BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – In a bizarre set of circumstances on Saturday, the famed Beverly Hilton Hotel was bustling with the annual Clive Davis Pre-Grammy party - all while an investigation into the death of Davis's own protégé and musical legend, Whitney Houston, was being conducted a few floors above.
The multi-award winning singer, 48, was discovered by her bodyguard in the bathtub of her fourth floor room late Saturday afternoon.
The Beverly Hills Police Department received a 911 call at around 3.43pm to respond to a medical emergency, and the fire department was already on the scene in preparation for the star-studded Davis party. Despite paramedics attempts to revive Houston via CPR, she was pronounced dead at 3.55pm. She was positively identified by members of her team, and her daughter Bobbi Kristina, 19, and mother Cissy were notified of her death.
According to TMZ, Houston had spoken to her mom by phone less than half-an-hour before she died, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. A few hours prior to that, Houston's cousin Dionne Warwick had also called and again, everything appeared fine. The pop queen, who is listed as residing in New Jersey, had apparently been staying at the well-known Beverly Hills hotel for several days with the intention of attending Davis's Grammy bash.
Houston had walked the red carpet Thursday night and performed at the "Kelly Price & Friends Unplugged: For the Love of R&B Grammy Party," at L.A.'s Tru Hollywood nightclub, but left the event looking particularly worse for wear with blood stains on her legs and hair over her face. According to multiple reports, she seemed upset, was acting erratically and yelling at people in the club.
TMZ reported that Houston had yet another boisterous evening with her entourage on Friday, filled with heavy partying at the Beverly Hilton bar that raised quite a few eyebrows.
However, that very bar was a scene of chaos in quite a different fashion on Saturday night. Despite speculation that the 800-person Davis party would be canceled following the tragic news, it was business-as-usual as droves of onlookers, media and high-profile guests including Britney Spears, NeYo, Tom Hanks, Matthew Morrison, Dr. Dre, Tony Bennett, Diana Ross and Jon Voight stepped out for the swanky affair.
"A few hours ago they were thinking of canceling (tonight)," party guest and music big-wig, Richard Branson, said ahead of the party. "But Clive said Whitney would have wanted the show to go on."
And it did.
Yet in among the black chauffeured SUVs rolling in to drop off talent was the "Crime Lab" police van parked near the valet circle, although it was later moved to the hotel's back loading dock. Calls to the Coroner confirmed that they had not yet been notified of Houston's death, and as of late Saturday night, police were still in the process of seeking a search warrant to the room where she died to conduct a full investigation.
"This is just wrong. Her body is still right here in the building, and yet here everyone is out partying and playing her tribute music," said one onlooker, as news of Houston's death flashed across a television in the hotel lobby. "It's so eerie."
Another party guest concurred.
"It's surreal. I can't believe the body is still here and this is all going on," he said. "I don't know if its disrespectful, or a celebration of her life."
Some were learning of Houston's death for the first time, expressing shock and confusion, and almost everyone was whispering among themselves or phoning a friend to commiserate the news.
Away from the flurry of posing celebrities, extremely loud music and sponsored ads (there was even a car on display accompanied by colorful flashing lights) there was action behind the building. News crews, paparazzi, security personnel and police vehicles took over the back entrance, under speculation that Houston's body would be taken from the hotel amid the madness.
A small vigil of a few fans also formed at one side entrance by the hotel, however anyone who wasn't a hotel or party guest/employee most likely wouldn't have made it past security and inside the Hilton in the wake of the news.
The cause of death remains unknown, however foul play is not suspected.
Grammy president Neil Portnow confirmed at the Davis party that Jennifer Hudson will perform a Houston tribute at the awards ceremony on Sunday, and L.A. Reid told us that the late singer was in premature negotiations to take a role of the judging panel of next season's "The X-Factor."
"Whitney's people reached out about her being on 'X-Factor' and if she would have been on she would have been an amazing mentor," he said.