A visit to LA Zoo toetally bites! I'm referring to the infamous
incident at the zoo, in which journalist/celebrity spouse Phil Bronstein
was bitten by a seven-foot lizard during a VIP tour. The beast in
question, a 55-pound Komodo dragon, was decidedly unimpressed by the
notoriety of Bronstein and his wife, actress Sharon Stone. It was Stone,
allegedly, who encouraged Phil to enter the cage. Not sure, exactly, who
told him to remove his white shoes before entering, lest the lizard
mistake them for rats. Instead, the Big Liz mistook his white feet for
I was curious how the zoo's PR rep, Lora LaMarca, was handling the
onslaught of publicity.
"I received 32 calls on Monday alone ... I think I've done 20
interviews, including five with the Los Angeles Times," she told me.
"Today is the first day since it happened that the San Francisco
Chronicle (where Bronstein is executive editor) hasn't called me."
Certainly this is the biggest news to hit the LA Zoo - usually
overshadowed by San Diego's - since one of its prized elephants was cast
opposite Bill Murray in a major motion picture. (Regrettably, the
pachyderm found Murray "difficult to work with" and abruptly quit the
LaMarca clarified a few misconceptions. The normally docile lizard had
never before acted aggressively. Cage entrances by non-zoo personnel are
extremely rare. VIP "backstage" visits are intended to show potential
donors the keeper areas and animal bedrooms. It's not a secret tour of
hidden exotic animals. Far from it.
"The private visits show our guests the areas where animals are cared
for and sleep - where donations are needed for improvements," LaMarca
says. "The best place to actually see the animals is in front of the
public viewing areas where they spend most of their time."
The zoo depends on the financial support of benefactors, to the tune of
millions. Let's face it, your paltry entrance fee does little more than
feed the rhinos and buy fresh paint for the zebras. Stone and Bronstein
had not, however, made any donations. Perhaps they were waiting to see
how things went with the Komodo. Not good, obviously. The thing grabbed
poor Phil's toe and hung on like Strom Thurmond to his Senate seat.
Ironically, the leapin' lizard has brought much needed attention to the
zoo's efforts to raise another dollars 2.8 million for a new gorilla
There are also plans to build new digs for the lizards, which will take
on all comers for ten bucks.
The footnote is that Bronstein is recovering. If he and Stone are good
sports, they'll attend the opening of the new zoo enclosures. But I
suspect he'll pass on Stone's next dare: sticking his head in the lion's
mouth at the circus. At a VIP command performance, of course.