorated home in the United States ..."

Luberto went on to tell the people that they should vote for him. And a sign in his yard directs people to a website where he's selling a self-published children's book about his home and the lights. But he swears this isn't about him - even as he thanks his enemies for making his home more popular.

"I love critics," he said. "I really, really love critics. Without critics, you wouldn't be here. This radio station wouldn't be here. So I'm going to tell them, keep up the great work, you're doing a great job."

All the attention has turned Luberto's home into Boston's newest holiday tradition. And love it or hate it, it's probably going to be around for awhile. Luberto said he has even bigger plans for next Christmas.
But for now, he's keeping them to himself.

"I can't say it," he said with a smirk. "You're going to have to wait until next year."

  • Music Bridge:
    Rendezvous In Okonkuluku
    Artist: Waitiki
    CD: Waitiki (Waitiki)


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By kerk jones

    From Cleveland, OH, 05/17/2011

    WOW! this really crazy because of the numbers of christmas lights in his house. what an amazing dude putting a show like this. Nice work men!

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