Sorry, FX, Disbelief Is Not Suspended

As I watched the first episode of FX’s “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” tonight, which I had DVOed last night, I tried to think how to process what I had seen. I had the most trouble with Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson. He just wasn’t. Not in size, not in looks and definitely not in voice.

Before I logged onto this blog to write about it, however, I decided to read a review in “Connecting” newsletter by recently retired AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch, possibly the only person save the courtroom bailiff, the trial judge and his clerk, the parties to the case, and photographer Haywood Galbreath, who spent more time in the courtroom than I did.

I’m glad I read Linda’s review before I wrote anything. So far as I’m concerned, she nailed it.

Because of that, instead of writing anything else, at least about the first episode, I’m going to provide the link to her review.  http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Connecting—February-03–2016.html?soid=1116239949582&aid=tU78hcPb9YY

Thanks, Linda!

Forrest Gumpish Me

I felt so Gumpish yesterday.

The Milwaukee Green Sheet “Blasts from the Past” had an item from 1979 about Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini receiving “a tumultuous welcome in Tehran as he ended nearly 15 years of exile.” My children and I had just been evacuated from Tehran the month before with what we could carry in a few suitcases as the Islamic Revolution became chaotic in Iran, and my husband was still there with no indication that he was going to get out.

An interview on NPR with TV critic Eric Deggens about “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” miniseries scheduled to debut on FX last night included mention of the Rodney King-beating trial verdicts and resulting L.A. riots threw me back to all of those events.

When Rodney King was stopped by law enforcement for a malfunctioning taillight and beaten, I was city editor at the Pasadena Star News with a coverage area that included King’s hometown of Altadena. I had moved to my position as Los Angeles courts public information officer just three months before four L.A.P.D. officers stood trial for beating King. That trial was a real baptism by fire! But not nearly as hot as the subsequent riots during which I was one of the few people to keep showing up for work every day at the downtown County Courthouse.

And, of course, the accusation and subsequent trial of O.J. Simpson for murdering his ex-wife practically consumed my life for more than a year and a half in 1994 and 1995, which is now the foundation of the TV drama “The People vs. O.J. Simpson.

I have to say the Simpson case practically consumed my life, because sandwiched between court sessions, dealing with related media issues and meeting with the trial judge, Lance Ito, were the Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss case and preparations for the Menendez brothers retrial.

Feeling Gumpish comes over me at other times of the year, too, such as during the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, in which I drove a float one year and… and…

Oh, well, that’s enough for now. Sorry to get carried away.

 

 

Remembering What Didn’t Happen?

In NPR’s Jeremy Hobson’s Here and Now interview with TV critic Eric Deggins on Feb. 2, 2016, about the FX drama “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” Jeremey said the show reminds us of so much we forgot about that happened in the 1994-95 Simpson trial.

So I told Jeremy (yes, I talk to the radio, also to the TV), “That’s because so much that’s being portrayed in the FX miniseries didn’t happen.”

An example is the prominent role Kris Jenner, ex-wife of defense counsel Robert Kardashian, has been given. Her pre-“The People vs. O.J. Simpson” comments have her in the courtroom, hanging onto every word throughout the trial.

No. She showed up on one day only. That was Sept. 27, 1995, more than nine months after the trial started and less than a week before it ended with not-guilty verdicts. She sat with her then-husband Bruce Jenner and friends Steve Garvey and Garvey’s wife.

 Photo courtesy of MPJI/HGSTAR1 NEWSPHOTO taken on Sept. 27, 1995, by Photojournalist Haywood Galbreath 

My huge problem with this series and with so much that has been written and portrayed about that case and the trial is the perpetuation of misperceptions, myths and fantasies that just didn’t happen.

‘Facts’ Wanting in ‘Crime Story’

I fear trying to keep up with all the reviews, observations, punditry about the FX miniseries based oh-so loosely on the 1995 O.J .Simpson murder trial is going to become a round-the-clock effort. My email inbox is crammed with Google News Alerts I set for O.J. Simpson way back in 2008 before my book, Anatomy of a Trial, was published.

Here are some excerpts in one from yesterday:

Excerpt 1)  “…three categories: those who remember all the details of the trial, those who don’t know anything at all, and those who (like me) remember enough to be delighted by the references and cameos, but have forgotten enough that the bizarre truths become freshly frustrating. But it’s exactly this story’s bizarre nature that makes Ryan Murphy’s ambitions new anthology series refreshingly not like a Ryan Murphy series at all. It is, perhaps surprisingly, understated and played straight (almost), being based off of Jeffrey Toobin’s nonfiction book The Run of His Life. The facts speak for themselves,”

So much flies in the face here, such as:

  • “those who remember all the details of the trial”   Who the heck can do that? I was there every day and even I can’t remember every detail. I took notes when court was in session and during every meeting I had with the trial judge, Lance Ito, which was daily and generally several times a day. And I kept daily written and audio journals.
  • “those who … remember enough to be delighted by the references and cameos, but have forgotten enough that the bizarre truths become freshly frustrating.”   Many of the ‘bizzare truths’ weren’t. They were misrepresentations of events, people and/or intentions. There were, indeed, bizarre truths about and related to the trial, but they were not reported by the media.
  • Ryan Murphy’s ambitions new anthology series”   Anthology?
  • Jeffrey Toobin’s nonfiction book”   Not nonfiction. Nonfiction-fiction hybrid.

Excerpt 2) “Speaking of parody, there are a few winking moments included in the series that work through a knowing hindsight, like Judge Ito’s (Kenneth Choi) preoccupation with celebrity…”

Judge Ito’s (Kenneth Choi) preoccupation with celebrity…”  Not!   I am well aware of how he was portrayed by the news media. Most of it was misrepresented to flat out not true. The best way to understand Ito and his ‘preoccupations’ is to read Anatomy of a Trial.

 

Excerpt 3)  “…the trial essentially being conducted to the public nightly through Larry King Live.”  Again, Not! Ir boggles my mind how people can make such specious and ridiculous assertions. King having members of the media who were covering the trial, legal pundits and people associated with the trial participants, no matter how faintly, on his show was a far cry from conducting the trial there. Saying/writing such a thing is just ignorant.

Everybody’s Gotta Say Something

The second coming of the misinformation onslaught has begun, thanks to that vast purveyor of misinformation, Fox Entertainment Group. The first of a 10-part miniseries, The People vs. O.J. Simpson, debuts tonight on its FX network.

This drama will contain a representation/misrepresentation of non-courtroom conversations and events involving the lawyers, relatives and others related to the 1994 murder case of O. J. Simpson and the defendant.

My interest is how it portrays court officials, including the trial judge Lance Ito, and media coverage. That’s because I was the Los Angeles courts’ director of public information at that time and present in the courtroom, the courthouse and behind the scenes before, during and following the 1994-95 trial.

The FX series has conjured up lots of reminiscing by people who were there — and not — with lots of mis-remembering. Here’s something that popped up online today:

In his New York Post Page Six column, Richard Johnson writes that “Judge Lance Ito was a virtual Hollywood groupie who couldn’t resist rubbing elbows with stars — including Richard Dreyfuss.”

Johnson goes on to ‘relate’ a conversation Dreyfuss had with another Post staffer about the day Dreyfuss attended the trial “as a curious bystander.”

“Ito spotted Dreyfuss and invited him into his chambers, where he showed off some of the gory crime-scene photos from the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman,” Johnson writes.

“'[Ito] said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a special guest today,” and introduced me to the courtroom,’ Dreyfuss recalls.”

I kept a voice-recorded journal during the trial, which I had transcribed and used as a reference when writing my book, Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson.   Here’s what I recorded the day, Sept. 14, 1995 — nearly nine months into the trial — that Dreyfuss sat in the courtroom:

Thursday, September 14th.

Today Mr. Dryfuss was in the courtroom, a rather sleepy Richard Dryfuss, I caught him dozing a couple of times. I told Judge Ito. [Earlier Ito had asked me, Did you see who was out there? And I said, ‘No’.  He said , ‘Richard Dryfuss’.  I said, ‘Oh, well, what is he in one of the special guest seats?’ He said yes. ‘But, I am taking your advice, and I am not going to go out to meet him.’   I said, ‘Good, you will avoid a lot of criticism.’  I told him later that he had been dozing and he kind of gave this little whining noise like  ‘what, he wasn’t riveted to my every word?  I said something about, ‘Don’t take it personally.’  It was really dry, boring stuff going on there.

One thing this journal entry doesn’t do is convey Ito’s wry sense of humor and subtle sarcasm. What it and the trial transcript do, though, is prove two aspects of Dreyfuss’s assertion wrong.

One was Dreyfuss’s representation of himself as ‘a curious bystander.’ Dreyfuss, like other recognizable faces that showed up in the courtroom, such as James Woods, Steve Garvey, Jackie Mason, Anita Hill, Jimmie Breslin, might have been curious, but of greater importance was an obsession of many celebrities. The Simpson trial became THE place to be seen. Dreyfuss (or someone for him) called the courtroom to see if he could get in. A couple of courtroom seats were held in reserve throughout the trial for Ito in case he got requests from people he wanted to be sure got into the trial. His parents, for instance. One day it was a cancer patient who had written him a letter and told him that watching the trial on TV was a distraction for her and help her endure the terrible side effects of cancer treatments. At his invitation she and a caregiver sat in his ‘special seats.’ He also invited her to rest on the couch in his chambers during proceedings recesses. The media didn’t report on Ruth Archey attending the trial or Ito offer or his chambers couch.

To my knowledge, Ito didn’t contact, rub elbows with or invite any of the ‘celebrities’ who showed up in the courtroom to attend the trial.

The other incorrect assertion was that Ito introduced Dreyfuss to the courtroom. The court reporter made an official transcript of everything that was said in the courtroom during that trial from the minute Ito took the bench until he left. My search of the transcript for the entire month of September 1995, turns up no mention of Dreyfuss, much less Ito introducing him to the courtroom either by name or as a “special guest.”

Ito didn’t even speak to Dreyfuss in the courtroom, so it’s not likely Dreyfuss would have visited him in chambers, and even more unlikely Ito would have shown him crime-scene photographs. One reason is that the crime-scene photos were trial exhibits and as such in the custody of the courtroom clerk which she kept locked up in a closet. Another reason is that of all the occasions I accompanied courtroom visitors to Ito’s chambers, which included some members of the media at their request, I never saw Ito show them trial exhibit photos.

So, where did Dreyfuss get that from? Who knows, but my guess is it was a false memory. That is a common phenomenon.

My younger brother swears he was with me on a late-night caper when I was 16 years old and he was 12. I sneaked out of the house while everyone else was asleep and drove the family car to a nearby town hoping to find a boy I had a crush on who hadn’t called me on the telephone that evening as he had promised he would do.

First, why on earth would I have taken my younger brother in my confidence, especially when we weren’t exactly BBFs, much less taken him with me in such a situation. In fact, I actively avoided him and wanted as little to do with him as possible as was typical for any teenage girl with a ‘little’ brother. I was 16 and he was 12, for crying out loud.

Second, although he was younger than me by four years, he wasn’t my ‘little’ brother. That year, the year he turned 12, he grew nine inches, so was not only no longer smaller than me, he was an unbelievable clutz — like a puppy that hasn’t grown into its giant paws. No way would I have risked being caught because any noise he might have made. In fact, it took me what felt like forever to sneak down the stairs without stepping on any creaky ones, tiptoe to my parents downstairs bedroom, get the keys off my dad’s bureau, creep through the house to the back door, easy out and close it and get in the car without waking anyone. So, I would have brought my bull-in-a-china-shop brother with me? And trusted that he wouldn’t tell anyone, even when my dad remarked the next morning when the entire family was in the car to go to church that the car was parked on the opposite side of the driveway from where he had parked it the day before and that the gas gauge showed a quarter-of-a-tank of gas less than it had the day before and concluded that someone must have taking it for a joyride and that he was so thankful whoever did at least brought it back instead of stealing it or leaving it in a ditch somewhere?

I don’t think so.

It’s not beyond belief that Dreyfuss saw and read so much about the Simpson case — some of which included fabrications, like some parts of Toobin’s book did when it was published a year later — that his memory inserted himself into stuff that didn’t happen.

Memories such as this one Johnson’s Page Six report and other fantasies that are sure to be vomited up in this “Everybody’s Gotta Say Something” second coming of misinformation onslaught with FX’s “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” drama are equally if not more frustrating and maddening as those I endured 21 years ago.

Kris Jenner’s 9-27 OJS Trial Photo Finish

Photojournalist Haywood Galbreath, the only photographer  who shot pictures in Judge Lance Ito’s courtroom every day of the O.J. Simpson trial, saw a previous blog post in which I wrote that the only day I knew of that Kris Jenner attended the OJ Simpson trial in person was Sept. 27, 1995, less than a week before the trial ended in not guilty verdicts. Here’s the photo Galbreath took that day, Sept. 27, 1995, of Kris Jenner, her then-husband Bruce Jenner on her right, and to her left Steve Garvey’s wife and Steve Garvey.

Kris & Bruce Jenner at OJS trial 9.27.1995MPJI/HGSTAR1 NEWSPHOTO

Galbreath says he took took pictures of people (who thought they were somebody) who showed up in the courtroom.

Kardashian-Jenner Ex a One-Time Show

I’m trying to square this as reported in People magazine:

Kris Jenner still recalls sitting in the courtroom during the trial of O.J. Simpson, hanging on every word, still grieving the loss of her best friend, Nicole Brown Simpson.”

According to my records and memory, Kris Jenner made it into the courtroom a grand total of once, and that was Sept. 27, 1995, a full 15 months after Nicole Brown was murdered and more than nine months after the trial’s opening statements.

That’s right, more than nine months after the trial’s opening statements. That means, while she was indeed pregnant–very pregnant according to my memory of her that day–as the People piece points out, she became so after the trial began. That should be neither here nor there, except that almost every mention of her in connection with the trial includes a reference to her being pregnant.

What merits noting is that she was not a frequent courtroom attendee. Here’s my account in Anatomy of a Trial of the only day in my records that Kris and her husband at that time, Bruce Jenner, came to the Simpson trial:

“Another day of a strange star alignment occurred less than a week before the trial ended. On September 27, Ito had given the two courtroom seats he held in reserve for his use, generally for visiting judges, his parents or other relatives, to a songwriter, David Foster, he knew and Foster’s wife. The wife had previously been married to former Olympian Jenner. And there in court that same day was Jenner with his current wife, who was the ex-wife of Simpson attorney Robert Kardashian.[i] The Jenners sat with former baseball star Garvey and his wife, who, months earlier, had been a prosecution witness.

            “While the media didn’t miss a chance to report on celebrity comings and goings, their accounts were silent on the non-stars he met with, often sacrificing lunch or a couple minutes of down time to do so.”

[i].  Author’s notes, Author’s journal, September 27, 1995.