It was my first big break in Hollywood. I'd been hired to work on a reality TV show with an "internationally known celebrity." Except, on the first day of production, the producer took me aside and dryly explained, "You know, Harmon, we really can't mention... the murders."
I took in the information, nodding my head vigorously. "OK!" I said with complete enthusiasm. "No mention of murders!"
This was actually a major consideration when you'd just been hired to work on a zany hidde- camera prank show with, of all people, OJ Simpson.
You know, "OJ." From the slow-speed Bronco chase; the subject of If-the-glove-doesn't-fit-you-must-acquit murder trial of last century. Yeah, OJ, as in HOLY-FUCKING-SHIT-OJ-YOU-CAN'T-BE-FUCKING-SERIOUS. That OJ.
There's a guy out there; a man, a producer—the guy who brought the world Bum Fights and Backyard Wrestling—who thought in 2005 it would be a spanking good idea for a double-acquitted murderer's comeback project to be a Punk'd knockoff straight-to-DVD, hidden-camera prank show called Juiced. As in, a prank is pulled, OJ Simpson pops out, and goes, "You've been Juiced," at which point the person pranked goes, "HEY, AREN'T YOU THAT GUY WHO MURDERED THOSE PEOPLE?! YOUR WIFE AND THAT OTHER GUY?!"
And I was hired off an ad on Craigslist to be OJ's "funny little sidekick." To give me some credit, all throughout the two-week production of Juiced, OJ kept referring to me as "Crazy Boy." Which gives you a little insight into my craziness, because how crazy does one have to be to be referred to as "Crazy Boy" by OJ Simpson? Yes, I was Kato Kaelin to OJ's OJ.
In a nondescript recording studio in Burbank, we waited for OJ to show up for the first day of production. A weird hush came over the crew as OJ arrived with his handlers while loudly talking on a cell phone. The first thing I noticed: He has a really large head in terms of cranial capacity. A shady entourage surrounded him. Rumors flew that Warren G, OJ's bodyguard, had just got out of jail, and that his driver didn't have a driver's license.
OJ was made to dress like a gangsta rapper (ironically wearing—forgive me—a wife beater). The first thing OJ said to me was, "Why don't you push me!" I'd just met OJ, and he wanted me to shove him. The setup for the first "funny" prank involved singers and dancers coming in blindly for an audition. All they knew was that it's for a "celebrity's" music video. What these "victims" didn't know: The celebrity was actually, yes, OJ Simpson.
I felt bad. We were just wasting people's time and crushing their dreams. Later, one of the women we'd pranked screamed, "When the ad says I'd make $750 per day, that pisses me off!" Clearly she was not happy with the reward of a free Juiced T-shirt.
While wearing a pink belly shirt and going by the name Power, my role was to go in and audition with a group of dancers, screw things up, and then get into a big argument with OJ. So, as requested, on cue I shoved OJ Simpson (I actually screamed, "Do you want a piece of me?")
I expected that when OJ made an appearance, people would freak out and flee from the room. I expected people to react with horror—most likely even crying, thinking, Yes, the Devil himself now has a reality show. But that, as it turned out, was not the case.
"You've been Juiced!"
The would-be dancers were actually thrilled to meet OJ Simpson. It was great he got to show America his practical joking side.
"Why don't you all dance around OJ?" the director instructed a group of excited girls. OJ attempted to be the lady's man, adding: "This is not working out, but if you want to have dinner later, or...?"
Yes, OJ loves the ladies. Later, while wearing a disguise and pulling a prank in a tropical-fish store, he tried to be suave with a girl by asking, "If I were OJ, would you try to go out with me?"
The frightened girl replied, "I'm only 17."
OJ coyly retorted, "If you were 18, I'd try and go out with you!"
There was soon trouble in straight-to-DVD, hidden-camera prank paradise as the Juiced honeymoon immediately turned rocky. "OJ just doesn't give a shit," ranted the producer on the mere second day of production. "OJ shows up late, OJ doesn't want to wear wardrobe, OJ refuses to do things. What the hell is the matter with OJ?!"
OJ was nowhere to be found. The crew, who were putting in long hours for little pay for OJ's big comeback, impatiently waited. "It's pretty weird, you know, because of the murders," commented the sound guy. "But he is pretty funny," he added.
Finally, jovial OJ drove up in a golf cart. "I'm playing golf with the worst golfers," he stated to the stressed producer, who passive-aggressively pleaded to let the shooting begin. "I'm going to play a round of golf," OJ responded. "I need to warm up."
OJ continued to chat away to two of his lifelong golfing buddies, oblivious that roughly 20 people were waiting for him to start filming. After OJ vetoed the chosen wardrobe of old-time golfing knickers (the cap was too small for his melon-sized head), things got rolling.
We started by doing a few gags that clearly didn't work. I was supposed to once again antagonize OJ. The humor here relied heavily on working off OJ's masterful improv skills. When I came running up to OJ, pretending to be a member of the paparazzi, he simply ignored me.
"People are always try to catch me doing something crazy on camera," he mildly commented to the golfers, who now wanted to pummel me silly. Quickly learning OJ was not blessed with the Second City art of improv, the gag somehow ended (much to everyone's confusion) with me and the producer wrestling around on the fairway. Utilizing a phrase that I've never thought my brain would formulate in all my life, I informed the producer afterwards: "OJ's really not giving me much to work with!"
Time to regroup. OJ had a plan. He knew how to really piss off golfers. I was supposed to run on the fairway and steal all the golfer's balls after they were hit. All right!
"OJ! Mr. OJ! Will you sign a golf ball for me?" My arms flailed as I ran down the fairway to a group of golfers who emitted venomous hate through their eyes. They were pissed off to, well, OJ proportions.
One golfer, a very large angry man, stormed directly to his golf bag and grabbed an iron. He cocked it back, ready to swing at my head. I was depending on OJ Simpson, of all people in the world, for my safety. When things got too hairy, he was supposed to jump in and cry, "You're Juiced!" Except he didn't.
"PUT DOWN THE FUCKING BALL NOW!" the large angry golfer screamed, turning increasingly red, rushing toward me.
"Not until OJ signs one of these golf balls," I insisted.
"PUT DOWN THE FUCKING BALL NOW!"
"That guy's crazy," OJ casually commented, acting like he didn't know me.
The large angry man kept charging at me. Worried, OJ seemed to be caught up in his golf game and to have completely forgotten the whole premise of the show. Right before the club was about to make contact with my skull, OJ nonchalantly decided to fill them in.
"You've been Juiced!"
OJ pointed to the hidden cameras. The large, angry golfer didn't give a shit.
"I DON'T CARE WHAT IT IS. YOU DON'T TOUCH PEOPLE'S BALLS!"
Despite the prospect of a free Juiced T-shirt, the large angry golfer didn't calm down.
"YOU JUST DON'T GO TAKING PEOPLE'S BALLS."
"I thought they were going to kick Harmon's ass," OJ laughed, afterward. My eyebrow raised as OJ, in a reflective moment, shared to the camera: "That guy was mad. He was like OJ on alcohol."
Days later, I found myself sitting in a motel room with OJ. Earlier, I had accidentally walked in on him with his pants down. Boxers, in case you were wondering. OJ sat in a chair and was having heavy makeup applied while the camera crew filmed behind-the-scenes footage.
"The lights are on me. I'm feeling like a star," OJ kept repeating. "I'm feeling like a star!"
OJ was supposed to be made to look like an old white man (with a huge head). Unfortunately, he looked more like a severe burn victim.
Meanwhile, the TV was on. OJ's channel of choice was Court TV. OJ kept talking to the TV as if it were a person who could hear him.
"That's such bullshit!" he kept saying to the TV.
It got weirdly surreal and uncomfortable as a Court TV reporter went into grizzly details about the Scott Peterson murder trial (that other famous guy who killed his wife). "Of course they think he's guilty," exclaimed OJ in white face to the TV.
I prayed the reporter wouldn't start talking about OJ. Everyone else got weirdly quiet, as they awkwardly stared at their shoes.
"How are they going to work me into this?" OJ asked the TV, seemingly hoping for the notoriety. "During my trial, my lawyers covered my ass."
The room stayed quiet. This time I looked at my shoes.
To break the tension, OJ gave us the treat of OJ jokes—from OJ himself. "Who's the first Jewish guy to get a Heisman Trophy?" he asked. "Fred Goldman, because he's got mine!" OJ let out a crude laugh at the expense of his murder victim's father as everyone kept uncomfortably staring at their shoes and contemplating career choices.
Later, OJ went to a very white Elks Club lodge for bingo night. Under a large American flag, he portrayed Carl, an inept guest bingo caller with a stutter. I was on hand to heckle and antagonize Carl. Comedy mayhem ensued. OJ executed the gag with the pure comedy finesse of a high school gym teacher. Venturing back to the motel, the camera crew stopped a random guy and asked if he recognized the identity of the large-headed burn victim. When finally told it was OJ, the confused man sympathetically asked, "Is this how you have to go around now?"
At the end of the evening, OJ, still in disguise, wanted to pull one more prank.
"Let's go to the bar. I want to fool my wife," he slipped, then corrected himself. "I mean my daughter." (How many times did I end up awkwardly staring at my shoes during this shoot?) Before leaving, OJ told me, "You're pretty funny. You really got your stuff." Always the people pleaser, OJ promised to introduce me to some key showbiz people at a production company.
Would it be a fast-track to the A-list, having OJ Simpson's stamp of approval? ("He comes highly recommended by OJ!") I found out later the production company he mentioned went out of business five years previously.
Due to OJ's uncanny performance ability ("It's clear that he has no talent," shared a crew member earlier), I was hired on for another week of Juiced. I'm not saying I'm that good; I'm saying OJ was just that bad.
Added to the mix, we were filming in Vegas—a city of glittery facades, masking its true vile underbelly. My goal in Vegas was to go out drinking one-on-one with OJ and see if I could get him to confess to the murders—by telling him about all the murders I'd committed.
It was then time for one of the "classic" pranks of Juiced. OJ posing as a used car salesman, trying to get people to buy a white Ford Bronco that, he said, ad-libbing, had "Great escapability." (Yeah, he's got a sense of humor about what happened. You know, "the incident.")
"I tried to keep mine, but unfortunately they wouldn't let me keep mine," he added.
For some reason, this particular Ford Bronco had a large bullet hole on the side. OJ signed his autograph right above the hole, making it a limited-edition collector model.
"It's OJ," a man exclaimed after being pranked.
"Just be glad he doesn't have a knife!" his friend laughed under his breath.
Between pranks, sitting in the lot manager's office, we learned more about the famous white Bronco from the slow-speed chase.
"Ford owns Hertz. They would give me new cars each year. I got a Bronco and a Town Car. I gave my father-in-law the Town Car."
OJ told the producer that the had police lied about finding $10,000 and exaggerated about the amount of blood found in the Bronco, though he made no mention about the disguise kit and passport.
Still, I couldn't help feeling that OJ wasn't doing the straight-to-DVD production of Juiced for the love of hidden-camera pranks, but strictly for the money. The executive producer, though, had found an award-winning formula to keep OJ interested in Juiced. The idea was to keep OJ constantly plied with alcohol. OJ took to the formula like an oversize hand to a bloody glove.
Oh, wait, did I not mention that OJ also made a rap song?
We were then in the lobby of a crappy motel off the Vegas Strip. OJ was propped up in the corner wearing an Elvis Presley jumpsuit. OJ was supposed to play a wacky motel clerk. ("Look out! Here comes wacky motel clerk OJ. You see, it's funny because he murdered some people!") But OJ was completely shitfaced. I guess the idea had segued to, if you couldn't get OJ pulling pranks, at least you could OJ near some pranks while they were being pulled.
When tourists came in, I was supposed to tell them their credit card had been declined, confiscate their card, and threaten to rip it up. I know, really funny shit! This resulted in people telling us to "go fuck ourselves" and storming out, despite the enticement of a free Juiced T-shirt! Except OJ failed to grasp the whole concept of the hidden-camera prank surprise.
"Hey!" drunken OJ whispered to a couple before I could Juice them. "Hey! I'm OJ!" he slurred from behind Elvis glasses. "Hey! Do you recognize me?"
But still, the most mind-numbing part of this whole scenario was that tourists went nuts when they found out they've been Juiced by OJ.
"Oh, my God! This is the greatest thing that's ever happened to me!" screamed a kid in a basketball tank top, who high-fived his friend and suddenly started freestylin' to impress OJ. "I just rapped for OJ! That's as big as it gets!"
Tourists swarmed in from off the strip, thrilled to be in the same room as the double-acquitted murderer. Mothers and daughters requested photos. Remember, this was no mere rape-accused Kobe Bryant; this was the granddaddy of them all, OJ!
Surprisingly, it got really sleazy towards the end: drunken OJ rapping in a pimp outfit in a rented mansion with topless strippers and a midget dancing around. Some people might've thought this image alone signified the end of the world.
Early in the day, while filming a prank, I kept spontaneously referring to OJ as "Danny Glover" over and over again, and he actually really did get angry. ("I ALREADY TOLD YOU I'M NOT DANNY GLOVER!")
The guy who let us use the mansion was a scumbag on many levels, but had also invited over all his equally scumbaggy buddies—large middle-aged guys with big bellies, all of whom were slamming down copious amounts of Red Bull and vodkas and getting increasingly drunk and aggressive.
"Yo, coach, I'm a tiger on the loose. There's no stopping the Juice," rapped OJ with the gangsta rapping finesse of a fourth-rate Shaquille O'Neal. The only time I become nervous on the set of Juiced was when OJ's girlfriend (a heavy job title in itself) started flirting with me. OJ kept looking over. I got nervous because I CLEARLY REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LAST GUY IN THE SAME SITUATION! By no means did I want to see OJ's jealous side!
Bad energy was afoot. The only thing missing from this volatile mix was loaded firearms and oily rags near open flames. I knew there was going to be trouble; I just didn't know when. Do the math: OJ Simpson + strippers + mansion + drunken big-bellied men. How the hell do you think a night like this will end?
"THAT STUPID FUCKING BITCH CAN'T TALK TO ME LIKE THAT IN MY HOUSE!" we heard a drunken scumbag scream from the bathroom, where he had aggressively barged in on a stripper. The shoot abruptly ended as everyone was ejected out of the mansion. Unfortunately, OJ had already left (just when we needed him to throw down for our benefit ).
Our Vegas shooting schedule came to an abrupt end. The first thing the next morning, the producer informed me, "OJ's sick today, so we're going to pack up and go back to LA." Strange. The last I saw of OJ, he was shitfaced.
Yes, this was the true Dante level of show-biz purgatory one gets sentenced to when one still craves fame but has been banished from paradise like a disgraced Fatty Arbuckle. It was true savage journey into the heart of the American Dream, because for a brief moment, between murder charges and a prison sentence, scandalized OJ reinvented himself as... a zany prankster!