The mane witness: Dim-yet-coiffed Kato wafts onto the stand

March 24, 1995|By MIKE LITTWIN

The talk on Court TV these days is not about O. J.'s dark moods.

It's about Kato's dark roots.

In fact, the whole Kato hair thing has pretty much upstaged the trial, which is possibly what Kato had in mind.

For certain people -- O. J. would be one example -- the trial is a life-and-death situation.

L For aspiring actor Kato, though, it's more like an audition.

Right now, his agent (big-timer Lee Solters, who also represents Michael Jackson and Michael Jackson's hair) is probably putting together the tapes and sending them off to producers and directors and whoever handles Clairol's advertising account.

Certainly, Kato is the hottest property at the O. J. trial. Other would-be stars weren't ready for the celebrity ride. Combative housekeeper Rosa Lopez runs back to El Salvador. Rogue cop Mark Fuhrman prepares to run away to Idaho. Kato, meantime, is holding out for something at Fox.

And what he has to sell is hair. He sure ain't selling brains. Let's face it, if Kato has a buzz cut, he's Forrest Gump without the chocolates.

You've seen Kato on the witness stand. Let's just say you hold your breath when he's taking the oath and they tell him to raise a specific hand.

Here's a typical exchange:

Marcia Clark asks him a question. Kato looks like a deer caught in the headlights. Like, he's thinking, "Man, another question? I just answered a question."

He sits there momentarily stunned (Kato-tonic?). Then says, "OK."

As if the question has registered. As if he's now waiting for some direction. Maybe somebody to bring him his lines. Maybe for make-up to arrive and do something with his hair.

Before he answers, he squints, as if he's trying to focus on the material. He fiddles with his hair. He applies lip balm (hoping for a Chapstick account?).

I keep expecting Kato to ask Clark: "What's my motivation here? I'm having trouble figuring out who I'm supposed to be."

Finally, he answers: "Yes, I do live at O. J.'s guest house."

Then he waits for the laugh. Sometimes, he's not sure if he's on the stand or if he's on "Letterman." Either way, he's hoping it turns into a miniseries.

Kato is the worst non-natural (the hair is dyed, you know) disaster to hit L.A. in a while. Here's the stereotypical would-be actor/parking-lot attendant/surfer who, though 36, is still expected to use the word "dude."

He's from the Midwest, of course -- everybody from L.A. is -- and came to town via Aspen, where he met Nicole on the slopes. Naturally, she invited him to live with her and O. J. at their guest house. He said he wanted to be an actor. She said, well, you've got the hair.

The story gets a little nuts from there. He got some acting jobs, including a part in "Sun, Sand and Sex." I don't think he played "Sun." When Nicole broke up with O. J., Kato moved into Nicole's condo. O. J. didn't want him there, so he moved back with O. J.

And, then, dramatically, on that fateful night, he said these words to O. J. (as he noted on the stand, under oath): "Is it OK if I take a Jacuzzi?"

OK. You've never said those words in that order. You've never lived in a guest house, either. And, I'm guessing, you can recite the alphabet pretty much in order.

The frustrating part is that Marcia Clark and Bob Shapiro have refused to ask the questions we'd like to ask Kato -- questions about his hair and how it manages to remain unkempt in exactly the same way, day after wearying day on the witness stand.

Is it gel? Is it mousse? Does he use Paul Mitchell's Freeze and Shine Super Spray?

My consultants in the hair-care biz say that, whatever he chooses, he uses a lot of what they call product.

The hair looks unwashed. It looks windblown. Here's the really scary part: It probably costs $200 to get it to look that way.

But I don't believe any hairdresser, even under oath, would confess that he had done it.

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