O.J.’s book should be available

I’m all out of sorts about O.J.’s book. I think “”If I did It,” the hypothetical walk-through of just exactly how Juice might’ve sliced and diced his wife Nicole and her gentleman-friend Ron Goldman, is a sleazy, callous cash-in on the most talked-about crime of my lifetime. And it’s the only thing I could think to suggest when people inquired about what to get me for my birthday later this week. You people and your scruples have won again, and I’ll probably end up with an Etch-a-Sketch. Thanks a million.

Sick and twisted as it may sound, I did indeed want to read “If I did It”. It’s been quite clear to everyone for ages that O.J. Simpson is guilty of more than just hilariousness in the Naked Gun films, and I guess I’d rather have heard the truth from him than always wonder just how good a lawyer Johnnie Cochran really was. So when the news came down that the much-anticipated “If I did It” project was shelved, I was miffed. I wanted all the gory details, and I wanted them now.

I can’t start a sentence about our nutty fascination with celebrities without ending it with “but you’ve heard this all before.” We like our famous faces when they’re good, and we love them when they’re bad, and if that’s schadenfreude, well, that’s not a word most of us know anyhow. Talking heads like myself will tell you how little Tomkat and Brangelina need more ink while giving it right to them. We are a culture fascinated with celebrities, but you’ve heard this all before.

When O.J. Simpson, a fantastically talented football player and seemingly decent guy, was accused of murdering his wife, the world took notice. And when the fine people at Court TV finagled a video-camera into the courtroom for O.J.’s landmark criminal trial, we were transfixed.

Never before were we given such unprecedented access to the airing of a famous person’s dirty laundry, literally and otherwise.

Despite a terrific amount of DNA evidence linking O.J. with the crime, the Juice was indeed let loose, a triumphant day for headline writers if not necessarily for justice. I remember where I was when I heard about the O.J. verdict, as I suspect do you: apart from 9/11, it is the one event all Americans seem to share, although if you think about that sad fact too long, it may cause an aneurysm.

It was the capstone to a trial that saw countless witnesses and experts describing in graphic detail that what they’d seen, heard, or analyzed pointed straight at O.J., and though the jury was ultimately not swayed, whatever was going on in the Simpson household – be it domestic violence or Kato Kaelin – it wasn’t pretty.

So 12 years later, in the age of Kevin Federline’s possible love-tape and Kramer’s definite racist flare-up, when O.J. kinda sorta maybe wrote a book wherein he puts the issue to bed, people are fuming. The hubbub over Orenthal James and his would-be true-crime classic has grown so great that now, we may never get to read a single sordid page from If I Did It. Why, you ask? Not because people don’t want to hear it – they already have, via two trials and over a decade of debate on the issue – but because the people who paid for the paper If I Did It is printed on had the audacity to charge money for it.

Yes, “If I did It” is gross, but if we squirmed every time a celebrity did something gross for profit, there’d be a lot fewer Baldwins and a lot more Osmonds. As for O.J., people couldn’t wait until they (or anybody) had read the book to make up their minds about it; they just saw a guy trying to cash in, and even though they’re fine with the endless parade of O.J. footage on the TV, they’d hate to have an opportunity to not buy the book.

I’m coming to terms with the fact that I might never get to read the incisive wit and cutting dialogue of “If I did It,” but I don’t see why people offended by the very notion of a killer’s confession couldn’t have just steered clear of Waldenbooks.

We love to watch celebrities tumble, but to act as if we draw the line at murder after the freak parade that was the O.J. trial is ignoring celebrity history. And if there’s one thing we’re not good at, it’s ignoring celebrities.

Paul Thompson

Daily Collegian (Penn State)