More than one victor in trial of the century

After 470 days of legal drama, the OJ trial has ended, but what about the board game and the OJ industry?

There is no question about it, things just won’t be the same. No more breakfast time round-ups of the previous day’s court action. No more mid-morning panel discussions, no more evening shows. It’s all over and worried TV executives are not at all clear what will fill the vacuum. The ratings are once more up for grabs.

You can understand their concern. After all this has been the daily diet for millions of Americans for over fourteen months. The ratings were set. For a while all the top 100 shows were OJ specials of some sort. Now that comfort is gone.

The truly devoted, of course, had their cable systems intravenously linked to the court TV to guarantee themselves an uninterrupted flow of pure, concentrated OJ. These people were hooked. Now what will they do? What will they watch now? And what does that mean for the ratings?

In truth, after 470 days of legal drama, 126 witnesses and 1,105 exhibits it was probably time to focus on something else. The jury clearly thought so too. They were packing even while they were deliberating and within a few hours were all in the lobby of the hotel calling for taxis while the foreman phoned the judge with their verdict. Now that’s swift justice. There wasn’t even time to arrange a panel of experts.

Leaving aside the real issues of racism, a flawed legal system, an incompetent and bigoted police force and the national “laissez faire” attitude towards domestic violence, the sudden end to the whole Simpson saga clearly leaves some significant questions unanswered.

Like, what on earth will happen to sales of the board game? No doubt geared up for a solid Christmas, an early decision like this seems almost unfair. OJ was not amused either and is apparently suing the originators on the grounds that the game is biased and assumes his guilt.

Also, just how much will Halloween be spoiled for all those kids who have been eagerly looking forward to wearing their OJ costume? Thoughtfully put together, the outfit consisted of a blood-splattered number 32 football shirt and helmet along with a bloodstained plastic knife. Very cute, although OJ probably won’t like that much either.

America has never been shy about capitalising on its celebrities misfortunes, but with OJ a new standard was set. It is hard not to be impressed by the sheer diversity of opportunism that was spawned. Within weeks of the trial, an OJ market had been firmly established and many will miss the outrageous ingenuity with which the American entrepreneurial spirit turned it into a billion-dollar industry.

Unfortunately they will also miss the last performance of “OJ Law” the musical that has been consistently sold out throughout the trial. Soon the “100 per cent guilty” and “Absolutely innocent” T-shirts will be just garage sale junk along with the hats, buttons and tapes of anecdotes by Al Cowling. The only remnants of the whole saga will be some books and OJ himself, of course.

Not that the books are to be underestimated. So far about 35 have been published. Beginning with Nicole Simpson’s best friend Fay Resnick, who so sensitively shared her memoirs – including the lesbian moments – in Nicole Brown Simpson – A Life Interrupted. Then came Trial of the 21st Century, an interactive trial guide, followed by The Trial of OJ, after which OJ wrote his own moving story of what really happened in I Want To Tell You.

In case you missed these, relax, a further publishing frenzy is expected. OJ is to write a sequel, and who can blame him? He earned an estimated $3m from the first book and the signing of some football cards while he was in jail. In the sequel he might even explain why he was visiting Nicole’s grave on the night of his arrest, carrying his passport, a disguise and $7,000 in cash.

So far seven jurors have approached publishers with their unique story of sequestered hell in a five-star hotel. However, as none of them finished high school and not one of them reads a newspaper regularly, you can’t help but wonder about the quality of their accounts.

There is talk of a book by Marcia Clark’s ex-husband, as well as books by Judge Lance Ito, (reportedly with a $5m advance), and Chris Darden and Marcia Clark, as well as Johnny Cochran and Robert Shapiro, the defence counsels. Simpson’s first wife apparently already has a contract and countless others are pitching hard.

If none of the above seem terribly interesting, you can always hold out for the book by a UCLA professor who claims he has had psychic experiences with Nicole’s dog, Kato. He is currently actively looking for a suitable publishing home. The deal appears to be: if the price is right, the dog tells everything.

For OJ too, life looks good. Commercially jail was excellent. Although the initial overheads were a little high – approximately $6m in legal fees – he brought in some $4m from the book and the football cards and earned a reported $1.5m within the first ten hours of his release by letting a Star (US tabloid) photographer capture the joyful homecoming for posterity.

There is still talk of a $150m pay-per-view interview. The book could be a nice little earner too, which will no doubt be followed by some serious appearances on the talk circuit followed by the inevitable celebrity interviews.

In the meantime he is also trying to trademark the initials OJ to stop unscrupulous people abusing or possibly even damaging his hard-earned reputation. The Florida orange growers association is apparently not impressed and has said they will see him in court. That could be a serious mistake.


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