THE O.J. SIMPSON MURDER TRIAL : The Painful Testament of a Closet Courtaholic

Confession of a junkie who could stop (really, he could) if he wanted to . . .

I'm an ordinary guy who appears to lead an ordinary life in ordinary surroundings. Yet sealed inside my office at home, out of sight behind a closed door, in the privacy of a room where no one can see or hear me, with the shades drawn and lights out, I secretly get high--just soar and soar--on a substance that I'm unable to resist.

The O.J. Simpson trial.

I snort it, sniff it, smoke it, mainline it, freebase it, guzzle it, absolutely love it.

At first I couldn't bear it. For me, the case and its coverage were something to avoid. But you know how this kind of thing goes, bit by bit it grows on you. You start with 15 minutes, then you watch an hour, then pretty soon you're watching two hours, then three, four, five and before you know it you're hooked, with no amount of trial coverage able to satisfy your appetite even for minutiae.

What is Marcia Clark wearing? Tight skirt, hemline at mid-thigh? Where is Mr. Blackwell when you need him? What is Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. wearing? Those pointy lapels again? He could impale himself on his lapels.

And Judge Lance A. Ito. He looks different today. Of course, it's his hair. He got a haircut. But why? To look better for the lawyers? The jurors? The TV audience? Or for someone else? That's it. Ito got a haircut for a special person he must be secretly meeting during lunch breaks. Ito's secret rendezvous? Why hasn't it been reported?

I better tip off my favorite television show. "Hello, Judge Ito is sneaking off to have a secret lunch with someone every day." I wonder if they'll use it. Memo to myself: Watch "Hard Copy."

I watch the trial at home on four stationary TVs set on channels that carry the trial live: KTLA, KTTV, KCAL, KCBS. And constantly at my side, and set on CNN, is my hand-size, battery-operated Watchman for those special occasions when I have to go to the bathroom while court is in session. The last time I tried it, I caught the antenna in a towel rack.

I wish I didn't have to watch the O.J. Simpson trial alone. It's more rewarding to get high with others, all of you at once feeling that warm glow wash over you, seep into your pores and lift you higher and higher. The other day, I tried cajoling my wife to do the right thing.

"Coroner," I said to her.

"It's Carol," she said.

"Carol," I said to her. "Watch a little of the trial with me. It's something we can share, something we'll always have. C'mon, just one little watcheepoo, a little swig, a teensy-weensy taste. What can it hurt?"

Once again, though, I'm alone, watching the trial without companionship. My wife is a literacy tutor who spends much of her time teaching adults to read. When will she get a life? The trial is where it's at.

The doorbell is ringing. Do I answer it? If I answer it I'll miss some testimony. Maybe I could answer it fast, run downstairs and then run back up. All right, I'm in front of the door. It's a delivery. The guy with the package is looking me over, eyeing the soiled bathrobe, the matted hair, the week's growth of beard, the swollen red eyes, the fungi.

He suspects. He definitely suspects. All right, be calm, be cool. Don't panic. Talk your way out of it.

"Sorry about the way I look, but I've been ill and feeling just homicide."

"Homicide?"

"No, horrible. I've been feeling horrible. Boy, I really put my bloody footprint into my mouth that time."

"Footprint?"

"Not footprint, foot! Foot! Got cotton in your ears? Just hand me your pen and I'll sidebar for the package."

"Sidebar for it?'

"Who said that? Not me. I said I'll sign for it. There! Now have a nice adjournment back."

"You probably mean journey."

"That's what I said. Weren't you listening?"

That was close. I don't want someone getting the wrong idea. Actually, I'm not really an addict. I'm not the trial-muddled, slovenly slug I appear to be. I'm a family man. Wife, kid, cats, birds, rabbit, guinea pig. I shouldn't even be in this section of the paper. It's all a mistake. I'm not writing The Spin, The Spritz, The Spleen or any other column about the trial. I should be back in Calendar, analyzing "Laverne & Shirley" or "Melrose Place." But for the moment, I can't help myself.

At my wife's urging I attended a meeting of Trial Addicts Anonymous (TAA). I joined TAA members in a prayer: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the TV channels I cannot change, the courage to change the TV channels I can and the wisdom to know the difference." But I refused to say what they expected me to say: "My name is Howard Rosenberg and I'm a Trial Addict." The very thought was preposterous. I wasn't like them.

I had one close call at the meeting. "Hey, buddy, what's that you have under your arm?" a TAA member asked about my Watchman that was tuned to KNBC's nightly program "O.J. Simpson: The Trial."

I had to do some fast talking. "Oh, you mean this . . . this . . . calculator. Yes, that's it. What I have under my arm is a calculator that looks just looks like a TV set."

Whew!

The other night I had a nightmare that someone confiscated the TV sets in my office, severely hampering my ability to watch the trial nonstop. I awoke in a heavy sweat, and that day I did what I had to do. I went out and bought a bunch of Watchmans and stashed them all over the house, in the linen closet, under the bed, under my pillow, in a shoe, in a large planter, in a hanging light fixture. Now let them try to stop me.

All this is silly, anyway. Trust me, I could go cold turkey. It's not like the trial telecasts are controlling me. Well, maybe just a little. But I don't need help kicking this habit. I've got willpower. I can lick this thing on my own. To prove it, I will not watch the trial Monday, a sacrifice that is unrelated to it being a court holiday.

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