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Byline: Brad Dickson Local View

LOS Angeles is in the midst of a mania. I speak not of the housing market, but of Tutapalooza.

As the King Tut exhibit makes its sophomore appearance at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, elitist East Coast critics hover over the preserved artifacts dating to around 1323 B.C., stunned by the thought, ``Los Angeles County has a museum?''

Every couple of decades, the Egyptians send Tut on tour, making him their Cher. However, the powers that be decided the king's actual mummy shall remain in Egypt, and with the airlines' knack for misplacing items, who can blame them?

While the Tut exhibit and artifacts are here, Tut is not, technically making him the first ``Runaway Pharaoh.'' Too bad. From L.A., the exhibit moves to Fort Lauderdale in November, where Tut would have caused a sensation as one of the state's younger people.

It's no surprise the Tut promoters chose L.A. as the initial stop on the four-city U.S. tour. Last time, in 1978, over a million people attended the exhibit at the L.A. museum. For some reason, Angelenos hold a particular fascination with Tut and ancient Egypt. Tickets have been selling briskly since Christmas. No wonder nobody's going to movies, we're waiting for the Tutankhamun exhibit. But why?

Maybe we're enthralled by a civilization able to erect gigantic pyramids, Los Angeles being a civilization whose elected officials are unable to repair a pothole. We're also possibly intrigued by the fact it took Egypt roughly the same amount of time to build a Great Pyramid as it did for us to complete four feet of subway.

Or perhaps we're enamored of the fact Tut is still around. Some psychoanalysts assert that Tut represents implied immortality, a life that never ends - something many L.A. inhabitants crave, but only a select few (Robert Evans and Dyan Cannon) achieve.

L.A. residents are expected to flock to the exhibit in significant numbers during its five-month run, which in itself is no barometer of quality - we're the city that recently flocked to beaches in significant numbers to await the arrival of a tidal wave. And allow me to briefly rain on the promoters' parade: This city that's awash in ``Tut Fever'' was not long ago captive to ``Bo Bice Fever.''

Get my drift?.

Promoters still seem cocky, charging up to $30 for admission. Thanks to modern forensic technology, we can view online the youthful ruler. He looks inordinately well-coiffed, even vaguely transgender-ish, something Los Angeles can get behind. Tut, the coiffed ``Boy King,'' ascended to power about age 9, then perished mysteriously at around 19. The exact cause of his death is unexplained, which helps account for his popularity in L.A. Tutankhamun is one long ``CSI'' episode.

And of course, in youth-obsessed Southern California, what can possibly be better than a 9-year-old king? All of a sudden, that 22-year-old CAA wunderkind seems like sort of a loser, doesn't he?

The exhibit featured the type of overblown Hollywood opening we love, replete with red carpet, capping a multimillion-dollar marketing whirl. The publicity blitz peaked when the charismatic Tut proposed to Katie Holmes atop the Eiff - wait, wrong P.R. blitz.

Ironically, all the ado surrounding Tutankhamun flies in the face of historians largely branding him one of the least important pharaohs. Tut was a leader of little consequence in his lifetime. The analogous situation would be if 3,000 years from now, multitudes of people were to line up to view the preserved remains of Mayor James K. Hahn (which are eerily similar to the actual James K. Hahn.) Or if some day society turns out en mass to witness the antiquities belonging to, say, City Councilman Dennis Zine.

Joke's on them.

Despite the steep prices and Tut's irrelevance, the exhibit fascinates Angelenos on numerous levels. One caveat: There's long been talk of a ``King Tut Curse.'' And you thought the 107 moderate earthquakes, Dodger misfortunes, planes crash-landing on freeways and tsunami warning since Tut II arrived were just coincidence?




Wearing a King Tut headdress, Lynn Jones of Mesquite, Texas, waits to enter the ``Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharoahs'' exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Nick Ut/Associated Press
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 23, 2005
Previous Article:PRO AND CON.
Next Article:PUBLIC FORUM.

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