It’s All Hallows Eve and There’s Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice for Miss BrightSide!

Nicole was a Mom. She put her kids first. She put everybody else first… My sister had the ability to live life, live it bright and live it large… She had fun.’

Tanya Brown

Even if I haven’t exactly been ‘living it large’ here at Nicole’s House as of late; I’ve certainly been having some ‘fun’ even though I have been so busy with moving furniture and shifting plant pots while packing away the toys and putting the cherished family photographs into temporary storage.

And the reason for this interior upheaval?

As today is All Hallows Eve and I’ve long wanted to host a spooky soirée here at Nicole’s House; I thought it would be a great idea to ‘brighten’ up the place with terracotta pots of gnarled tree branches, lashings of cobwebs, an colony of spiders, bats and other fantasy folk, an abundance of peevish pumpkins and with enough candy and cake in which to sink a ship, 12th scale or otherwise!

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As Nicole was always known throughout her life as a devoted and loving mother who loved nothing more than to decorate her home for a party, I’d like to think that I’ve managed to capture just a ‘little’ of her inspirational creative spirit this All Hallows Eve.

Now, where did I put my plate of cake?

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When witches go riding.

And black cats are seen.

The moon laughs and whispers

‘Tis near Halloween

I have loved this quote for as long as I can remember and with a passion for anything and everything to do with Halloween, I always wanted a black cat and was beyond thrilled when Minnie B came to live with us last year; even though she can get into the occasional spot of mischief which is usually when she wants to grab my attention or else she’s pestering for a few of my cat ‘treats’.

But, I remain smitten with her and now that she has been created in 12th scale by the talented Pearl from Literature in Miniature as a Little Big Cat; Minnie B is also the inspiration for this All Hallows Eve tale.

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At first Minnie B had been very excited to have received her special invitation to the party at Nicole’s House for this All Hallows Eve but as the day arrived and even with the promise of lots of delicious cake; she was not her usual happy self.

‘Tis Halloween and Orange IS the New Black for Little Big Cat!

The Story and Creation of Nicole’s House…

As well as a passion for the creation of ‘Small Worlds’, the Regency world of the Poet Lord Byron and chocolate, I also have an enduring interest in the life and legacy of Nicole Brown Simpson.

“I just don’t see how our stories compare -I was so bad because I wore sweats & left shoes around & didn’t keep a perfect house or comb my hair the way you like it – or had dinner ready at the precise moment you walked through the door or that I just plain got on your nerves sometimes.

I just don’t see how that compares to infidelity, wife beating, verbal abuse…

I just don’t think everybody goes through this….

I called the cops to save my life whether you believe it or not..”

These are the harrowing words written by Nicole shortly before her brutal murder on Sunday June 12 1994 in the garden of her Brentwood home in Los Angeles as her two children were sleeping.

Nicole’s former husband NFL hero and celebrity O.J. Simpson was subsequently arrested, tried and acquitted of her murder and that of her friend Ronald Goldman in a relentless blaze of publicity the following year.

I began to read about Nicole shortly after her murder in 1994, she was the focus for the research and publication of my BA thesis in 1999 and I have been reading about her ever since.

She was also the inspiration behind the design of my “California style” ocean-front house 875 South Bundy Drive June 1994 and now known as ‘Nicole’s House’, which before you ask, is created in 12th scale!

In June 1994 and shortly before her brutal murder, Nicole was making plans to leave her home at 875 South Bundy Drive in Brentwood, Los Angeles in order to escape the abuse and obsession that had characterised her long relationship with O.J. Simpson and only days before her death, Nicole had seen a beach house in Malibu available for rent and she was excited and positive at the prospect of a move there with their children.

‘Nicole’s House’ is a House created in Miniature that tells several narratives:

Firstly, there is a recreation of some of the principle rooms at 875 South Bundy Drive as they were discovered in the early hours of Monday June 13 1994 as the investigation into the murders of Nicole and Ronald Lyle Goldman was underway.

The additional rooms are created as a tribute to the style and essence of Nicole who loved the style of interior design that has come to typify the “California Look”.

Finally, as we know that Nicole was planning a move to a beach house in Malibu, ‘Nicole’s House’ is a poignant reminder of “what could have been”.

Adieu for now!

Tee

After THAT Verdict, Dominick Dunne Goes in Search of the Ghost of Brentwood…

A young woman named Moya Rimp, whom I met during the Simpson trial, called to tell me that she and her mother, Pauline Rimp, a prominent real-estate woman in Brentwood, had moved into Nicole Brown Simpson’s condo, the scene of the murders, in order to help the Brown family sell it. The Browns are eager to get rid of the condo, although as yet there have been no takers.

“What’s it like living there?” I asked.

“Very strange. Tourists are still coming by to look at it. When I walk the dog, I meet all these people in the neighborhood who tell me things. There’s one who swears she saw O.J. talking to Ron and Nicole before the murders, but she wouldn’t come forward.”

Moya Rimp invited me for dinner, I went. Robert Altman, the film director, and his wife, Kathryn, were also there…

With the reverence of a docent at the Getty Museum, Moya Rimp showed us through the condo. “This is where Nicole’s exercise equipment was,” she said stopping in an area outside the master bedroom. We stared at the empty space, then moved on.

“Now we’re entering Nicole’s bedroom. That was her bed, and beyond, in the bathroom, you can see her tub, which was filled with water that night and had lit candles around the edge.” We became caught up in her surreal thrall.

As many times as I had walked by the condo and looked at the pictures of the crime scene, I was still amazed at how large the place is – 3,400 square feet – and how small the killing area is.

I perched on the spot outside the picture window where Simpson would have sat when he reportedly spied on Nicole prior to the killings. It was the perfect place for a voyeur…

“We think he was watching Nicole through the window on the night of the murders before she came outside,” said Moya Rimp.

In the ill-lit, eerie space, I felt as if I could almost hear the scuffling of rubber-soled Bruno Magli shoes and sneakers in the dirt and on the walkway. “This is where Ron fell,” said Moya. “That’s where Nicole was.”

As I looked at the scene, remembering the horrifying photographs shown in court, I didn’t want to be there anymore, and we went inside.

Dominick Dunne Three Faces of Evil for Vanity Fair (June 1996)

A Peek Inside the Abode of a Has-Been…

Brentwood was definitely not my neck of the woods. The conventional wisdom about this upscale ‘hood was that it was a place where people air-kissed, compared implants, and did lunch. During my stint in Beverly Hills, I discovered that the cliches were pretty much true.

The hills north of Sunset were jammed with multimillion-dollar estates hidden behind many millions more dollars’ worth of landscaping. All to create the illusion of privacy. The farther north you went, and the higher you climbed into the hills, the narrower the streets became, and the more obscure the street signs were. I strained to find Rockingham Drive.

There was a cruiser parked up ahead, where a uniformed officer directed traffic. A few civilians milled around outside an iron security gate. Some of them had the nervous, unfed look of reporters. Still, the scene was not exactly bustling with activity. I got the impression that the main show had come and gone.

I slipped unnoticed past the press and through the gate, where I got my first look at the larger Tudor-style house overhung with old eucalyptus trees. The manicured grounds seemed to glow an unnatural shade of green in the midday light. In one corner of the lawn stood a child’s playhouse. O.J. Simpson might be a has-been, I thought, but he must still be bringing in serious bucks to manage the upkeep on this place.

A white Ford Bronco sat nosed into the curb on Rockingham. Extending up the driveway from the rear of the vehicle was a trail of reddish-brown spots. The rust-colored droplets stopped several yards short of the house. The front door was open and in the foyer I could see more droplets. They appeared to be blood. Gingerly, careful to disturb nothing, I stepped inside.

Search warrant or no, it always felt weird to me to walk into the house of a stranger. But there’s also a voyeuristic fascination: what a person chooses to surround himself with tells you a lot about him. This interior of O.J. Simpson’s house was exquisitely appointed with overstuffed white furniture, Lalique glass, and Berber carpeting. And yet the place gave off a faint odor of mildew and neglect.

“Hey, Marcia, come upstairs. I want to show you something.” It was Brad Roberts. I followed him up the spiral staircase, where the wall was lined with photographs, mostly shots of O.J. Simpson with various fat cats.

It was on that stairway that I got my first look at the face of Nicole Brown Simpson.

She was blond, with handsome, almost mannish, features. Her hair, teeth, and skin all had that gloss peculiar to the West Side elite. In some of the photos she was with a pair of lovely brown-skinned children, a boy and a girl. They all wore ski attire. Her face was difficult to read. The expression in all the photos was uniformly happy, but her eyes were glazed. She had – how would you describe it  – a thousand-yard stare.

By now,  I knew that the Simpson had been divorced for two years. I found it peculiar that he still had her pictures everywhere. The photos of my ex were long gone from the walls and end tables.

I peeked into the master bedroom suite. From that vantage point I could see only the top and one side of the bed. Brad Roberts knelt on the floor. He reached under the box spring and, using his fingertips, pulled out a framed photo. It showed Nicole and her husband in evening dress.

“Is that the way you found it?” I asked.

“Yep,” he replied. “Just like that. Facedown. Under the bed.”

“Make sure they get a photo of that.” I told him.

Marcia Clark Without a Doubt (New York: Penguin Books 1998)

Get a Life! A Brentwood State of Mind…

Brentwood, California, population 35,798, is the Los Angeles district where Marilyn Monroe’s ambiguously debated death occurred thirty-two years previously in the early evening hours of August 4, 1962.

Brentwood is also the psychic nexus of the O.J. Simpson/Nicole Brown saga, somewhere between 10.00 p.m and 11.00 p.m., June 12 1994.

Brentwood does not exist. Not technically. It is a hilly, canyoned Los Angeles suburb – a ZIP code: 90049. Letters sent to Brentwood will be returned to sender. Roughly 250 letters a day end up in the small, Northern California town of Brentwood, ZIP code 94513.

In the daytime, Brentwood is almost exclusively a city of women old and young, focused on a small band of retail strip along San Vicente Boulevard. There are women peppered with hunky aspiring actors and slinky actresses springing about from auditions to gym.

Brentwood gives the impression of being a 1970s future utopia, one with a secret at its core, perhaps a pleasant secret and perhaps an unpleasant secret, but a secret that nonetheless remains fiercely protected. Brentwood, like Palm Springs, offers a version of an alternative future that might have occurred had certain factors not continued unchecked, futures that daily seem less probable.

It was into this neighborhood that Nicole Brown Simpson landed after her divorce, in a $650,000 condo near the noisy southwest corner of Bundy and Dorothy, on Bundy, a condo that would cost maybe $350,000 were it in most other parts of the city.

One Brentwood resident who grew up in Brentwood Heights (above Sunset: equidistant from Monroe’s and Simpson’s houses), now in his twenties, calls lower Brentwood a divorcée ghetto. Three of his best friends from high school had parents who divorced, and all three mothers ended up “in the ghetto. Only my own mother [also a divorcée] got to keep the house. She’s the exception.”

If people here are annoyed with O.J. Simpson, possible double murder aside, it is only because he broke the covenant of invisibility. The corner of Rockingham and Ashford is going to be a tourist attraction for the next one hundred years, like it or not. Will this effect land values? Yes. But in which way, who is to know? Michelle Pfeiffer, although she lives below Sunset, has already chosen to move away to avoid the hubbub.

Just outside the Union 76 station at the corner of Bundy and San Vicente, a donation of a dollar, say, purchases you a photocopied sheet of “Poems for Nicole Simpson” by a local street entrepreneur wearing a felt-tip-pen-on-cardboard sign saying: MORE POEMS ABOUT NICOLE SIMPSON. Business in brisk. Locals say, “At least he’s offering something original and new.”

On San Vicente Boulevard, dark rumors float about Brentwood’s no-fat cafes, phone machines and the brightly lit aisles of the Vicente Market – rumors too dark, too dreadful to mention, for to speak the word is to give life, and who will spawn this monster?

Perhaps these rumors are true. Perhaps time will tell. Perhaps it will all be forgotten.

Meanwhile to hinder the “lookie-loo’s”, thru-traffic is blocked on both sides of Dorothy. An LAPD officer beside his motorcycle keeps traffic flowing.

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The front of the alleyway in which the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman were found has been screened off by a dozen or so dwarf plantings of Australian tree ferns and Nile lilies behind a new enclosure of green-plasticated chain-link fence that separates the walkway from the sidewalk (this part of Brentwood has sidewalks).

Signs put up by agitated neighbors saying “GET A LIFE” and “GO HOME THERE IS NOTHING 2 SEE” have been taken down. By August 4, late afternoon traffic no longer concertinas to a grind the way it did in the initial sensationalist frenzy of a few weeks ago. But it still slows down.

There are a few joggers and dog walkers – Brentwood’s only two species of residential pedestrian – and all are wearing Walkmans.

It was a dogwalker who first found the murdered bodies.

Douglas Coupland Polaroids from the Dead (London: Flamingo 1997)

In Search of the Ghost of Brentwood…

As well as an abiding interest in the life and legacy of Nicole Brown Simpson, I am also an artist who creates ‘Small Worlds’ of realism and fantasy in 12th scale miniature.

 “I just don’t see how our stories compare -I was so bad because I wore sweats & left shoes around & didn’t keep a perfect house or comb my hair the way you like it – or had dinner ready at the precise moment you walked through the door or that I just plain got on your nerves sometimes.

 I just don’t see how that compares to infidelity, wife beating, verbal abuse.

 I just don’t think everybody goes through this…. I called the cops to save my life whether you believe it or not..”

 These are the harrowing words written by Nicole shortly before her brutal murder on Sunday June 12 1994 in the garden of her Brentwood home in Los Angeles as her two children Justin and Sydney were sleeping.

 Nicole’s former husband O.J. Simpson was subsequently arrested, tried and acquitted of her murder and that of her friend Ronald Goldman in a relentless blaze of publicity the following year.

 I began to read about Nicole shortly after her murder in 1994, she was the focus for the research and publication of my BA thesis in 1999 and I have been reading about her ever since.

 She was also the inspiration behind the creation of my “California style” ocean-front house titled ‘Nicole’s House’ or ‘The Ghost of Brentwood’.

For in June 1994 and shortly before her brutal murder, Nicole was making plans to leave her home in Brentwood in order to escape the abuse and obsession that had characterised her long relationship with Simpson.

 Only days before her death, Nicole had seen a beach house in Malibu available for rent and she was excited and positive at the prospect of a move there with their children.

 ‘Nicole’s House’ is a House created in 12th scale miniature that tells several narratives:

A recreation of some of the principle rooms at 875 South Bundy Drive as they were discovered in the early hours of Monday June 13 1994 as the investigation into the murders of Nicole and Ronald Lyle Goldman was underway.

 Additional rooms are created as a tribute to the style and essence of Nicole who loved the style of interior design that has come to typify the “California Look”.

Finally, as we know that Nicole was planning a move to a beach house in Malibu, ‘Nicole’s House’ is a poignant reminder of “what could have been”.

Recollect Nicole! Tee Bylo Remembers…

 On Sunday June 12 1994 Nicole Brown Simpson became a public figure overnight for on that balmy Sunday evening she was senselessly and brutally murdered in the grounds of her home at 875 South Bundy Drive in the leafy suburb of Brentwood in California.

 Her murder trial and that of her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman who had been murdered alongside her became known as the “Trial of the Century” with her former husband Orenthal James Simpson as the accused.

 It is hard to believe that Nicole was murdered over twenty one years ago; I can remember the BBC news reports and the iconic photographs of the bloody pathway lined with purple and lilac Agapanthus…

 I also remember the farcical “Bronco Chase”, the sensational headlines week after week in The National Enquirer, the court testimony of Mark Fuhrman and the shock of the “Not Guilty” verdict the following year.

 And yet what I most recall is the realisation of a grotesque dichotomy that despite the voluminous photographs of a beautiful and happy Nicole that she had in fact been abused by Simpson throughout most of their seventeen year relationship.

 The first book that I ever bought about Nicole was written in October 1994 by her friend Faye Resnick called Nicole Brown Simpson A Private Diary of a Life Interrupted and I am still reading about her.

She was the subject of my Thesis in 1999 and remains the purpose for my work ever since.

 There are literally hundreds of books that have been written about the life of Nicole and of her life with Simpson and the tales of glamour, celebrity, wealth and beauty have frequently made her appear remote, abstract and insignificant.

Yet it is the very tragedy of her early death that makes her life a compelling human story of hope, love, obsession and betrayal and that is why I choose to remember her…

Tee Bylo