Brothers David, left, and Marc Weinstock of Pacific Event Services stand in front of Denny Tedesco’s house. (Photo by Gene Blevins/LA Daily News)
– Marc Weinstock
He’s right. Denny Tedesco is the Clark Griswold of Califa Street in Woodland Hills. A man totally obsessed with outdoor Christmas lights.
He’s the first guy on his block to climb the ladder the day after Thanksgiving, strings of lights draped over his shoulder.
Lots of them. Clark Griswold numbers. In the thousands.
Kids love him. TV weathermen do standups in front of his house. Neighbors wonder what his electricity bill looks like in January.
“My son lives and dies for Christmas,” says Denny’s mother, Carmeline Tedesco.
Which is why she could not let her son’s house stand dark this Christmas. No lights on the Tedesco house? Impossible.
But it was possible, very possible.
Denny, 49, got the bad news in August that he had a cancerous tumor in his neck. The operation was a success, but as a precaution doctors wanted him to undergo a few months of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
The Clark Griswold of Califa Street became too weak and sick most of the time to climb out of bed, let alone climb a ladder the day after Thanksgiving to light up his neighborhood.
No laughs this Christmas, like the year he threw potato flakes all over the front lawn to simulate snow, and it rained during the night.
Denny woke up to a lawn of mashed potatoes. Pure Clark Griswold.
No laughs or lights this year, though, he told his mom. He was just too weak.
We’ll see about that, Carmeline said to Denny’s wife, Suzie, and her two granddaughters, Rafael and Isabella.
She started calling around for ideas and got lucky. A good friend had a neighbor with two sons running a business putting up Christmas lights and decorations.
“I’ll give them a call,” Carmeline said.
Marc Weinstock – who owns Pacific Event Services in Van Nuys with his brother, David – was standing outside the Tedesco home a few days before Thanksgiving talking with Carmeline about the job.
Denny wasn’t due home from a chemotherapy treatment for a couple of hours, but he was early.
“What’s going on, Mom?” he asked, as his wife parked the car in the garage.
Marc put the clipboard he was holding over his Santa’s Helper T-shirt and kept quiet.
“He’s looking at the house next door,” Carmeline said, thinking quick. Fortunately for her, the house was for sale.
Denny nodded and walked inside. Carmeline let out a deep breath. The surprise was almost blown.
“So, how much?” she asked Marc.
To do it right – Clark Griswold right – about $2,000, she was told.
She couldn’t afford that, Carmeline said. She’d have to come up with something else.
Marc went back to the office and told his brother about the Tedescos on Califa Street. How a Christmas tradition was about to end because of cancer.
“This family’s been through a lot, David,” Marc said. “What do you say?”
A few minutes later, he was on the phone with Carmeline.
“Get your son out of the house Thanksgiving weekend because we’re putting up the lights, no charge,” he said.
Carmeline said she put down the phone and began to cry. She knew what this was going to mean to a son who lives and dies for Christmas.
The Tedescos spent Thanksgiving with family in Ventura, coming home that Sunday night just after dark.
“When we drove up and I saw my house all lit up like a Christmas tree, I broke down,” Denny said Friday.
Carmeline was waiting for her son at the front door, a big smile on her face. Denny gave her a hug and kiss, thanking his mom for keeping the Tedesco tradition alive.
The house looked beautiful. Pacific Event Services had put up more than 8,000 lights.
Clark Griswold numbers.