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George Clooney is on top of the world

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Every Thursday night at 10, another dizzying half-dozen gurney loads of broken patients come banging through the doors on ER, and it’s usually not long before George Clooney appears as Dr. Doug Ross to bark out the show’s trademark heavy-duty medication orders like some kind of scrub-suited bartender: Atropine! Dopamine! Adenosine, six milligrams IV push! Three hundred cc’s saline! Throat swab! Stat!

But on this Wednesday morning, as sunshine permeates the multi-windowed living room of Clooney’s expansive new Tudor-style home in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, TV’s reigning hunky, hard-drinking physician is healing himself. Never mind the unpronounceable chemicals — the actor’s chosen remedies are more holistic than high-tech.

”Me and my herbs now,” he says, unzipping a tidy little pale-green travel case. Out come two neatly stacked rows of eight multicolored vials, from which he shakes tablets in rapid succession. Rattle, gulp, rattle, gulp — he swallows enough herbal remedies to give Dr. Ross’ once-suicidal ex-squeeze, Carol Hathaway, an OD flashback.

”I grew up with a very meat-and-potatoes kind of upbringing in Kentucky, so I’m not Mr. Hocus-Pocus,” Clooney explains, watching for his listener’s reaction as he does that head-down, eyebrows-up thing that’s so familiar from TV. He seems at once courtly and cagey, fine-tuning his welcome-to-my-world patter depending on how he judges it to be going over. ”I don’t believe in ESP, or ghosts, or — gulp — you know, literally anything. I tried acupuncturists to get rid of things, and it didn’t work. Don’t believe in — mmmph — chiropractors, either.”

Settling into an overstuffed couch, Clooney, 34, looks slighter and more hunched in person, clad in black T-shirt and jeans, than he does in ER‘s green scrubs. But even at rest, he’s got the coiled bearing of an ex-athlete — which in fact he is, having failed to win his dream slot as a center fielder for the Cincinnati Reds in his late teens. And if there were ever a Super Bowl of acting, George Clooney would be the second-string quarterback who, pretty late in the big game, accidentally gets the football and figures he’s got exactly one chance to get it aaaaaall the way down the field.

”So anyway,” he resumes, ”I went to this guy who does herbs and he looked in my eyes and told me what I’d had wrong with me over the years. Okay, I was a little bit impressed by that. Then he gave me these herbs and about three months later I got rid of an ulcer I had for two years. I figure, Good enough, I’m a believer.”

Of course, Clooney’s herbalist may simply have caught his client at a felicitous moment. After all, ER‘s status as television’s No. 1 show has made him the white-hot TV performer of the moment and paved the way for a burgeoning film career; Clooney’s brief stop at home comes just a week before the nationwide opening of his new movie, Miramax’s jailbreak-road-trip flick-cum-vampire thriller, From Dusk Till Dawn.

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