GLAZA Honors Betty White at its Annual Beastly Ball with Creatures Both Great and Small

Betty White is this year's "it girl." She has a new sitcom, "Hot in Cleveland," recently made an acclaimed appearance on Saturday Night Live, and unveiled her "Naked Dog" for Pink's Hot Dogs. Now it appears that she is even more popular than the world championship Lakers. At last weekend's GLAZA benefit, courtside seats were auctioned off at $8,000 whereas lunch and a tour of the zoo with Betty White fetched a cool $10,000.

White was being honored by GLAZA at the annual Beastly Ball benefit, an extravaganza with tastes from some of the best restaurants in LA, exclusive animal encounters, live music, and an auction for some amazing prizes.

GLAZA stands for Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association. It is " a nonprofit corporation created to support the Los Angeles Zoo in its mission to nurture wildlife and enrich the human experience." GLAZA's primary purpose is to raise money to support the zoo and improve the habitats for the zoo's inhabitants. They also coordinate one of the largest zoo volunteer programs in the country.

If you have ever visited the old zoo, you know conditions were appalling. Most animals were kept in undersized bare cages. The old zoo was opened in 1912, and housed animals until 1965 when the current zoo was built. According to Marilyn Carolyn, the zoo was underfunded and neglected. GLAZA was founded in 1963 to raise funds for the zoo and currently has 65,000 member households. As White said in her speech at the Beastly Ball, "I thought instead of standing outside and complaining, let's get inside and see what we can do."

Among its many special events and fundraisers, the Beastly Ball is GLAZA's party of the year. The fun started at the gateway where Betty White was waiting to greet us herself. Passed hors d'ouvres from Service System Associates/Centerplate complemented plates from local restaurants and open bars. Popular passed hors d'ouvres this year were Lollipop Lamb Chops with Pomegranate Wine Sauce, Shrimp Ceviche served in a Cherry Tomato and Scallops with Wasabi Roe.

The most impressive bites in the gateway were Ix-Tapa's carnitas tacos and La Poubelle's Wild Shrimp Provencale, as well as their Organic Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Caramelized Walnuts.

Entertainment was provided by various bands as you roamed through the park. Zoo care staff wandered through the crowd answering questions and allowing you to pet animals, especially the ever-popular snakes. Performers in costume on stilts were dressed as a giant fly and praying mantis/cricket. They played the mime role, following people, picking things out of guests' hair, and generally trying not to scare the children.

The trail wound down past the Australia, Great Ape and Aquatic sections, with bars and nibbles along the way. Green Street offered their delicious zucchini bread along with salads and wraps. Fabiolus Cafe served a delicious Penne alla Vodka and Fusilli with Mushrooms in a light Alfredo. But it's hard to beat Celestino's Veal-stuffed Tortellini in a Goat Cheese Sauce.

Clancy's Crab Broiler spooned up a hot and rich clam chowder and Il Fornaio was plating a stunning pasta and shrimp salad. Maison Akira was a split decision. Their Soba Salad with Salmon was left on our plates, while the Brioche Dip with Kobe Beef was a clear winner.

The best bite of the entire event had to have been Yamashiro's White Soy Spicy Tuna on a Wonton Crisp with Tobiko and Micro Arugala. I have had spicy tuna and I don't like spicy tuna. I have eaten Tobiko (flying fish roe) and I'm barely getting a taste for caviar. But if I have learned one thing, great chefs are able to surprise you and make you like things. So I went for it. And then I went back for more. I probably ate about 4 of them, and spent a long time chatting with the general manager, David Comfort, and Chef Brock Kleweno.

After passing a little petting zoo with goats, we were led onto a tram to take us to the main event. Back at the bottom of the hill, surrounded by fancy restaurants, Pink's had a line stretching back to the entrance. The Pink Family was right: It's all about the snap. Another excellent plate was El Cholo's Green Corn Tamales with Mole Sauce. Smooth and creamy, the chile and mole balanced out the sweet corn.

Renaissance Fine Catering provided pizza, an amazing mashed potato bar, and a dessert table. Everyone was seated at tables and wine was poured. Centerpieces were made with exotic flowers and little stuffed animals The chocolate fudge from the dessert table was so good I wished I could have stuffed my pockets full.

The Mayor talked, and Tom LaBonge talked, who, let's face it, is much more entertaining. I want to go on a bar crawl with him. There was a live auction with Fritz Coleman and Jimmy Pardo. There was a video salute to Betty, and a very touching presentation where she was gifted with an elephant necklace, her favorite animal. Betty White does not just support the zoo by lending her image. As one tribute poem ended, "She knows the animals, and they know her."

The cutest thing ever

A video salute to Betty. Jane Goodall passes on a message from the chimpanzees

Betty White talks politics

I love Tom LaBonge! He's like a cross between your drunk uncle and a professional wrestler here as he salutes Betty White