Testing the waters of his tarnished celebrity a decade after his acquittal on murder charges, O.J. Simpson appeared at a Halloween-themed comic book convention on Friday night to sign autographs, but few beside the media seemed to care.
Simpson’s rare public outing in Los Angeles at the annual NecroComicon show drew little interest, with no more than a dozen people traipsing up a rear stairwell into a small room to glimpse the former football star and actor.
A bigger crowd of reporters and camera crews turned up, but many were kept away by organizers who tried to prevent the media from asking Simpson questions. After about 90 minutes, they hustled Simpson out of the building’s rear exit into a waiting car.
Asked by a reporter if he was being paid for his appearance, Simpson replied, “I’m not doing this for my health.”
Testing the watersTom Riccio, a promoter of the event, said Simpson attended the convention as a favor to a friend who was paid in advance to arrange for the weekend appearance.
Riccio told Reuters that Simpson, who lives in Florida, was “not getting a penny” for his visit but was using the event as a dry run for possible future public appearances he might make in exchange for donations to his children’s college fund.
“A lot of promoters are watching this to see how it goes,” Riccio said.
He said he was charging $95 for photos and T-shirts signed by Simpson, and $125 for autographed football jerseys and helmets. But one fan who turned up, Joseph Wells, 41, said he paid $200 for an autographed jersey.
“I like the Juice, and I wanted to get a shirt signed,” Wells said, referring to the former running back’s football nickname.
Riccio said Simpson was due to return Saturday and would make a joint appearance on Sunday with his old teammate Al Cowlings, who famously drove his friend around Los Angeles in a white Ford Bronco during a televised slow-speed police pursuit that ended with Simpson’s arrest on murder charges.
Cowlings is being paid separately by NecroComicon promoters.
$33.5 million remains unpaidIt was 10 years ago Monday that a California jury found Simpson not guilty of murder in the June 1994 slashing and stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
A civil court jury in February of 1997 found Simpson liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages to the families of the victims.
Lawyers for Goldman’s parents have said they would attempt to garnish any of Simpson’s future earnings to satisfy the judgment, which he has vowed never to pay.
Riccio said he “was told that even the victims’ (families) don’t mind (Simpson’s) kids going to college."
Simpson lives off a $4 million National Football League pension that is exempt from civil court judgments, and the house he lives in cannot be seized to pay such a debt.