O.J. Simpson Masks a Macabre Halloween Sensation : Costumes: Store operators say wigs, football jerseys and other items are selling briskly. Sociologists call sales trend disturbing.

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Call it bad taste or just plain gross, but one of the hottest-selling Halloween items in the country is a mask bearing the likeness of accused killer O.J. Simpson.

Ragztop-Vintage, a costume shop on Commonwealth Avenue in Fullerton, received its first shipment earlier this week and promptly sold out, store manager Victor Pahl said. He noted Friday that a fresh order of the leathery masks--which sell for $20--is once again selling fast.

At costume outlets in Los Angeles, early shoppers were combining the mask with other props suggesting elements of the celebrated double-murder case. One man bought the mask along with a $25, black and white striped prison outfit, said Philip Reynoso, an employee of the Halloween Castle on the Eastside.


Short Afro wigs, patterned after Simpson’s hairstyle, were selling briskly, said Ron Ede, co-owner of Junk for Joy, a Halloween shop in Burbank.

“It’s going to be one of the hottest characters--that’s for sure,” Ede said, adding that blond wigs are likely to be hot items too because women want to dress as murder victim Nicole Brown Simpson.

The scariest aspect of the costumes may be what they say about American culture, according to some sociologists and others who say the sales trend is disturbing.

“This reminds me of people cheering O.J. from the overpasses during his infamous Friday night drive,” said Gordon Clanton, a sociologist at San Diego State. “As society becomes less and less clear about right and wrong, people are more swept up into entertainment generally. And these days, people live through entertainment in a powerful way.”

The power of the Simpson case as entertainment has given rise to a full line of Halloween gear.

Step in Time, a costume shop in Laguna Niguel, is planning to rent black and white prison shirts with Simpson’s No. 32--the football great’s jersey number--on the back.


“I’ve had calls about blond ‘Nicole wigs,’ dark makeup, Afro wigs, big butcher knives and, of course, the O.J. mask,” said Dena Teeter, the manager of Step in Time.

Even trick-or-treaters overseas appear to be clamoring for the Simpson line. “A woman came in this week wanting to send a bunch of this stuff to Japan,” Teeter said.

Ragztop in Fullerton, like stores throughout the country, is also selling jerseys similar to the kind Simpson wore with the USC Trojans and the Buffalo Bills--only these are splattered with fake blood and for legal reasons bear a different number.

A spokeswoman for Costumes Galore, a costume shop in Orange, who asked not to be quoted by name, said her store had received “tons of calls about O.J. paraphernalia, but we thought it was just too tacky.”

Clanton, the San Diego State sociologist, said the rush to capitalize on the Simpson case may reflect the baser side of the American attitude.

“Events like this tend to bring out the worst in us--that which is marginal in all of us,” Clanton said. “In this case, there’s a kind of general erosion of morality, of ethics. As social life becomes increasingly less substantive, then entertainment steps in to fill the space.”


On the other hand, Clanton said, those offended by the selling of such merchandise “run the risk of going too far because it’s the nature of Halloween. Halloween is an odd holiday to have kept, but its social usefulness is in there somewhere, to provide an outlet for the dark, the scary, the macabre--and even that in the popular culture that is difficult to grasp and understand, like the O.J. case.”