Y’all know I’m obsessed with the OJ Simpson story and trial and believe it is America in microcosm. So when Friend Liz surprised me with a personalized video message from KATO KAELIN you can bet I totally lost my mind, collapsed into a heap of laughter, tears and delight on the sidewalk, and made so much of a ruckus that my neighbor came rushing out thinking I needed an ambulance.
I mean, when this is one of the handout rounds, how could we have lost? Terp was in town and joined the crew, and thankfully he knew Jeff Gillooly on sight. Watching every single Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan retrospective pays off, eventually.
To be honest, though, this was a close one because the wheels really came off in the last round (when every question is worth a point and the last one is worth 5.5 points).
The last question was, how many days will have passed between the release of the original Top Gun and the new one (which comes out next year)? I thought it came out in 1987, but the rest of the team calculated it with summer 1988. Then we learned it actually came out in 1986, so we lost so much of our advantage that we ended up only winning by half a point. A win is a win!
Had Nurse Kelly (on our team) not recalled that Bob Carlisle was the singer of “Butterfly Kisses” (for the “father-daughter song” round) and Friend Sunil not known that 97 was the highest prime number under 100, we would have have been paying full price for our tab that night.
The O.J. Simpson spectacle is the defining news story of my childhood, a series of events so indelible in my mind that I still recall even the minor characters, like Faye Resnick (Nicole’s friend) and Dennis Fung (one of the investigators accused of mishandling the crime scene).
I remember where I was when Al Cowlings led police on the white Bronco chase. I remember where I was when Judge Lance Ito asked for the trial verdict heard ’round the world — in school, in a class called “Academic Stretch,” where a television was wheeled in on a cart so we could watch the conclusion of a trial that had been televised every single day.
The O.J. story is American history, one I experienced by virtue of being a middle school student exposed to television in the 90s. Because it happened during formative years, it’s remained a constant current in my consciousness, irrespective of the recent film/TVreboots. Friend Sarah, with whom I’ve gone on some eight vacations since we met in 2015, once pointed out there isn’t a time we get together in which I don’t somehow bring up O.J. Simpson.
Now I live in LA, so for my first birthday as an Angeleno, my husband got me…THE O.J. TOUR, where you’re driven to the victims’ homes and OJ’s stops on the night of June 12, 1994, when his ex-wife and waiter Ron Goldman were brutally knifed to death in front of his wife’s condo. The tour is run by Adam, who grew up in the area and went to grade school with O.J.’s son, Justin Simpson. Adam picked us up in a 1994 white Ford Bronco (natch) and leads the tour with precision and speed, stopping only for questions at the very end.
“This was not my aspiration,” he says, of his O.J. tour. “I was not like, this is gonna be a small business one day.” But interest in this case is enough to keep it going.
You can take the tour during the day or at night, but Adam recommends the night option, “Because that’s when all the crime happened.” It starts and ends at a McDonald’s in Santa Monica where O.J. and Kato Kaelin grabbed food just before the killings, according to the prosecutor’s timeline. (O.J. ordered a Big Mac. Kato got a takeout grilled chicken sandwich, which he planned to eat from O.J.’s guest house while watching The Larry Sanders Show on HBO.)
“Whatever you think about the verdict, O.J. is a wife beater at least,” Adam says, as we cross San Vicente Blvd., a dividing line between Santa Monica and Brentwood.
The school where O.J. and Nicole’s daughter Sydney had her dance recital, which the whole family and grandparents attended
Waiter and victim Ron Goldman’s apartment (still exists, completely bro who waved at us from his window)
Nicole’s place on Gretna Green, where she first moved when she separated from O.J.
Nicole’s place on Bundy, where she and Ron were slashed to death (doesn’t exist in the same form but there is still some of that Spanish tile that was in the crime scene photos)
The alley behind it where O.J. is believed to have parked during the double murder
O.J.’s house on Rockingham (torn down in 1997, but you can still visit the lot which is now behind tall hedges)
The site of the long-closed Mezzaluna, the restaurant where Ron worked and Nicole ate her last meal (she had rigatoni). We learned of rumors Mezzaluna was a drug front because another waiter who worked at the restaurant was also killed in years following Ron Goldman’s death, coincidentally.
The best part of the tour is when Adam wrapped everything up at the end, telling us about the time a Danish school teacher booked the tour for his thirty students. Adam chartered a bus to take them around and asked the teacher why he was so interested in the O.J. case.
“Oh I teach a whole unit on it,” the Dane said. “It’s the perfect introduction to America. It has race, police, celebrities, sports, crime, the media, the legal system, the freeway, McDonald’s. Everything about America, distilled into one story.”
Endnote: In the car on the way to the tour starting point, Matty proposed a self-amusement mess-around scheme: “Do you want to pretend we’re from Arkansas and act like we don’t know anything about this case?” Good thing I forgot about it when we got on the tour, because that was when a third eager O.J. tourist joined us and hopped into the Bronco. I introduced myself, asked him if he lived in town and he goes, “No, I’m visiting from Arkansas,” in the deepest drawl I’ve heard in years.