Hollywood, FLA. -- If it is to be believed, it is perhaps the most significant partnership to have been forged between extraterrestrials and science since E.T. phoned home. But yesterday's announcement by Brigitte Boisselier that she has created the world's first human clone -- done as it was at the beachfront Holiday Inn hotel in the Florida resort of Hollywood -- lacked the panache one might have expected of such Earth-shattering news.
The first peculiarity was that half of the news-media representatives who turned up to attend the press conference were promptly banned.
While the chosen ones settled into a meeting room, the rest of the journalists were reduced to huddling in television-satellite trucks in the parking lot outside, joined by barefoot holidaymakers who abandoned their chaises longues and pina coladas to investigate the commotion. Swimming-pool water dripped from their bikinis and puddled around their feet.
Inside the meeting room, Dr. Boisselier, her copper hair glinting in the light of the cameras, bared her teeth in a smile. "She is born!" she announced dramatically, in her excitement forgetting to introduce herself. "She is fine, we call her Eve."
Whether Eve is indeed the first human clone will be a matter of relentless debate until a group of independent scientists assigned to check out the claim report back in just over a week.
But certainly it was Dr. Boisselier's proudest moment.
Perhaps mistaking the venue for the other Hollywood, she launched into an Oscar-style acceptance speech. She thanked the scientists who helped create Eve and, in particular, thanked her spiritual leader, Claude Vorilhon, founder of the Raelian cult in which Dr. Boisselier is a bishop. Mr. Vorilhon also founded Clonaid, a private company, in 1997, after the creation by Scottish scientists of Dolly the cloned sheep. He appointed Dr. Boisselier managing director shortly after.
Expounding the Raelian belief that humans were created by alien scientists using genetic-engineering techniques, Dr. Boisselier was immune to her audience's titters and snorts. But she did seem acutely aware of the attention, and possibly the cruel derision, Eve may face as she grows up and her background becomes known.
"I hope that this baby will not be talked about like a monster, the result of something that is disgusting," Dr. Boisselier said.
"I am creating life. But I do not want anyone to think that I am playing God."
Her cloning reports, which she is confident will be independently verified, have been met with added skepticism because of her affiliation with the Raelian cult. Mr. Vorilhon says he once met Jesus and was whisked aboard a UFO by aliens while hiking in the dish of a French volcano in 1973. The aliens' first words to Mr. Vorilhon were apparently along the lines of: "Bet you regret not bringing your camera."
Dr. Boisselier defended herself against critics and skeptics yesterday. She said Eve, born on Boxing Day weighing seven pounds, is the first of five cloned humans she has created. Eve was made using an egg harvested from a 31-year-old woman that was implanted with DNA from one of the mother's skin cells.
"This baby will be the belated twin of her mother, but just growing up in a different environment at a different time," Dr. Boisselier said. "She will have a computer in her bedroom that her mother never had." Without irony, she added: "She looks just like her mother," before laughing and adding: "Well, obviously."
When the announcement was over the Raelians withdrew, journalists spilled outside and the holidaymakers returned to their lounging and drinks.
Holiday Inn manager Bruce Siegel helped gather up the empty plastic cups and water jugs that had been laid out for the news people and their hosts, getting ready for the next function.
"It's just another day in the hotel business," he shrugged. "Raelians, huh? How do you top that?"