Only in L.A.: Thousands Attend Memorial For Mountain Lion at Greek Theatre

Diplo speaks onstage during celebration of life for beloved mountain lion P-22 at the Greek Theatre on Feb. 4. (Photo by JC Olivera/Getty Images for the National Wildlife Federation)

Nestled in the Santa Monica mountains near the Los Feliz neighborhood in Los Angeles is the storied Greek Theatre, a popular venue that has hosted some of the biggest names in live entertainment, but it has never had an event like the one held on Saturday, Feb. 4.

Thousands of Angelenos flocked to the outdoor amphitheatre to celebrate the life of the beloved mountain lion known as P-22, who roamed the surrounding area of Griffith Park for a decade and was euthanized on Dec. 17 after wildlife officials discovered the animal was suffering from serious health issues.

Every ticket for the memorial at the 5,900-capacity venue was claimed within hours, making the event celebrating the life of a puma (yes, a puma) one of the hottest tickets in town.

The event hosted and organized by Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation featured dozens of speakers — including elected officials, scientists, Native American leaders, actors and musicians — expressing their appreciation for the animal that trekked two of the busiest freeways in the nation (the 405 and 101) and spent 10 years living in isolation away from his kind in the 4,000-plus acre Griffith Park landscape. Angelenos who know all too well the trials and tribulations when it comes to traveling on those highways quickly embraced the mountain lion, and P-22 surpassed mascot status and became a local legend.

It was only appropriate that the legendary puma be celebrated in not only the area he roamed the past 10 years but at the venue that hosted Neil Diamond for his iconic “Hot August Night” performance that became a multi-platinum live album.

“The only logical place was the Greek Theatre,” Pratt told Pollstar in January. “In L.A., they love their celebrities. They love a good underdog story, and his story itself was a Hollywood movie.”

Only a figure such as P-22 could get celebrities to brave Los Feliz traffic and make an appearance. Rainn Wilson of “The Office” performed a song for the late mountain lion, and famous DJ and music producer Diplo joined Pratt onstage holding a plush P-22 under his arm and delivered a brief eulogy before leaving for a show in Las Vegas.

“You will be remembered as the king of Griffith Park, a title that you surely earned by constantly dodging danger and surviving the concrete jungle,” said Diplo, who lives in the area and saw the famous cat near his home multiple times. “Your memory will live on in the hearts and minds of those who were lucky enough to see you. And to the rest of us, he will forever be the mountain lion that could not be tamed by man or city.”

A celebration of life for a puma? Outsiders likely roll their eyes and think, “Only in L.A.” And City Councilmember Nithya Raman is not only OK with that but loves that the city embraces its wild and weird side.

“Yeah, it’s so L.A. Only in L.A. would a beautiful wild animal like P-22 come and live in this municipal park and residents would demand and clamor that he be allowed to stay here, and stay here he did for a decade,” Raman said with pride. “Only would our love for P-22 spur a movement to protect these big cats that would lead to an almost $90-million investment for a wildlife crossing, one of many to come here in this region.”

Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation speaks onstage during P-22 memorial. (Photo by JC Olivera/Getty Images for the National Wildlife Federation)

Pratt believes P-22’s story of being cut off from other pumas in a sprawling landscape was such a relatable tale and so “nutty” that it could only happen in L.A.

She’s not wrong. Saturday’s event was as surreal as it was endearing with people of all ages, including children, attempting to explain a bond with an animal they never met.

“He changed us,” Pratt read from the eulogy for P-22 that she posted online in December. “He changed the way we look at L.A. He inspired millions of people to see wildlife as their neighbors. He made us more human, made us connect more to that wild place in ourselves. We are part of nature, and he reminded us of that.”

P-22’s legacy will live on in not only Pratt and those who followed him, but in the entire state of California. The puma’s story of survival inspired philanthropists and elected officials to develop the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, which broke ground last spring and is expected to be completed sometime in 2025. It is the largest urban wildlife crossing of its kind and will allow animals to safely move across the 101 freeway. Pratt is dedicated to having more green bridges in the area and announced the launching of a Wildlife Crossing Fund to raise money toward the development of more crossings to save pumas in the Santa Monica mountains from extinction.

A mountain lion’s dangerous journey across two freeways motivated citizens and politicians to invest in development that restores ecosystems disrupted by urbanization — it reads like the plot of a movie, and there’s nothing more L.A. than that.