Diamonds Not Fur, a glamorous West Hollywood gala where beautiful people dressed to the nines in Old and New Hollywood styles, proved to the world that you don’t need fur to put on the Ritz. The venue, Voyeur, an elegant and lavish nightclub last year became known for the expensive and racy Republican party that was held there. On Saturday night the venue changed its image to one that supports humane causes. There was much celebrating among hard working animal activists, sponsors and friends to celebrate the work of SPCALA,and the upcoming WeHo City Council resolution to make West Hollywood the first city in the nation that does not allow the sale of fur apparel.
Ellen Lavinthal, founder and president of Animal Alliance, is one of the activists who has spearheaded the West Hollywood fur free movement, along with Bryan Monell of Last Chance for Animals, Ed Buck, longtime WeHo progressive advocate and Shannon Keith, animal rights lawyer and filmmaker. Ellen was responsible for much of the behind the scenes effort to put together this special event. “Fur free” became the primary campaign issue for John d’Amico who recently was elected to a seat on the Council. Ellen invited actress/model and animal lover Katie Cleary to be spokesperson for the ‘Fur Free” movement. As it happened, Katie was in the midst of planning an event to honor the President of SPCALA, Madeline Bernstein, at the time. So it was decided to make the event a duo one to celebrate both causes.
Since Betty White is the spokesperson for SPCALA she was happily included in the mix. Her brief appearance was a highlight of the evening when she presented Madeline Bernstein with a humanitarian award. Her usual flirting with the crowd was a big hit and she was even asked to tell a dirty joke. (She pretended to but didn’t –after all this was not a Comedy Central roast!)
Madeline Bernstein, the honoree of the night, was presented the Diamonds Not Fur Humanitarian Award by Betty White. Madeline, who has worked with SPCLA for 17 years, sees herself as “the equalizer” – animals have no leverage and everyone else has power. “I do as much as I can to combat animal cruelty. I assert myself in the equation. Most people who pick on animals are bullies.” She started her career as a prosecutor in the Bronx, and then became Deputy Inspector General of the Department of Parks and Terminals. “ She sees her present mission as “same job, different victims.” People who abuse animals usually become violent against people.
Madeline is a very inspiring speaker and writer who has a blog, spcalapresident.blogspot.com with much to say. “A lot of people don’t realize the human-animal bond.” Madeline believes that the intensity and strength of this bond is such that “some would choose death rather than leave their pet behind during a disaster evacuation, risk bodily harm to save a pet in danger and would grieve for a lifetime after the loss of this cherished family member. This is a bond so strong that a family pet would and has risked his or her life to protect a human companion.
Our work is to obtain such a relationship for all homeless pets, support humans in their effort to provide such a life, and to allow this bond to flourish free from acts of cruelty and derision. It is not a junk bond but rather a priceless treasure.”
Madeline is also a strong supporter of dog beaches and other recreational opportunities for dog guardians and their pets. She strongly supports the efforts of Unleash The Beach in convincing government officials that their mandate to bring beach recreational opportunities to all the citizens of California includes the 40 per cent who count dogs as part of their families.
The crowd was thrilled when new animal rights superstar Councilman D’Amico spoke about the upcoming historic vote of the Council on Sept. 19. He told us the Council “believes that eliminating the sale of fur apparel products will promote community awareness of animal welfare and in turn, will foster a consciousness about the way we live in the world and create a more humane environment in the City.” Ellen Lavinthal reminded us that this is just the beginning. "The goal is to roll this across the nation and hopefully we will all someday live in a fur free nation."
The attendees were treated to a few special cocktails, including “compassion martini,” “rescue royal,” and “liquid alliance,” and I can tell you from experience the compassion martini was delicious and strong! There were also vegan hors d’oeuvres served by kind-hearted volunteers, and both a silent and live auction. Live auction prizes brought hefty donations for such varied items as Aerosmith and Eric Clapton signed guitars, trips to Hawaii and northern California resorts, and cosmetic facial treatments.
After the auctioning, the party ended with the musical stylings of Fawn, a compassionate artist who attends nearly all animal events and whose song, “Wish U Love” made it to number six on the Billboard Dance charts.We also were entertained by The Mad Musician and Mel Torme''s talented son James Torme' It was a beautiful end to a simply fabulous evening!
Georja Umano is an actress/comedienne and animal advocate, founder of Unleash the Beach.