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Putting It Down on Paper

The reason traffic seems so light on the freeways these days is that everyone is home writing a book about the O.J. Simpson case before it all goes away.

Well, almost everyone.

One of the few not doing so is Irene Allen, who, with her husband A.J., runs the shoeshine stand and Snoring Bear Emporium in the lobby of the Criminal Courts Building.

She is not, she insists, going to trade on someone else’s sorrow by writing a book about O.J., despite numerous requests for her to do so.

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If she’s been asked once, she’s been asked a hundred times by authors, attorneys and trial observers to participate in an effort to view the Simpson case from the underside.

“The whole thing’s a tragedy,” she told me the other day. “Why would I want to make money on that?” It was a quiet day in the Post-Simpsonian lobby of the courthouse, despite the Snoop Doggy Dogg murder trial going on upstairs.

The massed media, like hibernating herds, had gone off to someplace else and the crowds of trial groupies were similarly grouping again on a distant shore to await a new sensation.

Irene Allen was doing what she always does, overseeing her shoeshine stand and selling sound-activated snoring bears for $16.50 from display cases adjacent to the stand.

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“You don’t understand,” I said. “The whole idea of tragedy in today’s book market is for someone to make money.”

“Not interested,” she said. “Hey, would you like a snoring bear? They’re 15% off today.”

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The Information Access Co., whose business it is to know these kinds of things, estimates that there are 36 books already on the market related to the O.J. case.

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They range from serious efforts by cartoonists and satirists to humorous efforts by lawyers attempting to explain that they are not as sleazy as everyone thinks.

The list does not include movies, miniseries, infomercials or O.J. books currently in the works, such as those that will enrich by millions some of the major players in the case. Even the losers--the prosecutors--will come out winners.

Many of the 36 books already published are written by quick-hit artists who not only aren’t averse to making money on tragedy but who sometimes pray for tragedies big enough to warrant books.

I used to know one of these guys who, when someone died sensationally, would go to work gathering as much information as possible and write night and day until he had enough verbiage to satisfy even the hungriest publisher.

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His name was Smiley something.

He never rewrote anything and was disappointed if it took him longer than two weeks to complete a project, no matter what it was. He was always hoping for nationally publicized multiple deaths, but a single murder committed under especially brutal circumstances would also bring him contentment.

Smiley died several years ago, which made a lot of celebrities happy. They never liked the way he looked at them, with anticipation burning in his small dark eyes. One of them told me that Smiley always made them feel a little like carrion.

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Irene Allen, by the way, is no stranger to publicity. She was interviewed many times during the O.J. trial by those who had interviewed everyone else within two square miles. Radio stations around the globe turned her into something of a celebrity, however briefly.

She not only had speaking relationships with all the stars in the O.J. case, but also knew Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss and is acquainted with the courthouse’s current celebrity visitor, Mr. Doggy Dogg. She has pictures to prove it.

Unlike most of us, Allen doesn’t judge them, she just knows them for what they seem to be, people in trouble . . . and people in trouble always need a friend.

“If I ever did write a book,” she says, “it would be about the characters I’ve seen, like the lady who came to O.J.'s trial dressed as the devil and the God man in the robe and the drag queen who got thrown out. I started writing down some of the stuff, but then it got to be too much.”

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There’s still time, of course, because the O.J. case will never end. For many, he’ll always be a metaphor for the-guy-who-got-away-with-it, no matter how many clarifications he offers on videotape.

Keep your options open, Irene. You might as well make a few bucks off of murder. Everyone else is.


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