O.J. chills in the mountains
Special to the Daily
SUMMIT COUNTY ” These days, O.J. Simpson’s bedtime is 8:30 p.m. Maybe that’s why Wednesday night, an hour at Dillon’s Tiki Bar and a stint at Farley’s in Frisco nearly did in the pro football hall of famer.
“People were buying me drinks, and I didn’t want to say no, and before you know it, I had four shots of tequila at the Tiki Bar,” Simpson said Thursday afternoon in the lobby of a Breckenridge hotel. “So by the time I got here with my group, I was totally plastered.”
But getting “plastered” hardly describes the 58-year-old Simpson. Since the former running back came to town Tuesday, he has welcomed autographs and posed for pictures with locals. Tuesday night, he dogged Dallas fans as he watched the NBA game at Downstairs at Eric’s. He returned to Eric’s Thursday night for a little friendly repartee.
And today is a typical O.J. day: He gets up at 5 a.m. and golfs. After a midday nap, he often writes about his life, which he says he’ll publish some day.
“I’ve got some crazy stories,” he said, recalling details of smoking pot with a famous actress after she completed treatment for alcoholism and meeting J. Edgar Hoover, who rubbed Simpson’s head over and over. “I’ve had a real interesting life, from famous to infamous.”
Sitting unshaven as guests walked through the hotel lobby, Simpson didn’t shy away from questions about life, post-trial. He talked about the emotional and financial stresses after facing charges of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994. After his controversial acquittal, he spent a year living in a hotel, used disguises when going out and moved from place to place with his two youngest children. Six years ago, he settled in Miami, promising his kids it would be home base.
Though he knew “every mother in America hated me” after The Today Show erroneously reported he had essentially kidnapped his children, he was more upset about his children’s response to the media frenzy. Now, he and his kids simply joke about any negative press ” especially the tabloids.
“One week I’m seen with a transvestite, the next week, I’ve OD’d on cocaine. Today I found out I had another kid,” he said as his eyes grew wide and he jutted his hands out in good-humored disbelief. The “new kid” story stemmed from a fact on wikipedia.org, which states Simpson’s daughter was born last March, though the mother is still unknown. Simpson denies the claim. In fact, he’s enjoying his empty-nest syndrome, after raising kids for the last 37 years. From now on, he plans to spend summers golfing in mountain towns to avoid the oppressive heat in Miami.
But he’ll have to take a hiatus from golf soon. In two weeks, doctors will replace his left knee, which has endured six surgeries. Last year, doctors replaced his right knee, which he damaged by favoring his left. Still, it didn’t stop him. He played golf 16 days after his knee replacement, despite medical recommendations. And the main reason for replacing his left knee? The love of skiing; after 11 years off skis, because his kids liked the beach and he loved golfing and vacationing in the Caribbean, he returned to Aspen Mountain last year. But he still hasn’t mastered short, fat skis.
“I was into speed. My friends would say, ‘You just go straight. You don’t turn,'” he said. “I forgot how much I like the lifestyle in the mountains. It’s a whole feel, so easy-going.”
Most of his mountain friends live in Aspen, but he said he’s never met friendlier people than he has in Summit County.
“They’re exceptionally nice. I don’t want to say Mayberry, but I’d say Stepford,” he said. “It’s hard to believe you still get a good neighborly feel somewhere. People are happy to just say, ‘Hi, welcome.’ Normally everyone wants something – an autograph, a picture.”
“He’s very humble,” said Pete Campbell, a contractor who’s working on Simpson’s friend’s house in Breckenridge. “I thought he was a first-class act. He’s a down-to-earth kind of guy. Nothing’s gone to his head.”
Though Simpson enjoys the people in Summit County, he’s not sure about the towns’ character.
“You get an attitude about a place visually at first,” Simpson said. “But if someone asked me to explain what Breckenridge looked like, I couldn’t tell them. They try to do the Victorian thing, but it didn’t come together. Whoever’s planning here has got to get a vision. Vail has a European flair, Aspen is cowboy. Frisco has a small sense of mining, but in Breckenridge, there’s nothing that you feel.”
Still, Summit County’s golfing impressed him enough to idly talk to Campbell about buying a house on The River Course at Keystone. He shot an 81 Wednesday, then explained his score, saying it took a few holes to adjust to the ball flying longer in the thin air. Somehow, his excuses didn’t come out boastful – maybe because his passion for the sport outweighs any ego.
“It’s like being a kid (when you’re golfing),” he said. “You’re out in the elements. You’re on the best properties most cities can offer. It’s all out there – coyotes, foxes, hawks – and if you want, you can have a beer. I can’t imagine having a beer in the middle of a football field.”
Is O.J. here to stay?
BRECKENRIDGE ” Whenever O.J. Simpson spends time in a vacation town, people assume he’s buying a home there. Summit County’s no different. Simpson has grown accustomed to reporters tracking him down, so interrupting a nap in his Breckenridge hotel Thursday afternoon to talk to the Summit Daily didn’t phase him.
“Who’s been chased around more than I was?” he joked as he sat comfortably in an overstuffed leather chair. “I had helicopters and everything.”
This week, locals had seen Simpson looking at real estate in Summit County, and an anonymous e-mail sent to the Summit Daily claimed he had bought a Breckenridge home on Ski Hill Road. But as it turns out, Breckenridge isn’t turning into Aspen anytime soon. Simpson was just accompanying his friends, who are building a home in Breckenridge and planning a Nordic-theme development complete with high-end homes and affordable housing.
“To me, vacation homes are like boats,” Simpson said. “It’s better for your friends to own. So I’m encouraging them to build a big house.”
And they are. They’re even installing a four-story elevator, which Simpson calls “The O.J. Elevator,” in honor of his injured knees.
So, even though there will be no “Juice” living in the county, Simpson plans to visit Summit more often than the four lifetime visits he’s made here. He’s already planning a ski trip around Christmas.
Stats straight from O.J.
– Favorite drink: Gatorade ” he starts and ends the day with it. His favorite alcoholic drink is straight scotch, Dewers White Label only.
– Height: 6 feet, 1 1/2 inches
– Weight: “Dont ask me how much I weigh. It’s a sore point with me.”
– Shoe size: 13
– Most painful body part: His tennis elbow (right). His fingers were arthritic, but when he changed his diet, they stopped hurting. Now, if he eats tomatoes, the acidity causes pain.
– Favorite food: “I eat just about everything. I’m big on sushi. But I’ll always like Southern style cooking.”
– Travels with or without security: Without, except for immediately after the 1995 trial.
– Eligible bachelor? “No. I’ve had an on-and-off girlfriend for the past 10 years.”
– Favorite football memory: Winning the championship his junior year at University of Southern California against UCLA and becoming one of the most celebrated players. And, of course, being the first player to rush 2,000 yards in one season.
– If he had to choose between football or acting: “If I could play football all my life, it’d be football. But I’ve had the most fun producing four to five movies and Superbowl
specials for NBC. Acting is tedious, it’s just sitting around all day, but I like it when it’s shown in the theater.
– How he broke into acting: George Lucas was a teaching assistant in a class Simpson took at University of Southern California. Since he wasn’t sure how his football career would go, he’d take jobs as an extra every summer. (Look for him in early “I Love Lucy” and “Dragnet” shows.) CBS brought him in for a television series, and the premier show succeeded. After that, he had a film or television gig lined up after nearly every football season.
– What he lives on: NFL pension he made the maximum contributions to. The mid six-figure income can’t be garnished.
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