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This Bash Was Lively, Despite the Mummies

May 10, 1999|IRENE LACHER

Everywhere we turned Tuesday evening there were half-naked men painted gold fanning us with palm fronds. We were beginning to like this premiere, and the movie "The Mummy" hadn't even started.

Still, we brushed off Universal's beguilements in our post-party quest for the mummy expert who would satisfy the public's right to know--how did the latest "Mummy" stack up to real life? Or real death? Whatever.

We sailed past the belly dancing go-go girls, the flaming torches, the golden baboon god, the groaning buffet. OK, so the buffet got our attention. A little while later, we cornered our quarry--David Silverman, professor of Egyptology at the University of Pennsylvania.

"When the Princess Anck-Su-Namun talks to Imhotep, she was speaking authentically in Egyptian. The hieroglyphs on his head were authentic. I can't say that for all the hieroglyphs, but there was certainly a lot of attention to detail."

By the way, in case you're thinking about digging up some mummies, you might want to know that whether or not there's a mummy's curse, there definitely is a mummy's bacterium.

"People talk about the curse of King Tut because so many people died from it, but in actuality the person who discovered the tomb lived to a good old age, to 67. But there's also a virulent form of bacteria that's like a mold on the walls that's called aspergilisniger. That has been traced to the deaths of several people" who have visited the tombs.

Partying outside the hygienic Universal Amphitheatre were the film's stars, Brendan Fraser, John Hannah and Arnold Vosloo, producers Sean Daniel and James Jacks, and writer-director Stephen Sommers, as well as Universal execs Ron Meyer and Stacey Snider, and Ice Cube, Jason Patric, Powers Boothe and Martina Navratilova.

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You go, Pulitzer Prize-winning girl.

Natalie Angier's new book, "Woman: An Intimate Geography" (Houghton Mifflin), has made her the popular girl on the block of cooler evolutionary biologists. Forget about the "Me, Tarzan" theories of human development that have been used to "explain" codes of behavior that give men license and rein in women.

Remember the one about women being naturally monogamous unlike men who are naturally promiscuous? We don't think so.

That's one of the fun facts we gleaned from "Woman." We gleaned more at a book party for Angier last week at the Whitley Heights pad of screenwriter Laurie Frank. Here's another one from the petite biology writer for That Other Times: Women are more likely to be impregnated by a lover than a husband.

"There's some preliminary evidence that orgasm enhances fecundity," Angier said. "And women generally have orgasms more with lovers than with their regular mates. There are studies in which they look at the number of times women copulate with the lover versus the husband, and it comes out to be a higher rate of impregnation from the lover than you would expect."

Hmmm. Sounds like things could get complicated.

"Studies have shown that 10% to 20% of children are not the children of the husband in the marriage. [The percentage is] pretty high. Women are promiscuous enough that they're conceiving outside their usual relationship." Oops.

Angier said she began reassessing evolutionary biology through a feminist lens because she was irked by some of the grand statements made by male scientists based on slim evidence.

"One of the reasons I wrote the book was that I felt depressed by all the information that was out there. The evolutionary biologists were saying to women that unless you're young and pretty, you're as good as dead. You're not worth anything."

Hold your horses, lady. Isn't that true in L.A.?

"It probably is true in L.A., I have to say, there's nothing I can say to contradict that."

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Irene Lacher's Out & About column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Page 2. She can be reached by e-mail at socalliving@latimes.com

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