The helicopters wheeled like vultures above the motorcade that headed up Highland Avenue toward Sunset Boulevard. This scene, played out last Monday afternoon, might have had something to do with Hollywood royalty, but the yellow chain girding the entrance to CNN‘s studios on Sunset and Cahuenga, along with a small detachment of LAPD officers guarding opposite corners, suggested it wasn’t. Curious, I asked one of the officers who the celeb might be.
”That‘s right,“ said his partner. ”It’s Jodie Foster.“
I walked to the other side of the high-rise and asked another cop if he knew who was doing lunch at CNN.
”I do,“ he said. ”But I can‘t tell you except that it’s a visiting dignitary. Sorry, but that‘s one of the rules.“
A call to CNN got me this reply: ”I can’t tell you,“ the woman said coyly, ”but --“ here she paused for effect -- ”it might have something to do with Larry King‘s show. If you go to his Web site, it should list who his guest is today.“
This would be King Abdullah II, the suddenly important Jordanian monarch, in town to explain to an impartial arbiter of men -- Larry King -- why he didn’t think America‘s plan to spread its war against terrorism to the Middle East was a good idea.
Despite all the diplomatic secrecy, it occurred to me that Abdullah was not enjoying the royal treatment his late father, King Hussein, had received during his visits. About 20 years ago I had sat on a bus bench on Olympic Boulevard, when a black car pulled over and two Americans in equally black suits demanded that I show them the contents of my hiking pack: one canteen, an apple, and a ball of cheese sealed in red wax. Suddenly Hussein’s motorcade screamed out from the direction of Beverly Hills and passed by; the men vanished with them.
Today, Abdullah‘s motorcade had taken him past -- what? -- the Probe, Aron’s Records, Hollywood Motorcycles, Pink‘s Hot Dogs, Ammo. And, even though about 20 CHP cops eventually stood by CNN’s garage entrance, and an equal number of Secret Service and LAPD on the other side of the building, pedestrians were more or less allowed to pass unmolested. Inside, two kings, one named Abdullah, the other Larry, played a polite game of conversational pingpong, as when King asked Abdullah about his reign:
LARRY: Has it been everything you thought it would be?
ABDULLAH: It‘s been nothing like I thought it would be . . .