The clues? A suspicious trail of glitter and balls, an ottoman and a severed leg from a six-foot tall turkey costume.
Jim and Jen Lauzon, co-owners of Asheville’s LaZoom Comedy Tours, got quite the shock Sunday morning. They opened up the storage unit at George’s Stor-Mor on Patton Avenue Sunday to find that their personal collection of costumes, family keepsakes and LaZoom tour props had been stolen.
“We opened up the bin and everything was gone except for a thing of tax papers and my daughter’s kindergarten homework,” Jim said.
It’s a bizarre crime given that the most valuable items inside the unit were microphones and cables, the sound equipment for the tour busses. Everything else is unmistakably LaZoom’s and unremunerative, from the giant puppet heads to the floating genie prop. But maybe there’s a black market for baby photos and over 50 cans of store-bought corn relabeled “powdered gorilla meat.” (Tour-goers are treated to a variety of prizes for answering questions).
When Jen and Jim revisited the scene of the crime Monday, the plot thickened.
“We had seen a trail of glitter in the parking lot. Not the thick glitter, but the foil, metallic kind. I’ve had a big bag of it for years for parades and stuff like that. Some of that had been strewn about.
“(Jen) followed that and a few balls that lead to another unit and they opened it up and found a turkey leg from our giant, six-foot turkey costume and an ottoman and a few other things of ours in there.”
Now a detective is on the case, and Jim says police have a suspect.
Jen estimates the thief got away with $5,000-$6,000 worth of costumes and equipment. But to LaZoom and the Lauzons, the items stolen were worth much more.
“Hours and hours of hand sewing,” Jim said.
“We had two closets-full of costumes that we give out to friends for Mardi Gras, aside from our LaZoom stuff. It’s just weird, the things you collect and the things that are taken from you.
“A thief that was after money would have just taken the sound equipment. But to just gut our unit — that’s the mystery.”
Only a company as zany as Asheville’s LaZoom Comedy Tours could fall victim to such a pun-inducing, headline-worthy crime. You probably know if you’ve been in the vicinity of one of LaZoom’s tours. Their iconic, kitschy-cool purple bus offers an alternative guide to Asheville, narrated by chaperons in campy costumes, like men in nun outfits or women appropriately dressed like the Magic School Bus character, Ms. Frizzle. It’s hard to miss.
Luckily for LaZoom, employees keep their costumes at home and the break-in hasn’t negatively affected the tours or the business, Jim said.
“What’s going to hurt us is the next time we go to use a severed head for something, it’s not there,” Jim said.
When Jim and Jen Lauzon updated their Facebook statuses with details of the break-in, friends reached out and offered not only their consolation, but their costumes.
Lesley Groetsch, owner of Sazerac and co-host of Local Edge Radio, for one, offered her collection of Mardi Gras garments to help out while the Lauzons start rebuilding their collection.
“It’s weird,” Lauzon said. “We feel like we’re part of the fabric, as everybody is here, participating in Asheville. And now somebody has stolen all of our fabric.”
The Lauzons doubt the crime was an attack on their business, but rather the work of an exceptionally clueless criminal. After all, Jim says, if someone was really after LaZoom, there are much more obvious targets than their backup costumes and mementoes. For now, Jim is keeping his hopes up and asking for people to keep their eyes out for unusually cheap sound equipment, and of course, their inimitably bizarre costumes. It’s a situation that Jim can’t help but be light-hearted about.
“If they do fun things with it,” Jim said, “I hope they at least send me pictures.”
Read more articles in:A + E