RELATED: "I would never have thought to build a living room around a statue, but it made it like an intimate setting. And then the view from up there!"
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As you celebrate Columbus Day Today, you could take a moment and tip back a Brunello di Montalcino in honor of the Buffalo native who's efforts brought us the national holiday.
Mariano Lucca (pictured L with JFK, circa 1962) , long involved in Italian-American affairs, founded the National Columbus Day Committee in 1966 and lobbied Congress for a national holiday.
As a result of his efforts, Columbus Day was inaugurated in 1971.
"He relentlessly campaigned, cajoled, and crusaded through the Halls of Congress in support of legislation to create that Federal holiday honoring Columbus," said then Cong. John La Falce, in a speech on the house floor delivered shortly after Lucca's death .
Lucca died in 1994, but not before lobbying governors in almost each state in the union to declare their own Columbus Day holiday ahead of the national holiday.
"After five years of lobbying, it came true for him," says his son Fran Lucca, (pictured R) a Hall of Fame Buffalo broadcaster and former producer, writer and reporter at WBEN AM-FM-TV in the 70s.
Born in 1901 in an Italian-American neighborhood in Buffalo, Mariano Lucca developed an early interest in Democratic politics. His father, Francesco, was a Sicilian immigrant who held political meetings at the saloon he ran, and young Mariano was active early in politics and local Italian-American philanthropy.
But his son says you didn't dare tell him that to his face.
"He did not like being called an Italian American. He did not like hyphenations. He said ' I am an American of Italian extraction'," the younger Lucca said.
He often held court at his Columbus Parkway home near the Peace Bridge, working on various fund drives and events for Italian causes nationwide.
Lucca developed friendships with Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, and he spent his honeymoon in 1924 at the Democratic National Convention in New York City. He ran unsuccessfully five times for Congress in the 1950s and 1960s, and attended every presidential inauguration since Herbert Hoover's in 1928.
In the 1930s, The Buffalo Evening News sent him to Europe, where he interviewed Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Italian King Victor Emmanuel, Pope Pius XI and the papal secretary who later became Pope Pius XII .
"He was irrepressible, dogged, sometimes charming, sometimes irreverent; and, in the end, Mariano Lucca successfully championed Columbus' cause. Unquestionably, Columbus would have discovered America a lot earlier than 1492 if he had had an advocate of Mariano Lucca's caliber and persistence in the Spanish court," La Falce said.
eanwhile in New York City, Living Room Built Around Columbus Statue a Hit
Leaders of the Italian-American community and civil servants from New York, including police and sanitation workers and other guests, pose for pictures and also arrive in what is known as the living room created by artist Tatzu Nishi that surrounds Gaetano Russo's 1892 sculpture of Christopher Columbus 75 Feet Above Columbus Circle Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, in New York. The art installation “Tatzu Nishi: Discovering Columbus," which brings people to eye level with the Columbus statue, became part of an annual wreath laying ceremony that celebrates Columbus Day. (AP Photos)
NEW YORK (AP) -- Anyone hoping to commune with Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day will be disappointed: He's booked solid.
Monday's tickets to the conceptual art installation that surrounds a 13-foot statue of the explorer with a well-appointed living room have all been snapped up.
The exhibit, "Discovering Columbus" by Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi, has become a must-see cultural attraction in New York since it opened Sept. 20. Some 20,000 people have made the walk up six flights of stairs for the up-close view of Columbus, as well as the unique views of Midtown Manhattan and Central Park.
"Living room in the sky? I thought `Cool. Check it out,'" said business analyst Brianna Goodman, who visited this past week. "I would never have thought to build a living room around a statue, but it made it like an intimate setting. And then the view from up there!"
Artist Martha Bone said the walk up and down the stairs was well worth it. "It was one of the best installations I've ever seen. ... It's my city. I like to know what's going on in it."
The exhibit is being presented by the city's Public Art Fund, and free timed tickets can be reserved at http://www.publicartfund.org . Another 80,000 are slated to see the exhibit before it ends Nov. 18.
"What I have been absolutely thrilled about is that I think the project has really captured the imagination of New York," said Public Art Fund director Nicholas Baume.
Not everyone is a fan. John Mancini, executive director of the Italic Institute of America, said the artwork turns the 1892 statue by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo into "a stage prop."
"How can one artist hijack the work of another artist?" he complained.
The statue rests on a 60-foot granite column at the southwest corner of Central Park. Columbus' marble features usually are visible only from afar.
For his first installation in the United States, Nishi has perched Columbus' home atop scaffolding that encases the column.
The statue rises out of a large coffee table so that it seems to preside over a highbrow salon. Pink wallpaper, designed by the artist, depicts American icons Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Martin Luther King Jr.
Because Time Warner Inc. and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's media company are sponsors, the magazines include Bloomberg Business Week and the TV is on CNN with the sound on low. Fresh newspapers are laid out every day
Visitors can plop themselves on the sectional, admire the views and scan the titles on Columbus' bookshelves, which include Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" and books about baseball and American history.
"I was really enjoying trying to figure out who are these people who live in this apartment," said art therapist Bonnie Hirschhorn. "I was picturing some New York City intellectual."