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Trick or Treat Without O.J., Browns Urge : Halloween: The slain woman’s family says masks, wigs are in ‘extremely bad taste.’ Most costume stores turn a deaf ear.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The sister of Nicole Brown Simpson issued a nationwide plea Monday, asking people to return Halloween costume items that depict O.J. Simpson or his alleged victims, including masks, blond wigs and even prosthetic slit throats.

Denise Brown called on stores handling such items to immediately halt their sale, saying that they are in “extremely bad taste” and hold “no redeeming value for our society.” She was joined in the protest by Human Options, a domestic violence support group.

“Murder and domestic violence are no laughing matter,” Brown said in a statement. “And the total disrespect for grieving families in general is appalling.”

Brown issued the nationwide challenge on behalf of her and Nicole Brown Simpson’s family, who live in Dana Point. Brown and her sister--Simpson’s ex-wife and the woman he’s accused of killing--grew up in Orange County and graduated from Dana Hills High School.

“Halloween has always been a children’s holiday,” Denise Brown said. “It is a holiday where children dress up and have a good time pretending to be someone else.”

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But most stores turned a cold shoulder to her remarks.

Victor Pahl, the manager of Ragztop-Vintage in Fullerton, said Monday that his store had sold 70 masks in the likeness of O.J. Simpson, as well as numerous football jerseys splattered with fake blood and blond wigs for women “wanting to dress up as Nicole.”

Pahl said that many of the sales had been to people from out of state--not from Halloween trick-or-treaters but rather “collectors wanting an obvious collector’s item.”

“I’ve had calls from all over the country,” he said. “I’ve even had calls from South America and Japan.”

Pahl said that he and the owner of the store had no intention of curtailing the Simpson line of Halloween gear, adding that Brown’s plea doesn’t faze them.

“It’s a big world out there,” he said. “I’m bothered by a lot more things than that. There’s a lot of tragedy in the world, and she has her own ax to grind. Look at Rwanda. A lot more people died in that, and any more, you don’t hear a word about it. Where’s the outrage in that?”

Dena Teeter of Step In Time in Laguna Niguel said that she only recently began selling a mask that looks “exactly” like O.J. Simpson and had no plans to stop.

“It’s a dead ringer. It’s him,” she said, comparing it to a mask that more closely resembles boxer Mike Tyson and which Alan M. Dershowitz, a member of Simpson’s defense team, has excoriated stores for selling while trying to pass it off as a Simpson mask.

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“If I have somebody come into my store who wants to buy an O.J. Simpson mask, what’s the harm in selling that?” said Teeter, noting that the other items Denise Brown is criticizing--blond and Afro-American wigs, fake slit throats and fake knives--have been sold for years.

But Vicki Gaon, the manager of Rental Boutique in Santa Ana, said she supported Brown “110%" and would clear her shelves of any items people might buy in “the sick hope” of masquerading as O.J. Simpson or his ex-wife.

“She’s right. It’s not a joke,” Gaon said. “It’s serious stuff, and I don’t blame her. My mother died recently, and it’s heartbreaking. It would have been even more so had it happened in a violent way.”

Bill Harold, owner of the Halloween Warehouse in San Diego, said that he’s sold more than 100 O.J. Simpson masks, “which look exactly like him,” for $49.99 each. He said that they were made weeks ago by a “private individual who has a garage operation in L.A. I’m not about to give out his name.”

Harold said that Denise Brown’s statement would not affect him or anyone he knew in the costume industry.

“Making fun of dead people is kind of a Halloween tradition,” he said. “It’s a tasteless business, but Halloween has no taste. It’s all blood and gore.”

However, Vivian Clecak, the founder and executive director of Human Options, blasted the Simpson Halloween trend for the message it sends to children.

“Costumes such as these are just one example of what has gone wrong with our society,” Clecak said. “We must, as individuals, take a stand on what we will and will not accept.”


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