Enter the Dragon Man

Sometimes, it takes a fender-bender to reveal the mixed-up, multifarious soul of South Florida.

On Friday, May 7, an unidentified woman who was talking on her cell phone while behind the wheel (according to one account, at least) ran a red light at Harrison Avenue and 19th Street in Hollywood. Call her the dragon slayer. She collided with a 1981 AMC Spirit owned by Bob Fannon. "About five dragons were killed and one injured," says Fannon, whom you might recognize as the gray-haired, ponytailed mensch with a unique way of pimping his ride. He tools around town either in the Spirit or on his 1985 Honda Gold Wing motorcycle -- both of which are covered from bumper to bumper with toy dragons. The motorcycle alone sports 34 three-dimensional dragons, three dragon license plates, two air horns, two American flags, and an assortment of dragon stickers. The car, with a few less toys, is adorned with stickers that read, "I brake for dinosaurs."

Tailpipe has been reading too many headlines lately. How's this for a predictable end to our story: "Dragon Man Flames Motorist after Mobilosauris Scrape, Leaves Heap of Smoking Cinders in Street"?

Fannon is as mellow as a Key West sunset.
Colby Katz
Fannon is as mellow as a Key West sunset.

For a guy with a fixation on scaly, fire-breathing creatures, though, the 50-year-old Fannon is as mellow as a Key West sunset. He won't even speak unkindly about the woman who, he says, caused the accident. (The Hollywood Police Department had no record of the collision, although Fannon's car did show substantial damage -- $600 worth, he says.) "She wants to take it to court and all this happy stuff," Fannon says with mild irritation. "She ran the red light. It ain't gonna solve nothing by getting mad. The average person would rip her head off, but I don't play that."

Fannon's Hollywood neighbors describe him as "a really cool guy" who's outgoing and friendly to children. When neighbor Monica Tillman first saw his vehicles, "I thought it was some type of religious thing or something." But it's not. Nor is it a money-making scheme, a cult symbol, or a method for picking up chicks. The man just likes dragons. "A hundred and 40 to 160 million years ago," he says, "they dominated the world." And that's cool. Fannon claims no interest in dragon fan clubs or in playing Dungeons & Dragons and has no problems with relationships or jobs due to his hobby. He was first intrigued by the creatures when, at age 10, he attended the 1964 World's Fair in New York and wandered through an exhibit about Tyrannosaurus Rex. He didn't start decorating his vehicles with them, however, until he moved to Florida 20 years ago.

Fannon extends the theme into his Hollywood apartment, where four inflatable dragon rafts, plus scores of dragon and dinosaur toys, hang from the ceiling. Hundreds more are perched on shelves and occupy the entirety of his kitchen table. His detailed drawings of dinosaurs hang on the walls, videos like Gremlins and Reign of Fire line the crowded shelves, and a comprehensive collection of -- aw, that's so sweet -- Land Before Time VHS tapes sits on the side of the bed.

On his scrupulously ordered desk are two tiny black-and-white security monitors set up to keep an eye on his bike and car. Anyone ever try to crib the dragons? "No, they figure anybody who would drive something like that must be crazy," he says with a decidedly nonthreatening smile.

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Sailboat Bent

After what looked to be a slam-dunk by a developer, Fort Lauderdale's Historic Preservation Board showed some spine during a May 3 meeting. The board seemed set on green-lighting the demolition of two notable Sailboat Bend homes to facilitate a condo project -- until it was shamed into doing the right thing by Veronica Sazera, a strident mother of two from the neighborhood. The homes -- built between 1918 and 1920 -- were square in the sights of developer Gus Carbonell, who wanted the lots for a two-story, nine-unit condominium.

Promising the neighborhood association had given him the go-ahead after he'd "accommodated their concerns," Carbonell's presentation was praised by one of the board members ("You've done a really good job here") and even a resident from the block ("I have no objections whatsoever").

But when Sazera strode to the podium, her voice shaking with rage, the tenor changed from shoo-in to shunted. It didn't hurt that her 18-month-old daughter straddled her hip and her 8-year-old son sat in the back doing his homework. "Nine years ago, I appeared in front of you to put up a picket fence in my front yard, and you wouldn't let me!" she said, seemingly ready to bust into tears. "Now you're going to let them build all these condos? I trusted the neighborhood would not be sold out! I thought the board would protect Sailboat Bend from this! It isn't right to put condos in Sailboat Bend -- no matter how pretty they are! I feel like crying, I am so disappointed in this board!"

The preservation board members stammered and shifted uncomfortably, particularly Chair Margi Glavovic-Nothard, who tried to calm Sazera's hysterics. "No decision has been made," she said. Then Sazera's neighbor Richard Locke told of having a townhouse rob him of views and of privacy. He didn't want to see it happen to anyone else. "They are totally incompatible with everything designed into the historic ordinance," Locke contended.

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