The L.A. Zoo’s Beastly Ball is a high point on the social calendar for a certain species of Angeleno—the kind who literally wear their loyalties on their sleeves, sporting animal-print garb and accessories (the unwritten dress code) to the annual event. Animal lovers drop $1,000 each to spend an evening at the zoo, where they can talk to the animals, both in enclosures and in their keeper’s arms. And everyone—four-legged, no-legged, and otherwise—enjoys his or her scheduled feeding. Homo sapiens get to sample the offerings of 13 area restaurants at food stations on the party parade route alongside world music bands, as well as at Renaissance Fine Catering’s buffet of mashed potatoes, quesadillas, and desserts at the zoo’s entry plaza, where the trek ends and the award ceremony begins.
The honoree for the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association’s 39th annual benefit was Laura Z. Wasserman, whose popularity helped ensure that the event raised $1.226 million—slightly more than last year even though attendance was slightly less than 2008’s tally of more than 900, according to Patti Glover, director of special events and travel. Glover tailored this year’s ball route to the guest of honor, who with her husband, Casey, donated $1 million to the $42 million elephant exhibit under construction. Revelers were routed by one of the six-acre elephant habitat viewing spots, from which fencing had been removed for the evening.
Mindful of the difficulty of herding hundreds of humans from the animal enclosures to the silent auction area, Glover shortened the route by about a third. (The shorter walk also helped downplay the fact that three restaurants had dropped out due to the recession.) The live auction also got a boost this year with a platoon of board members’ kids in orange T-shirts and placards that read “Live Auction Alert,” to remind guests to rev up their credit cards.
Tables at the entry plaza were covered with crushed organza in earth tones and small potted plants decorated with plush animals, which replaced the floral arrangements of earlier years in a move toward conservation. KNBC-TV Channel Four weatherman Fritz Coleman was back to man the live auction, and iconic animal lover and M.C. Betty White returned to party with her constituents. Around 10:15 p.m., '70s cover band Boogie Knights took the stage, keeping baby-booming animal lovers on their feet until nearly midnight.