The Slash in the Hat Speaks Up for Billy - NBC Southern California

The Slash in the Hat Speaks Up for Billy

What is it about the LA Zoo that's attracted so many celebrities to speak for elephant?

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    The LA Zoo's lone elephant, Billy, has celebrities arguing both sides of the debate over what to do about his planned $42-million home.

    We can only guess at what Billy the Asian elephant thinks about the many celebrities wading into the debate over his $42-million Pachyderm Forest at the Los Angeles Zoo, but it's a good bet he was none too thrilled Tuesday at the sight of the stovepipe hat on this latest guy.

    Of course, you and I get that the black hat is merely part of the rock-and-roll costume of former Guns N' Roses lead guitarist Slash. But, considering how scarily reminiscent the getup is of many a circus ringmaster gone by, perhaps something in a Dr. Seuss or maybe a pork pie hat might be more pachydermically correct.

    It might even be safer, considering the way elephants have been known to stomp on guys in top hats and tails.

    This is not, of course, about picking on Slash. Nothing of the sort. Indeed, the other celebrity side of LA's elephant question is a curiosity too.

    They say elephants never forget, but it's been so long since some of these names have been in the news that even Billy might need to bone up with a few IMDB searches to figure out who's fighting for his future.

    Retired game show host Bob Barker, writer/actor Robert Culp, and writer/actor/comedian Lily Tomlin have all spoken up on Billy's behalf, asking that plans to keep him at the Los Angeles Zoo be scrapped and that he be retired to a spacious sanctuary.

    "The word 'zoo,'" said Tomlin, "is elephant-speak for Guantanamo."

    Unfortunately, Tomlin did not offer this translation while acting in the persona of 5-year-old Edith Ann rocking in an oversized rocking chair. Even Billy might have stopped throwing clumps of dusty hay on his back to watch that.

    Not to be outdone, the guy responsible for the creepy guitar intro on the Guns N' Roses hit Welcome to the Jungle said Tuesday that Billy's got it better than most any Hollywood A-lister.

    "Billy ... has four keepers, who have been at his beck and call, taking care of him and providing him with optimal medical care and everything else that he needs," Slash explained.

    Billy the Elephant

    [LA] Billy the Elephant
    Bill the elephant at the LA Zoo.
    (Published Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008)

    Four keepers? Well, no wonder all these celebrities are suddenly vying to be Billy's friend. With a backstage rider like that, they guy's got to have some serious industry connections.

    -- TJ Sullivan