The man with the 500,000 Christmas lights

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):


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    Comments

    friends who fix things

    By on

    how hospitable will those 'friends' at city hall be now that he's gone on record about them?

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    You're talking about the

    By on

    You're talking about the state where the Senate President's brother was a mass-murdering mafia chief.

    The state who sent a young drunk driver to Washington, overlooking likely vehicular homicide through 4 decades of US Senate re-elections.

    That re-elected a US Representative after a prostitution scandal (don't get me wrong, Barney Frank is a genius and one of the finest legislators ever).

    Not to mention the city that once had a mayor who once served terms concurrently-- a mayoral term, and a prison term, and still returned to city hall upon release!!

    So I imagine they will be just as hospitable.

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    AHEM! Gerry Studds!

    That re-elected a US Representative after a prostitution scandal (don't get me wrong, Barney Frank is a genius and one of the finest legislators ever).

    First of all, prostitution scandal? Gee, I just thought it was a boyfriend looking for revenge.

    SECONDLY, I find it telling that you would bring up a consensual arrangement between adults, and call it a scandal, and NOT bring up either Gerry Studds (reelected after boffing pages - UNDERAGE SUBORDINATES) or Nicky-the-Political-Prostitute Mavroulous!

    Lets just say that one gay he-said he-said rent boy (or-boyfriend spurned?) blow up does not even come close to being a scandal compared to these losers - and Studds was reelected!

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    Telling of what? Naivete?

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    Telling of what? Naivete? Truthfully both Studds and Frank's cavortings were before my time (both as a Bostonian and as an adult). I thought about Studds when making this (quick) list but had assumed he was not reelected, his obituary last year I remember having a tone of disgrace in regards to that time. In looking at his bio now I see he definitely was reelected, and how!!!

    Regardless of the legitimacy of either of these scandals, both were quite jarring controversies at a national level, and both still underscore my pithy assertion that scandal or [alleged] misuse of political power is not first on the agenda of local voters

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    you make it seem worse than

    By on

    you make it seem worse than RI

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    I'll say it again -- it's fabulous.

    By on

    Great journalism, Adam -- thanks for gettin' the skinny. Why are everyone's panties in such a bunch over this? The lights are awesome; they give lots of people a child-like thrill; and they're neat, tidy, and well done. If I put a crown on MY house, would inspectors come and make me take it down? I doubt it.

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    The Boston Globe Got It Wrong

    How could I have believed that he threw away all those lights every year?

    Because I read it in the Boston Globe.

    I should have known better as a critical consumer of media.

    Thanks Adam for this great post.

    --Steve

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    Thanks, but ...

    By on

    Be critical of my report, as well, since all I did was talk to Luberto, not any of his neighbors or city inspectors. Granted, he seemed like a really nice guy, but a real journalist would see if there's more to the story.

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    Makes me hate that house slightly less...

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    ...but why not at least donate the proceeds to an energy-related charity? There are other ways to help kids while still leaving them a planet to live on.

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    Sumavul

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    I have to say, at first I was a crown-hater but now I'm kind of bemused by it. But for the coal that it takes to run all these lights, what's not to love? Sure, it may not be to some people's taste but its at least amusing. But I have to say, at least in its present form, his house doesn't hold a candle (couldn't resist) to even the smallest house owned by the most feeble little old Italian lady in Somerville. For those who have not experienced the sun-tan inducing, migratory bird luring, flight-path altering specatacle that is Somerville at Chirstmas-time, fear not. There is a guided bus tour every year - courtesy of Mayor Joe C. - that will take you meandering about. Very worth it. Perhaps Luberto could erect one of those mini train sets that you can sit in to go around his house in circles and give people rides. That might be similar.

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    Oh, yeah, music

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    I forgot: Luberto also said he has no plans to pipe Christmas music through the season because that would be too much for the neighbors.

    Now, there used to be an entire block in Dedham (near Gaffney, not far off Washington) where almost every single house was lit up like a mini-Las Vegas strip AND they had Christmas music coming out of loudspeakers. Turned out this one family had emigrated en masse from some village in Italy to this one street and that was their contribution to the holiday. Then, three or four years ago, there was some sort of bitter fight in the family and that was it; the lights went off.

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    LOVE THE LIGHTS AND CROWN!!! Already bought the book

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    I LOVE THE LIGHTS, THE CROWN, THE BOOK, THE HOUSE, THE PASSION, EVERYTHING THAT HAS TO DO WITH MR. LUBERTO SHOWING HIS LOVE FOR THE HOLIDAY. He shows love for every nation, religion, person, country, etc. Don't be a hater! I am sure you are driving by the house and wishing it was you grabbing all the attention! He is a great man and my kids LOVE HIS HOUSE! and want to go there every night to see the light. He is a very religious man and the crown is a symbol of many things. Why dont you try to call him and talk to him first! before you go talking $HIT on this website.

    I bought 5 copies of his book already. I bought them for all my kids and my nephews.

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    I've gone by the place at least a couple of times.

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    It 's beautifully lit, and it's a wonderful sight for the eyes, plus it only occurs once a year. However, the inflatable figures that're also in front of the house don't do it any justice, imo.

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    Why should I pay for a

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    Why should I pay for a detail outside of this guys house? He's a millionaire - let him pay for it. Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for this. The energy this guys wastes is a disgrace.

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    I spoke /w John Tobin and he

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    I spoke /w John Tobin and he has not promised him a detail officer. Actually he is trying to get this guy to abide to some rules as well as being a better neighbor (having lights shut off at a proper time - not midnight or 1 a.m.).

    I was happy to hear about that. I mean I like lights but but this is getting ridiculous...

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    Energy and Taxes???

    First off, if you are complaining about the waste of energy, I shouldn't ask if you shut off the lights to a room everytime you leave, or that basement light that is always on. Ohh, how about the porch light?? Well let's touch on the fact that I can't have kids, yet I still pay for public schools and other childrens' education. Why should I pay for that?? I don't mind because I love kids, and I do want to see the world a better, more educated place and less people that think like you. Let's keep in mind that Christmas is for the kids and not the adults.

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    FIRST OF ALL I WANT TO SAY

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    FIRST OF ALL I WANT TO SAY THAT MR. LUBERTO'S HOME IS BEAUTIFUL!!! AT LEAST HE HAS NOT LOST THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT! YOU PEOPLE ON HERE POSTING THOSE NEGATIVE COMMENTS NEED TO CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE SPEAKING LIKE THAT ABOUT SOMEONE THAT IS DOING SOMETHING GOOD FOR THE KIDS!!!

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    Use your left pinky

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    Move it slightly off the home row to the left, and press that funny button marked caps lock. You'll no doubt be surprised at what it does.

    You'll find there's a whole new set of letters -- letters that aren't all big ones! Letters that don't make it seem like you're shouting all the time! Letters that don't make you look like a total idiot!

    Whether Mr. Luberto's lights are good for the kids remains to be seen. They're amusing, and wonderful, sure, but they are also creating a serious traffic hazard, which Mr. Luberto doesn't seem to care much about. I guess we'll see how much he loves the little ones by his reaction when a child gets run over.

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