O.J. Simpson, Luke Skywalker And Me

So O.J., is dead. After 30 years, talking about it is somewhat therapeutic, I think, so I want to thank Rick Dayton, and KDKA Radio, for letting me ramble on for a full 30 minutes yesterday. For those of us with undiagnosed Simpson Trial PTSD, writing about it will probably be beneficial as well. And so, here is a story. Every bit of it, true.

My station, KTLA-TV, was given one seat in the courtroom for the Simpson Civil Trial in Santa Monica. And what a seat it was. We were in the front row just behind the bar and only five or six feet behind O.J. Simpson and his attorneys. So if O.J. turned around, he would be looking directly at whomever was in our seat. Usually that was me, although I had to run outside to do an occasional live-shot, so there were others in the seat as well. There had to be. The rule was that you got the seat, but you would lose it, should it ever prove to be empty when court was in session. So quite literally, we had to put an ass in that seat.

Since I couldn’t always be there, in the courtroom, my producer, Jacquelin Sonderling, spent considerable time occupying our seat. And there were others. Author Dominick Dunne, had just returned from finishing his latest novel “Another City, Not My Own,” and was without a place to sit in the courtroom. I knew Nick from the Criminal Trial, and knew he would be writing about the Civil Trial as well, so I offered to let him take our seat for some of the time when I couldn’t be there. This gave both Jacquelin and myself, a break. And then there was Mark Hamill.

You probably know him as Luke Skywalker, from the Star Wars movies. He was also very much interested in the Simpson Trial. I bumped into him one day out on the courthouse lawn. It turned out that we had a friend in common. As we talked, I learned of how eager he was to get into the courtroom, even if only for a little while. I told him that might be arranged. He gave me his phone number. When the seat was going to be open, I called and Mark came to the courthouse.

And so it came to pass that on any given day, O.J. Simpson, might have turned around to see either me, my producer Jacquelin, novelist Dominick Dunne, or Luke Skywalker.

The day after Mark took the seat for the first time I was back in it myself. The reporter next to me leaned over and said, “Did you know that Luke Skywalker was in your seat yesterday?” “Of course,” I said, acting as though it was all perfectly normal.

As things turned out, Dominick mentioned me in his novel, which was totally unexpected. He has, after all, been called “The world’s most famous chronicler in the age of celebrity.” Beyond that, I’ve always wondered what Simpson thought when he turned around and saw Luke Skywalker, just a few feet away in the courtroom. It’s gotten a chuckle out of me more than once.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.