When Anton Lulgjuraj put in a bid to buy an abandoned storage locker in Brewster, New York, he had no idea what lay inside. Then while poring over the items that he had purchased, he found a stack of old photos and recognized one of the faces in them; it was Academy Award-winning actress Diane Keaton.
Born Diane Hall in 1946, Diane Keaton had her interest in acting piqued at an early age. Her mother won a pageant for homemakers in their hometown of Los Angeles, California, and the event inspired the young Keaton to pursue a career on the stage and the screen.
Keaton studied acting in California for a year before ditching the West Coast – and her schooling – for New York City. With her career still in its infancy, she joined the Actors’ Equity Association. And after finding out that another actress had already registered with the name Diane Hall, she changed her surname to Keaton.
Subsequently, Keaton made her Broadway debut in the original run of Hair in 1968. And the following year she bagged a part in Play It Again, Sam, staged by Woody Allen – although she almost missed out on the role for being two inches taller than him. Ultimately, though, Keaton landed the part and also earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance.
Then, three years later, Keaton made her breakthrough on the silver screen. Yes, in 1972 she portrayed Kay Adams, the girlfriend of Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone, in The Godfather. And she then reprised the role in the equally acclaimed sequel, The Godfather Part II.
But it was to be the 1977 romantic comedy Annie Hall that would solidify Keaton as an icon of the acting world. Woody Allen – who co-wrote and directed the film – based the titular character on the actress and his off-screen romance with her. In fact, Allen even named the character after Keaton; Annie was one of her nicknames, while Hall is her original last name.
Annie Hall impressed audiences and critics alike, and so too did Keaton’s performance; she even earned the Academy Award for Best Actress. Off screen, meanwhile, the actress became something of a fashion icon. Yes, fans began emulating her style from the flick, which saw her wearing vintage menswear.
But although the role was an iconic one for Keaton, in 2004 she told CBS News that she didn’t want it to define the rest of her career. “I don’t want to be identified as one thing only. I remember somebody once said to me, ‘Don’t ever change’ when I did Annie Hall.”
But that wasn’t something the actress wanted. “I think that stunts any kind of growth,” she continued. “And so, my feeling was that scared the hell out of me. I knew I had to change. [You’ve got to] change, don’t you think? I mean, otherwise, what are you going to do?”
Keaton certainly lived by those words as well; following her big break, the actress went on to pursue a multifaceted film career. Three years after her rom-com outing in Annie Hall, she starred in the historical drama Reds, for instance. And although the latter movie was very different from the Woody Allen-helmed hit, The New York Times nonetheless called it “the best work she has done.”
The wider film industry clearly thought the actress had excelled in her role in Reds, too; she earned an Academy Award nomination for it, after all. And she has since received two more Best Actress Oscar nominations – for 1997’s Marvin’s Room and the 2004 romantic comedy Something’s Gotta Give.
On top of all that, Keaton’s lengthy résumé includes box-office hits, thrillers and, of course, more comedies and dramas. Some of her most popular films include Father of the Bride, The First Wives Club and The Family Stone. And she’s still acting to this very day.
But let’s rewind again and switch focus to the other important, if lesser-known, individual in this story. You see, as Keaton’s star was on the rise, Anton Lulgjuraj was living life out of the spotlight. He did have his own speciality, though: candy. Living in New York City, Lulgjuraj inherited his father’s candy shop and all of the treat-making secrets that came with it.
But after many years of operation, the shop unfortunately closed in 2006. And although the closure left Lulgjuraj “semi-retired” – as he told the New York Daily News – he nevertheless kept busy with a new and exciting hobby: bidding on abandoned storage lockers.
In most cases, storage units come to auction if the renter fails to pay their bills. The sell-off, then, is a way for the business owners to reclaim some of their lost cash. And bidders, meanwhile, have the chance to peek inside the units, aware that a given purchase will include anything left inside.
Lulgjuraj had, for his part, enjoyed plenty of luck when it came to bidding on abandoned storage units in the past. For instance, he purchased singer Keith Diamond’s old unit in the spring of 2016. And inside the locker, Lulgjuraj found a potential original recording of singer Donna Summer as well as photos of Diamond pictured with the likes of Barbra Streisand and Don Johnson.
Fast-forward two years, and Lulgjuraj was continuing to pursue his hobby. And then in May 2018 he purchased what he described on Twitter as “a huge unit” in Brewster, New York. The storage locker in question had housed items belonging to a man named David Parent, who had flown for the U.S. Air Force.
After Parent had passed away, someone bought the storage unit to house the belongings that the former airman had left behind. However, when that person then stopped paying the rent after about ten years, the unit came up for auction – which is when Lulgjuraj bought it. And the ex-candy seller thought he’d made a pretty sweet purchase too. Indeed, he later tweeted that he’d spotted what he reckoned was a motorcycle hidden within the storage unit’s confines.
And it turned out that Lulgjuraj’s suspicions were correct: a motorcycle was indeed stored in the unit – and what’s more, the machine was incredibly valuable. The treasure hunter in fact later sold the 1913 Indian bike for ten times as much as he had bid on the entire storage unit in the first place. But the fascinating finds didn’t end there; yet more intriguing items lay behind the locker’s door.
As Lulgjuraj sorted his way through the storage unit, he found, for instance, a brown leather wallet. The billfold was hidden inside a wooden box and contained 32 family photos. And Lulgjuraj discovered a driver’s license inside, too, which helped him identify the potential owner of the pocketbook.
As Lulgjuraj later told the New York Daily News, the wallet owner’s name, Diane Hall, hadn’t sounded familiar to him. But when he looked more closely at the photos, he realized that the woman captured in them looked a lot like someone from a movie that he loves: The Godfather.
“I opened it up and thought, ‘Is this Diane Keaton, the actress? It couldn’t be. Or maybe it could,’” Lulgjuraj told the newspaper. There was certainly a possibility that the pocketbook had once been owned by the Hollywood icon. And this tantalizing thought – and the sheer age of the wallet – intrigued Lulgjuraj enough to keep digging.
Lulgjuraj believed that the wallet’s contents were at least a half-century old. “I was so curious. It was like a time capsule,” he told the New York Daily News. And Lulgjuraj also described some of the other photos that he’d found inside. One showed a little girl sporting blunt bangs and with a boy and a girl by her side. In fact, the three children appeared to be siblings.
Another of the snapshots, meanwhile, featured an adult couple holding each other’s hands and strolling down the beach. Lulgjuraj loved the photo too. As the treasure hunter told the New York newspaper, “It’s such a nice shot, really classic. You look at it and get a good feeling.”
Then, however, came Lulgjuraj’s smoking gun, as far as identifying the wallet’s owner was concerned. You see, inside the brown wallet he found an Actor’s Equity membership card that had expired in 1968. The cardholder’s name? Diane Keaton. It must have been quite a moment.
In the past – namely, in an interview from 1978 – Keaton had noted that she had left two of her wallets behind in cabs. However, Lulgjuraj still had no idea exactly how the wallet had landed in the storage unit. And likewise, he didn’t know whether or not the actress knew Parent – the original owner of the items in the locker.
Meanwhile, although Lulgjuraj had sold other storage unit treasures in the past, he had no desire to make a profit from Keaton’s wallet. Instead, he wanted to get in touch with the actress and return her belongings. And so he even took to Twitter to reach out to the star.
“Hi, I bought a storage unit at auction, and in there I found a wallet and your driver’s license and photos from the 1960s [and] 1970s. If you have any interest in this, you can have it back,” Lulgjuraj tweeted to Keaton. But despite the friendly message, she didn’t respond.
The New York Daily News also tried to get in touch with the iconic actress – but the publication, too, had no luck. Meanwhile, Lulgjuraj reiterated the fact that he had no intention of collecting a reward; he just wanted the wallet and its contents returned to their rightful owner.
And despite initial attempts at contacting Keaton proving unsuccessful, Lulgjuraj held out hope that she would somehow find his story and get in touch with him. “Maybe she remembers that lost wallet and has always wondered. I’m hoping she didn’t lose faith,” he added to the newspaper.
“If she wants it, I’m happy to send it. I figured [she] would want it. These are her memories,” Lulgjuraj concluded. Then, within two days of having his story published in the New York newspaper, the storage-unit hobbyist received the news for which he’d been waiting.
Yes, in December 2018 Keaton took to Twitter to express her disbelief and simultaneous acceptance of the fact that someone might have found her wallet. “I don’t remember losing this, but I’m not surprised, because I’ve lost my wallet many times,” the actress wrote on the social media site.
Hearing what Keaton had to say left Lulgjuraj feeling overjoyed. He told the New York Daily News that he was “thrilled” by the news. And subsequently, Lulgjuraj headed out to mail the wallet and tweeted the update to the actress. He joked, “Hopefully the mail won’t lose it for another 50 years.”
“I’m just really happy that she’s going to get [her wallet] back,” Lulgjuraj explained. And since he had sent the pocketbook at the start of December 2018, he hoped that it would arrive in time for the holiday season – just in time for Keaton and her loved ones to reminisce over the family snapshots, perhaps.
“I’m actually happy to send it away. It sounds like she really does appreciate it,” Lulgjuraj ended by saying. “To see something you haven’t seen in that long – the nostalgia gives you such a good feeling. These were happy times in the photographs.”
After receiving the wallet, Keaton then shared one of the photos that stuck out to Lulgjuraj: the snapshot of a trio of children. “This photo was in [the wallet],” the actress wrote on Instagram. “I’m on the far right. Can you believe those bangs?” And Keaton later commented with an estimate that she was nine years old in the image.
Meanwhile, social media users largely agreed with Lulgjuraj’s point of view and commended him for returning the wallet in earnest. In response to the news that he was mailing the wallet, one Twitter user replied, “You’re awesome! Wish there were more honest people like you in this world.”
It seems that Keaton agreed with such sentiments as well. On Christmas Eve 2018, you see, Lulgjuraj shared a handful of images of himself holding very special bottles of wine from a brand called “The Keaton.” And it’s easy to surmise where the libations came from.
Indeed, according to Wine.com, Keaton has red wine on the market already as well as a white slated for future release. And she also uses her creations as a method for giving back to the community. Yes, the actress donates some of the proceeds to research into Alzheimer’s disease at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
For his part, though, Lulgjuraj could only thank Keaton for sending her delectable beverages to him. “[It] wasn’t necessary, but we appreciate it,” he tweeted alongside a handful of images of the star’s products. And, what’s more, she’d even signed one of the bottles as a token of her gratitude.