Sunday, July 21, 2024

OJ Simpson Killed Two People 30 Years Ago, For 16 Months I Broke a Lot of Stories About It


I can still remember getting out of the shower after 7am on June 13, 1994. The radio went off and there was a report that famed football player and actor, Hertz pitchman OJ Simpson was going to be questioned about the murders overnight of his ex wife and her friend.

It seemed impossible. OJ Simpson? Everyone loved him. It had to be a mistake.

I was writing the Intelligencer column at New York Magazine back then, with Pat Wechsler. There was no internet, and we were 3,000 miles from Los Angeles. I just started calling friends out there, asking if they knew anything. One of my friends’ friends knew Nicole’s former housekeeper, they said. That was a beginning, and then for the next 16 months OJ Simpson took over my life.

As we all know, what followed was the Bronco chase. That was the first time anyone heard the name Kardashian, and it’s echoed through the decades like a punishment. We also heard about Al Cowlings, driving the Bronco, keeping the police at bay and OJ alive. What seemed like a high speed chase was actually a low speed chase that included a visit to the grave and an eventual return to Simpson’s house.

As time progressed, and I went to LA to cover the trial, I pursued every story I could find. Similar murders, nightly friends of Goldman, shady friends of Nicole, anyone who would want them dead. Where was Kato? What did he know? What did his friends know? Could Jason Simpson, OJ’s son, have done the deed? (No, I found his alibi immediately — he was working but he lawyered up.)

There were a bunch of friends who had interesting connections: Grant Cramer, Robin Greer. How about Simpson’s neighbors, Cora and Dr. Ron Fischman?

I even interviewed the guy who sat next to OJ on the plane to Chicago to LA.

And then I interviewed the guy who sat next to him on the plane back.

By the time I got to the preliminary hearing in December, all hell had broken loose.

When Lawrence Schiller (then a brother-in-law of Regis Philbin) got in the mix, I wrote about it. I was there when Judge Ito held up the proceedings for 38 minutes so he could meet in chambers with Larry King. When they emerged from backstage, Larry shook hands with all the lawyers in the court on both sides. That’s when we knew Judge Ito had lost control, and the trial had barely begun.

On March 13, 1994, I reported that OJ houseguest and witness Kato Kaelin violated the judge’s order and sold a book for $1 million. His ghostwriter Marc Elliot told me about it during a conversation about something else. (The clip is missing from the archives but I referred to it again in May.) Marcia Clark was putting Kato on the stand, and didn’t know about the book until we told her. She turned Kaelin into a hostile witness.

One big break I published in the July 24, 1995 issue: OJ was probably going through steroid withdrawal when he committed the murders. I’d interviewed, by fluke, the ghostwriter of Al Cowlings’ never published book proposal. This man discussed Cowlings’ interviews with his brother-in-law, a Harvard forensic psychiatrist. They concluded that Simpson was spiraling and that by the time he was in the Bronco, he was gaga.

Here’s the link. Marcia Clark ignored it. We were told she didn’t want Simpson to have a chance of pleading diminished capacity. In the article, I mention Dr. Rob Huizenga, a steroid expert, who Robert Shapiro hired immediately. Huizenga eventually took the stand and testified for Simpson. Years later I asked him why the steriods never came up. His answer? “Some guilty people are set free.”

There’s more, so much more in the NY Magazine archives. My lunch with OJ’s secretary, Cathy Randa. The story of Faye Resnick, who published a book with sleazeball Michael Viner claiming she and Nicole were lovers. There was no end to the weirdos in the side show as the trial ground on and on. But there were plenty of supporters who got me through it: My late friend, author Joe Bosco, was a nightly sounding board. He was in the courtroom nearly every day. Many times I drove downtown from the Chateau Marmont with the legendary Dominick Dunne. I was in awe of him, and we talked shop constantly. The late John Connolly debated the case with me also, daily.

After the trial, I wrote extensively about Nicole’s sister, Denise Brown, and the 501c3 she established called the Nicole Brown Simpson Foundation. It was a fraud. The Browns lived on the money they collected. (They’d been very greedy during the trial, selling videos of Nicole and OJ’s wedding, among other things.) Eventually, all the money gone, the Foundation was shuttered.

OJ was acquitted October 2, 1995. After a punishing run, I was done with him. A lot of what I reported came out in the civil trial, which was a great relief. Simpson was found responsible for the two deaths, and the Goldmans were awarded $31 million. I’ve thought about them a lot over the years. Nothing — not even OJ eventually going to jail for nine years — will ever console them over the senseless murder of Ron.

And so it went.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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