Welcome Back, OJ! All Is Forgiven 

Tuesday, Sep 18 2007

IT WAS Wonderful to see O.J. in handcuffs, getting hauled off to the cooler by the rough-and-tumble boys of Vegas Metro. Not so much because a lying, conniving double slash-murderer was finally behind bars again. Hardly. It was just plain thrilling to watch the Juice once again charge right to the top of the news cycle and pungently evoke, at least for me, such sweet memories of much more innocent and less fretful times.

Not to worry: This isn’t one more of those soppy, wistful meditations about some mythical moment during which America lost its innocence — at least not exactly. (Never could figure out, anyway, if that was when JFK or RFK was shot, when Vietnam went south, when Nixon resigned or when American Graffiti DVD sales topped $100 million.)

But you have to admit that the summer of 1995, when there was absolutely nothing else on TV other than O.J.’s trial and nothing else to do except obsessively follow it, was the sort of golden moment that America seems destined never to experience again.

Related Stories

  • Rules of the Road 31

    We could all use a refresher course in California's driving laws and vehicle codes. Despite increasingly strict rules for teen drivers, the number of hoops you need to jump through to get behind the wheel of a two-ton road weapon in this state is pretty low compared to countries like...
  • Gentrification Rewarded 5

    Los Angeles might have a housing crisis in which it takes an upper-middle-class income just to be able to afford a decent family apartment, but Dwell magazine thinks we're uber-cool. See also: California Rents Are Almost America's Worst The publication has named us "America's Most Successfully Reinvented Metropolis," and will celebrate...
  • 4th DUI Checkpoints

    The 4th of July is, as you well know, one of the drunkest holidays across the land. America! But it's hard to celebrate United States' independence when you're locked up with a bunch of losers. And since this is the land of democracy, the LAPD is giving you a fighting...
  • Texting Crackdown 6

    Like a lot of laws in California, those covering texting while driving are a mess. But don't expect an L.A. traffic judge to give you a fair shake. Despite the California DMV's own finding that you can read, punch in a contact or even DIAL your phone in your car - how...
  • Gangsters in Syria 3

    The federal Joint Terrorism Task Force is looking into the mysterious case of two self-proclaimed L.A. gangsters captured on video in what appears to be Syria and firing assault rifles at enemies both in the name of President Bashar al-Assad and for their "homies" back in Southern California. A Los...

I even built a crude cardboard shadow box so I could haul my TV out onto the patio deck and watch Court TV in the midday summer sun. My friend Tim would come visiting from Chile for days at a time, and we would plunk two deck chairs in the shallow end of the pool and, under the shade of some baseball caps, soak in the daily opera buffa. In the balmy evenings, my wife and I would open the windows and doors, and as the scent of night-blooming jasmine gently bathed us, we’d lounge on the leather couch and watch the regular trial recaps. Dan Rather live from the Balkans? Fuggedaboutit. We wanted more Dan Abrams live from Judge Ito’s courtroom.

When my wife — gasp! — had to go back to her classroom in the fall and actually start teaching as Johnnie Cochrane unreeled his fabulously hilarious closing argument, when he donned the knit watch cap (looking like a wino) and fumbled with the if-it-doesn’t-fit-you-must-acquit leather glove, I VCR’d the whole show so we could watch it together when she got home. Years later, whenever we see the file footage of the not-guilty verdict being announced, my wife and I still burst out laughing as we watch the facial expression of the now-deceased O.J. lawyer Bob Kardashian. Even he couldn’t believe what he was hearing when the words of acquittal were announced. The stunned look of surprise on his face was so intense as he stood at the defense table next to a smiling O.J. that it seemed like the Juice had goosed him under the table.

Sure, the country was just as polarized then as now. But what and who divided us? Water-cooler debates over whether Kato Kaelin was merely stupid or just insane? Whether the LAPD was insidious enough to have actually framed such an obviously guilty knife killer? Were Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden as stone incompetent as they seemed? Was Mark Fuhrman a neo-Nazi or just a tough-talking cop? And just who exactly was that O.J. neighbor with the funny Portuguese name and a yelping poodle? (Didn’t he wind up ghost writing O.J.’s botched confessional that recently got seized by the Goldman family?)

Trivial, you say? All just mental bubblegum passed out by a cynical mass media? A sinister distraction from much more important issues? Camp O.J. as a garish monument to the banal superficiality of American culture and a disappearing national attention span? Sure. To all the above charges, I plead absolutely 100 percent guilty.

Consider, however, the alternatives. This was an entire parallel universe to that which agitates us today. I’ll take Bob Shapiro and most certainly Barry Sheck any day over Paul Wolfowitz and Don Rumsfeld. Would you rather have Judge Ito over for a drink, or George W. Bush? The LAPD jumping over a Brentwood compound wall or U.S. Marines overrunning Haditha? Mark Fuhrman stomping on the rules of evidence or Alberto Gonzalez giving the nod to hoods and electrodes? A couple of goofy detectives bungling the custody chain of a couple of blood vials or watching the entire federal government allowing New Orleans to go under? Johnnie Cochrane lying like a rug or Condi Rice warning about mushroom clouds? Startled by a midnight rustling of leaves outside your window, or haunted by nightmares of Koran-clutching fanatics flying airplanes into skyscrapers? And, ultimately, rightfully but endlessly grieving over the butchering of Nicole Simpson and Ron Brown on the steps of her Bundy Drive condo or coldly shrugging off maybe as many as a million Iraqi deaths in a diabolic war without end? I’ll happily take those blackboard charts of O.J.’s murder-night timeline over the ghastly charts and graphs hauled around last week by General David H. Petraeus.

The only smudge on O.J.’s encore imprisonment this week is that it happened just as one more ghost from the past, Hillary Rodham Clinton, was once again announcing a plan for national health care. For a moment it seemed like we really had spun the clocks back a full decade. And if the price of reliving another marathon O.J. trial — tantalizing as it might be — also somehow involves resurrecting Hillary Clinton, I might have some serious second thoughts.?

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets


  • The World Cup Celebrated And Mourned By Angelenos
    The World Cup has taken Los Angeles by storm. With viewings beginning at 9 a.m., soccer fans have congregated at some of the best bars in the city including The Village Idiot, Goal, The Parlour on Melrose, Big Wang's and more. Whether they're cheering for their native country, favorite players or mourning the USA's loss, Angelenos have paid close attention to the Cup, showing that soccer is becoming more than a fad. All photos by Daniel Kohn.
  • La Brea Tar Pits "Pit 91" Re-Opening
    Starting June 28th, The Page Museum once again proudly unveils the museum's Observation Pit, which originally opened in 1952 but has spent most of the last half century closed. Now visitors can get an up-close look at Pit 91, which is currently under excavation. The La Brea Tar Pits, home of the Page Museum, is one of the world's most famous ice age fossil locations, known for range of fossils from saber-toothed cats and mammoths to microscopic plants, seeds and insects. The new "Excavator Tour" is free with museum admission if purchased online at tarpits.org . All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Scenes from the O.J. Simpson Circus
    In the months after O.J. Simpson's arrest for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in the summer of 1994, the drama inside the courthouse riveted the masses. But almost as much mayhem was happening right outside the building, as well as near Simpson's Brentwood home. Dissenters and supporters alike showed up to showcase art inspired by the case, sell merchandise, and either rally for, or against, the accused football star. Here is a gallery of the madness, captured by a photojournalist who saw it all. All photos by Ted Soqui.