Hangin’ with OJ | VailDaily.com

Hangin’ with OJ

Nickey Hernandez

Pumpkinhead. Orenthal. The Juice.O.J. Simpson has gone by many names and taken as many forms.He was a bow-legged child of the Bay Area who became a Heisman Trophy winner. He was an NFL Hall-of-Famer. An ad-man for Hertz. A low-budget movie star. A failed sports commentator. A husband. A jealous husband. An abusive husband. Knife fancier. Glove wearer. Backseat Bronco driver. Tabloid cash cow. Accused double murderer, and global pariah.But to me, he’s just a loveable scamp. A charmer, who likes to press the flesh, talk sports and pose for pictures with complete strangers.You’ve probably heard a lot of bad things about O.J. If you listen to the (liberal) media, you might believe he slaughtered the mother of his two children along with a luckless waiter named Ron Goldman back in the mid 1990s.But anyone who still believes O.J. sliced and diced his way across Brentwood probably thinks the Iraq War was about an imminent threat instead of a way to spread freedom across the Middle East.Remember, the glove didn’t fit. The jury voted to acquit. That allowed O.J. to hunt for the real killers of his wife, Nicole and her friend Ron.Far easier said than done.As President Bush understands, hunting evil be it Bin Laden or a lunatic with a knife is hard work.But O.J. isn’t giving up. Word was, the killer had migrated to Colorado and taken a job as a ski instructor. So O.J. took a break from his rigorous golf schedule in Florida and came to Aspen this month.The years have been good to O.J. He looks great. His handshake was firm and his mood joyous when we chatted inside Bentley’s saloon, not far from the base of Aspen Mountain.Always a bright boy, O.J. and a beefy pal in a cowboy hat and duster held court in the pub. O.J. sat with his back against the wall. The Juice wasn’t going to pull a Wild Bill Hickok and take one Deadwood style.Bentley’s was packed with locals and tourists who had rolled in from the slopes to warm their bones on Crown Royal as the New York Jets battled the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC playoff game.The gridiron hero welcomed me as I approached his table. He extended a massive hand when I pulled out a camera and asked for a snapshot.”Sure, of course,” he said in that unmistakable voice.Always the lady’s man, O.J. put an arm around my girlfriend and called her “sweetheart,” as the dude in the duster fired off a few snaps from my disposable camera.Keeping an eye on the restaurant’s cutlery, I asked O.J. what brought him to town.”To ski,” he said, with a hearty laugh.I knew it was a cover story. The dude’s knees are so damaged from the NFL that he can barely walk, let alone carve a turn down Little Nell.Obviously, he was hot on the heels of the vile fiend who left Ron and Nicole in a bloody, lifeless heap 10 years ago.I wasn’t about to press the issue at least not while the big man had his arm wrapped around my girlfriend’s slender neck.But he knew I knew what time it was.Let Bush and his minions’ stop searching for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq after a year. O.J., like all great sleuths, is made of sterner stuff.His quest continues, even if he has to visit every gin joint in every ski town in all the world. VT

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