Is there anyone out there who has not heard the facts, the factoids, the allegations, the half-truths, the untruths, the leaks, the smears, heard the E-mail jokes (hundreds of them, thousands, tasteless, it is always agreed, in all mitigating sanctimony, even as they are passed on: “Did you hear that O.J.’s signed a new contract with Hertz… he’s going to be making license plates for them…. The bad news is O.J.’s going to prison, the good news is that Michael Jackson’s taking the kids…. Did you hear O.J.’s last words to Nicole…your waiter will be with you shortly…. Rodney King told O.J., ‘Good thing you didn’t get out of the car, Juice…”’), heard the theories zipping along the communications highway, crisscrossing the Internet, hundreds of them, too, thousands, vide Lauren Swann to François Coulombe, Sunday, July 10, 1994, 10:04:13 AM (“Why was nothing else but a glove found at the back of the guest house? How convenient”), vide Joan Porte to Lauren Swann, Sunday, July 10, 1994, 2:23:19 PM (“Personally I think someone saw how easy it was to make Michael Jackson fall, and had it in for O.J.”), the bloody butchery murders of Nicole and Ron (who in death achieved what O.J. earned in life, the true fame of not needing a last name for identification) a nirvana for conspiracy theorists, halcyon days, not since JFK and the grassy knoll, the three tramps, the single bullet, Zapruder frames 200 to 224.
Ninety-five million Americans in two thirds of the nation’s households tuned in on the longest, slowest chase in television history, a chase that no film director would dare stage. In the skies above, a squadron of telecopters recorded the event, while below A.C. Cowling’s white Bronco, escorted front and rear by what appeared to be most of the police agencies in southern California, made its leisurely way north from the El Toro Y, up the Santa Ana, the Artesia, and the San Diego freeways, its stately choreography reminiscent of water ballets from M-G-M’s old Esther Williams musicals.
“Wet she was a star,” Esther Williams’s producer once confided to me about his former meal ticket, and the same calculation could be applied to the passenger crouched in the back of Cowling’s Bronco, cellular telephone and .357 Magnum at the ready, the possibility that he would blow his brains out a topic of endless speculation by anchormen and anchorwomen reporting on his hegira: in an open field, wearing helmet and pads, O.J. Simpson was a star. But that was long ago, and he would end that night in handcuffs, mugged and fingerprinted, a soon-to-be forty-seven-year old man with a new identification in the Los Angeles County jail, Prisoner No. 4013970, charged in the arrest warrant with violating Section 187 (a) of the California Penal Code, to wit in count one that “Orenthal James Simpson… did willfully …
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