Subscribe to the Daily Times-Call

LongmontFYI Home

AP MoneyWire

LongmontFYI Home | Local & Regional News | Sports | Business | Opinion | Community | Health | Entertainment | Find a Car
Real Estate | Employment | Classifieds | Submit A Classified Ad | Subscribe to the Daily Times-Call | Contact Us
  Silver Lining Productions

Publish Date: 12/6/2005

Alek Komarnitsky holds a remote control for the Christmas lights in front of his home at 2510 Blue Heron Circle in Lafayette last year. Komarnitsky pulled an elaborate hoax regarding his Christmas decorations in 2004, but this year he says the special effects are real — and they are for a good cause. Times-Call file photo/Richard M. Hackett

Prankster has seen the light
Lafayette man says last year’s Web site hoax is now real and will bring attention to disease

LAFAYETTE — The lights are up and the Christmas Web cam is working.

Or so says Alek Komarnitsky, whose claim to fame this time last year was tricking the Internet community and media worldwide into believing his Web site let surfers control an extensive display of Christmas lights at his Lafayette home.

Komarnitsky hopes last year’s “15 minutes of fame” will stretch to this Christmas season to bring attention to celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that afflicts both of his young sons.

The cause is “near and dear to my heart,” Komarnitsky, 42, said.

To bring renewed attention to his Web site and his cause, the self-described technology “geek” has connected his Christmas lights so that Web surfers can this year really turn them on and off.

Komarnitsky is asking visitors to his Web site — www.komar.org — to directly donate to the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, and in exchange he lists donors on his well-trafficked site.

This year’s Christmas cam, which is operational from 4 to 10 p.m. takes pictures every 5 seconds with a time delay of 2.5 seconds, Komarnitsky said. It includes a cam of Santa’s workshop — Komarnitsky’s home office — and two views of his lights.

Also, as a fundraiser, the center plans to auction on eBay the “Christmas Lights Webcam that Fooled the World,” an old slide projector with duct tape wrapped around it that Komarnitsky strapped in a neighbor’s tree last December to fool reporters. Bidding begins Saturday and runs through Dec. 20.

Komarnitsky’s notoriety last Christmas began after local local media reports were published highlighting his Christmas lights and how they could be controlled through his Web site.

After The Associated Press picked up the story, the story circulated around the world.

The Web site appeared to work because Komarnitsky programmed it so that a series of pictures with varying Christmas lights turned on would rotate as people clicked on the site. At one point, when Komarnitsky flew over the house in a helicopter with a journalist, his wife flipped the lights on and off to keep up the charade.

He later called the Wall Street Journal and admitted the deception, which set off an even bigger media frenzy.

But this year, with a charitable cause to drive his holiday hype, Komarnitsky said his user-controlled display is legit.

Pam King, director of operations for the Center for Celiac Research, said so far she’s received about $1,800 from donors who visited Komarnitsky’s site. The money will be used to raise awareness of the sometimes-
misdiagnosed disease, and to fund research.

“He’s trying to raise Christmas joy and raise funds for a disease that really needs funding,” King said.

One out of every 133 people probably have celiac disease, according to a 2003 study by the research center. For those with the disease, consuming the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, barley and possibly oats, can cause bloating, diarrhea, severe abdominal pain and weight loss.

The disease can be managed through a complicated diet that forbids foods containing even minute amounts of gluten, including breads, pizza, beer, cookies, and even some gravies and soups. In the most severe cases, the disease can cause malnutrition and be fatal.

Komarnitsky’s son Dirk, 7, progressed normally as a baby until he was introduced to solid food. After that, he lost weight and had constant diarrhea. Diagnosed with failure to thrive, it took 18 months to correctly diagnose the source of his illness.

During that time, he lost so much weight that his mother was worried if he would survive. He developed an aversion to eating and often refused to eat.

A biopsy of his intestine revealed he had the genetic disorder. His younger brother Kyle was later diagnosed with the disease after displaying some of the same symptoms.

Komarnitsky’s site, a difficult-to-navigate maze of links to articles about his hoax, Christmas blogs and information about his family, earns money through Google AdSense, a program that delivers business links relevant to his site, although he said he only receives “pennies a click” and that visitors must click on the actual business link for money to register.

It is not on his donations page, and that money does not go to celiac disease, he said.

For Andrew Batson, owner of Broomfield-based Brass Key Property Brokers, Komarnitsky’s charity and cheer were a combination worthy of support.

“In addition to the donation, Alek’s Web site gets a lot of traffic,” said Batson, who donated $1,000 after visiting the Web site. “It was a good site to have a link to our Web site and support a good cause.”

On Monday, an unannounced spot test of Komarnitsky’s Web display was working. A reporter drove to his home with a cell phone and was able to give instructions to someone on the other end of the phone who clicked on the Webcam from a remote computer while the reporter watched the lights flicker.

Rocky Mountain Christian Church
  Bassett Carpets


Melody Homes


  Centennial Bank of the West



Coldwell Banker




Formby Ford

Business Spotlight
Health & Fitness
Movie Listings What's at the Movies?
Get the listings here
  Click for
Suicide Prevention Hotline Numbers
The Daily Times-Call
News and Information from Longmont and Northern Colorado

Reporter-Herald logolDaily Record logolLouisville Times logo
Lafayette News logolErie Review logol Superior Observer logo
LongmontFYI Home | Local & Regional News | Sports | Business | Opinion | Community | Health | Entertainment | Find a Car
Real Estate | Employment | Classifieds | Submit A Classified Ad | Subscribe to the Daily Times-Call | Contact Us

All contents Copyright © 2005 Daily Times-Call. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed for any commercial purpose.