From the DEC/JAN 2006 issue of Seed:
A glass used for the Nobel Banquet.
Veteran science reporters guessed the 2005 Nobel Prize ceremonies would be different when the Swedish royal family decreed that Diddy would be the host, but we had no idea how different. It was immediately apparent this would be a night like no other Stockholm had ever seen.
Diddy’s first order of business was changing the traditional red carpet to blue. Then he had it studded with diamonds. But he really forced people to step up their game when he announced that no one would be allowed into the award ceremony’s historic venue, the Stockholm Konserthus, without at least $10,000 worth of furs.
“This isn’t some ordinary award show,” Diddy said. “This is the Nobels! You’ve got to represent.”
No he di’int! we thought.
Oh, but he did.
Diddy’s girlfriend Kim Porter threw down the gauntlet with a mink camisole over a bearskin coat, accessorized with a purse made from the pelt of an arctic fox. When she whipped that coat off, her dress was cut to her navel, as far down as public television will allow.
The Black Eyed Peas showed up next, in trademark style. Will.i.am pushed the envelope of taste by donning a live beaver hat, and Fergie and apl.de.ap wore matching ermine. Taboo was almost turned away, until he revealed his leopard-skin wallet; it wasn’t worth $10,000, but there was a thick wad of cash in it, so they let him in.
Eva Longoria classed up the place with a classic 1950s sable design with nutria lining and a muskrat trim. Onlookers were primed for fireworks when Paris Hilton showed up wearing the exact same coat, but after a brief standoff, the two made up and spent the rest of the night amicably trying to steal each other’s boyfriends.
The arrivals grew flashier, and the bulbs started to pop. Kanye West pulled up in a limo drawn by reindeer and proclaimed to the paparazzi that he was “Nobel Santa Claus,” and that “George Bush doesn’t care about Swedish people, either.” Then he handed out iPods oaded with his new video. Not to be outdone, Jay-Z arrived in a yacht on wheels, his posse lighting hundred-krona (US $12.69) bills and smoking them.
Tom Cruise arrived on a moped with a visibly pregnant Katie Holmes, proclaiming his hatred of antidepressants. “Good thing there’s no Nobel Prize for psychiatry,” he said. “Because I know a lot about psychiatry, and it doesn’t deserve a prize.”
There were some other awkward moments: Eminem had said he’d attend, but then he wouldn’t leave his trailer. Everyone suspected it was because he’d been passed up for presenting the Physics Prize in favor of 50 Cent, but no one imagined that he’d spike 50’s Cristal with Helicobacter pylori, causing all of G-Unit to come down with ulcers, as Interpol—not the band—later determined (with a nod to Drs. Marshall and Warren). After the festivities, Lindsay Lohan was reportedly denied access to Jessica and Ashlee Simpson’s hotel suite because Lohan had “stolen” Wilmer Valderrama, Ashlee had stolen him back, and Jessica had stolen him from Ashlee. But the four of them were spotted the next night doing the town in Göteborg, so these might have all been rumors.
The banquet started off right, with a medley of ‘70s funk favorites performed by Alicia Keys and Los Lonely Boys, with a cameo appearance by a senescent George Clinton. Past prizewinners were seen saucily tapping their toes to “Up for the Down Stroke.” The laser show, in honor of the winner of the 2005 Physics Prize, was a crowd-pleaser; Glauber, Hall and Hänsch were obviously moved by such a utilitarian application of their Prizewinning work.
Host Matthew Perry made a few good-natured remarks about how advances in science are being blocked by reactionary elements in the US; the crowd roared in approval. Then he introduced Nicolas Cage and 1999 Physics Prizewinner Gerardus ‘t Hooft, who were to present the Prize in Chemistry.
“Chemistry,” according to Cage, “is a branch of science dealing with the structure, composition, properties, and reactive characteristics of substances.”
“It’s also something Nic rarely has with his costars,” said Hooft.
That spicy banter was possibly equaled by Kirsten Dunst’s quip about Tobey
Maguire (“Will one of you Nobel Prizewinners for Medicine please come up with a cure for halitosis?”) as she and that “beautiful mind,” John Nash, who has never struck a hotel employee with a telephone, introduced the “All-Star Tribute to Jonas Salk” featuring Madonna and Britney Spears. At the conclusion of the number, Mrs. Federline and the Material Girl kissed again, but this was Sweden, so no one really cared.
Backstage, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel and Penelope Cruz lounged in the green room, each with different body parts draped over the satisfied-looking form of former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix.
“How do you do it, Hans?” someone asked.
“It’s a little something I like to call the Stockholm Surprise,” he said. The ladies all giggled.
The ceremony was followed by the traditional banquet at Stockholm City Hall. (On the way over, attendees passed a “tribute to dynamite” by Damien Hirst.) This year, the winners got to judge as Swedish Iron Chef Sven Larsen took on his challenger, American Bobby Flay. The secret ingredient was…herring! Chemistry winner Richard R. Schrock found the cuisine “excessively acidic.” Flay’s hamburger with herring milkshake, a “comfort” recipe from his boyhood, was universally reviled, and Larsen, who’d offered herring pie, herring salad, and filet of herring with herring sauce and blinis, was proclaimed the winner.
The prizes all awarded, and the prizewinners full of herring, the crowd began filing out. Stockholm was a big city and there were lots of celebrities in town. Everyone knows the Nobel Prizes are off the leash, but they also know that the real fun comes after.
Originally published December 8, 2005