Now, Simpson's trying to make us feel guilty about not liking him anymore

October 13, 1995|By MIKE LITTWIN

O.J.'s not giving up. There's no quit in the man. He's the Seattle Mariners of double-murder defendants.

It's not enough that he has been declared not guilty by a jury of his peers. He wants you to believe he's innocent, too. You, me, your obnoxious brother-in-law, Paula Barbieri's dad, Hertz, everybody.

O.J.'s latest trial has moved from the L.A. County courthouse to your front door. And O.J. is willing to take the stand this time, on your porch if he has to.

If it's not NBC -- and he really wanted the gig; he just couldn't go through with it because of the darn lawyers -- he's going to tell his version of the story to Larry King or to the New York Times or, for all I know, American Cutlery.

I'm waiting by the phone now, myself. O.J., if you see this, I'm in the book and I won't ask about Kato.

He can't stay away. There's speculation that O.J. will run to Mexico or Myanmar to escape his notoriety, and he may well have to in the end. But first he's going to run to the cameras -- at least the ones he can control.

This is a man who has been a celebrity since he was 19 years old.

Not only was he celebrity, he was, well, liked. Not beloved, but liked. He was the kind of guy you'd like to play a round of golf with. He was certainly affable, at least if you weren't married to him.

When you're liked, and even loved, by strangers, it must be hard to put that away.

O.J. wants it back. He's got his freedom, but he wants his life back. In fact, O.J. refuses to believe he isn't liked now.

In talking to the New York Times, he said: "I don't think most of America believes I did it. I've gotten thousands of letters and telegrams from people supporting me. I saw all those people when I was driving home in that car, on the overpasses. I think about five people reacted negatively. I saw two negative signs. Thousands of people were giving me the thumbs-up sign. But what did I see on TV that night? The two negative signs."

Does saying it make it so? Well, maybe.

That's why he sought out the NBC interview in the first place. Until he regained his senses. Until he heard that Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric were gearing up to ask him the tough questions.

Simpson said he backed out of the NBC interview because his lawyers told him he was being set up. And, in fact, Tom Brokaw told the Los Angeles Times that he had intended to turn to O.J., who once described himself as a battered husband, and say: "Mr. Simpson, you beat the hell out of your wife."

No wonder we prefer TV to real life. You never get drama like that in real life.

Here's real life: You're in the courtroom, and they put a guy on the stand who talks for three weeks about the efficacy of PCR. That wouldn't have happened if Tom Brokaw were the lawyer.

But, boy, what we missed by the cancelled TV show. Brokaw would have asked Simpson about the night of the murders and why it was said, at one time, that he was chipping golf balls and that, at another time, he was sleeping.

Brokaw wondered about Simpson's explanation to Larry King that he, O.J., was the man limo driver Allan Park saw outside his house -- that he had dropped his bags and gone back inside. The limo driver said, though, that the house was dark.

Here was Brokaw's question: Were you dressing in the dark and why?

Did that scare O.J. off?

"I said from the beginning I didn't want a confrontation," O.J. told the New York Times. "I've had 16 months of confrontation. I didn't go into this to be retried, to be cross-examined. But I heard accounts of things like Tom Brokaw was sharpening knives for the interview. Hey, I didn't want to be talking to Katie Clark and Tom Darden."

He was referring, of course, to prosecutors-turned-authors Marcia Clark and Chris Darden. And, yes, he said "sharpening knives."

Speaking of which, did you hear the Leno joke? It goes like this: O.J. backed out of the interview with Brokaw and Couric because he said he wasn't prepared to take on two people without the element of surprise.

The jokes aren't going away, no matter how much O.J. wishes they would.

But he's not going away either. Just when you think this whole crazy scene can't get any weirder, it does. Here's O.J.'s latest suggestion, and I'm not making this up.

He says he wants to debate Marcia Clark -- sort of like Lincoln-Douglas -- possibly on pay-per-view. "I'd like to be able to knock that chip off Marcia's shoulder," O.J. said.

Yeah, that would play. Either in a debate, or best of three falls. The madness continues.

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