L.A. law: Celebrity glare shines on Simpson case

June 30, 1994|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,Sun Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES, CALIF — LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- The gawkers gather on a lawn across the street from the most famous house in Brentwood Estates. Twilight is falling over this neighborhood of gated homes nestled among lush flowering trees.

Up pulls a white Ford Bronco. At the wheel sits a brawny black man in a blue knit cap. The gawkers can't believe their eyes.

A photographer trains the long lens of his camera on the O. J. Simpson look-alike and shoots.

The gawkers take their cue. Shutters sputter. Flashes pop.

"OK, now come on back here," the photographer calls, motioning the driver toward another prop in this celebrity crime tableau, a white stretch limousine -- the alibi -- the vehicle that Mr. Simpson says whisked him to the airport while his former wife and a friend were murdered two miles away.

"This sleazy journalism is really getting to me," gripes Kevin Allen, a Connecticut public relations executive standing outside Mr. Simpson's Tudor-style mansion. Despite conflicting feelings about the football Hall of Famer and accused murderer, he admits: "I had to see it."

Hollywood couldn't have produced a better script -- beloved, handsome athlete charged in the murder of his beautiful former wife, the woman he could no longer possess.

And it's not just fodder for the tabloids. The world will be watching again today as television cameras broadcast live the latest court proceedings in the case of the state of California versus Orenthal James Simpson.

This is a celebrity crime in a company town, and the company is Entertainment Inc. Even the talk from the man on the street is laced with analogies to show biz, celebrities or television.

"This is like watching a good Muhammad Ali fight, because you can't go to the bathroom 'cause you might miss something," says Percy Hall, a Los Angeles mortgage broker, as he sits in a McDonald's parking lot, sipping coffee, listening to the talk shows on his car radio.

In a city that bills itself as the media capital of the world, it's hard to escape the events unfolding around the fate of O. J. Simpson, who says that he didn't kill his former wife. The murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald L. Goldman have been a front-page story for 16 days running.

And yet life goes on in the City of Angels.

An entertainer's theory

It's past midnight at Jerry's Famous Deli in West Hollywood. Joe West, a 40-something man in a black suede fringed vest, has finished his matzo ball soup and chicken fingers.

He's waiting on a pouty-mouthed redhead, his 20-something fiancee in the shiny gold glasses who has lots to say about O. J. Simpson.

Alexis is an "entertainer." She won't give her last name because someone reading this dispatch back East might recognize her.

Right now, she's acting out the role of a curvy sleuth. Forget about her Brooklyn accent. Her theory is classic Hollywood and Vine.

"What I really think, what I really think? You're not going to believe it but it's going to make sense," she begins calmly.

"Now get this: I think it's the girlfriend," Alexis says, her gray-green eyes widening, gleefully caught up in her imaginative theory. "Now get this: It's been public knowledge that he's been begging his wife to get back with him. For two years, she [the girlfriend] had her dream of her white picket fence -- Mrs. O. J. Simpson. The only hitch . . . Nicole. She is giving all of herself to this man for two years. The girlfriend."

Mr. West has no theory.

"It's going to be one of those Kennedy mysteries, and 20 years from now we'll hear what really happened about O. J. and Nicole."

'Did I feed a murderer?'

The stalls in the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles bustle with fruit vendors, fish mongers, butchers. Throughout the 77-year-old market, small televisions are playing. They are tuned not to the latest development in the Simpson saga, but to Channel 34, the Hispanic station broadcasting the World Cup soccer tournament.

"This is what's on everybody's mind, by far," says Manuel Lopez Jr. who operates Maria's Seafood with his mother. "Simpson is fast fading. Mexico just played this morning at 9:15. This game was ado-or-die game. Since they tied, they qualify for the next round."

But the place isn't totally oblivious to the football legend turned star and now murder suspect. Mr. Simpson was here in the market not long ago.

"Ate here," says Mr. Lopez. "He was filming a movie across the street. He wanted something to eat, quick. He got a shrimp crab salad. He ate it here on the spot. He loved it. I got his autograph on my menu. He dedicated it personally."

When he learned of the charges against the former star athlete from the University of Southern California, Mr. Lopez was shocked.

"I thought, 'Did I feed a murderer?' That was the first time I met O. J. Simpson. I didn't even charge him. I just said, 'Come back.'

His Heisman is back

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