Tresses Reach New Heights at La Brea Tar Pits and Museum's Ice Age Hair Ball
"This is totally about L.A.; the Tar Pits themselves are a key part of the city," said actress Dana Delany. "We know about the big art museums, but this is the museum that's been here for a l-o-o-o-ng time."
Letting your hair down is generally the rule for partygoers, but for the enthusiastic throng Saturday night at the Ice Age Hair Ball at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum in Los Angeles, the tresses were towering up, up and, if not away, then definitely aloft in elaborately conceived constructions to celebrate the prehistoric theme of the evening.
At this off-the-coif fundraiser, arts patrons, scientists and the occasional Hollywood celeb mingled amid the primordial fossils on display for pre-dinner cocktails while comparing the above-the-shoulder artistry of their headgear. Set for other year, this was only the second iteration of the Hair Ball after its debut in 2014, held to support the iconic mid-Wilshire landmark, its George C. Page Museum building and the surrounding Pleistocene Garden as well as help fund Project 23, the current excavation and study of fossils recently unearthed during construction at neighboring LACMA.
"This is totally about L.A.; the Tar Pits themselves are a key part of the city," said actress Dana Delany. "We know about the big art museums, but this is the museum that's been here for a l-o-o-o-ng time," she added referring to site's primeval origins.
Her leopard ensemble and matching face spots complemented her voluminous feline-inspired mane with intricately twisted pieces. Devised by specialty hair stylist Terry Baliel, whose work is more often found on the opera stage, Delany had discovered him on the set of her Amazon series Hand of God. "He came in for this big party sequence and did the extras' hair, and I was wandering around in awe; it was a work of art," Delany said.
Nearby, Susan Bay Nimoy, arts philanthropist and widow of the late actor Leonard Nimoy, sported a multicolored nimbus she referred to as "a cotton-candy swirl" with mock butterflies alighting to tie it back to the nature theme of the event.
Black-clad George Bamber and Darren Riggi also got into the spirit with matching black hats with outsize irregular brims meant to resemble the black seepage of the Tar Pits, topped with miniature dinosaurs.
Then it was time to head into dinner where the tables were crowded around a skeleton of a giant mammoth and the entree of short ribs was accented by Flintstones-like bones crossed like swords on each plate. In welcoming the guests, Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, newly appointed president and director of the Natural History Family of Museums which includes the Tar Pits, pointed out what a unique institution they were supporting.
"This is the site of discovery, past present and future," she said. "It is the largest collection, and the most diverse, of ice age fossils, in the world — and the only one in an urban setting. Is this not a gem?"
After delivering the happy news that the benefit had exceeded its goal and raised a total of $646,000, she turned the mic over to a be-wigged Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, unrecognizable in curls that cascaded below his elbows.
"I am trying to keep with the theme tonight. I am going into the next board meeting just like this, stay tuned," he joked before turning serious. "This is a national treasure that we celebrate tonight."
With that, guests headed out to the moonlit afterparty the Mane Event for nerd-chic desserts like ice cream made on the spot with liquid nitrogen, themed cocktails like the Hair-Raiser with chili-infused vodka, presentations from the museum's staff scientists and torchlight tours of the park. In the center on a four-sided stage, models paraded in elaborate headpieces and custom gowns courtesy of hairstylist and reality TV star Kim Vo's salon and costume designer Julien Barcellz and inspired by specific fossils they saw during a private museum tour.
"It's a new product line we're going to come out with," Vo jested, of the gowns that each took about two weeks to construct.
Judges including Vo and Barcellz also gave the award for best in show for the attendees to sister and brother duo Cecile and Danni LaForce, who intertwined matching blue lights to simulate jellyfish in her piled-up headdress and his elongated beard respectively. It was a close competition though, as there was much audience applause for the woman whose head was near encased in an open-mouthed papier mâché shark, Jaws-style.
"I'm an artist and she's an engineer and she comes to these things and I love doing her hair for them. She came up with the jellyfish idea," said Danni. To which his sister drily responded, "Jellyfish were in existence in the Cretaceous,* which is very important to me because I’m a scientist.”
*A footnote: If, like this reporter, you're not up on your geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic Period, occurring more than 65 million years ago.