A surreal scene at Beverly Hilton hotel

Media mobs a coroner's van as it leaves the Beverly Hilton Hotel, early Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, in Beverly Hills, Calif., where Whitney Houston was pronounced dead in a hotel room. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

This account was written by CBS News producer Chris St. Peter.


BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Everyone had already arrived to the Beverly Hilton early on Saturday afternoon - celebrities, paparazzi, press as well as the paramedics who would ultimately try to save Whitney Houston's life.

They were already there for one of the music industry's biggest parties of the year: Clive Davis' pre-Grammy bash. Whitney Houston died on the fourth floor of the iconic hotel shortly before 4:00 p.m. PT on Saturday afternoon, just hours before she was set to perform at the annual ballroom event downstairs.

Houston's body remained in the hotel room hours after emergency responders pronounced her dead. Downstairs, Davis' extravagant party went on as planned, as investigators roamed the hotel lobby and women wearing designer ball gowns and men dressed in tuxedos shuffled by towards the red carpet.

Elvis Costello and Diana Krall are seen outside the back entrance to the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Saturday Feb. 11, 2012, in Beverly Hills, Calif., where Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammy party was being held - the same hotel where Whitney Houston was pronounced dead.
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Limousines dropped off guests who walked past police cruisers and a white CSI van parked beside the entrance to the ballroom. A gaggle of reporters waited to break the news to the arriving and mostly-unknowing attendees.

Almost instantly the Beverly Hilton was surrounded by even more paparazzi - and then the mass media, training telephoto lenses at the upper floors of the hotel as news helicopters hovered overhead. A crowd of mourners and onlookers joined them. Some carried candles and flowers.

Others sought out their chance to give an interview and share their remembrances of the superstar who seemed to have an interminable battle with addiction.

Beverly Hills Police Lieutenant Mark Rosen fielded questions during an impromptu news conference near one hotel entrance where the public asked questions alongside reporters. Everyone wanted to know not just about the rumors of drugs and alcohol, but also why the party was still going on behind them amidst the tragedy and an active crime scene investigation.

Lieutenant Rosen said the private event was not interfering with their ongoing investigation and he was unaware of any requests to cancel the party.

Nearby, caterers pushed carts of fruit and cheese and the hotel balconies pulsated from strobe lights illuminated from a stage below showcasing the newest sedan of one of the event's major sponsors, Hyundai.  

Meanwhile, on nearby Rodeo Drive, Houston's hits played through the sidewalk speakers of celebrity restaurants like Xian and Mr. Chows, and cars drove with windows down playing her songs on the radio.

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