Murder on the Orenthal Express

There is no precedent in the annals of American crime for the pile of excrement in which football hero OJ Simpson has landed himself.

Despite our own rich heritage of mass murderers and celebrity villains, British criminal history also has nothing to compare. This is no Lester Piggott tax evasion scandal. A bona fide American sports legend may be on a one-way trip to the gas chamber.

It could only happen in America…

OJ Simpson is the winner of the 1968 Heisman trophy for the most valuable college football player, holder of the record for most yards rushed in a single season, member of the football Hall of Fame, spokesman for Hertz rental cars, respected TV sports commentator, and sometime actor with a regular role as Detective Nordberg in the Naked Gun films.

He is accused of the vicious laying of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend, waiter-cum-model Ron Goldman.

The murder weapon, still not recovered, is thought to be a “substantial knife.” So substantial, in fact, that Nicole’s beautiful blonde head was almost severed from her perfect body, her neck sliced through to expose her spinal cord.

The OJ Murders as The National Enquirer calls them, combine some favourite American national pastimes: football, murder and soul-searching. The allegation of a double murder by a genuine American hero and celebrity has truly shocked and unnerved a public fed a daily diet of murder and mayhem.

This American tragedy involves “one of the world’s best-known and best-loved athletes,” according the US media reports. Although a snap survey by the Los Angeles Times of sportswriters in town to cover the World Cup revealed that hardly any of them know who OJ Simpson is, it is a tragedy for the kids and adults who have grown up with Simpson.

He was never known as a prima donna, never charged for his autograph (a despicable custom among American sports figures) transcended the colour barrier and was one of the few football players in the sport’s history capable of turning a game around with his electrifying runs up the field.

Many Americans are having a tough time reconciling the man’s supposed “gentle giant” image with the brutality of his alleged actions. Real life has come and slapped America in the face.

This is not, repeat, NOT a movie.

Before the bizarre events transpired, a scriptwriter pitching the story that unfolded between 12 and 20 June would have been laughed out of every movie studio in the city. No one would touch this far-fetched fantasy with a beloved sports legend as the villain.

It has all the elements, and more, of a classic adventure mystery: murder, escape, wife-beating, the fall from grace of a respected figure, and extramarital affairs, with the buddy angle tossed in for good measure. The problem is, they’re not usually all in the same story.

The real tragedy reads like a comedy of errors. A previous violent act perpetrated by OJ against his wife was almost buried by a judge overly impressed with Simpson’s celebrity and the same media folk now camped outside his house in Brentwood, a posh area on L.A’s West side.

Fallout from the case is widespread. The LAPD, treading carefully after the Rodney King debacle, was accused of going too easy on Simpson because of his celebrity, than for being racist for their subsequent dogged pursuit of him.

The papers are full of agonizing analyses of the fall of yet another black hero and role model, following the ignominious demise of Magic Johnson, Mike Tyson and Michael Jackson. Time magazine has been accused of darkening their cover photo of OJ Simpson’s mugshot, and is denying charges of racism in trying to make him look “blacker”.

At a Ford car dealership in Gainesville, Georgia, some bright spark put a white Bronco on a ramp with a large sign reading “As seen on TV”.

Jane Garcia for Loaded Magazine (August 1994)

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A Terrifying Independence Day!

O.J. Simpson battered his ex-wife Nicole for the last time just a few weeks before she was savagely murdered, STAR has learned.

It was the latest in a series of assaults that occurred throughout their stormy relationship – which friends now say was constantly filled with terror for blonde Nicole.

Over the years, Nicole often lied to her family and friends about being hit by Simpson.

One pal says: “I remember once, in the summer of 1990, when Nicole and O.J. attended a party and she was wearing a turtleneck sweater in what was probably 75-degree weather. When friends asked her why she was wearing a sweater in the middle of summer, she replied that her doctor told her she had a thyroid problem.

“That’s the reason I’m cold all the time,’ she said.”

But the pal says that just a few days later, she saw Nicole at the gym wearing a T-shirt.

“On her neck, I saw the faint out-line of a large bruise that she had attempted to mask with makeup. She was constantly covering up for O.J., protecting his image while she suffered immensely.”

The friends say that O.J. constantly tried to rule Nicole’s life – and flew into a rage anytime she did anything he didn’t like.

“She would tell me that she hit herself with a barbell in the gym by mistake, or that her body just bruised easily.

She told me things were perfect between her and O.J. and that she’d never felt happier.”

But close friends were aware that Nicole was lying and that things were less than perfect.

“They were doomed from the start,” an insider reveals. “They were like oil and water. They just didn’t mix. From the get-go, O.J. made it clear who was boss and demanded that Nicole be the perfect house-wife and mother.”

“He didn’t want to hear any of her opinions, dreams, goals or aspirations. Being the wife of a superstar had to be enough, and if she wanted more, she would have to pay with harsh words and a beating.”

Almost from the time they met, O.J. ruled her life in every aspect – even to the point of telling her what clothes she could wear and what friends she could have.

“If O.J. didn’t like what she was wearing, she would change clothes to please him,” says one pal. “And she was never free to have friends or be herself.”

Nicole was so controlled by Simpson that she once confessed:

“I’ve always told O.J. what she wants to hear.”

Tragically, the pattern of abuse continued after the marriage and Nicole became increasingly dominated by O.J.

Nicole was a teenaged waitress when she met the legendary football star. Within months, she dropped out of college because O.J. insisted she be with him.

“I only attended junior college for a very short time, because O.J. wanted me to be available to travel with him whenever his career required him to go to a new location,” she said in an affidavit filed during their divorce in 1992.

Despite O.J.’s efforts to rekindle the romance, Nicole eventually decided that they couldn’t get back together. She held her own personal Independence Day celebration at Mezzaluna, one of her favorite Brentwood restaurants, just hours before she was killed.

“She wanted to be free of him, she wanted to live her life with the children and raise them away from all this fiasco of the marriage,” says her cousin Rolf Baur.

“She wanted to have a happier, more peaceful life.”

Tragically, her new-found independence would last just a few hours.

Star Magazine (July 19 1994)

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)

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