There is a new TV show about O.J. Simpson and the murders that took place here in Brentwood, resulting in “the Trial of the Century.”
Added to the mix was the recent mini-media frenzy when it was reported someone allegedly found a knife years ago when O.J.’s house in Brentwood Park was getting torn down – and we were just now hearing of it.
Someone asked me the other day if it was time to re-tell the O.J. story.
It all started in June of 1994. I was at the office of the Brentwood News and my mother-in-law called. She was visiting L.A. from Kansas City. She drove our kids to school that morning and she drove down Bundy to get there.
She told me “something big was going on” over on Bundy and that I should head over there to check it out. And so I did. I saw three or four news cameras lined up on the sidewalk.
There was one of those yellow tapes keeping us from getting closer. Something big was indeed going on.
I walked up and saw something that looked like gallons or chocolate milk spilled all over the sidewalk. The liquid – and there was plenty of it – was congealing.
I blurted out, “Is that blood?”
The camera guy next to me said, “No sh*t, Sherlock.”
It was shocking. I had never seen anything like this before in my life – and haven’t since. There was blood everywhere. Upon closer examination, there were bloody footprints everywhere.
And so it began. Within days, three or four camera crews turned into what seemed like 20 or 30. Everywhere you went in Brentwood, there were reporters, accompanied by vans with those satellite dishes on top.
Many of these reporters figured, well, if anyone knows what’s going on in Brentwood, it must be the editor of the Brentwood News. Before I knew it, it seemed like everyone was interviewing me.
I can’t remember everyone I talked to, and it went on for over a year. By the time this odyssey was over, I recalled appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and the Geraldo Rivera Show.
One of the front pages of the Brentwood News, showing a sign someone had erected near the scene of the murder – “Go Home, There is Nothing 2 See” – became the front page seen ’round the world. Several TV news reporters showed the paper – or a close-up of one of our newsracks.
Things I wrote in the Brentwood News – including that I thought O.J. did it – got repeated in the L.A. Times, the Washington Post, and the Times of London.
People asked me if I was crazy by saying I thought O.J. did it. Wasn’t I worried that O.J. would get out of jail and kill me next?
One the day of the slow-speed chase up the 405, I was attending a sixth grade graduation party for my daughter and her classmates. The kids were in someone’s backyard pool under the watchful eye of several parents. A few parents were inside the house watching, I think, a basketball game.
Someone rushed out and said, “Come inside, you’ve gotta see this.” It was O.J. coming up the 405, with a platoon of cop cars following behind.
We were all mesmerized; it’s amazing none of the kids drowned outside. Nobody was paying any attention to them. All the adults were now inside the house, glued to the set.
I ducked out of the party and zoomed over to O.J.’s house. It was obvious where he was going. As you might recall, it took O.J. a while to exit his vehicle. My kids told me later they could see the back of my bald head on the TV news.
Then came the trial. I was in the Brentwood Inn – now known as The Brentwood, on Barrington Avenue – the afternoon when O.J. was asked to try on the glove. I was having a few beers with an out-of-town friend who was visiting. But it didn’t matter where you were from – everyone wanted to watch the O.J. trial. There was a TV up in the corner. The whole place went silent as we watched O.J. try and put on the glove.
It might have been the next day, I don’t recall. But I had an African-American graphic artist working at the Brentwood News, Adrian Cook. I said something like, despite the fact the glove didn’t fit, I still thought O.J. was guilty.
I swear, I thought Adrian was going to punch me out. He was absolutely clear he thought O.J. was innocent. He was right up in my face, yelling. The racial gap in our country that the O.J. case revealed became exceedingly clear to me that day, right in my office. It was chilling.
A friend of mine from Northern California, Chris Thomsen, stated it well: “A guilty man was framed.” All the B.S. about a bloody glove being planted on O.J.’s property by the LAPD was completely inexcusable. Reasonable doubt had been introduced, but maybe even without the glove, the jury would have acquitted.
When O.J. was found not guilty in October of 1995, once again I zoomed over to the house. Once again, there was a crowd. The Brentwood News was about to go to press and I told our managing editor we had to “stop the presses” and re-do the front page. She wasn’t happy about it, but clearly we had to do it. That front page read, in all caps, “IS IT REALLY OVER?”
Given that I am writing about this over 20 years later, the answer has to be “no.”
If there was one odd benefit of this, the O.J. debacle pulled Brentwood together as a community. We felt under siege, our private hideout was no longer private.
Everyone in the world knew names like Bundy Drive, Rockingham and Mezzaluna. People with a few hours to kill at LAX grabbed taxis so they could get a quick tour of Brentwood.
There was often a traffic jam in front of the murder site; Jackie Raymond, then president of South Brentwood Residents Association, worked feverishly hard to boost police presence in the area in order to keep the “lookie-loos” moving. Over at Rockingham, there was a constant parade of cars, moving along at maybe 2 mph.
Brentwood solidified its relationship with the police department. I think the O.J. situation helped lead to the LAPD’s senior lead officer system, in which one police officer is now assigned full-time to Brentwood. Neighborhood associations were strengthened as well. We all got to know each other.
The Brentwood News benefited, too. I can’t say exactly how, but it felt like the whole O.J. thing really put our little paper on the map. We started the paper in 1991 and, by June of 1994 when the murder took place, we were still breaking in, people were still not quite sure what to make of us. By October of 1995 when O.J. was acquitted, the Brentwood News as viewed as “The Voice of Brentwood.”
Since that time, O.J’s house got knocked down and replaced; Nicole’s place got rebuilt so as to be unrecognizable; Mezzaluna is now closed. Eventually the community moved on. O.J. got arrested and is now in jail. Nothing could ever bring back Nicole Brown Simpson or Ronald Goldman.
Once in a while I get these journalistic fantasies that one day I’ll get a call from O.J. and he’ll invite the Brentwood News to come interview him in jail so he can make a confession.
But, for the most part, I too have moved on. I didn’t tune in to see the new TV show; I couldn’t get all that excited about the knife. I guess I just don’t care as much as I once did. It feels like the Karma Police caught up with O.J., so what’s the point?
As I wrote long ago in the Brentwood News, God will be O.J.’s ultimate judge. That’s good enough for me.