‘What a gift for the animals’

This year’s edition of the star-studded Hollywood gala, which annually honors animal welfare groups and raises money to help homeless pets in Los Angeles, was hailed by many as the best ever.
By Best Friends Animal Society

The 14th Annual Lint Roller Party had all the glitz, glamour and celebrities (and their pets) you’d expect to see at a Hollywood bash, but the revelry didn’t overshadow the real purpose of the event – to honor animal welfare organizations and raise money to help homeless animals through Best Friends’ Los Angeles programs.

In addition, this year’s gala had a "green" theme, meaning the planning and production was guided by environmentally friendly principles because kindness to animals goes hand-in-hand with kindness to the earth and people.

Still, it was Tinseltown and it showed.

About 800 guests filled the Charlie Chaplin Studios on The Jim Henson Company Lot in Hollywood. Among those were current television stars Lisa Edelstein from House, Jason Gray-Stanford from Monk, Autumn Reeser from The O.C., as well as film and television stars Chad Lowe, Brandon Molale, Corey Feldman, David Chokachi, Robert Culp, Loretta Swit, Peter Mensah and Eric Bruscotter.

Peter Falk, Cloris Leachman and actress Maggie Q, who gained considerable fame in Asia before bursting on the American movie scene in Mission: Impossible III and Live Free or Die Hard, presented the Kindness in Action Awards to these deserving groups:

• Downtown Dog Rescue, which helps homeless people get their dogs spayed/neutered, vaccinated and licensed, and has developed innovative neighborhood pit bull spay/neuter programs such as Pimp Your Pit, Get Fixed or Die Trying, and West Coast Custom Pits, received The Grass Roots Grant, sponsored by The Plodzien Family Foundation.

• Last Chance for Animals is known for its direct action and long-term undercover operations that expose the cruelty and corruption of puppy mills, pet theft rings and "B" dealers who acquire pets from pounds and "free to good home" ads then sell them to laboratories. The organization received The Chrissie Award, sponsored by Dwight and Kimberly Lowell.

• The Korean Animal Protection Society was given the The Mini and Piffi Award for its work promoting the compassionate care and protection of dogs and cats in a country where those creatures are as often regarded as food as they are pets. The award was sponsored by Wolfgang and Maria Petersen, who co-chaired the Lint Roller Party along with James L. Brooks.

Each award comes with a $5,000 grant.

Kicking off the festivities Saturday night was a silent auction, which, in conjunction with an eBay auction, raised tens of thousands of dollars.

Then game show host Todd Newton rallied the crowd for the live auction, which included such items as:

• A weekend at Best Friends sanctuary in Utah as a guest of founders Francis and Silva Battista, who lead the Los Angeles programs. The package includes two nights in a cottage on the sanctuary, a personal tour and supper at the Battistas’ home.

• A pair of tickets to watch the 2008 Indianapolis 500 from the suite of Mary Hulman George, chairwoman of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The package includes accommodations, pit passes and being part of a police-escorted caravan to the track on race day.

• Front-row tickets and a meet-and-greet with the members of Matchbox Twenty at the band’s concert in Los Angeles on March 16, 2008.

• And an environmentally-friendly Vespa motor scooter.

As the auction continued through the night, party-goers enjoyed an open bar stocked with beverages donated by several companies, including the Francis Coppola Winery, availed themselves of the services of psychic readers, animal communicators and a caricaturist, and played a Wheel of Fortune game.

The buffet dinner featured an array of meatless wonders, including stuffed crimini mushrooms, polenta lasagna, vegan chili, teriyaki-grilled tofu steaks and passion fruit mousse.

And the after-dinner treats included Sylvia St. James and The Voices of Fulfillment, whose infectious gospel performance got the Lint Roller rocking as guests were up out of the chairs clapping, swaying and singing along.

On the morning after, rave reviews were the order of the day. Kim Sill, who with her husband Joel, is a regular at the annual event, called it "the best one I’ve ever been to." And companies that help promote the Best Friends mission and donate quality items to the auction wrote in by e-mail to say how delighted they were.

"We're very happy that everyone had a good time," said Silva Battista. "And best of all, it just brings us another step closer to a time when there will be No More Homeless Pets."

Photos by Clay Myers

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