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Have you seen this skeleton?

February 24, 2011 |  3:28 pm

Skeleton Missing: One 2-foot skeleton wearing a Valentine's Day-themed wrap skirt and sequined heart pendant. Last seen Feb. 22 hanging from a stand in its home in the heart of the News Obituary department at the Los Angeles Times.

Go ahead, laugh. Everyone else seems to when they find out that one of the two skeletons that we keep around went missing this week. Even the security guard struggled to keep a straight face when we reported the crime.

The life-size skeleton and her miniature sidekick are a playful reminder of the business that we are in. They occasionally provide much-needed comic relief and often cause tour groups to break out laughing. Fellow journalists have admitted to stopping by just to eyeball the latest in skeletal couture.

In spring, the skeletons wear a Gothic-inspired wedding ensemble and every summer they don Hawaiian prints and hula skirts. Throughout 2008, they sported a campaign theme -- the little guy was swathed in campaign buttons that were removed as presidential candidates fell by the wayside while the bigger one wore a poufy skirt that slowly turned into a political graveyard as headlines were pinned on it to track who had left the race.

So forgive us for feeling adrift over the theft of an inanimate object. They have been our companions for years, installed by longtime obit writer Myrna Oliver, who is now retired. Not only has a mini-skeleton been stolen, so has a symbol of the goofy spirit of our department.

We're overdue to change the wardrobe on our sole remaining mascot. Usually, it's time to pull out the bunny-ear headband and Easter basket but we've got a better idea: Prison garb to mark the scene of a crime.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: Miniature skeleton, sometimes known as "Skelly," dressed for a Hawaiian vacation. Credit: Valerie J. Nelson / Los Angeles Times