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HOMETOWN U.S.A.: Sarasota, Fla.

The mystery of the 'Lego Man'

Since the 8-foot-tall figure washed up at a local beach, clues have led to a Dutch artist. For now, he's stuck in the found-property section of the sheriff's office.

October 30, 2011|Deborah Netburn
  • The 8-foot-tall statue was spotted just before dawn Tuesday in ankle-deep water at Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, Fla.
The 8-foot-tall statue was spotted just before dawn Tuesday in ankle-deep… (Sarasota County Sheriff's…)

The arrival of the "Lego Man" in America was like something out of a 3-year-old's dream.

The 8-foot-tall, 100-pound fiberglass statue that resembles the little plastic guys that come in a Lego set was discovered bobbing gently in ankle-deep surf at Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, Fla.

The front of his shirt was emblazoned with a message in fractured English: "NO REAL THAN YOU ARE." The name "Ego Leonard" was written on his back.

The town of 52,000 is known for many things -- snowbirds; sport fishing; white sandy beaches; the influence of circus impresario Charles Ringling, who helped develop the area. But after the discovery just before dawn Tuesday, eyes were focused on Sarasota because of the Lego Man.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday, October 31, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Lego Man: An article in the Oct. 30 Section A about a mysterious Lego Man washing ashore in Florida said Legoland had recently opened a theme park in Orlando. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, November 06, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Lego Man: An article in the Oct. 30 Section A about a mysterious Lego Man washing ashore in Florida said Legoland had recently opened a theme park in Orlando. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven.

Initially, some wondered whether the Lego Man was a publicity stunt put on by Legoland, which recently opened a new theme park across the state in Orlando.

But Legoland was not behind it, said Julie Estrada, a company spokeswoman. "I wish we could say we did it. It was a brilliant guerrilla PR stunt," she said.

A more likely explanation is that it's part of an anonymous Dutch artist's experiment.

Google "Ego Leonard," and you'll find he has his own website, written in Dutch with some explanation rendered in a relentlessly cheerful, if somewhat stilted, English translation.

"I am here to discover and learn about your world and thoughts," he writes. "Show me all the beautiful things that are there to admire and experience in your world. Let's become friends, share your story with me, take me with you on a journey through beautiful meadows, words, sounds and gestures."

The website also includes photos and links to videos of the Lego Man's adventures around the world, including an August 2007 YouTube video of him washing up on the shores of Zandvoort in the Netherlands.

In October 2008, he showed up on the shores of Brighton, England, according to the BBC.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that Ego Leonard sent the paper an email that explained he had crossed from one world to the other and was looking for some hospitality on Florida's west coast.

"In case people want to take me on new adventures, just that you know, I have been invited to stay here for 90 days, everybody is welcome to show me all the beautiful surroundings while I am here," he wrote.

For now, however, the Lego Man's journey has landed him in the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, where he will stay locked away and inaccessible to the public for the next three months unless his owner comes forward.

A spokeswoman for the agency, Sarah Kenniff, said the Lego Man was being kept in the same place as other found property and was not able to see visitors.

Kenniff said the sheriff's office had been fielding calls from news agencies and bloggers around the world who want to know whether he'll be freed soon and whether he's available for photographs. The answer, for now, is no.

"The sculpture was taken into custody as found property, and he will be treated like any other property that we find, like bikes and wallets," she said.

If nobody comes to claim him after the 90-day waiting period, he will most likely be given to Jeff Hindman, the man who originally spotted Ego Leonard riding the waves.

Hindman told reporters that if he does get custody, he'll probably sell the Lego Man on Ebay.

--

deborah.netburn@latimes.com

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