New ‘Clueless’: selling an act no one’s buying

MEMO TO: O.J. Simpson

FROM: Peter Bart

NOT THAT WE NEEDED REINFORCEMENT, but your interview last week on Black Entertainment Television reminded us that you are still utterly clueless. In less than an hour you managed not only to say all the wrong things, but you even propounded a new theory of “entitlement.” You feel you are “entitled” to be a star once again, as though stardom was some sort of birthright.

Well, based on conversations with network and studio chiefs of late, O.J., let me give you a quick reality check. Forget about being a star; forget about even getting a gig. You’re a pariah, O.J., and everything you are saying and doing reinforces that condition.

I ALREADY CAN HEAR YOU REPEATING your mantra that a jury acquitted you, but this trial was different, O.J. For the first time in the history of jurisprudence, virtually the entire nation felt it was on the jury, thanks to the dubious miracle of television. And you well know their verdict: You were judged guilty, not just on the formal charges but on two others as well.

Because your attorneys played their “race card,” you are guilty of setting back the cause of race relations in this country by two generations. Moreover, women across America — including those in the entertainment industry — feel that the verdict totally discounted the issue of spousal abuse.

You’re not exactly articulate on the spousal abuse issue, O.J. –“the situation,” you call it. You don’t seem to understand that beating up women is not “a situation,” it’s a stigma.

In your interview, you reiterated that you need to make a living and that being a star is the only occupation for which you are qualified. The strategy for reviving your career seemed somewhat vague, however. Though the agents at ICM put out a statement that they no longer represent you, O.J., you now deny that they ever represented you, and thus could hardly terminate the relationship.

According to your spin, you made your own deals, occasionally soliciting advice from Jack Gilardi at ICM. If that’s indeed the way you conducted your professional life, then I have some advice for you: Get some help. You need a team of shrinks, spin-meisters and random seers to help get things back in focus and mend your ways.

And if you really want to relaunch your career, my personal suggestion would be to do something outlandish — something that would commit you to not just working but also to making amends.

IF I WERE YOU, I’D GET ON A PLANE to Idaho and find that curious town where LAPD cops go to retire. I’d find Mark Fuhrman and negotiate a deal to do a movie together — perhaps a “buddy” movie a la “48 HRS.” Perhaps the two of you could be cast as good guys — Fuhrman might have gotten away with playing a good guy at your trial if that idiot screenwriter hadn’t gotten in the way.

In promoting the movie, Fuhrman could tour with you and reiterate that he doesn’t really disdain blacks, while you could emphasize that you had put away your “race card.” Lots of tab TV shows would book the team — two outcasts eager to redeem themselves. Indeed, the interviews would be all the more persuasive if the two of you actually believed what you said and performed some philanthropic deeds to underscore your sincerity.

Would it work? Maybe. Someone would have to find the money to finance such a project — a backer willing to withstand the risk of boycotts and protests. There’s also the task of finding a distributor.

More important however, is the issue of veracity. Mark Fuhrman and O.J. Simpson have to “sell” the public on the idea that they truly deserve to be accepted in the human race once again. To achieve that, you both need to demonstrate a fundamental change in attitude — a character renovation.

You won’t get there, O.J., with a performance like the one you gave last week. All you had to sell on your TV interview was moral outrage — you presented yourself as the victim of a racist media establishment.

I’ve got news for you, O.J.: No one’s buying it.

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