Party of the Century: O.J. Simpson Opens His House to an Anti-Violence Event, and Opens Himself to Charges of Hypocrisy

Article excerpt

The tan leather swivel chairs were still at the bar--the same bar at which Det. Mark Fuhrman parked Kato Kaelin while he went rooting around out back for some evidence. To the left was an O.J. shrine, a recessed pool-tableroom still filled with old footballs and other memorabilia. To the right was the desert-white-and-beige family room, with its baby grand piano and a media center, where homicide detectives had watched the Simpson "Frogman" tape. And now, one night last week in Simpson's Rockingham estate, here was O. J. Simpson, in what might be called different circumstances, dressed in black tie and sipping champagne, trying to get all that messy stuff behind him.

Outside the house, a fund-raiser for an L.A. anti-violence group was going on-an affair critics derided as tastelessly hypocritical, as if the Menendez brothers were raising money for an orphanage. Inside, O.J. was talking to two Newsweek reporters. "I'm not a big fan of Newsweek,' he said at first, but then, displaying his usual confidence and chattiness, he talked about such matters as how his life consists of little more than playing golf. "Nobody's knocking on my doors now," he acknowledged. "I'm a realist. I take pride in the fact when I was a so-called star I didn't let it go to my head. I'm no different now. Now that I'm somewhat infamous, I'm not taking that to heart."

The fund-raiser was in aid of the Stop the Violence/increase the Peace Foundation. That well-respected, seven-year-old group works to reduce gang violence and runs a 24-hour domestic abuse hot fine. The event came about, said Khalid Shah, the group's executive director, who served 12 years in prison for his role in a drive-by murder, when Simpson attended an earlier fund-raiser. Moved by the event, Simpson offered his place for a future affair, Shah said, and the group accepted.

About 500 people showed up, though it was hardly the gathering of "hundreds of VIPs and celebrities" that sponsors had promised. There were no Hollywood stars, few members of the African-American movie or business elite and not even O.J.'s older children, Arnelle and Jason. Instead, the lush estate was filled mainly with gang and ex-gang members and just regular, mostly black folks, dressed in formal wear or T shirts proclaiming STOP THE VIOLENCE. Sponsors suggested donations of $100 to $10,000. …