Extinct Planet of the Apes

Although the benefit event called Tribe being held at Level nightclub this Friday is for the orangutans, the animals will be dreaming orangutan dreams long before the evening hits its stride with scheduled performances by disco diva Martha Wash and DJ duo Thunderpuss 2000. "Usually orangutans go to sleep between nine and ten at night," explains Tribe's coproducer Ryan Jacobs.

Jacobs has been in the news recently along with Miss Millie, the young orangutan with cerebral palsy who inspired his activism. Everyone may be mad about Millie, the cute-as-a-button creature Jacobs considers "an ambassador on behalf of her species," but Jacobs hopes people also will become passionate about the plight of these endangered apes, who are being poached, exiled by deforestation, and enslaved by the pet trade. "I think the thing that's killing them is that people just don't know, and when people hear that they could be extinct within five years, it's really a shocking statement," says Jacobs, who proclaims he's given up his show-biz career for the activist life.

Jacobs says he couldn't hazard a guess at how much this fundraising event will cost to produce, but he says it will take two or three thousand attendees to turn a profit and that all proceeds will aid his Jungle Habitat organization. He believes ideally funds should go toward "hiring a patrol team that will be trained to deal with people trying to log already protected lands [in Indonesia].... Part of the money I would also like to go to taking back black-market orangutan babies that are being sold."

Getting in on the act at Tribe will be former-supermodel-turned-estrogen-poster-girl Lauren Hutton, who will be meeting and greeting VIPs from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. and speaking to the Level masses about her involvement with this environmental issue before Wash entertains. The nightspot itself will be converted into a thriving rainforest to symbolize the natural habitats in Borneo and Sumatra, now being decimated, which the orangutans need to survive.

And though eager to have an impact on the situation with his event, Jacobs is not totally naive: "There are many, many things pointing in the direction that they will not make it in the wild. This is sort of like my effort to halt that. Some people say it's too little, too late; some people say miracles happen every day and some things can be reversed. I really don't know what's going to happen, but I do know that I will do my best to keep 'em there."

Miss Millie and her fellow orangutans from the Parrot Jungle and Gardens will do their part for the cause, too, making a cameo appearance at Tribe (in a garden behind the club to protect them from the smoke). Says Jacobs: "The event starts at nine, so it'll be a very fast, like, “Hi, everybody, thanks for trying to help our brothers and sisters' appearance, and then they'll be out of there and back to their respective places where they stay so they can have a normal night's sleep." Here's hoping their simian siblings won't beat as hasty a retreat from this planet.