Despite the midnight hour, Jim Kohn decided to top off a night at the opera with a visit to a museum.
So -- decked out in a tuxedo -- the 41-year-old Los Angeles man very early Sunday caught the last act of the California Science Center's "Body Worlds: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies."
Drawing more than 650,000 spectators since it opened in July, the collection of "plastinated" cadavers proved so popular that museum officials kept the doors open for the final 41 hours. The exhibit closed at midnight Sunday.
So many people turned out that a long line zigzagged through the lobby and poured out the door in Exposition Park long before dawn on the exhibit's final day.
About 600 people an hour were admitted over the weekend to see the human specimens transformed by German physician Gunther von Hagens, who replaced body fluids with clear, pliable plastic, making it possible to position not only cadavers, but internal systems such as blood vessels into dynamic poses.
Von Hagens, who invented the plastination process, calls the results "anatomic artwork."
Science and algebra teacher Pamela Swearingen made the late-night trip solo after receiving a last-chance e-mail from the science center.
"I couldn't find anybody crazy enough to go [with me] on a Saturday night," said Swearingen, 43, of North Hills, who purchased tickets online for a 10:30 p.m. admission to the exhibit's accompanying IMAX movie.
Swearingen said her penchant to read every bit of text and take in every little detail also may have dissuaded others from accompanying her to view the more than 200 cadavers. After the movie, she waited in line two hours to get into the exhibit.
"I was afraid I'd be sleepy," she said. "But ... this is history in the making; that alone keeps you awake. It's mind-blowing. I'm dumbfounded and speechless."
The decision to go for a 'round-the-clock final run -- the first ever for the science center -- was made Wednesday after crowds turned out during the extended museum hours from 7 a.m. to midnight the previous two weekends, said museum President Jeffrey N. Rudolph.
"It's exceeded our expectations," he said of the all-night operation, estimating that about 9,500 people had passed through the exhibit from midnight Saturday to 1 p.m. Sunday. "In the 24 hours from midnight to midnight, we're going to clearly exceed 15,000, probably closer to 17,000."
The exhibit has been, by far, the most popular ever for the museum.
"The interesting thing is that most exhibitions, or any kind of attraction, can open big and then start to decline," Rudolph said. "This has been the exact opposite."
Swearingen, the science and math teacher who waited until the last minute, said she will plan ahead for "Body Worlds 2," which will begin a two-month run at the science center Jan. 29. The new exhibit will feature more plastinated specimens, including examples of how obesity damages vital organs, a 3-D puzzle demonstrating the human head's density and a cadaver dubbed "Orthopedic Man" that shows how various implanted devices function.
"I'm definitely going to bring my students on a field trip," said Swearingen, who is a teacher at James Monroe High School in North Hills.
For those still up in the wee hours Sunday to see the first "Body Worlds," the unusual timing offered the chance for an unhurried evening.
Self-professed procrastinators Vlada Syrkin, 18, and Mark Werts, 20, both of Hancock Park, arrived at 9 p.m. Saturday, bought tickets for an 11 p.m. admission, went out to eat and returned to wait hours in line.
"It's pretty cool being at the science center at 2 a.m.," Syrkin said.
At the same time, she said, "I feel slightly on edge because it shows the human body's really fragile."
Laurie Larkin, a 58-year-old biology teacher from Calabasas, said she was compelled to see the exhibit after hearing one of her students rave about it.
"I didn't want to miss it, so I didn't care what time we got tickets," said Larkin, who bought tickets online Friday for admission at 10:30 p.m. Saturday. "It's a party at the museum. It was a great idea to keep it open 24 hours."
The long line to get in didn't faze Larkin, who described what she saw as "unbelievable," "fantastic" and "a miracle."
Some visitors said they were propelled by "morbid curiosity," while others said they wanted an insider's view of the effects of disease and ailments, such as lung disease, hardened arteries, tumors and ulcers.
Kohn, who brought his opera date along, said he was especially intrigued with the display of a cartilage-worn arthritic knee. He also took note of a display showing how a diaphragm nestles among other internal organs.
"They always talk of lifting your diaphragm when singing or speaking," said Kohn, an actor who has appeared in movies and on stage. "This is my first chance to get an internal view. I want to take this home with me so I can remember what I'm seeing."