From Correspondent Anne McDermott
(CNN) -- For a last time last summer, the smile was gone. The smile that seemed so much a part of the persona of Orenthal James Simpson. The smile that transformed him into O.J., the master salesman of good will and good cheer. But there was nothing much to cheer about growing up in the Petrero Hill Housing Project in San Francisco, nothing much but the gym.
After leaving the projects, he made it all look so easy, on the football fields in Southern California, and then moving on to the Buffalo Bills. And marrying Nicole. His football career may've been over save for an occasional cameo appearance, at the Olympics for example. And his film roles seemed to be dwindling save for a recurring part in the Naked Gun follies.
But he had Nicole, the woman he met as his first marriage crumbled, the one he was to later marry and seemed so happy with. But were they happy? A 911 (549k aiff sound file) call revealed an O.J. that seemed to reveal anything but the smiling O.J. they thought they knew.
Simpson would plead no contest to beating his wife. They divorced in 1992. But later during one of his many sales pitches, this one for a food supplement, he would jokingly reveal that it was not all over. He joked: "This is to show you how smart I am. I'm dating my ex-wife."
And then she was killed along with her friend Ron Goldman, and Simpson was handcuffed, then released, and then took off in the infamous Bronco chase (2.6M Quicktime movie). The man with the smile suddenly seemed suicidal.
But he didn't kill himself and claimed to kill no one at all. When asked at his trial: "Do you plead guilty or not guilty?, O.J. replied, Not guilty."
And he seemed out of it, but just for a while. Within weeks, he was the O.J. of old.
When asked again: "How do you plead to counts 1 and 2?, this time O.J. adamantly replied, " Absolutely, positively, 100% not guilty."
Then a book came out that said he was guilty; a book written by Faye Resnik, a woman who claimed to be a friend of Nicole's, who said Nicole's life was one of sex, drugs, and beatings by Simpson. Then it was announced there'd be another book, O.J.'s own story in which he writes he is not guilty, that he loved his wife and that he didn't commit the murders. For now, Simpson's life is regulated by sheriff's deputies, and by several attornies. Attornies who fight prosecutors and occasionally fight each other. F. Lee Bailey and Robert Shapiro weren't even speaking to each other at one point, but they made up even as the third member of the defense dream team, Johnnie Cochran, took center stage.
Reporters asked him: "Will O.J. take the stand?" Cochran confidently replied, "I can't say for sure, but I think he's looking forward to that. Certainly."
But for now, O.J. is silent, which isn't to say he hasn't made his feelings known. He rolls his eyes, he frowns, he cries, and sometimes he smiles.
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