A steel drum band and a cadre of friendly zoo denizens welcomed 960 safari-clad guests to "Wild About Reading," the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn.'s 31st annual Beastly Ball. This year's event honored LeVar Burton, host of PBS Television's "Reading Rainbow" for his 18-year commitment to children's education, and Tippi Hedren for her devotion to wildlife conservation.
Burton, who recently donated a kidney to his mother, credited her with his lifelong passion for the written word. "My mother was an English teacher," he said. "Reading was never an option in our family." Hedren was given the zoo association's Distinguished Conservation Fellow Award.
For the past 20 years, she has headed the Roar Foundation and Shambala Preserve, a big cat sanctuary located in Acton.
Last weekend's event was "the biggest ever," said Mary Urquhart, chairman of the zoo's board of trustees. It grossed more than $700,000 and featured specialties from 18 of L.A.'s top eateries. Event chairman Gary Kaplan said the proceeds are earmarked for the zoo's gorilla troop--Angel, Caesar, Rapunzel, Evelyn, Jim and Kelly--who will soon be swinging in their new pad, the Campo Gorilla Reserve.
Actress and zoo commissioner Betty White sweetened the pot with a $20,000 donation and Wells-Fargo contributed $65,000.
For the privilege of giving the zoo's elephants their morning bubble bath, an adventuresome trio donated $18,000.
The evening's hot topic was still Komo, the Komodo dragon who drew more ink than blood earlier this month when he allegedly mistook a visiting newspaper editor's bare foot for a rat.
The lizard may be in the doghouse for his boner, but zoo-zealot White vouched for the lizard's character.
"I know Komo personally," she said. "I've been in his quarters and he's never mistaken me for lunch!"
Cars, Stars and Rock 'n' Roll
The stars competed with the cars for the spotlight at the fourth annual Cars & Stars gala to benefit the Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation. This year's event premiered the museum's most expansive exhibit ever, "Cars & Guitars of Rock 'N' Roll," in honor of the 50th anniversary of the music genre that got a kick-start from a love affair with a car. Jackie Brentson's serenade to his hot Olds--"Rocket 88"--was one of the first rock 'n' roll hits in 1951.
The event, which drew more than 1,300 guests, was emceed by Billy F Gibbons of ZZ Top (he loaned his '49 CadZZilla for the exhibit). In the past, the event has been emceed by car and bike buff Jay Leno, but Leno was booked elsewhere for the evening (at Paul McCartney's Adopt-A-Mine-Field fundraiser).
Among cars on view were Elvis Presley's '71 DeTamaso Pantera, which he riddled with bullets one day when it wouldn't start.
Rapper Coolio compared notes with Robert Stack--both have cars in the show. Coolio lent his white Humvee; Stack's 1960 Mercedes SL is in the permanent collection.
The buzz among party guests was the proximity of David Crosby's '39 pickup truck to the '64 convertible owned by ex-couple Melissa Etheridge and Julie Cypher (Crosby is the biological father of the women's two children). "Merely happenstance," exhibit curator Bob Merlis explained of the juxtaposition. "They're both Fords and they look good together."
Looking not so polished was Bob Weir's '63 Corvette, which he is proud to say he has never washed. The Grateful Dead veteran agreed to lend his Sting Ray for the show only if it was maintained in the same condition.
Others spotted were CHP Commissioner Spike Helmick; Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello (who has a '71 Dodge Demon in the show); Cleo and Carroll Shelby (at age 78 he's landed his first film role, a cameo in the remake of "Rollerball"); Kathy Valentine of the Go-Gos; Connie Stevens, Fred Travalena, Wil Shriner, Johnny Rivers, Jimmie Vaughan, Constance Gavin and Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony (his guitar was auctioned for $10,000).
Dinner co-chairmen Margie and Bob Petersen and Raylene and Bruce Meyer report that proceeds from the gala exceeded $700,000.
Petersen was high bidder when the crime-fighting machine driven by Michael "Batman" Keaton went on the auction block last week. We're told the museum will become Batcave to the famous Batmobile.
In the Company of Dancers
Choreographer Twyla Tharp and the Center Dance Assn. were honored Tuesday in an event at the San Marino home of Amanda and Nick Stonnington.
Tharp's newly formed dance company opened for four performances at the Ahmanson Theater Thursday. It's the first time since 1983 a company led by Tharp has appeared at the Music Center.
The evening also marked the first anniversary of the dance association and honored Alyce Williamson, who co-founded the group with Liane Weintraub. Williamson, who has underwritten the company's L.A. engagement, was given a sculpture of a dancer en pointe by Weintraub. The association is dedicated to bringing top dance programs to the Music Center.
The Peninsula Hotel chefs catered the dinner staged on the terrace, where florist David Jones had massed white peonies and Casablanca lilies on tables covered in champagne damask.
"This is elegance," enthused Tharp. "That's a commodity I value. I'm from San Berdoo and Pasadena was a place I knew existed. I'm so happy to be here in this elegant town with these elegant people who genuinely feel a love for dance. I feel almost comfortable."
Also there were Music Center stalwarts Alice and Joe Coulombe, Tom Grose, Mary Lou and Jim Loper and Celeste Alleyne of AT&T; and Lee West of Jaguar, who are co-sponsors of the performances here.
* Michael Douglas will receive the 2001 Humanitarian Award from the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance at its National Tribute Dinner on Monday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Tickets $750. Call (310) 553-9036.
* Marilyn Horne and Stevie Wonder will be honored at the second annual Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Friday. Tickets for the gala and concert $200-$1,250. Call (213) 972-3051
* The Music Theater of Southern California Guild's annual dinner and auction, "Boot Stomping Roundup" is set for Saturday, June 30 at the Arcadia Community Center. Tickets $33. Call (626) 281-9444.
Information for Social Circuits can be directed to Patt Diroll in Los Angeles or Ann Conway in Orange County. Diroll is at email@example.com; Conway at (714) 966-5952 or, by fax, (714) 966-7790.