First Eric Lynxwiler shouted out. Then he paid a visit. He found the yard unguarded and saw that, in the time that had passed since the signs came down, their glass had disappeared, and their metal had rusted. One dragon had been tossed on top of the other, which was collapsing under the weight.
Lynxwiler took photos. He spread the word. Then one day in 2006, the prop lot's manager called Hollywood preservationist Robert Nudelman, saying the signs had been deemed too far gone to be saved and were about to be tossed.
MONA got a truck and grabbed the dragons — one for its collection and one for Hollywood Heritage, the organization Nudelman helped run — "but it should never have happened that way," museum director Kim Koga said.
Parts of the signs likely got left behind in the rush, there was so little time.
In recent years, MONA's dragon has shared its owner's nomadic existence as the museum has bumped from spot to spot, often struggling financially.
Two years ago, the city of Glendale came to the rescue, offering financial assistance to help it into a permanent home. But opening day there is still at least 18 months away.
Meanwhile, the museum fills up storage spaces and rents new ones — and just about everyone involved with MONA finds room at home for an overflow sign or two.
The collecting goes on because it has to, because Los Angeles sheds its past like snakeskin.
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Tail 'o the Pup? Driving by the Ambassador? Grauman's dragons?
"We consider the dragon sign an icon of Los Angeles," Lynxwiler said. "And yet we basically had to snatch it out of the hands of a Dumpster."