The Valley Line: Having a beastly good time at the zoo

Wow! Most of us made it home safely, even though “Carmageddon” threatened to bring us to a standstill. At least the various media outlets gave us enough warning that we might want to experience an “at-home mini-vacation.”

With the shutdown of the 405 Freeway for an entire weekend, traveling to the west side of the greater Los Angeles basin was absolutely verboten — unless one was to hire a private helicopter to get them there.

Now, if somebody wanted to travel from Burbank to Long Beach (avoiding having to depart or land at LAX on that crunch weekend) JetBlue came up with a clever bit of merchandising by offering flights between the two cities for $4 each way. For heaven sakes, the peanuts that airlines hand out cost more than that. Within three hours of the airline tweeting the offer, all tickets were sold out. I can hardly believe that such a deal was made available. This absolutely must have made some kind of aviation history. I wish I had been on JetBlue’s tweet list; I would have gone to Long Beach just for the heck of it.

Now that all has been said ad nauseam about Carmageddon, with round-the-clock media coverage, is anybody drinking from an “I survived Carmageddon” coffee cup this morning?

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It was another hugely successful Greater Los Angeles Zoo Party, with more than 1,000 people attending the 41st Beastly Ball in order to talk with the animals and to raise more $1 million dollars for the zoo.

The party, sponsored by the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA), is one of the most popular summer events held here in the L.A. area. Connie Morgan, a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident, is president of GLAZA. She was welcoming guests, along with her son Ben. I bumped into Connie’s husband Matt, who is a scientist with Jet Propulsion Laboratory, by the gorilla exhibit. He had started the morning off in Lisbon, Portugal where he had been attending a week-long conference. He was more than a little jet-lagged after coming directly from LAX, and was trying to catch up with his wife and son to say hello. It was a happy reunion when they did find each other.

Actress Betty White, a trustee and chair of GLAZA, was showing off her beloved elephant, Billy. This magnificent elephant reigns supreme at the zoo’s newly opened “Elephants of Asia” exhibit, along with his harem that includes elephants Tina and Jewel.

Also greeting guests at this party under the stars was zoo director John Lewis and his wife Debbie, who live here in our foothill community.

It is always such fun to see how guests interpret “safari attire,” because there are many creative ensembles. Some party-goers like to walk on the wild side and wear animal-print clothing. And there is always a smattering of people who like to wear animal-themed headbands and hats. This event always is quite a fashion show.

Fritz Coleman, KNBC weatherman and champion of the L.A. Zoo, presided over the live-auction portion of the evening. Bidding was brisk for an exclusive behind-the-scenes evening at the zoo with Betty White, an opportunity to join zoo director John Lewis as “Zoo Director for a Day” and a “Dinner of a Lifetime” for 12 at über-chef Joachim Splichal’s home.

Rock icon Slash, known for his work with Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, is a GLAZA trustee. He received the inaugural Tom Mankiewicz Leadership Award.

Zoo director John Lewis said of Slash, whose birth name is Saul Hudson, “He is a great example of our mission of nurturing wildlife and enriching the human experience because he is a champion for wildlife and conservation and has introduced our mission, his passion, to millions of his fans.”

The evening also featured animal feedings and animal walk-abouts, which included chats with keepers and the chance to observe small animals up-close and personal.

A new thing at the party this year was an opportunity for guests to have a talented artist create a distinctive henna tattoo just for them. Oh yes, I just had to have one — a lovely vine-like design that traveled from my big toe up and across the top of my foot. I proudly showed it off to my friends for 10 days before it disappeared.

Another fun “first” was the chance to star in personalized photo-booth pictures. The evening also featured bountiful fare provided by some of L.A.’s most popular restaurants and entertainment by world music groups, and dancing. As in years past, two of the most popular food stops were Pink’s famous hotdogs and the mashed-potato bar, where diners filled martini glasses with their choice of potatoes adorned with gourmet toppings.

The Beastly Ball is presented each year in order for GLAZA to fund exhibits, plant and animal species conservation, capital projects, and education and community outreach programs. The Los Angeles Zoo is an international leader in the preservation of endangered species and a conservation center for the care and study of wildlife. There are currently more than 72,000 GLAZA member households, the largest membership base of a cultural organization in Los Angeles. The zoo has a volunteer corps of more than 700 people — pretty darn wonderful, if you ask me!
 
 

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