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La Brea Tar Pits roar back to life as the Ice Age Hair Ball raises $650,000

They came to the La Brea Tar Pits with their heads swarming in bees, fluttering with butterflies and swimming in light-up jellyfish. They gathered on the banks of the bubbling Lake Pit with their hair twisted into mammoth tusks, matted into moose antlers and spiraled into yak horns. And they flocked to the entrance of the George C. Page Museum building on Wilshire Boulevard with tiny plastic dinosaurs glued to their scalps, heads ringed in glowing crystals or devoured by four feet of vertical shark.

During the night at the museum, a leopard prowling the black-and-white circus tent was dressed as actress Dana Delany (or perhaps it was the other way around), while artist Gary Baseman did his best shaggy caveman, a fez-wearing doll tucked under one arm. On stage, professional models sporting towering tonsorial headpieces stood rapt as they were splattered with gobs of a black, tar-like substance.

The occasion was the June 4 Ice Age Hair Ball, a biennial fundraiser supporting the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum launched in 2014 as an off-year alternative to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County’s more staid Dinosaur Ball (the mid-Wilshire La Brea Tar Pits & Museum is part of the NHM family). The evening kicked off at 6:30 p.m. with a hunter-gatherer-themed feast inside the museum for some 300 supporters, seats at which cost $1,000 to $100,000. That was followed by the main event (make that “mane” event): one part fashion show, two parts after-party and seven parts themed costume party contest that drew additional attendees – at $75 per hairy head – to compete for the night’s best look.

While party-goers mingled, took torch-light tours of the tar pits and silently judged each other, celebrity stylist Kim Vo presented five incredibly intricate hair sculptures. “We started out with six looks, but not all of them made it,” Vo explained. “Each one is inspired by an actual fossil from the museum’s holdings,” he added, noting that his team of stylists spent from three to four weeks creating each one.

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Memorable looks from the 2016 Ice Age Hair Ball included those of, from left, Dana Delany, Lisette Parra and Tara Lewis.
Memorable looks from the 2016 Ice Age Hair Ball included those of, from left, Dana Delany, Lisette Parra and Tara Lewis.
(Ryan Miller / Capture Imaging )

Around 10 p.m., after Vo’s team had dutifully daubed the models with a black liquid to achieve a tar-streaked effect, a contest winner was chosen. Taking home the 2016 Ice Age Hair Ball trophy as the crowd favorite was Altadena resident Debi Younger, who attended the party with a stunning miniature abstraction of the George C. Page building itself atop her head, right down to the trees inside the atrium – artfully formed by the teased up and tightly wrapped strands of Younger’s lime green wig – and a staircase earring in each ear. Earlier in the evening, Younger told us that the headpiece had been designed by architect friend Barton Choy. (Ildiko Choy, the architect’s wife, proudly told us that the “fossils” on the four panels were actual animal bones and shells – collected from a week’s worth of meals.)

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A judges’ choice award was also handed out, with brother and sister Danni and Cecile LaForce’s coordinated glowing jellyfish and beard combination swaying Vo, who made the final hair-splitting decision from the handful of finalists with the help of audience applause.

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They weren’t the night’s only winners though; the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum ended the night with an additional $650,000 in its coffers to fund research and programs – an amount event co-chairs Diane Naegele and Heather de Roos said exceeded the evening’s goal.

For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me @ARTschorn.

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