GUY RAZ, HOST:
A few strings of lights and an inflatable Santa are enough for some people when it comes to holiday decorations, but not for the Garabedian family of the Bronx. Their over-the-top Christmas displays have been a traffic-snarling must-see for nearly four decades. And as George Bodarky from member station WFUV reports, traditional is most definitely not the right word for this holiday attraction.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GEORGE BODARKY, BYLINE: The first giveaway might be the music the Garabedians play through speakers outside their home. Instead of a Christmas carol, you're more likely to hear a hit single from a singer like Engelbert Humperdinck.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AM I THAT EASY TO FORGET?")
ENGLEBERT HUMPERDINCK: (Singing) They say you've found somebody new.
BODARKY: A long line of cars slowly cruise past the family's two-story house in this ordinarily quiet residential neighborhood. And while you will find Dasher, Dancer and the rest of Santa's reindeer crew up on the second-story deck, the Garabedians' massive holiday display also features life-size figures of other notables generally not associated with Christmas.
GARY GARABEDIAN: Joan Collins, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Nicole Kidman. There's Cher, there's Diana Ross, there's Michael Jackson.
BODARKY: That's Gary Garabedian. His mom started the tradition of decorating the house in 1973 as a way to give back to the community. Gary was 9 at the time. He said it started off small with just a few dolls. Now, they have more than 150 mannequins. Many are robotic. Some simply move their heads or hands. Others play instruments.
GARABEDIAN: Some are dancing the waltz - the Beauty and the Beast is doing the whole waltz. We have chandeliers that are spinning.
BODARKY: There's even a Liberace-like mannequin playing a realistic-looking Steinway piano. The Garabedians make the fiberglass mannequins themselves. The family's in the dressmaking business, so they also outfit the mannequins in fashions you might see on the red carpet.
PAUL LURRIE: It's so over-the-top. It's kind of like, it's so bad, it's good. I think it's just great.
BODARKY: Paul Lurrie traveled from Belle Harbor, Queens, about a 40-minute drive, to take in the display's elaborateness.
CONNIE HARDY: Oh, my goodness. This is just fabulous. Fabulous.
BODARKY: Connie Hardy lives on the other side of the Bronx. She came to see the house with her family and best friend. She says it makes her feel like a kid again.
HARDY: I can do this every day. Come and see this every day. Everything that you imagined to life, you know? And it's just so great.
BODARKY: This was Hardy's first time here, but for a lot of people, it's a holiday tradition. Damaris Rios has been coming for 20 years.
DAMARIS RIOS: I love this house. This is awesome. Every year is different.
BODARKY: Alvin and the Chipmunks made their debut this year. Next year, Elvis will take the stage for the first time. Gary Garabedian says the display took on a celebrity theme a few years ago.
GARABEDIAN: It's a celebration. When somebody's born, a birthday, it's a celebration. So Christmas is a birthday. All the movie stars come together to celebrate Christ's birth.
BODARKY: A giant Nativity scene overlooks the entire display. Gary says more than 50 500-watt halogen spotlights light up the whole thing. Their electricity bill runs about $2,000 for the season, but Gary says it's worth it because of the smiles it puts on people's faces. As for the neighbors annoyed by all the traffic on their block, Gary says he encourages them to just bear with it. For NPR News, I'm George Bodarky in New York.
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