Entertainment | Books | November 2006
|New O. J. Simpson Book Revives Old Debate|
Jennifer Steinhauer - Los Angeles Journal
|Left, 1997: O.J. Simpson’s house on Rockingham Avenue in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles once attracted streams of curious tourists. Right, 2006: Subsequent owners of the former O.J. Simpson estate razed and replaced the house and installed a gate. (Monica Almeida/NYTimes, left; Misha Erwitt/NYTimes)|
Los Angeles — This city thought O. J. Simpson had become Florida’s problem.
The house in Brentwood where the former football star once lived was long ago bought and flattened, replaced by a Mediterranean with a new address, sky-high hedges and a sign on the door warning, “Dog on Property.”
Mezzaluna, the restaurant where Nicole Brown Simpson, his former wife, had dinner before her violent demise, is also gone; a Peet’s Coffee and Tea shop now occupies the site.
The house number has been changed on the condominium where she lived, and where she and Ronald L. Goldman, her friend, were stabbed to death in June 1994.
Some of the tourist maps to stars’ addresses no longer show Mr. Simpson’s home and Ms. Simpson’s condominium in Brentwood, a wealthy West Los Angeles neighborhood.
Even Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., Mr. Simpson’s famously flamboyant lawyer, is gone — dead of a brain tumor in March 2005.
|2006: A Peet’s Coffee & Tea shop now occupies the site of the storied Mezzaluna restaurant, where Ronald L. Goldman was a waiter. (Misha Erwitt/NYTimes)|
|1994: Mezzaluna, the restaurant in Brentwood where Nicole Brown Simpson dined the night of her death. (Michael Caulfield/Associated Press)|
So with Mr. Simpson ensconced in a suburb of Miami, where Florida laws regarding the payment of civil penalties allow him to keep his home and his multimillion-dollar National Football League pension, Los Angeles was almost able to pretend that the thing that Mr. Simpson said he never did never actually happened.
In 1995, a California jury acquitted Mr. Simpson in the killings. A civil lawsuit filed by the families of Ms. Simpson and Mr. Goldman resulted in a 1997 judgment finding Mr. Simpson liable for the deaths and ordering him to pay $33.5 million in damages.
But now, with the announcement by Mr. Simpson of a new book in which he spells out how he could have committed the killings of his ex-wife and her friend, the collective consciousness — or as collective as any consciousness gets in sprawling Los Angeles — is once again being perforated by The Juice.
His book will be published by Judith Regan, known for promoting books by celebrities and controversial figures like Jenna Jameson, the porn star, and Jose Canseco, the steroid-popping baseball player. Ms. Regan moved to Los Angeles from New York this year.
Within hours of the book announcement, popular Los Angeles blogs, like fishbowlla.com and laobserved.com, posted musings, which have attracted scores of comments. Many are framed within the same racial tones that marked the nation’s reaction to the verdict in the criminal trial, which cleared Mr. Simpson, who is black, of murdering Ms. Simpson and Mr. Goldman, who were white.
Around the city, in elevators, over lunch tables, on the phone, O. J. talk resumed in earnest, recalling that time when he and his white Ford Bronco popularized the televised police chase and his trial created a subgenre of shrill televised court reporting on grisly depravities.
“I think it is disgusting,” said Marti Maniates, who has worked across the street from Mr. Simpson’s former house on North Rockingham Avenue for two decades. “People have been calling me up and saying, ‘Isn’t this ridiculous?’ It’s unbelievable and inconceivable that people still take an interest in this.”
But even now, evidence of Mr. Simpson’s time in Brentwood is mostly wiped away, Los Angeles style, expunged from the physical landscape of the city, its marginal characters and observers replaced with newcomers.
“Los Angeles is such a rapidly evolving city,” said Joel Kotkin, an urban historian who has lived here for 30 years. “There is an enormous turnover of people here,” Mr. Kotkin said. “You talk to people here about the ’80s here, and it’s like you are talking about the Conquistadors. It is a place where people go on with their lives. O. J. was part of the L.A. shtick, and now it is gone.”
Mr. Kotkin added: “Compare that to New York, where John Lennon was shot. Nobody is going to raze the Dakota because something horrible happened there.”
Beyond a 2000 arrest in a Florida road-rage case (a jury later acquitted him) and a run-in over his pirating of satellite television signals (a federal judge fined him), Mr. Simpson has been best known in his post-Los Angeles life for his taste for fine golfing venues.
He mostly steers clear of Los Angeles, although last year he surfaced at a horror movie convention, where he autographed sports memorabilia, which he conceded at the time felt “strange.”
He remains a divisive character. For every Web site still devoted to theories about why and how he might have committed the slayings, there are scores of people who behave as fans, like the group of women once spotted sitting next to him at a Macaroni Grill restaurant in Miami, who demanded to take pictures with him. (He happily complied.)
Titled “If I Did It,” Mr. Simpson’s book is scheduled for release on Nov. 30, preceded by a two-part television interview on Fox. The plans for the book and interviews have outraged family members of the victims and victims’ rights organizations.
“Only God knows if he did it,” said LaShawn Tillman, the manager at Chef Marilyn’s Place restaurant in South Los Angeles.
Ms. Tillman, who is black, said she had her own run-in with an assistant district attorney, who told her she was “like O. J.,” when she disputed a drunken driving charge, she said.
“The system is prejudiced, that’s for sure,” Ms. Tillman said. “But I think this book is bad. It is making money off a tragedy.”
Simpson Publisher Explains
Julie Bosman - NYTimes
To explain why she is publishing O.J. Simpson’s book, Judith Regan, the publisher of ReganBooks, released a 2,200-word statement on Thursday in which she claimed to have been the victim of abuse at the hands of an unnamed former boyfriend.
It was this history, Ms. Regan said, that made her determined to get a “confession” from Mr. Simpson in the book, “If I Did It,” and in a two-part interview, slated to be broadcast on Fox on Nov. 27 and Nov. 29.
David Buckley, who acknowledged he was the person described in Ms. Regan’s statement, denied her accusations yesterday.
“I’m tired of being accused of being a wife beater,” Mr. Buckley said by phone from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Her statement is untrue. It’s purely for publicity.”
Ms. Regan did not return a call seeking comment yesterday.
In her statement, Ms. Regan wrote that a “tall, dark and handsome” doctor punched her in the face when she was pregnant with their second child.
“He charmed me,” she wrote. “We had a child. And then he knocked me out.”
She said that she gave birth and that a few days later, the baby, a girl, died.
But Mr. Buckley said the baby was born prematurely and died in his arms a day later. “There was no beating,” he said.
He admitted that, as Ms. Regan wrote, he had served time in prison for drug smuggling and had his medical license revoked.
Ms. Regan also wrote that on Christmas Eve several years ago, she saw Mr. Buckley at her doorstep and that “he was a broken man.”
Mr. Buckley said he was there on an invited visit with their son, Patrick. After staying several days, he said, he and Ms. Regan argued and he has not seen her since. “I’m afraid of Judith Regan,” he said.