I spent the day at Metrograph rewatching OJ Simpson: Made in America in its entirety. Once again I found it stunning in its meticulously layered breakdown of how media, race, gender, violence, money, and injustice intersect in OJ’s rise and fall, in the history of the LAPD, and in the precarious construct of fame.
It’s shocking to realize it’s been more than two decades since all this occurred. I remember crushing out on OJ when I was a little girl; he was so damn fast, so fine, so fly. And those dimples! Also so damn funny in the Naked Gun movies (an echo you saw o shit when he infamously hamhanded the gloves in his double murder trial.) I remember crying at my kitchen table when the Rodney King verdict was delivered, crying again when LA burned afterward. I remember watching that white Bronco slide slo-mo down LA freeways with Julian and Michael (our 20something love triangle temporarily on hold while the 12 hours of this drama juicily eclipsed our own), and I remember the news suddenly being ALL OJ ALL THE WAY for the next year.
I remember Cornel West saying,”Dear lord please don’t let him be guilty.” I remember a white woman who considered herself liberal saying “I hope that ape gets the electric chair” and acting all innocent victim when I blew up on her; “Oh, please, you knew what I meant.” I remember thinking, This fucking trial is revealing every button ever made. I remember crowding into the conference room at the magazine where I worked to watch the trial verdict being delivered. When OJ was declared not guilty, I watched all the white people–writers and editors–look shocked and angry and all the black people–supporting staff with one exception–look relieved. I remember saying at a bar that night there are two Americas and today one of them discovered the other. I remember that the news never went back to normal after that–that gossip and identity politics and the cult of celebrity kept us distracted and dumb until it was totally normal for CNN and even the New York Times to be reporting on celeb breakups while the USA messed up its own people and many other peoples as well. Still people just kept talking only about Octomom and what hair product Jennifer Aniston used. Hell, I was right in the thick of it, rolling in the grown-up money I was making as an Us Weekly drone.
You couldn’t directly trace it to the OJ trial but you couldn’t pretend anything was ever the same, either. The country’s split was more overt after it, for better and worse. Many became reality TV zombies who were so entitled, so lazy, and so accustomed to badly airing their opinions about nothing based on nothing that a reality TV illi-twitterate oligarch got elected to the highest office in the land. There’s a quick pic of Tr%mp hanging out with OJ in the documentary, chills, chills, and more chills. And it makes me think: Many of the people who are shocked Trump got into office are the same types who were shocked OJ was acquitted. This is the legacy of racism in our country, ladies and germs.
For more than ever there are two Americas. The America that went for birtherism and are A-OK with the queerphobic women-hating racist fascists who’ve seized the White House in a complete coup. And the America that elected its first black president and rallied at JFK last month and made and financed and distributed and celebrated the top three documentaries of this year: I Am Not Your Negro, The 13th, and OJ Simpson: Made in America, all of which highlight the profound pathology that has been the treatment of people of color in this country since its inception. Dual realities: They’re as American as apple pie. And the Juice himself, of course.
I’ve been a fan of female jazz singers since I’ve had my own apartment to fill. My first grownup love affair would have paled without Ella and I would not have survived the last without Nina. Yet only now have I succumbed to the charms and chimera of Carmen McRae. Something about her grown-lady yowl—her oldest soul take on that youngest of topics (love love and more love)—opens me up and strips me down as this brave new world keeps shifting beneath our feet. She croons”Miss Otis regrets,” and I marvel at how many colors course through that Cole Porter shade; “I’m okay how you come and go” and I make peace with my romantic limbo. Of all her albums, it’s “At the Great American Music Hall” that’s holding me closest. Listen and love.
In prior years I would wear my film critic hat or my intuitive hat but never did the twain meet (not unless I was making Academy Award predictions; oh, the Oscar pools I’ve won). In this Brave New World, though, I feel it necessary to integrate my various entities. So I had great fun appearing on Deep Night, the podcast by comedian Dale Seever. We talked about magic and medicine of all varietals, including the 2017 Oscars, bald eagles, spirit guides, Mother Mary, and such films as All That Jazz, In the Mood for Love, and The Wiz. That Dale is quite a rascal; take a listen.