In which Dominic Luberto discusses his light-related charity effort for Children's Hospital; what he does with his lights after Christmas and the bogus story about him and the fireworks. Oh, yes, and he shows off the 10-foot Star of David he's putting up this year.
You'll probably find this exceedingly hard to believe, but Nancy, Greta and I spent some time tonight with Dominic Luberto, the guy who lights up the Jamaicaway between Halloween and January. No, really: He even showed us around his home, a.k.a. the Castle - he's done an amazing job renovating what had been a decaying 8,500-square-foot stone hulk into a showpiece home you'd expect to see on HGTV or something.
Yesterday, Luberto e-mailed me; he wanted to talk.
But not about anything I'd written in the past about his lights, as I found out when I called him today. He wanted to talk about a kid's book he's written about a guy with a castle and tons of Christmas lights. Could I come over, he asked. "You know where I live." We'd been planning to go grocery shopping, so we made a little detour by way of Jamaica Plain.
The book is called Find Dominic Decorating and it's sort of like "Find Waldo," only you have to find, well, Dominic as he decorates his castle for Chrstmas (he has a similar book in the works for July 4th). It's $9.90, which he says is the bare minimum he can charge through the self-publishing company that's putting it out - and that 25 cents of each sale will go to Children's Hospital. He's on a quest to sell one million copies - just in Massachusetts. "I just want to bring cheer to the kids," says Luberto, an Argentine immigrant who has lived in the Castle for three years now (he moved from a house in Hyde Square in JP, where he got his start in extreme lighting - although more like 12,000 bulbs, not 500,000).
Children and one million are both touchstones for Luberto.
All the Christmas stuff, he says, is for the joy it brings children, both his own (and their kids) and others who drive or walk by. He says City Councilor John Tobin has promised him a police officer this holiday season to direct traffic near his house, which, of course, sits on what could be Jamaica Plain's busiest thoroughfare.
One million, meanwhile, is sort of Luberto's holy grail of light bulbs. But even he admits it might be unobtainable - it might prove too much work - although he says he might try for 2010, which will be the 250th anniversary of the main part of his house (the stone part was added later, in the 1880s or so). Fortunately, he says, the 400-amp electrical system he installed could easily handle the load. Bright? No worse than a streetlight outside your window, he claims.
As it is, he starts getting ready for Christmas in August. This year, he and his cousin expect to put up 500,000 bulbs - double what they managed last year. Despite what the Globe wrote last year, he doesn't just throw out his bulbs at the end of the season; he saves them for the following Christmas. He showed us a two-car garage filled with box after box after box of lights; he said there were even more in the basement.
Luberto says the Globe also got it wrong when it said he wanted to shoot fireworks off from his property. He says what he told the reporter he really wants to do is to put a bunch of fog generators in his backyard, then shine some spotlights into that to create a giant illuminated column. He said today early experiments leave him unconvinced it'll work without a lot of work.
And this year, he hasn't had time to tinker much with that, because, in addition to the 500,000 lights planned for the house and yard, he and his cousin spent more than 40 days building an illumimnated 10-foot high, 650-pound "Crown of Christ" that now sits atop the Castle. City inspectors want him to take it down, but he vows to keep it up until January. He says he asked friends at City Hall what to do and they said to wait.
Heavy lies the crown:
Luberto also took us out back to see the ten-foot-long Star of David that he plans to string with lights as well and mount atop a long pole in his yard - near the three illuminated Maypole-like Christmas trees he's already put up.
Luberto in his recording studio in the Castle (when not putting up ever increasing numbers of lights, Luberto is a musician and music producer):