Betty White paraded into the Los Angeles Zoo on Saturday holding a hyacinth macaw. Lance Bass joined White's grand entrance with a sugar glider crawling up his shoulder. How Hollywood to bring animals to the zoo, right?
But the critters were actually helping welcome the actress and the singer to the 45th Beastly Ball, the annual fundraiser held by the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn.
"I am very lucky that I have a big voice," said Bass, who is also passionate about pet adoption. "I want to use it as much as I can and things like this spread the word with what we need to do."
The former 'NSync member was there to receive the fifth Mankiewicz Leadership Award, which honors individuals who display characteristics of former GLAZA president Tom Mankiewicz. Bass brought goddaughter Genevieve and husband Michael Turchin, with whom he was celebrating a six-month wedding anniversary.
"I love animals obviously, and I love good zoos," White said, even though the bulk of the animals were tucked away for the evening while the fundraising occurred. "This is my other home."
Actively involved with GLAZA for over 50 years, she commented, "They can’t get rid of me."
At $1,000 a ticket, the more than 800 attendees experienced the tastes and sounds of Los Angeles as they enjoyed drinks, music and food from a number of area restaurants along the winding paths of the zoo.
Those who were expecting to get a VIP look at all of zoo's residents may have been disappointed that not everyone stayed up past bedtime. However, a tiger, two hippos and a monkey were definitely among the various party animals that made the scene.
A brisk breeze and a setting sun allowed for a social habitat as guests experienced more interactions with the open bars than with the animals on display. The cocktails flowed freely, loosening up guests for the live auction to come.
Previous Mankiewicz Award recipients Sarah Michelle Gellar and Pauley Perrette were in attendance along with actresses Valerie Bertinelli and Carolyn Hennesy, Paramount Pictures COO Frederick Huntsberry (a GLAZA trustee) and comedian Jimmy Pardo.
Tom LaBonge, a member of the Los Angeles City Council, was recognized for 14 years of service to the zoo and its animals and graciously thanked the association for the honor. The 99 Cents Only stores also got a nod for commitment to the zoo.
After trips, wine tastings, fitness club memberships, sporting-events tickets and hundreds of other items were auctioned off, guests danced along the paths of the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens to their cars.
By the end of the evening, nonprofit GLAZA had raised more than $1,044,000 via tickets, auction items and other donations.
The Beastly Ball, which raises money to support the zoo, its public education goals and its conservation efforts abroad, has become one of the most important fundraising events for GLAZA.
"I think every year we get greater participation and more excitement about what we can do for the animals here at the zoo and abroad with our conservation programs," said Connie Morgan, president of GLAZA.