Outrageous and Unfair!

Orenthal James Simpson rose in dramatic fashion from the vicious streets of San Francisco’s predominately Black Potrero Hill to become one of America’s most enduring and beloved sports figures, pulling in millions of dollars annually.

Now charged with the double murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and her friend Ronald Goldman, 25, O.J., as the world calls him, has been quickly and shockingly reduced from adored legend to prisoner Number 4013970 in the Los Angeles County Jail under suicide watch.

O.J. Simpson gained international fame as the zig-zagging, Heisman Trophy-winning running back at the University of Southern California and the almost-impossible-to-bring-down halfback with the Buffalo Bills. He singlehandedly put the franchise on the football map…

And to top it all off, he had good looks and charisma. For Hollywood and the advertising industry, he was a dream come true.

Many remember him as the long-time spokesman for Hertz Rent-A-Car, the man who sprinted through airports to get his car as observers cheered.

Unlike many sports figures who fade into oblivion after their careers are over, Simpson was every bit as popular if not more so after he left football in 1979.

The fact that he was a family man also endeared the Juice to fans, especially the female variety. While at USC in 1967, he married his childhood friend, Marguerite Whitley, who had dated Cowlings.

Soon after Simpson turned pro, there emerged reports of marital trouble. During some of his early Buffalo years, Marguerite and their children stayed in L.A.

“Being on the road is a strain. I mean, you know how your lady is – she wants you there. But after I make the transition from football to whatever else I’ll be doing, things will be different…”

In a 1978 JET cover story, Simpson said teenage girls had cornered him for autographs. He was named in a paternity suit. Stewardesses conveniently sat on his lap and he had to deal with rumors of affairs with such women as Liz Taylor and Sophia Loren.

“Well, I’m healthy and I’m a man. I wear clothes to accentuate. I like European clothes and I’m like any other guy or lady who likes to put his best foot forward.”

He said he couldn’t worry about the wild rumors.

“I can’t go out and protect from what people say about me. I try to have a good time…”

Simpson and Marguerite divorced in 1979, the year their third child, daughter Aaren, drowned in their L.A. pool… An emotional Simpson told reporters in 1979 that football helped ease the pain of Aaren’s death.

Despite the divorce, it was that carmel-brown face and his talent for talk that enabled him to become his own best promoter and led him to Hollywood. His boyish face and charms paved the way for a career in films.

Simpson, for some reason, received some immediate and heavy criticism when he made a television movie about an interracial romance with Elizabeth Montgomery titled A Killing Affair.

He also was criticized when pictures of him with another White woman, Nicole Brown, surfaced in 1979. He met her in 1977 when she was an 18-year-old waitress in L.A., and had her move in with him two years later.

The two by many accounts, lived a lavish life-traveling around the world in style, living in beautiful homes on Los Angeles’ posh West Side and an elegant New York apartment. Nicole, a blonde model, tooled around L.A. in a beautiful Ferrari.

After a stormy, seven-year marriage, Simpson and Nicole divorced.

And now, it is over. Hertz dropped Simpson as its spokesman after he was charged with murder and the media, the organ that showered him with compliments for the last 25 years, has attacked him non-stop since his name emerged as a suspect.

The Los Angeles District Attorney, Gil Garcetti, has said the case is about domestic violence and the subject has appeared on numerous talk shows and news programs.

Fans and many media observers have expressed outrage at the number of unsubstantiated rumors newspapers and television programs have run with. There had been much reporting of a ski mask being found at Simpson’s estate. During a hearing, the district attorney’s office was forced to admit that it does not exist.

Fans interviewed by JET said they were gathering at his home not just because they feel he is innocent, they also said they felt the Juice was the victim of racism and an unfair media witch hunt.

There was also widespread shock and numbness that such a truly beloved individual could ever end up behind bars for any reason.

Jet Magazine (July 11 1994)

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Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?

O.J. Simpson made a last, desperate attempt to woo his ex-wife back on a sun-splashed trip to Mexico just two weeks before she was murdered.

Insiders tell STAR that O.J. and Nicole secretly flew to romantic Baja, where he hope the tropical breezes and warm, intimate nights would help mend their ruined relationship.

Simpson didn’t give up easily. He thought it was only a matter of time before his ex would agree to give him another chance. But Nicole couldn’t forgive him for the beatings she had suffered during the marriage, and told him she was through with the relationship.

“I’ve had enough,” she said to him. “It’s over”.

Nicole’s refusal to reconcile was grounded in the years of pain and anguish that comprised her hellish marriage. But it hadn’t started out that way.

Nicole led a seemingly storybook life that was the envy of all her friends – until her marriage began falling apart.

Friends say the blonde beauty was one of the best-liked and most popular girls in her hometown of Laguna Beach, and seemed to be realizing all her childhood dreams with her jet-set lifestyle.

“She was one of Dana Hills’ real beauties, popular not just because of her looks, but because of her sweet personality,” says friend Valerie Rigg.

But despite all the expensive toys and dream vacations, Nicole’s life was becoming a nightmare.

“I’m still friends with Nicole’s family, so I heard it first, but soon the stories were all over town – how O.J. was insanely jealous and had a brutal, violent temper,” Rigg says.

“Every few weeks it seemed there was another story about how O.J. had lost it and slapped Nicole around or pulled her hair or threw up up against a wall.

“Laguna’s very small and word gets around. Before too long, the whole town knew about it. All her old friends couldn’t figure out why Nicole, a woman so beautiful, with so much on the ball, stayed in a relationship that was so unhappy and abusive.”

Another friend of Nicole’s says that she rejoiced when she heard Nicole was divorcing O.J. that she had “finally found the strength to cut herself off from this dangerous man.

“When we heard they were getting a divorce, we were happy that Nicole had finally found the strength to end it, to get out,” says the pal. “I know her mom and sisters were pushing her to call it quits. Nicole had feared for her life for years.”

“It took a long time, but she finally got slapped around one too many times. But she still had a soft spot for him, despite all the years of physical abuse

“And lately there have been rumors that they’ve been trying to patch up their relationship, that O.J. has become some kind of super-Christian fundamentalist and changed his life.

“But the minute I heard on the news that Nicole had been murdered, I called up a friend and said, ‘Did you hear the news?’

David LaFontaine Star Magazine (July 5 1994)

A Model Victim of Abuse

“I’m afraid he’s going to kill me!”

That’s what Nicole Simpson told her therapist Susan Forward about her terrifying fear of O.J. Simpson.

And just days before the football great’s ex-wife was brutally murdered, she spurned O.J.’s pleas for a reconciliation and echoed the same fear to a friend: “I’m really afraid one day he’ll go too far and kill me!”

“O.J. constantly battered her,” said Forward, the therapist who counseled Nicole when she was going through her divorce from the star in 1992.

“She was terrified of him. He constantly threatened her life. She told me, ‘O.J. is so insanely possessive and jealous that there’s no telling what he might do. He gets so angry I know he could kill me someday.'”

Nicole was a typical battered wife – and O.J., 46, had a “classic case of obsession,” said Forward, author of the book “Obsessive Love: When It Hurts Too Much To Let Go.”

“After they separated, O.J. kept pursuing her,” Forward told The ENQUIRER… She was living in terror. he was always accusing her of seeing other men. If she went to a gas station to get gas for her car; O.J. would demand to know if she was seeing the gas station attendant and there’d be a big fight!

“When she was seeing me, Nicole still had a lot of loving feelings for O.J. She kept seeking the love of the man who beat her.

“Nicole would lie curled up on my couch in a fetal position, crying, with no make-up, torn jeans and stringy hair. She looked like a helpless waif.

“She was trembling in fear when she told me, ‘I’m trying to get my life together. But it’s on my mind every minute – what is O.J. going to do next?'”

The couple’s fighting brought the police to their door several times while they they were married, said Forward.

The couple split in early 1992 and their divorce became final soon after

But in recent months, the two had grown increasingly close… “O.J. and Nicole were really trying to make things work,” her friend disclosed. “They were spending a great deal of time together, alone and with their children, and it seemed they were heading toward remarriage.

“Nicole loved O.J. and the kids so much. She really wanted her family whole again. But the past kept creeping back into her mind. She told me, ‘I won’t let him hurt me again.’

But shortly before her death, Nicole made up her mind once and for all that the relationship wouldn’t work – and told O.J. she’d decided she could never reconcile with him, said an insider.

Just a little over two weeks before her grisly murder; she told a pal, ‘I wish I could work things out. But to tell you the truth, O.J. still scares me to death. For God’s sake, he’s threatened to kill me.’

The National Enquirer (June 28 1994)

Footnote to an Astonishing Fate?

The end, last week, was off-camera.

After the bloody steps, the heart-rending funerals, the surreal chase through the twilight of Los Angeles, O.J. Simpson surrendered himself into the darkness his life has become.

It was a peaceful end, a surprisingly peaceful end, to a week that was drenched in trauma, tension and blood.

On Sunday night, O.J.’s ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, a young waiter-model named Ronald Goldman, were stabbed to death outside her $650,000 town house.

Almost from the moment their bodies were found less than two hours later, as crumpled and porous as Caesar’s, suspicion focused on O.J.

With the help of his star-quality dignity and heavy doses of sedatives, he led his two young children through Nicole’s funeral service, holding each by hand, his eyes shielded by sunglasses. By Friday, after collecting piles of evidence and leaking much of it to the press, Los Angeles police officials were ready to arrest him.

O.J.’s lawyer was going to bring him in. Only, O.J. fled, accompanied by his lifelong friend and all-purpose aide, Al Cowlings, who was doing Simpson one last service.

Last week’s murders brought a brutal end to a turbulent relationship.

Nicole Brown was 18 years old when she met Simpson in 1977. Homecoming Queen at Dana Hills High School in Dana Point, she worked part time after graduation as a waitress at The Daisy, a Beverly Hills nightclub. Within a year they were living together.

Simpson and Brown were married six years later, under a tent at his Brentwood Park estate.

They made a dazzling couple, and his income underwrote an opulent life-style that included twin Ferraris, gambling trips to Vegas, skiing jaunts in Aspen, Colorado and summers at an oceanfront house in Laguna Beach, California.

But some feared that the good times papered over serious problems.

“There were hints,” one close friend of Nicole Simpson’s told NEWSWEEK. “It was physically obvious. She had marks, red marks on her wrists. I saw them on two or three occasions. There were no scratches or black eyes and it wasn’t a daily kind of thing. Everybody knew and every once in a while she’d say things to friends.”

The violence spilled into public view in early 1989.

At about 3.30am on New Year’s Day, police answered a 911 call from Nicole Simpson. The assault had little impact on his lucrative career in commercial endorsements.

Nicole Simpson filed for divorce in March 1992, citing “irreconcilable differences”. O.J. had completed his probation without incident. But court findings examined by NEWSWEEK suggest that she still may have considered herself at risk.

A miscellaneous provision of the settlement states: “Each party shall have the right to live separate and apart from the other, free from any interference or harassment”

The picture of their life after the divorce remain muddled. O.J. and Nicole continued to see each other, attending fund-raisers and other high-profile functions together.

But police said last week that 911 calls from Nicole complaining about her ex-husband were an “ongoing problem”.

Nicole Simpson’s transition to single life seemed less troubled. Her entire work history, beyond her two-month waitressing stint, was two weeks as a boutique sales-clerk. But the divorce settlement allowed her to live well without a job.

She decorated the $650,000 town house with Lalique crystal figures and a large, colorful, modern painting. In a loft overlooking the living room was a StairMaster.

Acquaintances say she was a good mother with a cheerful personality, a familiar figure to shopkeepers and joggers along San Vicente Boulevard.

She worked out frequently at The Gym, a neighborhood health club, and on many evenings she hired a babysitter so she could go dancing with friends at clubs in Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

It’s not clear when or how Ron Goldman came into her life.

They might have met at The Gym, or Mezzaluna, a Brentwood Restaurant where he waited tables and she like to dine. He was 25, 10 years her junior, with sculpted good looks and a penchant for bragging about his sexual conquests.

It will likely be months before a trial, but the bizarre swing of public sympathy towards Simpson worries officials.

District Attorney Gil Garcetti said he is concerned that defence attorneys “may find one juror who will not follow the law,” setting Simpson free.

While he says he understands the empathy for a fallen hero, he cautions against “losing sight that it is Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman who are the true victims.”

Garcetti is right about that, at least, but the reality is that long after their names are footnotes, it is Simpson’s name that will resonate, along with the memory of his run to an astonishing fate.

Newsweek Magazine (June 27 1994)

Making the Face of Heaven So Fine…

Twenty Four Years and Counting…

Remembering the life of Nicole Brown Simpson who died on this day in 1994 at the age of 35.

Nicole was an attractive and free-spirited person, loyal to her family and friends and a devoted mother to her two children.

However in June 1994, it was revealed that Nicole had suffered many years of domestic abuse during the course of her relationship with O.J. Simpson and he was to be sensationally acquitted of her murder and that of Ronald Lyle Goldman in October 1995.

And in 1997 the jury of a civil court would eventually return the verdict that held Simpson ‘responsible’ for their deaths.

Despite the divisive issues that had surrounded the trial of Simpson, Nicole’s tragic death was to illuminate a much needed awareness about domestic abuse for in November 1994, a foundation in Nicole’s name was created by the Brown family and many women who upon learning about Nicole’s life and death were to find a renewed strength and resolve to leave their abusive partners.

“You Can Close Your Eyes to Reality But Not to Memories.”

Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

The Infamy of a Contradictory Narrative!

“Do you think I like having my life an open book? It was never my intention to become famous by using my sister’s death.”

Reporters who cover trials often say of witnesses that you have to take them as you find them; the same rule applies to the families of murder victims.

A murder trial is a narrative, a collection of family stories.

As a story, Denise Brown has the ambiguities of Becky Sharp. Was she prepared to be held up for scrutiny as the older sister of the most famous murder victim in postwar American history?

While Denise is in New York, I notice in her tote bag a single book: Insane Jealousy, a study of domestic violence – a phrase she routinely says she never heard until June 13, 1994.

Every interviewer now asks her the same question: How could she not have known that Nicole was being battered?

Why did she come out at first and say that Nicole was not a victim of domestic abuse?

It is a measure of the desperation of the family and the madness of this trial that Denise chooses to grieve in public, airing her confidences to Geraldo Rivera, who has become not only her close friend but a booker for reporters who seek interview time.

Her conversation has a definite agita; she speaks in the idiom of twelve-step programs. She says, “I don’t want to spend my time thinking about what-ifs, what-ifs. Nicole never told us she was battered! She would say, ‘He threw me against the wine cabinet, and then we went out to lunch.'”

Denise does not dwell on what the family chose not to see. “What good would that do?… I want to help other women now. This foundation is my crusade for life. Now I am a happy person. I have a mission and a cause.”

Is it mean-spirited to speculate that, as in the case of many battered women, Nicole’s family seemed intent on not seeing the truth of what was going on?

Denise has taken on the public role for the family; it is her odd task to advance the narrative of what the Brown family knew about the Simpson marriage. There are many episodes that she willingly retails: When Nicole attended a Buffalo Bills game on an early date, O.J. blew up when he saw her kiss a friend on the cheek. Denise said to her younger sister, “This is ridiculous. What are you doing with this guy?”

She is reduced to admitting, “He was awful again and again. And when it was good, they were in a honeymoon phase, and they would go around and around in a vicious circle.”

Now Denise Brown will remain as a snapshot and a headline: A SISTER’S GRIEF.

Her picture is the story – a sister sobbing on the witness stand.

And then the words: “He grabbed Nicole, told her to get out of his house, picked her up, threw her out of the house. She ended up falling. She ended up on her elbows and on her butt.”

“Are you OK, Miss Brown?”

“Yes, it’s just so hard. I’ll be fine.” Moments later: “At one point, O.J. grabbed at Nicole’s crotch and said, ‘This is where babies come from and this belongs to me,'”

Can America accept a heroine with moral contradictions?

The foundation has raised more than $200,000 but in February had yet to acquire a federal tax number or have a brochure printed up on the foundation goals. Where is the money?

“In an escrow account managed by our lawyer.”

Is Denise an innocent or obtuse?

She is well aware, she tells me, that she is criticized for appearing to exploit Nicole’s murder for publicity. Of this she says, “I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of me. I’ve gotten very good at telling people to leave me alone.”

I asked her how her parents reacted on the day that O.J. Simpson, a man whom her father had never met, dropped off a Porsche in their driveway for Nicole as a memento of their ten-month anniversary.

“What did they say?” I asked. “‘Oh, my God,’ and then not much else. Why?'”

I said that there were many parents – my own included – who would have have a great deal to say if their eighteen-year-old received a $50,000 present from a former football star.

“My parents taught us to be gracious and to say thank-you for gifts,” she said. I asked her if there might be a suggestion in such a gift that Nicole was being kept. “Oh, no! Not at all! My mother was very easygoing about that. Her attitude was that presents did not make you a kept woman. Someone pays for your apartment… If you’re happy, what difference does it make?”

It has become common for reporters to ask Denise Brown questions that might illuminate O.J. and Nicole’s Brentwood life, as if understanding a victim could explain a murder…

I, too, was curious about the dynamic inside a family that could give us such sisters, trained perhaps by example to be man-pleasers, at the very least.

Nicole was a five-foot-eight-inch baby doll, intelligent and hidden. She was a bride who wore pearls in her hair and a low-cut dress at her wedding; she drove her daughter, Sydney, to ice-skating and on an evening after her divorce, according to Faye Resnick, once crept  into a neighbor’s bedroom and awakened him with an oral-sex trick she called “the Brentwood hello.”

Often she spent her mornings running nine miles until the endorphins kicked in. She attempted to run her house as if she were a menu-maker with the skill of Pamela Harriman; O.J. complained about the flower bill.

Denise Brown has been much interviewed; she’s adept at repeating certain key phrases: Her parents had “a storybook marriage” Lou and Juditha Brown used to say, “If you’re happy, we’re happy.”

The subject of Faye Resnick arises during my conversation with Denise. Nicole, according to her sister, was incapable of seeing the liars and the users who were around her, especially at the end of her life. Denise insists she has not read Resnick’s memoir, but is there anyone in America who is unfamiliar with the sound bites?

According to Denise, Faye Resnick was a minor and unpredictable figure in her sister’s life. “I met her for the first time at Nicole’s funeral. She evidently knows me very well. I don’t know her!

 “Did you see the movie The O.J. Simpson Story? Thank God, I got a call about it. It portrayed Nicole as the stupidest, ditziest person that I have ever seen. It was not Nicole. I thought, If you had any class at all, you would have made her like the person she is.”

Marie Brenner ~ Beyond the Courtroom for Vogue Magazine (May 1995)

Remembering Nicole Brown Simpson…

On Sunday June 12 1994 Nicole Brown Simpson became a public figure overnight for on that balmy Sunday evening she was senselessly and brutally murdered in the grounds of her home at 875 South Bundy Drive in the leafy suburb of Brentwood in California.

Her murder trial and that of her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman who had been murdered alongside her became known as the ‘Trial of the Century’ with her former husband Orenthal James Simpson as the accused.

It is hard to believe that Nicole was murdered over twenty three years ago for I can remember the BBC news reports and the iconic photographs of the bloody pathway lined with the neat rows of purple and lilac Agapanthus.

I also remember the farcical ‘Bronco Chase’, the sensational headlines week after week in The National Enquirer, the court testimony of Mark Fuhrman and the shock of the “Not Guilty” verdict on October 3 in the following year.

And yet what I most recall is the realisation of a grotesque dichotomy that despite the voluminous photographs of a beautiful and happy Nicole that she had in fact been abused by Simpson throughout most of their seventeen year relationship.

I just don’t see how our stories compare -I was so bad because I wore sweats & left shoes around & didn’t keep a perfect house or comb my hair the way you like it – or had dinner ready at the precise moment you walked through the door or that I just plain got on your nerves sometimes…

Published in October 1994 and written by her friend Faye Resnick, Nicole Brown Simpson: A Private Diary of a Life Interrupted was the first book that I ever bought about Nicole and I am still reading about her.

She was the subject of my Thesis in 1999 and remains the purpose for my work ever since.

There are literally hundreds of books that have been written about the life of Nicole and of her life with Simpson and the tales of glamour, celebrity, wealth and beauty have frequently made her appear remote, abstract and insignificant.

Yet it is the very tragedy of her early death that makes her life a compelling human story of hope, love, obsession and betrayal and that is why I choose to remember her.