Lonnie Hammargren is a bit of a Las Vegas legend.
The former Las Vegas Lt. Governor has spent his life collecting curiosities, displaying thousands of objects in three adjoining houses in a residential Las Vegas neighborhood.
Each year, Lonnie Hammargren and his wife Sandy open up their home(s) to the public on Nevada Day, showcasing about 10,000 pieces of memorabilia, much of it related to Las
This blog is an avid collector of things, so we’ve always sort of admired Lonnie Hammargren for his commitment to the acquisition of stuff.
Now, we don’t know how to feel. The premiere episode of the ninth season of reality series “Hoarders” featured Lonnie and Sandy Hammargren, and it turns out trouble’s afoot in the “Hammargren Home of Nevada History.”
“I estimate I’ve spent about $10 million on things I’ve collected,” says Lonnie Hammargren on the show. “It wasn’t a lot for me at the time. Like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way.”
For many years, Hammargren could afford his passion for collecting, as he was the first first neurosurgeon in Nevada.
Things have changed, however. During the “Hoarders” episode, it’s revealed Lonnie and Sandy Hammargren are $750,000 in debt.
The episode highlights the growing conflict between the Hammargrens, with Sandy stating, “Lonnie has spent an enormous amount of money on his collections. I’m done with it. We’ve acquired a lot of debt and now it’s time to start selling things so that we can live off it.”
“I don’t have the money to continue paying my mortgage, says Lonnie Hammargren. “If I don’t pay the mortgage, I could lose my house.”
As is the “Hoarders” way, experts are brought in to assess the situation. On the case are a clinical psychologist specializing in hoarding disorder, Dr. David Tolin, and an “Extreme Cleaning Expert,” Matt Paxton.
Tolin pulls no punches, saying, “Rich hoarding and poor hoarding can look very different, but they’re both still hoarding.”
Tolin continues, “Lonnie really wants people to notice him and he wants people to like him. There definitely is an element of Las Vegas culture. I also get a sense that behind that, there’s a little bit of a fear there. Maybe I will die and be forgotten. And I get a sense that terrifies him.”
The awkwardness continues as the experts try to convince Lonnie Hammargren it’s time to sell off some of his prized possessions. Or at the very least some he doesn’t prize.
Hammargren resists until the psychologist points out how much his wife is suffering, and asks, “What would you sacrifice for your wife’s happiness?” Lonnie Hammargren answers, “Anything.”
Of his 10,000 items, Lonnie Hammargren agrees to sell 27.
“Hoarders” brings in a familiar face to help with the process of estimating the value of Hammargren’s things, Mark Hall-Patton. Hall-Patton (pictured below, at right), of course, is a regular on another reality series, “Pawn Stars.”
It becomes clear quickly Lonnie Hammargren’s view of the world is a special one. Then again, this is the man who has a tomb with a sarcophagus in his garage where he plans to be entombed.
At auction, the 27 items bring a soul-crushing $4,112.
The cringeworthiness peaks when Hammargren states he’ll use the proceeds of the auction not to pay his mortgage, but to publish his life story.
The psychologist adds, “Unless Lonnie really wakes up to his wife’s suffering, unless he really makes a decision to change things, I don’t know if things are going to get any better.”
Unlike so many episodes of “Hoarders,” this one doesn’t have a happy ending. Lonnie Hammargren remains an enigma, seemingly oblivious to the distinction between a collector and a hoarder. We’re actually not too clear about that ourselves.
Ultimately, the experts packed it up. Dr. David Tolin summed things up by saying, “At the end of the day, Lonnie wants to be left alone, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
After watching “Hoarders,” we’re not sure how to feel about the Lonnie and Sandy Hammargren saga. The emotions range from admiration to pity and concern.
Is Lonnie Hammargren a dreamer of big dreams or painfully out of touch with reality? We’re thinking he’s a little bit of both.
During the “Hoarders” episode, he says, “I want to be a spectacle. Mohammad Ali was a spectacle. Jesus was a spectacle.”
One of the experts says, “I don’t think Lonnie is able to let go. Lonnie doesn’t really own his things. They own him.”
You can watch the entire episode of “Hoarders” online, and we’d love to hear what you think.
On thing is for certain. It took courage for the Hammargrens to air their drama on “Hoarders.”
Financial woes aside, many in Las Vegas would be devastated to see Lonnie Hammargren’s collection sold off.
We truly hope there’s a way for Lonnie Hammargren to fulfill his financial obligations without having to dismantle his legacy.