Betty White at the Zoo & Hollywood Icon News

Photo by Margie Barron

Betty White and a mighty python.

Seeing Betty White at the Zoo last week, I had to ask her, “What’s the sexiest creature at the LA Zoo?” With her impeccable comedy timing, she paused then cooed, “Besides myself, I can’t think of one.” That’s why we adore this 91-year-old super-sharp comedy pioneer and animal lover. Betty was at the Zoo in her role as the co-chairman of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA), hosting the media preview for the upcoming 43rd annual Beastly Ball (June 15). She even got cozy with a pretty python for a photo op. Betty just smiled and insisted, “I’m an animal lover, and that means all of them.”

It was a yummy affair as top LA area restaurants catered dishes inspired by the names of animals in the Rainforest Habitat. Food was presented by great cooks and chefs from Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs (LA), Taix French Restaurant (LA), El Cholo (LA), The El Coyote Mexican Café (LA), Yummy Cupcakes (Burbank), Celestino Ristorante (Pasadena), Canele (Glendale), Glorious Gourmet & Garnish Cafe (Pasadena), and Jersey Mike’s (Pasadena and La Canada). All the restaurants are donating their cuisine for guests at the Beastly Ball.

The event will celebrate the new “Rainforest of the Americas Habitat” opening later this year. GLAZA president Connie Morgan explained that the Beastly Ball is a wonderful party where guests can chat with keepers and observe the animals as they stroll through the Zoo. Plus they’ll have music groups, dancing, and dining under the stars.

At the Ball, Pauley Perrette will be honored for her work as a long-time advocate of the LA Zoo. The NCIS actress will receive the Tom Mankiewicz Leadership Award. Morgan said, “Pauley exemplifies the vision of this honor, as she is an ardent activist who is involved in many charitable organizations.” Wells Fargo will also be recognized for its pivotal community philanthropy with a long history of supporting the Greater Los Angeles Zoo. Beastly Ball guests are invited to dress in casual or safari attire. For tickets call (323) 644-4753 or go to lazoo.org.

If you can’t make it to the Ball, make a date to see Betty White “live,” when a live broadcast of Hot in Cleveland is presented on TV Land, June 19. Betty said she and her “Hot” costars, Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick, are “excited and I’m sure the fans can’t wait to see if we’ll mess up, and how we’ll handle it. That’s part of the fun.” William Shatner guest-stars with the golden gals, so tune in.

The iconic and unsinkable Debbie Reynolds took a bow at the Heroes of Hollywood presentation by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Community Foundation. Robert Kovacik, NBC4 co-anchor, emceed the ceremony at the Taglyan Cultural Complex in Hollywood. The Foundation gave the Mary Pickford Award to Reynolds, 81, for her enduring career and recognized her for efforts to preserve Hollywood history. She recently released her memoirs entitled “Unsinkable” and played Liberace’s mother in HBO’s Behind the Candelabra.

An icon in the world of magic, Milt Larsen was honored as a Hollywood Hero because he is the co-founder (with his brother Bill Larsen) of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood. The president of Magic Castles, Inc, joked, “When we opened the Magic Castle 50 years ago, we didn’t realize that we would be turning 5,000 magicians loose in Hollywood.” His friend Debbie Reynolds noted, “The Magic Castle is one of the few remaining authentic landmarks of an era I love.”

Awards also went to George Abou-Daoud, a hospitality entrepreneur; producer Craig Darian; LAPD veteran Bill Farrar; Grammy nominated composer producer Stormy Sacks; and My Friend’s Place, founded to assist and inspire homeless youths to build self-sufficient lives. All were honored for being exceptional leaders in the Hollywood community.

Sadly, another Hollywood icon has passed, Esther Williams at age 91. She had a star quality that was luminescent. I interviewed her years ago when she wrote her shockingly honest memoire “The Million Dollar Mermaid.” Esther was also on hand in 2009 as one of nine “Legendary Ladies of Stage & Screen” whose careers were chosen by The Smithsonian Institution to inaugurate the new Entertainment Division. She talked about her start as a champion athlete, which she turned into an illustrious film career at MGM. Regarding her unique “aqua-musicals,” the star of Neptune’s Daughter recalled, “No one had ever done a swimming movie before, so we just made it up as we went along. I ad-libbed all my own underwater movements.” Esther made a spectacular splash.