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THE O.J. SIMPSON MURDER TRIAL : Fast Lane Isn’t Where Most of L.A. Lives

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The O.J. Simpson murder trial offers an unintended glimpse of fast-lane life on Los Angeles’ Westside, where the beautiful people sweat and strain to keep far ahead of the latest trend.

It’s a world, according to the testimony, of perennial show-business aspirants, of fanatic jogging followed by cappuccino outside of Starbucks. It’s where cars are expensively “detailed” instead of washed and where a couple pays $47 plus tip for a casual, no-alcohol, pasta dinner for two.

And most of all, it’s a world that has tried to banish ugliness, poverty and the misery of survival in an increasingly difficult workaday life.

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Robert Heidstra, a wiry, short man who looks like a retired featherweight boxer, brought the concept of auto detailing to the Simpson trial.

Heidstra is detailer to the rich and famous. He makes house calls, traveling the Brentwood hills to mansions and plush condos where he labors over Rolls-Royces, Jaguars, Porsches and BMWs.

When Heidstra, a defense witness, described his occupation while testifying Wednesday, my pressroom colleagues from the East were puzzled. They had never heard of auto detailing. A couple of them thought it meant literally painting details--tiny stripes and dots--on cars. The rest had no idea.

I had trouble explaining, since I have never had my car detailed. Several years ago, I took an old Toyota Celica to a detailer near my house who called his establishment “Mr. Polish.” Mr. Polish or one of his representatives looked at my car with contempt, amazed that I had the nerve to contaminate the Mr. Polish salon with such a wreck. I drove away.

Warning them that I wasn’t an authority on the subject, I told the Eastern reporters that detailing is like waxing, except that it costs from $75 to $100 and much, much more. They also vacuum the inside and put a cleaning substance on the tires and interior. It’s an L.A. thing. I’ve never heard of detailing in Northern California or anywhere else.

“What a strange place,” a writer for the New York Post said.

Strange also might describe the Westside jogging we’ve heard about at the trial. Consider the habits of Denise Pilnak, a defense witness who wore two watches. “I am a stickler for time,” Pilnak said. “I don’t go anywhere without two watches when it is important.”

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One of the watches is reserved for jogging. It is precise. She consults it frequently when she pounds her way along the streets of Brentwood, counting off the seconds and the heartbeats.

For many, the pounding of feet on pavement is just part of the Westside jogging scene. As we saw from recollections by friends of the late Nicole Brown Simpson, a dedicated jogger, running is often followed by coffee or possibly cappuccino or latte at the Brentwood Starbucks, with its sunny patio facing San Vicente Boulevard. And after that, perhaps, shopping in the San Vicente stores.

The consumption of food is an important part of Westside life, and, as we saw from the testimony of Danny Mandel and Ellen Aaronson, it isn’t cheap.

They told of their blind date, which occurred, by unhappy chance, on the night Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were murdered.

They ate at Mezzaluna, where Brown and her family had dined earlier in the evening. Neither Mandel nor Aaronson had anything to drink, not even a glass of wine to help ease the unfamiliarity of a first date arranged by their doctor. Health, as I mentioned, is important on the Westside.

The bill came to $47.80 for two orders of pasta, two iced teas and two cappuccinos. A friend asked me if I thought that was a good or a bad deal. Bad, I said.

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One of the best examples of the Westside phenomenon popped up earlier in the trial. While much of the country seemed to think Kato Kaelin was a freak, we students of L.A. life recognized him as a familiar type, a young man hoping for the big break that will get him in the movies or on television.

His rent-free life didn’t surprise us, nor did his unconcern about his uncertain income. Kato approaches the world with the unshakable certainty that something will turn up, and, tragically, in his case it did.

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This the beautiful life of the beautiful people, and it’s the picture of L.A. that is going out to the world, reinforcing our image of being a mindless, frivolous people fixated on health, clothes and skin tone.

There’s a lot of that around. It’s part of L.A.’s charm. But actually, I don’t know many people who live that way. Most of L.A. puts in long days and nights to survive in an area rapidly changing from the easy days of the defense boom to the uncertainty of an economy based on high tech and cutting-edge communications.

The real ahead-of-the-trend Angeleno is an unstylish computer hacker who drives to his nondescript industrial-park plant in a car that has not been washed, much less “detailed.”

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