Three days after her death, after the coroner, the police and the media all had their way with Nicole’s mangled body, it was time for the family to bury its dead.
In a bucolic field minutes from the tranquil Pacific Ocean, high atop a pastoral hill, sat Nicole’s final resting place, a pristine cemetery in prestigious Laguna Hills, only an hour’s drive but a million miles away from the madness of Los Angeles.
And there I was, the only reporter in the world to successfully con his way behind the guarded gates to catch a glimpse of this bizarre and uncomfortable event.
I had followed the procession of stretch limousines on the long trip from Nicole’s church in Brentwood…
As we approached the burial ground, I kept thinking of the old film footage of President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade when the assassination occurred.
There was an eerie mixture of excitement, sadness and confusion in the hot and humid summer air.
You felt as if you were in the midst of an historic moment, something that you would never forget and that your children’s children would one day talk about.
There were babies hoisted on shoulders. Cameras and reporters were everywhere.
And there were more police and Sheriff’s deputies than I had ever seen at any one single event in my entire life.
Even for a National Enquirer reporter, it was mesmerizing.
Armed with a dark suit, a sober expression and little hope of actually penetrating the makeshift fortress that had been engineered around the grounds, I made my way toward the big iron gates that barred entrance to the cemetery.
Sheriff’s deputies and local police had formed a barricade to the throng of reporters and bystanders.
I remembered that I had craftily obtained a Mass card from the church service in Brentwood earlier that day, and I thought it might just be my ticket in.
I reverently presented the card, with the traditional sentiment, “Nicole Brown Simpson: In Memoriam”, written on the front, and I innocently asked if I was late.
To my amazement, it worked. Without hesitation, the officers stood aside and allowed me to pass.
Excited and anxious, I immediately began the long walk down the circular drive that weaved its way through the cemetery.
For miles around, every inch of the perimeter of the park was lined with either police, reporters or photographers with cameras clicking and flashing chaotically at anything that moved, including me.
it was pandemonium like I can only compare to the excitement associated with walking up the red carpet at a Hollywood premiere.
As I neared the plot, almost at the center of the cemetery, I heard the priest speak his last words, “Rest in peace”.
He had spoken only a few short and sterile words before, but then, what was there to say?
The small gathering of no more than 30 or so was seated in folding chairs underneath a small canopy with the casket out in front.
Immediately after the priest’s final words, the assembly disbanded into separate and distinct groups.
As I made my way to the casket, I heard the unmistakable sounds of James Taylor coming from an old cassette recorder that was placed at the base of the casket.
The serene melodies were anything but appropriate for this tense and uncomfortable setting, and the artificially instilled calm only increased the tension in the air.
Everything was wrong about it.
To my astonishment, adorning Nicole’s casket were countless photographs of the victim in seductive poses and inappropriately provocative outfits with a collection of different men.
Occasionally, a picture of the family popped up in between but I could see no pictures of Nicole and O.J. together.
A stirring memorial written by Nicole and O.J.’s children and placed at the front of the casket reminded all of who the real victims were in this twisted Hollywood tale.
All the players were there.
The potpourri of personalities the world would soon come to know better than their own families were paying last respects to Nicole: Nicole’s mother and father Juditha and Lou Brown, and her sisters, Dominique, Tanya and, lastly, Denise, the ultimately vocal sister who sported an eerie resemblance to Nicole.
At the funeral, their silence was all too pregnant and revealing.
Kato Kaelin, the surfer-like Hollywood pretty boy and wannabe, who would become both a blessing and a curse for the prosecution.
O.J. and Nicole’s children, Sydney and Justin, the only really innocent bystanders in this whole sordid fiasco.
O.J.’s children from his first marriage, Jason and Arnelle.
Nicole’s friend and jogging partner who showed up the morning after the tragic event for their daily jog only to find a trail of Nicole’s blood tracked by her beloved Akita dog to her bloodied body.
They were joined by a colourful cavalcade of 30 or so friends.
And there, in the front row, perched anxiously on the edge of his seat sobbing too convincingly was The Juice.
As he slumped in his chair next to the casket, he sat alone.
I remember thinking that if my wife had just been brutally murdered, my first and foremost emotion would be outrage.
Nicole’s family was anything but the consoling former in-laws.
In fact, for as long as I was there, not once did they communicate with their ex-son-in-law in any way.
Not a soul dared to speak about the crime. It was evident that everyone was bursting at the seams, dying to cast their vote as to O.J.’s guilt, but propriety prevented them from doing so.
The tension was unbearable.
As the event came to its pathetic end an hour later, and I prepared to depart, I realised that this funeral was just a formality.
The real burial could not possibly happen under these strained circumstances, not until the case was closed, and the ugly memories were allowed to fade.
Only then could Nicole ever finally rest in peace.
O.J. Simpson Trial of the Century (1996)
Ascension Cemetery Lake Forest California