On the afternoon of Friday, June 17th, 1994, this writer was waiting tables in a nearly empty restaurant. The one customer that was there was NBA superstar Reggie Miller. But that’s not why we remember this date. We remember because we were watching the now-infamous White Bronco Chase on the TV in the bar. Even an aspiring journalist who was still in college knew this was a huge story. But if you had told us that 24 years later we’d still be writing fresh material about the events of that week, we wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are.
A cynic may say ‘because FOX really wanted to upstage the debut of its former cash cow, American Idol, on another network.’ After all, this interview was shot 12 years ago when the “If I Did It” book made headlines. But at the time, a mere 12 years removed from the murder, there was outcry and the whole special got shelved.
Now the interview will air along with the interviewer, Judith Regan, OJ prosecutor Christopher Darden, a domestic violence expert, and an FBI profiler weighing in. Leading the festivities will be über-journalist Soledad O’Brien. I hope she brings a handle of gin because they’re all gonna need it!
Soledad sat down for a Cocktail Conversation and we asked: why now? (Spoiler Alert: American Idol is not part of her answer!)
“I think a lot’s changed,” Soledad told us, “and at the time it was controversial. And I think 12 years since that interview the families of the victims have expressed interest in hearing from OJ Simpson.” Indeed, an attorney for Fred Goldman told CNN the family welcomes “the airing of these tapes.”
After 24 years, you’d think we’d have heard everything there is to say and written everything there is to write about the murder. But we haven’t heard from one person: the alleged killer. “Remember he never took the stand in his own trial. So he’s never said anything. Hasn’t said anything about his relationship with his ex-wife. He’s never really talked about the night of the double murders.”
In the show, Regan says she got a call from Simpson’s rep, and that this is essentially a confession! She says he insisted it be called “IF I did it” so he could have cover with his children. We’re guessing that ship has sailed.
In some teases designed to whet our whistle, we hear OJ talk about the murders in first person, as opposed to some hypothetical situation. And that may strike one member of the panel right in the heart. “Chris Darden, the former prosecutor, looked like he had been punched in the gut,” O’Brien told us, “watching OJ Simpson, who he could never get on the stand to testify, to watch him walk through, hypothetically, what happened that night.”
Let Her Be The Judge
Soledad described the whole thing to the Cocktail in three choice words, “It’s really riveting. It’s really disturbing, it’s really bizarre.” We wouldn’t expect anything less!
“It’s really really shocking. And I don’t use that world lightly. Cuz listen we’ve been in this business a minute and not that many things rise to the level of shocking and bizarre. But this really does.” She has been in the biz a minute. And the OJ story is as big a part of her career as ours.
“Yeah I covered it. It was one of the first things I covered as a reporter amd working in TV news. And I’ve watched every single thing that’s been done on the trial, the aftermath, all the documentaries, the series., everything. This is OJ Simpson in his own words in a really disturbing way, in very specific detail, walking through the night of a double murder.”
What’s The Verdict?
So we had to ask Ms. O’Brien: is she buyin’ what the Juice is sellin’? “I think you have to look at his body language, listen to what he’s saying. It’s framed as a hypothetical but it’s very specific. I think you have to take all of that into account.”
And as divisive as this whole story has been since the beginning, she believes this show will help some people make up their minds on OJ’s role. “I think there are people who think OJ Simpson is innocent and no matter what they hear that’s what they’re gonna believe. People who think OJ Simpson is guilty and no matter what they hear that’s what they’re gonna believe. I think there’s a whole bunch of people in the middle who really will find this just fascinating amd crazy and make up their minds at the end of it.”
That’s great, but at the end, she says: “It’s just so weird. It’s just really it’s bizarre.”
That is true beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Gin & Juice. Seriously? Did you even have to ask?