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SOCIAL CLIMES

Animals' magnetism

March 28, 2004|Ann Conway | Times Staff Writer

For a scene that mainlines fashion and flavor, it was a challenging, though unspoken, mandate: No fur or leather, please. No meat, butter, cream or eggs. And certainly no complaining. After all, a fundraiser for the Humane Society could only celebrate "cruelty free" -- without harm to animals.

And so the celebrity-studded crowd attending the Genesis Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 20 accessorized itself in synthetics, dined on gourmet vegan -- jumbo veggie-stuffed ravioli, cranberry-pecan tarts -- and applauded those whose work exemplifies a dedication to the preservation of animal life. Leading the pack: event chairwoman Gretchen Wyler, a former Broadway star who founded the annual awards 18 years ago to recognize members of the media whose works increase public awareness of animal issues. "It's been my passion since the late '60s not to wear dead animals or eat them," she said, standing in a ballroom where the centerpieces were tropical and the stage showcased a lair of life-size exotic cat sculptures. "I am so genuinely touched by this gathering -- that, with the world in such turmoil, with the planet burning, with the population so worried about terrorists, nearly 800 people chose to come here tonight, knowing we were going to talk about animals." Among the guests: Alicia Silverstone, James Cromwell, Wendie Malick, David Boreanaz, Tippi Hedren and Sean Astin.

Guest of honor Virginia McKenna, costar of the '60s film "Born Free" and founder of the Born Free Foundation, flew from England for the affair. "The heart of what our foundation does is deal with the problems of captive wildlife," she said. "Do you know there are 10,000 tigers in the USA that are kept as private pets? Appalling. Laws have to be changed. We don't believe they should be in captivity. We begin to solve the problem by preserving the wildlife environment."

Among those receiving the 21 Genesis Awards -- named, Wyler observed, after the first book of the Bible, "where there's the first report of an animal rescue, Noah and the ark" -- were the production teams of the feature films "Finding Nemo" and "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde" and TV's "Everybody Loves Raymond," along with "CBS News With Dan Rather." Awards also went to Marvel Comics' "X-Men Unlimited" and the Los Angeles Times Magazine feature "Something to Squawk About," programming by Animal Planet, and the KGO-TV expose "Foie Gras Fight."

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