Stranger In Hollywood

CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Rita Braver takes an assignment in Los Angeles where she finds the locals are so thin they don't appear to really eat, and where walking appears to be a rarity. An archive of The Braver Line is available. Rita Braver's email address is rbc@cbsnews.com.

I should have known someone was trying to send me a message when my plane to Los Angeles was canceled. Now I realize that supernatural forces must have been trying to warn me that I would feel like an alien here. But at the time, the natural thing seemed to be to sprint through Dulles Airport and get on the next nonstop flight to LaLa Land.

But how strange it is to be here. ItÂ's not that I am a homebody. I probably travel 100 days a year. But itÂ's been a while since IÂ've journeyed to this particular city, and I had forgotten how different it is. Now, it's true, that I live in Washington, D.C., a place with its own brand of weirdness, but L.A. is so other.

When I finally arrived, I ran to my first interview with a well-known music star. (IÂ'm not going tell you who he is, so youÂ'll just have to keep watching Sunday Morning and try to figure it out for yourself.)

He lives on a beautiful tree-lined street, in a huge and fabulous house that was built in 1896 and used to be somewhere else, until a previous owner had the whole thing - all four stories and a basement - dug up and moved to its current location. But people out here think nothing of transporting mammoth structures wherever it suits them.

For example, I spent one day in a hospital. Or at least it felt like a hospital, with long corridors, a nurses' station, several waiting rooms, an emergency room, operating rooms and biohazard signs all over the place. Except it was the set of the televison program Chicago Hope. (Nope, not going to tell you why I was there either. Keep watching.)

We were set to do our interview in one of the patient rooms when a props person arrived and became extremely upset because we had an old heart monitor, rather than one of the most up-to-date models in the background. She quickly moved in the high-tech equipment, then she made sure the stuff in the fake I.V. bags was of sufficient quality.

Another props person showed me a drawer full of little personal items he keeps for characters: wallets, watches, wedding rings, palm pilots, cell phones. And speaking of phones, stupid gringo that I am, I picked up one at the nurses' station to dial out. Ha, ha.

But it looked so real, except for the fact that most of the hospital wasnÂ't being used and impossibly thin people kept walking through eating bagels and chips and all sorts of other stuff that apparently doesnÂ't add any weight to you if you eat it on the set of a television show.

That was just one of the reasons I wished IÂ'd eaten at Chicago Hope When I finally got back to my hotel, at about 3:30, the restaurant was closed. IÂ'm staying in Beverly Hills, where there are more impossibly thin people, so they probably donÂ't care.

And itÂ's not just that they donÂ't eat; they also donÂ't walk. When I asked the lady at the front desk where I could grab a bite, she told me to order room service. When I insisted that I wanted to go out, she looked horrified and took me to the concierge.

He asked me where my car was. I told him I wanted to walk. He scratched his head and finally decided to send me to a diner about half a block away. "Be careful crossing the street," he kept repeating. I was, but the restaurant was closed.

I finally found another one, which cheered me up, especially because I loved listening to the table conversations around me. "He didnÂ't get it, but he got a commercial," one woman told her friend.

"My agent wonÂ't call me back," a guy in T-shirt and jeans confided to his table mate, who was dressed in a coat and tie. I couldnÂ't tell which one was in costume.

While I was eating, I decided to read the Los Angeles Times. ThatÂ's when I really knew I was in foreign territory. Where else but in L.A. would you learn that the former head of a movie studio was taking over the baseball team? (And he didnÂ't even make any baseball movies.)

Then there was the news that a radio talk-show host was selling her Malibu house (asking $1.15 million) and would soon be selling her Hollywood Hills house, so that she could get more land for her dogs to run around on.

But being in L.A clearly makes you behave oddly. I had to go to Orange County for yet another interview and the producer I was working with, who used to be a normal New York sort of fellow, insisted on driving us both there with the top down on his convertible. And I agreed!

I guess we both thought that since we were in L.A., my hair would miraculously look just fine when we arrived at our destination, just the way it does when people in the movies drive anywhere in a convertible. Wrong! And IÂ'm certainly not telling you why I was doing that interview. In fact, IÂ'm hoping you wonÂ't watch!
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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