Today marks the opening of the Tom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel at the Los Angeles Zoo. This is not your ordinary merry-go-round, but a handcrafted work of art, featuring various endangered animals, insects, and even the racehorses owned by Ann and Jerry Moss, who provided the lead gift.
The carousel figures were handcrafted in Ohio, the only place in the United States doing this type of sculpture. Figures include the komodo dragon, poison dart frog, a scarab, a praying mantis, a gorilla, and even a dung beetle! Where else can you ride in a chariot made of dung? The wooden carousel is elaborately painted and covered with mirrors and murals of animals painted in unexpected settings from Malibu to Hollywood.
The LA Beat personally tested the monkeys, koala and praying mantis, and we can attest for a smooth and enjoyable ride that will delight children and whisk adults back to childhood. Each figure is guaranteed to hold a 350 pound rider, so don’t be shy if you aren’t 7 years old. The music is heavy on the 70s rock. When they announced their gratitude to the person providing the music, we asked each other, “Is that a member of Styx?” The music is actually provided by A&M Records, co-founded by Jerry Moss. The voice-over are provided by Carolyn Hennessy of General Hospital.
Created as an exciting addition to the zoo experience and a fundraiser, the small donation of $3 a ride will go directly to the zoo. The carousel was commissioned by GLAZA and funded by the Mosses, along with the sponsorship/adoption of individual figures. The popular praying mantis was sponsored by Glaza trustee Holly Robinson Peete, and the bear cub was sponsored by the Elston John Charitable Fund. It’s too bad Stephen Colbert wasn’t around to sponsor the American eagle, which has already been snapped up. Figures still available include a scarab beetle and a clownfish (Nemo!)
Late director, screenwriter and producer Tom Mankowitz was Chairman of Glaza’s board from 2002 until his passing in 2010. His individual sponsorship made the dung beetle chariot a reality. After his passing, Ann and Jerry Moss named the carousel in his honor. Ann Moss reminisces, “Tom Convinced us how much a carousel would add to the zoo-going family’s experience, and that’s how we got involved…he was such a good friend to so many, and he truly loved Los Angeles and the Zoo.”