Beetlejuice, Sweeney Todd, and many others share a home.
It was a cold winter night in Novi, Michigan. Six-year-old Ashley Lenzo and her sister were inside playing when their father suddenly walked in the door with a little surprise. In his hands were two movies he had just rented from the local video store and quickly the two girls raced to the couch. “I remember him bringing home movies like Casper and The Addams Family and I couldn’t wait to see what he would bring home next.” said Ashley. What started as a random movie night quickly became a weekly Friday night tradition and with it young Ashley developed such a strong connection with these movies that it fueled a brand new passion. A passion that was strong enough to endure life changes, soft enough to comfort her away from home, and fulfilling enough to guide her toward building a collection of thousands that have literally shaped her life.
“My mother was an art teacher and my father was a master carpenter so I’ve always had an artistic and creative push from my parents. It really allowed me to not only create new things but more importantly to appreciate every art form that I was experiencing and that included those Friday night movies,” said Lenzo. Ashley really connected with her movies and slowly began collecting some of her favorites including her all-time favorite movie “Beetlejuice.” Eventually her joy of watching films motivated her to become a young actress and before you know it, Ashley was acting in middle school plays and taking part in community theater. Ashley’s love for her movie toys and movie collection remained a center piece to everything she was a part of as an eighth-grader and it had her believing that she could one day be a professional actress… but then high school started.
“When I got to high school, I hung around with a popular group of people and immediately felt like acting in community theater wasn’t the cool thing to do.” said Ashley. “So I replaced acting and the passion that I had for my movies with joining the school’s dance team and just hanging out with my friends.” Lenzo was an excellent student and had a great social life too but inside she was missing out on her single greatest joy, her movies and the movie-themed toys that she had started to collect. After graduating from Novi High School, Lenzo was accepted into Michigan State, leading her not only on a career path but also re-energizing her love for her movie collectibles.
“I was packing up my room to go to college and I decided for the first time in years to go into my closet and pull everything out.” said Ashley. “One by one, I found all of my favorite movies and decided to take some of them to school with me.” While away at college, Ashley quickly discovered that being an hour away from friends and family allowed her to do what she really wanted to do and that’s add to her movie collectibles. “While my college friends were going to Target to decorate, I was going to flea markets, garage sales, trade shows and decorating my dorm room with new collectibles that I bought from my favorite movies.” At the same time, Lenzo says that her movies came in handy as a cure when she felt homesick. While Ashley’s beloved VHS tapes served as a comforting hug on occasional nights, they also led her back to her acting roots. She joined a comedy sketch group that allowed her to be around other college kids who also had a great interest in cinema. All the while, her collection of movies and movie themed toys continued to grow.
Following her college years, Lenzo began a career in accounting but that didn’t slow down her desire to add to her collection. In fact, she began traveling to shows around the country to search for new items and that’s when she started buying authentic movie props. “Among other things, I bought Samara’s shoes from the horror movie ‘The Ring’, a meat pie from the movie ‘Sweeney Todd’ and a stretch face that was used in the filming of Beetlejuice.” said Lenzo. Between her movies, her movie-themed toys and her authentic movie props, Ashley’s collection was growing into the thousands. Through building this collection Ashley recognized some lessons she’s learned along the way.
“When it comes to collecting, don’t be afraid to embrace your inner child.” said Ashley. “We all have things that we loved as kids and you don’t have to stop loving them just because you’re older. Also always remember to be yourself. Through high school I buried my love for movies and I would tell anyone today to embrace that passion and stay active with it in your day to day life.”
“Once you’re committed to your collection, it’s very important to seek out other people who share common interests with you.” Lenzo continued. “Find social groups in your area or go online and find message boards and auctions that are filled with people who collect what you’re interested in. You’ll find a lot of items that you’re looking for and you’ll learn a lot about the true value of those items by watching what other people are paying for them.”
“Finally, when it comes to buying items for my collection, I never second guess myself.” said Ashley. “If I immediately like something, I’ll buy it before I lose it. If I find that two weeks later, it’s really not what I want, I can always resell it. The beauty of this craft is that there’s a collector for everything.”
Today Ashley has over 3,000 movie collectibles and she and her husband have turned their Michigan home into a pseudo museum with a movie collectibles display in the attic, a built in oddities room and a movie-themed basement. At her accounting firm which she calls “pretty conservative” she has vintage horror movie posters from ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Dracula’ and ‘The Blob’ hanging on the wall next to her desk. Even her wedding celebrated her love for movies as she had an early 1900’s carnival themed reception complete with circus performers and vintage ticket booths. It was the perfect way for Ashley to celebrate the two loves in her life: her new husband and the many fond memories kept in her collection.