Real life simply cannot compete with Simpson trial Hypnotized by O.J.

April 19, 1995|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,Sun Staff Writer

Reality is for people who can't handle the O. J. Simpson trial.

Keep your nose to the grindstone at your dreary 9-to-5 job or let your eyes stray to the televised trial and all its glorious tribulations? Cook, clean and otherwise keep your household running or surrender to the intoxicating, time-eating spectacle of the former football player being tried for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman?

No contest for the O. J.-obsessed. There are millions out there who have sent ratings skyward for the cable channels Court TV, CNN and E!, which are providing gavel-to-gavel coverage.

When we asked Sun readers to tell us how they fit watching the trial into what we assumed were already full and busy lives, little did we know: It's just the opposite -- it's real life that needs to be arranged around the trial.

What with live cable coverage, daily re-caps and all the related stories on shows from "Hard Copy" to "Dateline" to "Entertainment Tonight," real life will just have to wait its turn.

"I thought, well, it is elective surgery, maybe it can wait six months," says Phyllis Dixon, 56, of Perry Hall, whose husband intruded on her trial-watching schedule by having an operation last month.

Luckily, it was done on a Friday, March 31, and he was released from the hospital Sunday, "so I really only missed one day," Ms. Dixon says with a laugh. "I got my daughter to tape it.

"I was telling my husband, 'I know some couple is going to get divorced before this trial is over, I hope it's not us,' " she says. "But he's great about it. I could understand if he got aggravated with me, but he kids me and goes on."

Her husband, a retired FBI agent with no interest in any more crime, even this one, certainly seems good-humored: "I watch my grandchildren occasionally, but now my husband watches them until 3 [p.m.], then I watch them for an hour and a half, and then he takes over again," Ms. Dixon says.

As all good trial-watchers know, 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. is a window of opportunity you can count on to return to your own life -- that's when Judge Ito and Co., operating on Pacific Standard Time, take a lunch break. So that's when callers to The Sun say they'll start dinner -- to eat either while watching or whenever court closes up shop for the day -- or walk the dog or catch up with the other necessities of life.

Of course, there usually is simply too much to do and too little of a lunch break. So you have to prioritize.

"I run all my errands and if the trial comes on and I haven't done them, I won't do them," Cindy Brooks, 37, of Overlea, says simply enough. "My housework has never been this poor. I sit and watch the trial, I'm late for work because of the trial. My life is the trial, the trial, the trial."

Ms. Brooks, a waitress, usually gets dressed and ready for work during the 3 p.m. break, drives over to the Hacienda Restaurant, where the other employees know to have the TV set already on so she only misses whatever happened during the drive over.

We clued her in to what other trial-monitors have already discovered: Radio stations WOLB 1010 AM in Baltimore and WOL 1450 AM in Washington air the trial gavel-to-gavel, returning to their talk show format during recesses. The stations, part of the Radio One network, recently polled their listeners to make sure they still wanted to hear the trial. The answer: an overwhelming, "Yes!" (More than 900 wanted gavel-to-gavel, about 50 cried uncle, and 25 wanted some but not all of the trial, according to Doxie A. McCoy, Radio One's executive producer of talk shows.)

The radio coverage has proven a boon to those unfortunates who don't have cable, or work in offices where televisions are frowned upon or unavailable, or find themselves stuck in a car for chunks of the day.

Anne Moore Beach, 35, of Reisterstown, keeps plugged into radio coverage both in her office in downtown Baltimore, and by Walkman when she leaves to go to lunch or head home on the subway.

"When I walk down the stairs at the Baltimore Street station, I lose the signal and I've been known to miss a train or two because I stop at this point to listen a little bit more before going all the way down the stairs," says Ms. Beach, who works in corporate communications. "It's not until the train comes above ground at Cold Spring Lane that I can get it again."

For Ms. Beach and others, the trial is sort of a guilty pleasure. In certain circles, too much interest in the trial seems a little low-brow, a bit declasse.

"I hate to admit it, but I'm an O. J. groupie. The trial's like a car wreck. I know I shouldn't look, but I can't help it," she says. "My husband and I went out to dinner with another couple recently, and I had nothing to talk about so I brought up the trial. Oh my God! You would have thought I had brought up sex, politics and religion."

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