The charity event was a poignant one--the coming together of friends of the Lou and Juditha Brown family to raise funds for a foundation established in the name of their slain daughter, Nicole Brown Simpson.
About 300 guests crowded the fashionable Carmelo's restaurant in Corona del Mar--where Nicole and O.J. Simpson once loved to dine. About $40,000 was raised for the year-old foundation, which targets domestic violence.
Presiding over the festivities were restaurant owners Carmelo and Judie Manto--close friends of the Browns--who underwrote all of the $100-per-person event's food, beverage and entertainment costs.
Who Was There
Among the guests with Lou and Juditha Brown were TV talk-show host Geraldo Rivera; Dominique Brown; Denise Brown; Tanya Brown; Steve and Candace Garvey; Ron Hardy (a Bundy Drive neighbor of Nicole's); Dorothy Davis (mother of Judie Manto); Teri Manto; Forrest and Dani Yater; Aissa Wayne; Nick and Ileane Doolin; George and Adrienne Brennan; Cerise Feeley, and Sassy Luby (who sold $2,000 worth of raffle tickets for the Nicole Brown Simpson Charitable Foundation) with Jack Herron.
Author Joseph Wambaugh, once an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, called the Mantos to extend a wish for the event's success. Wambaugh, who wrote "The Onion Field"--a tale based on the murders of Los Angeles policemen--"sent all of his good thoughts," Judie Manto said.
Eagles lead singer Don Henley sent along a check for $10,000 to the foundation. "We are so grateful," Judie said.
While the event was upbeat, full of laughter, Latin music and Italian food, the undercurrent was one of serious concern about domestic violence.
Rivera stood on a platform midway through the party and said: "I don't want to ruin the buzz of a festive occasion, but there are some things that need to be said. Speaking not for the Browns, but for myself, let me say, unequivocally, one of the reasons I am here is because someone got away with murder recently, and I am very angry about it."
Hoots and howls came from the audience.
"On the other hand, and now I speak for the Browns, they are determined that the death of this beautiful, 35-year-old mother of two beautiful children will not be in vain.
"They have formed a foundation to help erase this monster called domestic abuse.
"We rejoice that this naughty little secret of America is becoming public knowledge. We are going to confront the monster. We will defeat the monster."
And then, referring to O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, Rivera yelled: "We will shun him! He will live in exile forever."
Up Close and Personal
Ask Rivera why he did a turn-around flight from New Jersey to attend the foundation benefit, and he says, "because O.J. Simpson is a punk."
"He picked on someone half his size, dominated and controlled her," he continued. "It's so easy for macho guys to dominate their spouses purely on the basis of their physical prowess.
"It's not a fair fight."