LAKE STEVENS — I figured it had to be a hot story when two people at opposite ends of the newsroom asked me to find out What’s Up with the flock of pink flamingos in a yard on Highway 9 near Soper Hill Road.
“A party of lawn flamingos” is how crime reporter Rikki King put it. “They apparently have added a very large goose statue as well to the flamingo party. Like … an inflated-lawn-Santa-size goose.”
Lynn Jefferson, Herald creative services manager, called it “an aviary art exhibit.”
“Makes me chuckle and shake my head every time I go by,” Lynn said.
So I put on my investigative journalism shoes to find out what the flock was going on.
Sure enough, while stopped at the busy intersection, I spied a blur of pink in the distance.
I pulled into the long forested driveway to a house set way back from the road, wondering if I disappeared if anybody would find me before it was too late. (Rikki later assured me she would have.)
Not to worry. A friendly man in baggy shorts and a fedora greeted me like we were old friends.
It was the bird man himself, Nick Agostinelli, a retired car salesman who chain-smokes Salems.
He had a simple explanation why he pinked up his yard with birds a year ago when he moved here from Monroe.
“So people could find my new house, because nobody could find it,” he said. “I put those flamingos up … and then it became an institution.”
Some people might think he belongs in one.
“You haven’t seen nothing yet,” said Agostinelli, stamping out a cigarette.
He recently turned 65, and the flamingos shared in the celebration by wearing birthday hats.
Some people have dropped off flamingos in his yard to add to his collection. Others have absconded with a bird or six — teens, he suspects. A few of the birds are made of concrete. Those stayed put.
The giant goose he added to the flamingo party is his latest find, nabbed for $10 at an estate sale.
“Isn’t that great? I love that thing,” he said.
Agostinelli invited me beyond the birds and into the small white frame house he rents.
“Now you’re going to see the fun stuff,” he said.
From the road, you’d never imagine what lies beyond the 30 flamingos, 10 crows and a goose big enough to hold a man and a hunting dog.
Spilling out of the garage are about 10 vehicles, including a Corvette, MGB GT, ‘54 Chevy and an Italian Vespa scooter.
There are thousands of items inside his house. He sums up his move from Monroe: “I rented a 26-foot U-Haul and made two trips a day for seven days, and I didn’t get it all.”
These include, but aren’t limited to, a massive collection of toy wagons, rubber rats, skulls, vintage toy cars, trucks, totem poles, alligators, hood ornaments, outboard motors, signs, action figures, wooden boxes, gas station hats, antique buckets, art deco.
Agostinelli buys, sells and trades at swap meets, antique shows and estate sales. “I try to keep my stuff rolling,” he said.
“At one time I had a thousand signs. I had 40 sets of bongo drums, I’m down to nine. If I get broke I just take something off the wall and go to Snohomish and sell it. I think I’m ADDT. Or ADD or whatever it is.”
A shark protrudes over the living room fireplace. Yes, that’s a bloody plastic leg in its mouth.
Dice fill bubblegum machines in the kitchen, where nuts roast near a zeppelin blimp and a bank teller window is a chopping block island.
“Come on,” he said, moving me along. “You’re going to see more. Lots more.”
In what he calls the “jungle room,” I almost expected him to swing from the overhead light pounding his chest. But, sadly, he didn’t.
Next he took me into his bedroom and showed me his big antique brass bed.
“It’s been in a couple porno magazines,” he said. Not him. Just the bed. “I’ve got a buddy who’s a photographer and he’s borrowed my bed a few times.”
Agostinelli is part picker-part hoarder, but totally organized. His house is curated like a museum. A Ripley’s museum. He could charge admission.
“My mother comes over and looks around and goes, ‘You know, it’s no wonder you have two ex-wives,’” Agostinelli said.
His mom lives down the road.
“She’s a character, too,” he said. “She’s 81 years old and drives Jaguar roadsters and plays tennis four days a week. She bought a party barge when she was 78. Everybody thinks she’s my sister. I say, ‘No, no, that’s my mom. Quit hitting on her.’”
He grew up in Lake Stevens, the oldest of four boys.
“After high school, I spent three years going around to rock fests selling roach clips,” he said.
Then he came back and settled down. Sort of.
“I used to collect cars, a lot of cars,” he said. “Then my wife cut me off after I got 20. So I started collecting toys when my daughter was born 40 years ago.”
His pride and joy is his ’81 Corvette.
“It cured my cocaine habit,” he said. “In 1980, my first wife threw me out so I got into coke. So I moved to Palm Springs and sold Cadillacs for a couple years and came back with a pocket full of money and put $10,000 cash down on that Corvette and made $1,000-a-month payments just to keep me away from cocaine. It worked. I wasn’t going to lose 10 grand or the Corvette.”
Perhaps you bought a car from Agostinelli when he was a salesman.
“I was very good. I had a 22-car a month average,” he said. “I got fired three times and I quit four times.”
He said he was making six-figures when he retired from selling cars 20 years ago to wheel-and-deal toys.
“I made a lot of money selling cars. Money’s nothing. Junk is more fun,” he said. “I used to have a Ferrari. So what. I have a Corvette now.”
Contact Andrea Brown at 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter:@reporterbrown.