It is strange, I have never met O.J. Simpson but in some ways I feel I know him quite well. Relax and let me tell you a story.
For me it started on June 17 1994. I was making my way from Van Nuys to my home in San Diego. Attilla the Mom needed me back home to go to the airport and pick up her parents at Lindberg Field. After a grueling flight from England it was vitally important that we should be there to greet them. I know a good nagging at when I see one, and I am quite partial to retaining my private parts. I had no interest in becoming another John Wayne Bobbitt.
I started my 2 hour journey at 2pm, Thing went well for a short time however as I got closer to LAX the freeway became a parking lot. After 20 minutes I popped out the Simon and Garfunkel album I had been listening to and selected a radio news station. In seconds I had the answer, some aging football player named O.J. Simpson and his friend A.J. Cowling armed only with a Ford Bronco had managed to bring the entire LA freeway system to a halt.
I do not profess any knowledge of American Football, hell the ball isn’t even round.
It was around 9pm that I arrived home, luckily I had a good excuse, it was on every local TV station, so I went to bed safe in the knowledge I would not be facing a dark thirty Bobbitting.
For months the news seemed to consist entirely of OJ Simpson stories. It was as if there were no other news stories in the entire world. Being a news junkie, I followed the story and its twists and turns. I followed the trial gavel to gavel. Actually it was not so much a trial as it was a Soap Opera.
I moved on, OJ had won, it was back to regular life. I forgot all about the man for a number of years. But our paths were to cross in unusual ways.
One morning in 2004 I sat bolt upright in bed, it was a eureka moment. After 35 years in the computer industry, it was time for a hobby, I was going to become a book reviewer. A harmless pastime akin to growing Begonias.
Somewhere along the way I got involved with a book promotion company. One day a book arrived in the mail. It was one of the seemingly endless supply of self help, self awareness books that seemed to make their way to my front door. It was harmless and gave the author, Eric Kampmann a passing grade. He had at least avoided inventing new acronyms and new regimes for people to follow. His was a simple message. If you give, you will receive many times over. How right he turned out to be.
In 2008 OJ was back in the press, he had penned a book ‘If I Did It’. The book was embroiled in a court case. OJ might have got out of the criminal murder case, but he had been found guilty in a civil action brought by the Goldman family. He had opted to not pay the $20 million assessed and moved to Florida. The Goldmans got word about the book and sought to seize it as an asset. They succeeded.
Ring, ring “Hello this is Simon”
“Do you want to review OJ’s book?”
“Do Bears defecate in the woods?”
And so, I got a copy of If I Did It. To say the least, it is a contentious book. Why did he write it? There are two theories, one that this was OJ’s attempt to clear the air and make atonement form his sins. Quite frankly I view that idea as a load of bollocks!
California had got a little hot. The criminal trial, and indeed the civil trial had taken their financial toll on OJ’s bank account. He had distanced himself physically and legally by moving to Florida. If I Did It was nothing more than a money making enterprise that had blown up in his face.
Ring ring: “Hello this is Simon”
“Good review, do you fancy talking to the Goldman family?”
“Do bears defecate in the woods?”
I rather like Fred Goldman and his family. One thing was clear, they were not pursuing OJ for personal gain. Frankly I got the impression that Fred would have happily had a bonfire with OJ’s money. His mission rather was to deprive OJ from benefiting from a crime.
Ring ring: “Hello this is Simon”
“Good interview, do you fancy talking to the lawyer that managed to seize the If I Did It asset from OJ?”
“Do bears defecate in the woods?”
The lawyer was Peter Haven, a man who now I am delighted to call friend. Over the years Peter has told me bits and pieces about OJ and If I Did IT. His mission while working for the Goldman’s was to recover whatever assets that OJ had not hidden. The move to Florida had indeed been a strategic one, using the ‘homesteading’ law OJ could prevent seizure of his home and NFL pension.
The book If I Did It was an interesting exercise in creative accountancy. Even OJ knew that proceeds from the book needed to be squirreled away, far out of the reach of people like Peter Haven. His less than stellar plan involved a shell company owned on paper by his kids.
Initially the book was to be published on a Harper Collins imprint. Pre publicity by Fox would ensure maximum sales. Oh, just in case you didn’t know it, both companies are part of News Corp. Both lost interest when certain lawyers started to stir the muddy waters. Harper Collins could see the writing on the wall and dropped the project like a hot potato. The book was indeed an asset that could be used to pay the now $30 million judgment against OJ (compound interest is a bitch).
Peter Haven and the Goldman family now had an OJ asset, the manuscript. The issue was what to do with it? Beaufort books took on the project, and 6 weeks later If I Did It was published.
Once again I thought that OJ was out of my hair, but I was wrong.
In 2008 and 2009 two delightful children Haliegh Cummings and Caylee Anthony went missing. My wife had written a couple of articles, harmless stuff. Somehow I got involved in it. Jan was writing the foo foo stuff, I wanted the Meat and Potato’s. These stories are worthy of their own book. It did not take long to figure out the naughty from the nice. I will not mention the naughty kiddies, they know who they are. Better still they know that I know. On the good side, I met another long term friend, talk radio star TJ Hart. He in turn introduced me to William Cobra Staubs, a rough tuff ‘bounty hunter’.
I hear you asking, what the hell has this got to do with OJ? Several years later, Cobra told me a package was headed my way. A box full of OJ.
Sure enough, UPS turned up one morning with the box of OJ Simpson stuff. Was there a smoking gun? Nope is the answer. But it was a boxful of the unexpected. Fan Mail, Christmas cards, some phone records, and a few rather grumpy letters about overdue bills.
I think my favorite letter was one from a grade one teacher inviting OJ to her classroom to meet the kids. Now there was a fan! While the rest of the world was trashing OJ, some teacher was inviting him to visit her class!
OJ is the gift that keeps on giving. He is not a person he is a brand. I was devastated when OJ got busted for armed robbery in Vegas. What an unfitting end to a career. He holds many records in the NFL, the only one in danger of falling is “most people killed”, OJ currently holds the record at two, however it is likely that Aaron Hernandez might best him with three.
I began this article with a mention of a book that was written by Eric Kampmann. You likely could not see the connection. When not writing self improvement books, Eric spends his time as CEO of Midpoint books, a major book distributor, and the owner of Beaufort books. It was Beaufort that published If I Did It.
There is more to the story, for example how an obvious best seller managed to get leaked to the internet, but that is a story for another time. Personally I am thankful to OJ, he introduced me to some very fine people. Rough Tuff Cobra, smooth talking attorney Peter Haven (but I know his buttons, I can take Peter from zero to 100mph faster than a Ferrari), TJ Hart, and all of the other people that I have met on my OJ quest.
Funny really, how a traffic jam 20 years ago is still part of my life.