Northridge- It was hard to miss the irony: There sat O.J. Simpson, waiting to sign autographs at a horror-themed collectibles convention just days before the 10th anniversary of his acquittal on charges that he had killed his ex-wife and her friend.
His spot in the Northridge strip mall had him practically rubbing elbows with a promotional display for a splatter movie, a haunted house and such decorations as severed heads and limbs.
Simpson, who had traveled from his Florida home for the event, stayed for more than an hour. Initially, though, he garnered more interest from the throng of reporters than from autograph-seekers. As he sat in a dimly lighted hallway of a one-time multiplex, the former football star charged from $5 for an 8-by-10 glossy of himself to $195 for an autographed helmet of the Buffalo Bills and his alma mater, USC.
Some marveled at the spectacle of the Heisman Trophy winner among followers of the occult and the macabre. “I thought it was kind of weird, kind of ironic,” said Michele Sing, who was hawking theatrical contact lenses with such names as “Fury” and “Lone Wolf.”
“It’s definitely a stretch,” said Andy Signore, writer-director of “The Janitor,” whose promotional poster was positioned 15 feet from Simpson and included two bloody machetes. He said he took offense to Simpson’s presence, but added, “I’ll look past it. It’s great press.”
Simpson told reporters that the venue was “kind of unusual.” But, he said, “People who aren’t fans don’t need to come.”
Promoter Thomas Riccio, who brought Simpson to Northridge for what was billed as his first public appearance in California since the trial, dismissed the idea that Simpson’s presence at a horror convention was peculiar.
“I don’t think it’s odd because everything here is odd,” he said. “This was planned way before O.J.” agreed to attend the convention.
Monday marks the 10th anniversary of a Los Angeles jury’s finding Simpson not guilty of the June 1994 slashing and stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
In 1997, a civil court jury found him liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages to the Brown and Goldman families.
Simpson is scheduled to appear on all three days of the convention. On Sunday, longtime friend and teammate Al Cowlings is expected to join him.
Cowlings, as many will recall, was behind the wheel of the white Ford Bronco during the nationally televised slow-speed police chase that ended with Simpson’s arrest.