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Monica Lewinsky is hugged on arrival in Los Angeles by her father, Bernard Lewinsky, and an unidentified woman. (Reuters)

Media Frenzy Follows Ex-Intern to L.A.

By William Booth and William Claiborne
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 4, 1998; Page A12

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 3—Monica S. Lewinsky flew home to California today in search, as her lawyer put it, of a "normal" life. Somebody must have given her bad advice.

Nothing about Lewinsky's return was normal, not in a city whose main industry is the media and not in the tony neighborhood of Brentwood, where celebrity journalism and its darker art of relentless, almost canine, pursuit of a steamy story were honed in the crucible of the O.J. Simpson saga.

Although Lewinsky has maintained silence about the alleged sexual liaisons with President Clinton, lawyer William H. Ginsburg has described his client as crushed, fearful and emotionally shattered. Cooped up for two weeks as a news media inmate at her mother's apartment in Washington's Watergate complex, the 24-year-old former White House intern and Pentagon public relations worker wanted to come home to Brentwood to be with her father, the radiation oncologist Bernard Lewinsky, Ginsburg said.

"And she wants to go shopping," Ginsburg said. "She wants to take a walk in the park. She wants to do the things that normal people do."

Right. This is a city where the television news is dominated by TV "Skycam" helicopters giving chase, where film openings are the lead story, where scandal and sex are entertainment, and where the town's most popular monthly magazine is called Buzz. Lisa Gregorish, executive producer of the tabloid TV show "Hard Copy," told the Associated Press: "We're licking our chops."

Lewinsky boarded United Flight 45 at Dulles International Airport this morning and flew nonstop into rainy Los Angeles in the afternoon. But she was not alone. Sitting with Ginsburg at her side, Lewinsky traveled in a first-class cabin that was filled with security men and hovering attendants, employed as body shields.

A dozen camera operators and reporters were flying coach right behind her. A mid-flight report from ABC radio gave Los Angeles commuters the latest news via airphone: "They're blocking our view." The cabin crew closed a restroom between the coach and first-class sections in an effort to keep gawkers out of the aisle.

At Gate 76, where the flight arrived, nearly 100 journalists, including eight television camera crews, waited under the watchful eyes of police officers wielding batons, while several television chase cars stood at the ready outside the baggage claim area.

But mostly for naught, because Lewinsky was whisked off the plane with a lift used to lower disabled passengers to the tarmac. On the ground, she got into a waiting car that sped off in the rain. Reporters were reduced to interviewing disembarking passengers about the black sweater and pants they said Lewinsky was wearing, and her in-flight demeanor.

"She was very calm. She had a very collected demeanor, very poised. She looked much younger than she appears in the media," revealed Peter Bell, 45, a Washington association executive who sat right behind the former White House intern.

No information about her lunch choice could be obtained, but Bell said a lot of the reporters on board "seemed to have stomach problems," judging from their frequent visits to the toilet adjacent to the first-class section.

Monica Lewinsky's father's home in Brentwood is just a few blocks from the Bundy Drive condominium where Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald L. Goldman were slain and about a mile from the Rockingham mansion where O.J. Simpson lived until infamy and legal judgments required a relocation.

Dusting off media-control tactics used during the numerous stakeouts of Simpson's home, the Los Angeles Police Department kept reporters off the sidewalk in front of the Lewinsky home, allowing them to stand across the street. Someone posted earlier in the week two "no trespassing" signs on the front lawn. The blinds were also drawn.

Ginsburg, in telephone call from Bernard Lewinsky's house, reported that Monica Lewinsky was glad to be away from Washington and back at home. "She's in there now, crying with her dad," Ginsburg said.

If Lewinsky was looking for relief from the news media hoard, she didn't find it in the California-modern, beige house in Brentwood with a huge satellite dish on the roof. Six television trucks were parked outside and about 50 reporters watched as she emerged from a black sedan, embraced her father with her back to the cameras and walked inside.

As freelance cameraman Lewis Robert said of her chances of eluding her pursuers, "She can't hide, not in L.A. Not with that face."

Just this week, a pair of paparazzi were convicted here on misdemeanor charges of "false imprisonment" after they chased the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was recovering from open heart surgery, and television interviewer Maria Shriver, his wife who was five months pregnant, through the streets of west L.A. as they tried to drive their son to preschool.

And last March, actor Alec Baldwin was found not guilty of misdemeanor battery during an altercation with a freelance photographer who tried to film Baldwin and his wife, Kim Basinger, as they returned home from the hospital with their 3-day-old daughter.

That's the L.A. welcome wagon.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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