Q: Where Were You During O.J.’s Bronco Chase?
A: Safely ensconced in my Connecticut bedroom. I think my dad yelled up the stairs for me to come check it out, which was the custom in our house regarding important news (I will never forget the dark evening a few years earlier when I heard Father’s shout from the lower level: “Pee Wee Herman got arrested for touching himself!”; convinced the old man was trolling me, I shrieked something to the effect of, “SHUT UP, STOP MAKING FUN OF PEE WEE!”).
What stands out most in my memory is how nothing seemed to happen once O.J. and A.C. pulled into O.J.’s driveway. Cops did not swarm the vehicle. Gunfire did not erupt. Obviously the scene was chaotic and tense, and the documentary June 17th, 1994 does a great job conveying just how gripping it was, but watching on tv all we were seeing was a motionless driveway. The L.A. riots conditioned me to anticipate shocking violence. I didn’t want to see it, but I expected it.
Little did I know this was just the start of wall-to-wall-to-ceiling O.J. Simpson coverage. I didn’t have much investment in Juice as a heroic sports figure. To me he was just the dude from the Naked Gun movies. He seemed like an alright guy before he allegedly murdered two people. Suddenly he became O.J., inescapable figure of American tragedy, captain of a lurid nightmare smeared across every waking minute of television available.
O.J. absorbed so much of our time you didn’t notice the rest of your life. A blanket lifted when the first trial ended in 1995. What the hell? What year is it? I’m how old? Wait, when did “Empty Nest” go off the air?
And of course, every basic cable subscriber alive at that time remembers the Dana Carvey special where he did a solid twenty-five minutes on O.J. “We’re frrrrrrrrramin’ O.J!” That punchline bounces around the recesses of my mind like an apparition trapped between mortality and the afterlife.