Some four hours into the early morning gig, his famously frazzled mop even more Oster-ized than usual and his voice fading faster than a West Coast tan taken east, Kato Kaelin was given a couple of bottles of juice. One grapefruit, one orange.
He didn't touch the O.J.
Kato -- does even Marcia Clark call him "Mr. Kaelin?" -- apparently was serious about his self-imposed moratorium yesterday on any form of O.J. crossing his lips. In Baltimore to appear on 98 Rock's morning show, the former Simpson houseguest refused to talk about the murders that catapulted him into stardom. Nor would he talk about the just-published book, "Kato Kaelin: The Whole Truth," which he initially cooperated with but now disavows; parts of it contradict his testimony in Mr. Simpson's trial for the murders of his ex-wife and her friend.
Instead, Kato just did his Kato thing -- his little Kato jokes (riffs on, predictably enough, hair and houseguesting), his little Kato mannerisms (caught-in-the-headlights eyes that dart around, exhaled phews of relief that seem to punctuate every successfully answered question), and simply his utter, total, sui generis Kato-ness.
Which proved more than enough to draw about 400 looky-sees to the Baja Beach Club downtown, some arriving even before the 6 a.m. start of the show, for a fleeting brush with one of biggest acts in the circus that surrounds the trial and threatens to submerge it. It was a mostly youthful crowd -- who else can drink beer when the rest of us haven't even had our first cup of coffee -- with a good dose of women with fuchsia nails and even worse bleach jobs than Kato's. Many snatched up the $20 T-shirts or $5 postcards 98 Rock printed to commemorate his visit -- the money went to a children's charity and entitled the buyer to stand in line to get an autograph, pose for a picture and exchange a bon mot or two.
Talking to Brian "Kato" Kaelin is like talking to a parent whose young child is in the same room, a pesky one who interrupts every attempt at a complete sentence. Except that Kato is both the adult starting the sentence and the child interrupting it. Odd little voices suddenly appear in mid-thought, funny accents, words you don't understand, jokes that are either beyond your comprehension or from an entirely different planet. You ask him his impression of Baltimore, and he starts to do . . . an actual impression.
Of course, a noisy, cavernous nightclub/bar -- the kind of frat-boy place where big-cupped brassieres dangle from one bar and equally endowed women stand on platforms selling beer from ice-filled tubs -- is hardly the place to study and scientifically assess the Kato phenomenon. Not with a local band, Honor Among Thieves, grunging away in one corner, 98 Rock's morning team of Byrd, Mark and Lopez raucously holding forth on a stage and Kato in the middle of it all, facing a whole line of people who, whoa, each have a pen and each seem to want, like, an autograph.
"Everything's great," Kato says of his visit to Baltimore, which began with a Sunday-night trip to the Orioles game. "The city's really . . ." Kato pauses, thinks, thinks some more, and comes up with the right word: "Clean. Isn't it clean here?"
For all his spacey, thoughtus-interruptus ways, Kato has a certain feckless charm. While some think he has exploited the situation for his own considerable ambitions, he still seems an innocent abroad in the land of celebrity, wondering how the heck did he get here even as he's thinking, hey, I kinda like it here.
"We went to the ballpark last night and within eight seconds all these people are yelling, 'Kato, Kato,' " says 98 Rock newsman Bob Lopez. "How does this guy ever go to a 7-Eleven for a Slurpee anymore?"
For his part, Kato says fame hasn't changed him. "I think if the person knows who they are before, it doesn't matter," he says. "If you have a good base to start with . . ."
Station officials declined to specify how much it cost them to fly Kato and a security person in to town, first class, put them up at an Inner Harbor hotel and pay his appearance fee. It probably paid off in publicity. Kato, in a black 98 Rock T-shirt, was photographed and videotaped by all sorts of local and national media, including "Hard Copy" and "Extra."