Photos by Megan Koester
You are probably sick of hearing about OJ Simpson by now. If you were around when the trial of a washed up ex-football star became the most important news story in the world, you’re either such a freaky obsessive about the case that you haven’t stopped thinking about it since 1994, or you sincerely believe that it signified the complete collapse of polite society. It was the Hindenberg of news stories; either totally fascinating as sheer spectacle or so horrific and grisly that you can’t look away.
In the last 20 years, practically every person who was even tangentially involved in the OJ Simpson trial has attempted to cash in on their infamy—even OJ Simpson, who both tried to sell a tell-all book where he "confessed" to the crime and starred in a hidden camera prank show where he told bad jokes about the murders.
The list of pseudo-celebrities is endless: racist cop Mark Fuhrman, the "morally corrupt" Faye Resnick, Paula Barbieri, Robert Shapiro, Kato Kaelin, F. Lee Bailey, and so on. It's still possible to buy OJ trial pogs and Bronco chase-themed wristwatches on Ebay, if carrying around merchandise celebrating a double homicide is the kind of thing you're into.
Of all the people who participated in the metaphorical taxidermy of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, no one made the splash that Larry King did. If Larry could have pulled a Weekend at Bernie's 2 and reanimated their corpses to guest on his talk show, he probably would have. Somehow, that sounds less funny than Weekend at Bernie's 2, if that's even possible.
Larry King photo courtesy of Kevin Parry for The Paley Center for Media
At a panel to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in Beverly Hills (and to promote a new feature-length retrospective documentary titled OJ: Trial of the Century) featuring a wide variety of legal experts, retired talk show host and horny old man Larry King name-dropped Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, Columbo star Peter Falk, and his own sexual prowess.
Reiterating information reported on in a recent Vanity Fair essay on the OJ Simpson trial, King explained that he was dating two women at the same time, one on each side of the case. "The jury consultant for OJ, and the chief assistant to the prosecution—both very pretty girls," King said while grinning widely. The crowd sat in bemused horror as King described his completely unethical behavior.
"I would eat lunch with the consultant and have dinner with the assistant—I think I took one to Vegas and the other to Phoenix." Whichever one he took to Phoenix probably wasn't nearly as appreciative as the other one. If you're dating a wealthy old man, Phoenix is not high on the list of romantic getaways. It's probably somewhere between Fresno, California, and the Gaza Strip. Watching Larry King play golf in the desert is as glamorous as playing Checkers with Jerry Lewis in Ft. Lauderdale.
In between anecdotes about fucking pretty girls during a murder trial, Larry King spoke of the "enigma of OJ," as though this man was someone who appeared incapable of the crimes for which he was charged. "[OJ] never had a scandal besides the one time with the police on the wife charge." The "wife charge" that he casually referred to was actually pretty serious. OJ pled no contest to domestic violence charge in 1989. According to police records cited in a New York Times article from 1994, the injuries Nicole Brown Simpson suffered in the attack were enough to warrant a hospital stay. Police had been called to the Simpson household on eight separate occasions prior to the night in question.
Maybe this wasn't the OJ Larry King was talking about when he said that, "Friends who knew him said he was the nicest person ever." Maybe they didn't actually know OJ Simpson the way they claimed. Larry also implied that the Juice's erratic, violent behavior was due to drug use. At one point during the hour-long conversation with legal experts and other media figures, he interrupted a discussion of spousal abuse issues to blurt out, "How much were drugs involved?" Obviously, the best way to rationalize kicking the shit out of your wife is to blame controlled substances. If anyone knows that, it's a celebrity.
Maybe this was the OJ Larry King was thinking of. For her 30th birthday, Kris Kardashian, mother of three girls who amusingly all share names that start with the letter "K," starred in a music video parody of Randy Newman's classic 1980s hit song, "I Love LA." Her version—titled "I Love My Friends"—was meant to be an affectionate nod to all the people who contributed to her life in Los Angeles being so deliriously wonderful. Kris is seen driving through Beverly Hills, taking bubble baths, sipping champagne, and opining about her love of Bible study and dinners at a trendy new restaurant on Beverly Drive called "Cheesecake Factory." One of her friends that she loved so much was OJ Simpson.
He pops up at the 3:23 mark in the video, caught by surprise by the camera. His acting skills in his brief cameo are about as good as any other work he'd done in actual Hollywood productions—his one talent was appearing surprised or confused, which ended up serving him quite well in his final career as a defendant. People on trial who fiercely claim their innocence should practice appearing shocked in the mirror of their jail cell. It can only help their cause.
Perhaps after 20 years of contemplation, it's time to stop forcing rationality onto an irrational moment in history. Any attempt to make sense of the collected feverish madness of this case is a fool's errand. Sure, OJ probably did it. His behavior in the years after the trial certainly made him seem like a guilty man. "Probably did it" just isn't enough for prurient interest of the human mind, so we've continued to revive this melodrama every couple years, while simultaneously inflating its cultural importance in the process. We're bombarded with new theories on who the "real killer" was. We try to demystify the phenomenon of the trial. Larry King's futile, bizarre effort to solve the "enigma of OJ" is as outrageous and unnecessary as his choice of wardrobe.
Follow Dave Schilling on Twitter.