Talk-Show Pilot Has A Surprising Guest: O.J.

NEW YORK - O.J. Simpson had another forum Monday night to talk about the events surrounding the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and his subsequent life in the media spotlight. Unfortunately, the American public may never have a chance to see it.

Simpson appeared during the taping of the pilot episode of a proposed late-night talk show hosted by controversial documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. (The talk show is being developed by the Fox network for a possible fall '98 premiere. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the show said the segments taped Monday would probably not be broadcast. She did not elaborate.)

After two hours of taping segments for the pilot in the Sony Music Studios on 54th street - which included a live hookup to a prison in Angola, La., and an interview with singer Sheryl Crow - Moore announced a special "mystery guest." He then introduced Simpson to the stunned crowd of 276. Moore, who has made a career out of approaching controversial news stories with a sardonic sense of humor, greeted Simpson by saying, "We haven't seen you in a while. What've you been up to?"

As many in audience began to visibly squirm uncomfortably, Simpson deadpanned that he had been "a little busy."

The two then launched into a discussion of the current football season and how the game has changed since Simpson retired. Moore mentioned all the new equipment that professional football players now have, including gloves. "Would you have worn gloves, O.J.?" Moore asked, slyly alluding to one facet of the murder trial.

For some audience members, it was too much to keep in.

"You beat Nicole!" one audience member yelled out a few moments later. "Did you kill her?" yelled another.

While Moore looked as if he wanted to continue his own questioning, Simpson indicated that he was willing to confront the questions audience members were shouting.

Moore turned and asked the audience how many thought that Simpson was guilty. He estimated that about 70 percent raised their hands.

As Moore opened up the questioning to the audience, the show took on an almost town-hall quality. Questions ranged from the confrontation to the personal. One man asked Simpson to look him in the eyes and tell him whether he still loved Nicole at the time of her death.

"She was the love of my life," Simpson responded. "I was glad that we stayed friends after the divorce."

Some members of the audience, recruited from Moore's Web page and newsletter, were angry with the host for even having Simpson on the show. Approximately 30 to 40 left the taping during the segment, which stretched out to almost an hour and a quarter.

"Why is he here?" asked one woman. "You're nothing but a ratings slut."

"I wanted to hear his side," responded Moore, who in his 1996 book "Downsize This!" wrote that he felt that there was a reasonable doubt that Simpson did not commit the murders he stood trial for. "It's been nothing but a drumbeat in the media: `O.J. is guilty, O.J. is guilty.' "

Simpson said that he agreed to do the show having seen some of Moore's other work and feeling that he would get a fair deal.

Moore said that he felt that the O.J. trial clearly defined the ongoing problem of racism in this country. "If you don't believe me, then think about what the response would be if O.J. had walked out onstage of the Apollo Theater instead of here," he told the almost exclusively white audience.