The jury's still out on Calif. kissy-face

March 15, 1995|By MIKE ROYKO

Recent testimony in the O.J. Simpson case is a clear example of why people should avoid engaging in excessive kissy-face.

For two days, Denise Brown wept while testifying about the abuse her sister, Nicole, endured at the hands of Simpson.

She also told how Simpson appeared weird and menacing when he attended a school dance recital in which his daughter took part.

Her tearful testimony was considered important for two reasons:

1. It is supposed to establish that Simpson had long been a foul-tempered beast who bounced his wife off walls, called her a fat pig and went so far as to order some of his in-laws out of his house.

2. During the dance recital, only hours before the murders, Simpson could have already been in a murderous mood. That's when he was giving his ex-wife and others those hard-eyed, spooky looks.

But after all that emotional and damaging testimony, the jury and TV gawkers were shown a home videotape that was made outside the school after the dance recital.

The tape clearly showed a cheerful Simpson being given a kiss by Denise Brown.

It showed Simpson being given a kiss by Nicole's mother and shaking hands and laughing with Nicole's father.

And instead of looking spooky and mean, he appeared relaxed and happy.

So what are the jurors and the rest of us to think?

We see Denise Brown giving a kiss to the very same man she says had been so rotten to her sister. And we see the mother giving a kiss to the very same wife-thumper. And the dad joking with the foul-mouthed former son-in-law who had treated his daughter so shamefully.

How can that be? What is the meaning of all that affection toward O.J.?

I think I have an explanation, which the prosecution surprisingly overlooked.

It is a California thing. All that kissy-face, I mean.

Actually, it can be found to some degree everywhere. We all know women who are compulsive social kissy-facers.

You can't walk into their homes for dinner or even a cup of coffee without getting a peck or a smooch. It might be only a fake kiss -- the kind where they put their face next to yours and make a smacking sound with their lips -- but it is still a form of kissy-face.

I said it is a California thing because scientific studies have shown that kissy-face is more widely practiced there than anywhere else.

(At one time, the Deep South had the most kissy-face, but that was before hordes of New Yorkers made career moves to the South. The ex-New Yorkers shun kissy-face because of their genetic fear that any intimacy could lead to their being mugged.)

In California, most social behavior is learned from role models, which means movie stars and others in show biz. And nobody engages in kissy-face as routinely as do the Hollywood people.

All you have to do is watch the Oscar ceremonies. The presenters do kissy-face with each other and the master-of-ceremonies. Then they all do kissy-face with the winners.

About the only people at the Oscars who don't make kissy-face are those bookkeepers from Price Waterhouse who count the votes, but for all we know they are doing it backstage.

So it should not be surprising that there was some kissy-face involving Simpson and his in-laws. At times it seems as if all the characters in this trial are actors or aspire to be. O.J. is an actor, as is his weeping former sister-in-law, Denise. Kato the habitual nTC house guest is an actor. So is Simpson's tattle-tale ex-cop pal. If O.J. is found guilty and is led to the gas chamber, the warden and guards will probably give him farewell kissy-faces.

The prosecution should have cleared this up. And they could have if they had asked the right questions. Something like this:

"Miss Brown, is that you making kissy-face with O.J. after the dance recital?"

"Yes it is."

"And your mother is making kissing-face with O.J.?

"Can you explain why you made kissy-face with a man you have so tearfully described as being a cruel, ill-mannered lout, and who had been looking mean and spooky shortly before you engaged in kissy-face?"

"Yes, because this is California, and it is expected. We even do kissy-face with the guys in the carwash, especially if they are wonderful people and beautiful human beings."

"No further questions, smack."

"Thank you, smack."

As for O.J. being grim and moody during the dance recital and cheerful after it ended -- there is an obvious explanation. Have you ever had to sit through a long dance recital by other people's kids?

If it had been a piano recital, he might have been throwing chairs.

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