"Let There Be Light" by Jack Zukerman

So many times I have been told, ”I wish I had written that down because it is something I do not want to forget”.  I was listening to my contemporaries at the annual 2009 Lightfair held in New York City , who were past their bar mitzvah age, discussing how they started the International Association Of Lighting Designers (IALD).  I had wondered why a group like this had not existed before the late sixties.

A group of men who had been trained as architects or had been stage lighting designers for the great American Theater in both Chicago and New York, came together in 1969 at the home of pioneer lighting designer Richard Kelly to brainstorm about their new industry.

I thought to myself, “one day these giants of their time and founders of this industry would be gone and all the new people in this profession would wonder, who were these early icons?” They never had the good fortune of knowing them.  So I decided to tell part of their story, and at the same time tell mine because it certainly runs hand in hand with theirs.

My  story was easy to tell, because it is the typical American story:  you work hard and long, and maybe, if you are lucky, you hit pay dirt. The path sounds easy, but let me tell you, it is not so easy. There are days when your receivables are big, there’s no money to pay the bills, and on the day you need to meet payroll, the money in the bank will not cover the checks written.  UL gives you problems, and then some importer cuts hell out of the prices because he doesn’t understand the business.  On and on it goes – you fight the fight on a daily basis. When you have the right kind of friends, it becomes a little easier. I certainly had many of those, but there were also the greedy friends, or whom I thought of as friends, who were dishonest, and ended up living in a small condo in Palm Spring. As I look back, the majority of the people I met along the way were hard working decent people.

How can anyone forget Abe Feder? The man whom I had the pleasure of working with, who was considered one of the very first professional lighting designers. What about Richard Kelly, another other early great lighting designer? My pal and everyone’s friend, Lesley Wheel, Babu Shankar, Don Gersztoff, Edison Price, whose contributions to this industry I write about. What about Ray Grenald, Paul Marantz, Jules Fisher, Charles Stone, Paul Gregory, David Singer, Howard Brandston, Bill Lam, Randy Burkett, Jules Horton, Craig Roberts, Chip Israel, Gary Steffy, Barbara Horton, Mike Gehring, Jim Benya, Stephen Lees, Naomi Miller, Karen Goldstick, Susan Brady, Barbara Bouyea, David Mintz, Lee Waldron, David Apfel, Leonard Auerbach, Terry Bell, Stephen Bernstein, Francesca Bettridge, Al Borden, Teal Brogden, Renee Cooley, Bill Reigel, Duane Schuler, Robert Shook, Michael Souter, Susan Tillotson, Gary Woodall, Claude Engel, Denise Fong, Larry French,Paul Helms, Patricia Glasow, Mark Harris, Domingo Gonzalez, Dawn Hollingsworth, Addison Kelly, Candace King, Francis Krahe, Ron Kurtz, Sean Oconnor , Mark Major UK, Robert Mapes, Stephen Margulies, Jerry Kugler, Janet Moyer, Robert Newell, Janet Nolan, Robert Prouse, Patrick Quigley, Barry Citrin and Robert Singer?

These are just a few of some of the current lighting designers who do so many wonderful things in today’s lighting projects. In my book, Let There Be Light, I tell of the early days of lighting design, how it got started and where it is today. I have found a few wonderful books on lighting design, mostly written by Gary Steffy, but no one had ever written about the people in our industry. There have been some real characters in this business. Now, however it is becoming more of a corporate culture, with all the mom and pops being gobbled up by the conglomerates.

In my book, I discuss what it is like to be part of a fortune 500 company, and whether an entrepreneur belongs in this culture. My travels brought me in contact with poets, monarchs and mobsters. The mobsters were deeply involved in the building industry all over America. Maybe the most interesting part of my story are the characters that I ran into and had to deal with…

The mayor of Chicago, Richard Daily Sr who didn’t want me involved in the John Hancock Building, the real live gangsters who were involved in the building trades in New York (you know, the kind that carry guns!), there were the same kind in Chicago I tell about, and wow, I will never forget how really scared I was in New Orleans, where they really meant business.

There was an electrical contractor I knew in Newark N.J. who was owned by the mafia, and I tell how I got along with him, and his mafia bosses.

As Lesley Wheel became a part of this industry, more women became lighting designers. How different it was to deal with the ladies in this profession. I discuss how men are adapting to dealing with the talented women who have achieved a high rank and status in our industry. It’s not a boys’ club anymore.

How different are the changes that took place, and continue to take place to the betterment of our industry.

Many times I have been asked by architects and lighting designers how reliable and honest are the manufacturer representatives who sell our products. Like any business, there are good and bad reps in our business. In my book I tell you the reps that I like to work with.

It is so ironic that most of the fluorescent fixture manufactirers, like Smithcraft, and Miller do not exist today. In the years that lighting design was done by engineering firms, Holophane was the major industry leader. Not as true, today..so many changes in such a short period of time.

I had real pleasure in telling Bill Lams story and the story of an old friend, Sy Shemitz, who invented Tambient Lighting. Richard Kelly, who opened his lighting office in 1935. Harry Gerstel, who designed and patented the recessed accent light. Ray Grenald, a contributor to his greatest lighting challenge, of which there are many. Paul Gregory is discussed in detail, and his many contributions to this industry, as well as Paul Marantz, Jules Fisher, who also have made their contributions to this industry. I also tell about Howard Brandston, and what he has contributed.

There will be many, many more discussions in the future about the book. I am proud to donate all the proceeds from the sale of this book to IALD educational trust.