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Cher among the celebrities turning out for elephant exhibit vote

January 28, 2009 | 12:13 pm

For months, L.A.’s protracted debate over elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo has made City Hall a magnet for TV, movie and television celebrities. Today’s City Council debate, perhaps the final one on the $42-million pachyderm exhibit, is proving to be no different -- a fact that quickly became obvious when Cher, the actress and singer, walked onto the council floor and stood a few feet behind Councilman Herb Wesson’s chair.

Yet even a seasoned performer such as Cher had to do battle with The Hook, which at City Hall is the 60-second limit placed on each member of the public speaking during lengthy hearings. When that limit is exceeded, speakers are routinely shooed away from the lectern and cut off at the microphone. Council President Eric Garcetti struggled to get Cher to adhere to the time limit, repeatedly asking her to wrap up as she pressed ahead with warnings that animals at the Los Angeles Zoo are exposed to electroshock.

“I’m not a fanatic. I just love animals, like most Americans,” she told the council as she argued that elephant exhibits, like slavery, are a shameful tradition that should be ended. Cher was quickly followed by actresses Lily Tomlin and Tippi Hedren, as well as actor Kevin Nealon –- all of whom oppose the elephant exhibit. Supporters of the exhibit include actress Betty White and Slash, who performed with the band Guns N’ Roses. Garcetti, for his part, said he tried to give each speaker a cushion of 10-to-15 seconds. A vote is expected in the next hour.

The latest: Elephants will stay at L.A. Zoo, council decides

-- David Zahniser