biology expedition

Darwin On The Red Carpet

Lights. Camera. Action! Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Hollywood’s finest locale. I’m the naturalist Charles Darwin; filling in for Joan Rivers, a superlative member of the entertainment world subspecies pseudofaba emaciata, if I may classify her myself. That ultra critical chickadee really knows how to test a border: Due to a daring Botox escapade, Joan will be back on the job –- more pseudofaba than ever -- as soon as she can blink.

Until then, fellow movie star lovers and biology buffs, this is our night! We’re here on the roiling red carpet at Los Angeles’ Kodak Theatre, ready to exalt the parade of sanded, bleached and recast individuals produced in this archipelago of entertainment. I’m a devotee of Hollywood fauna.

When I set sail for these latitudes, I tell my wife I’m headed to a laboratory of evolution accelerated to the speed of a paparazzo flash!

That gets me off the hook.

Think about it folks, some of the stars we’ll see tonight are naturals, summoned from the general populace by the mighty Kliegs. Others submit to a surgeon’s knife to acquire popular characteristics.  With the original population supplanted by the natural, artificial and sexual selection of show business, we end up with the pert beaks and powerful tails of Josh Hartnett and Jennifer Lopez! Lesser forms driven to extinction, the Tinseltown population is highly plastic. Traits like plush fur, supple limbs, and perfect pitch may be profitable to any number of species, but in Hollywood, they are just the baseline.

So let the Oscar expedition begin! There, over by the potted palm. Amid a gaggle of studio executive trophy wives, all a pre-nuptial size two: Do I spot Melissa Gilbert, the little prairie marmot who frets on an infomercial couch? I beg your pardon, a walkie-talkie marks that particular crooked mouthed plain-Jane as a functionary. Possibly an usher. One-hit wonders, or what we Hollywood naturalists term stagnalis trivialis when we remember them, would be barred from such a competitive environment. But they still might try to pierce better borders.

For Hollywood creatures, it’s in the blood to quest.

I say to my wife: Emma, when entertainers struggle to become rich and famous, that’s simply their naturally amusing method of hunting for food and mates. Their exposed environment allows the rest of us to enjoy their conspicuous survival of the fittest, with the threat of extinction nipping at their heels.

Look there, by the curb! Limos are starting to disgorge tonight’s cravenly careerist Oscar contenders. Who’s that coming this way? Someone hand me an eyeglass. It’s easy to identify a translucens crema from this distance, even if I can’t name the exact individual. Leggy clones answering nature’s casting call for cream puff actresses, it could be Denise Richards, Jennifer Aniston. They have done well to mate within the translucens subspecies, since spouses Charlie Sheen and Brad Pitt increase their probability of having soap opera-ready offspring.

I cannot match Joan’s bantam-weight standard tonight. I have yet to trap one specimen while many good and distinct subspecies are slipping by in the throng! Look there, a pod of wannabe alphalisters bobs and crests, riding the pressure waves in front of a larger and more impressive creature. See how they communicate, spurred ever onward by the high-pitched whistles and whines of Sandra Bullock, Renee Zellweger and Salma Hayek!

Statuesque Nicole Kidman is parting the crowd. Tinged Moulin Rouge, she’s stepping out tonight with the Broadway colony of ziegfeld multiperformata populated by high-energy Goldie Hawn, Shirley MacLaine, Gina Gershon and Vanessa Williams.

“Equity, I got Equity,” they trill to anyone who will listen, projecting their voices effortlessly over the din.

But this Aussie interloper has also been observed making a nest, alongside her countrywoman Cate Blanchett, in the A-list aerie of megastella diadema. With her flexibility and sheen, assertive Nicole has the proper genetic predisposition of an Academy member, in this naturalist’s humble opinion. Her ability to survive on seaweed could even spell success in the steamy Galapagos, alongside the best of marine iguanas!

A ruckus is undulating through the red carpet assembly. Who on earth? Good lord, take cover! It’s the vacuum-packed optima gloria Madonna, the only one of her type. With her harsh habitat and cold-blooded pace of evolution, prospective mates are left gasping in the dust. Notice how I allow her wide berth; this reptile is known for a nasty bite.

Here comes the most versatile creature in Hollywood, Will Smith. Swinging easily from home-boy to A-list without ruffling feathers or raising hackles, rubbery Will defies classification.

These days he’s floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. He certainly has nature’s vote, and mine!

Camouflaged in what appears to be a white cobweb, I discern the outline of bodacious blonde Pamela Anderson, mincing this way on her tiny feet. Her mirror of a mate, the smirking fedora-ed Kid Rock, trails with a posse of bubble-headed rock stars, male models and pro athletes. Is it a band of inanis abdominalis, or just Pam’s preserve?  She’s coming right at us; we may be able to get a closer view. I--I think she’s going to peck me.

No, Miss Anderson, I did not steal this frock coat from Russell Crowe, thank you for inquiring! As if I would dare test that coiled lion of a man. Naughty bird!  Science has tried to elevate subdivisum fornicatum -- specimens like Anna Nicole Smith or Carmen Electra -- to a higher caste, but invariably the experiment fails. Most dancers of exotic plumage persist in behavior better suited to their original territory.

Refined refreshment advances in the always elegant Natalie Portman, radiant in royal blood-red, joined by others from the nobilis magnificus flock, actresses from the better families and with degrees from the finest institutions of higher learning.

Raven-haired Jennifer Connelly, the ink on her pedigree papers still wet, glides by with impeccably subdued princess sisters Reese Witherspoon and Sigourney Weaver, and Gywneth Paltrow. These genteel swans are the souls of Hollywood discretion, all long necks and fine features and good diction. I predict the Academy will rush to recognize Jennifer’s graceful emergence within the erudite borders of a well-esteemed but sparsely populated flock.

The presentation hour draws near and even the watering holes are abandoned. Wait, I recognize a bouncy blonde duo. The 15-year old twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are fresh from the teeming warren of juggernautis pubescens, youngsters with entertainment empires. I will carefully approach these veteran bunnies, so as not to scare them! “We have to be in bed early,” sniffs Ashley, or Mary-Kate. “Not because we’re underage, silly! A board meeting tomorrow.”

In the distance, I spy Gosford Park nominees Dame Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren flying down the promenade, leading a siege of britannicum ingenium toward the empty lobby. Thank heavens, my fellow Britons have alighted at last, they simply dominate the nominations! Dame Judi, Kate Winslet, Sirs Ben and Ian bring up the rear of this huge assemblage.

Notice how their complex visages seem to map lifetimes.

The Queen and the Academy have recognized the cogency of their expressions, but I dare say Hollywood will resist being over-run by imports in tonight’s survival of the fittest.  Even so, Sir Ian’s intimidating traits make him the strongest britannicum in contention. Towering head and shoulders above the competition, this wizened creature can conjure a terrible force of nature when denied.

It’s showtime, ladies and gentlemen. May the fur and feathers fly!