Life on Dorothy Street during the O.J. Simpson Trial

Terry Keefe
12 min readApr 11, 2024

(The condo at 875 South Bundy Drive, above.)

(O.J. Simpson died today and it pushed me to finish this piece about the street I lived on in my mid-twenties, a block from the site of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman on Bundy Drive in Los Angeles.)

“Which one do you like?” O.J. Simpson queried, as he leaned over to me on the railing of the upper floor of the Red Onion Night Club in Palm Springs, aka “The Red O,” a chain of meat market bars in Southern California that were big in the 80s.

We were looking down at a Bikini Contest, which had a fairly sparse field, in fact there were only two contestants. Both were attractive women in their late-twenties, who stood out because in terms of looks and age, at least in comparison to the rest of the college crowd there for Spring Break in 1989. The two women were a bit older than the mean at the Red Onion and were dressed in what could best be described as neon stripper bikinis. My two male friends Duane and Jeff were downstairs, and I had wandered up to the second floor for a look around. I leaned against the railing, looking down, with people on either side of me, one of whom turned out to be O.J. Simpson.

We had noticed “the Juice” quickly in the club earlier that night. He was taller than most and impossible to mistake as O.J. Simpson. He was also a good 22 years senior to us, and at least 15 years older than anyone else there. He wore a sports coat and open dress shirt collar, whereas many of us were in Spring Break-themed t-shirts. Seeing O.J. hanging around actually wasn’t entirely abnormal, in our college years experience. O.J. was a USC alumni, where we went to school. Arguably USC’s most famous football hero, he was a frequent presence on campus before the Saturday football games, where his former team played at the Coliseum. O.J. was known to be friendly, would shake hands and take pictures with anyone, and so here he was again, a perennial USC college student at a place that was probably 1/8th USC students on spring break. This, however, was the first and only conversation I ever had with him, when he started discussing the physical attributes of the Bikini Contest participants.

Before I could give my opinion, O.J. answered for me, “The one in the yellow has the bigger boobs.” He motioned with his hands as if he were placing them on her breasts.

I couldn’t argue with this physical fact and nodded. I also was enjoying the celebrity male camaraderie, so I nodded pretty vigorously. This seemed to decide things. Girl in the Yellow it was.

The DJ interrupted our bonding with, “We have a special celebrity guest in the house, ladies and gentlemen, O.J. Simpson!! He’s going to be our final judge in the Bikini Contest.” He pointed to O.J. on the balcony next to me, and there was general applause as everyone looked up. O.J. left without saying goodbye and headed downstairs to grab the mike and award the prize, whatever it was, to the Girl in the Yellow.

My impressions of Orenthal James Simpson that night? 1.) He enjoyed being a celebrity, 2.) He also liked being “one of the guys,” 3.) He was a big dude, 4.) He seemed like a horndog, although so were all of us. And as much as he seemed to love to be loved, there were plenty of people who loved him back. That night, I was one of them. There is a “celebrity high” I’ve noticed after a famous person gave me their attention, particularly when I was younger. It was like an adrenaline charge that perked up my energy, made me speak faster, and made me momentarily happier. This may have been a momentary mental illness also, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m not real proud of it, but there it is.

Other than seeing him in the popular Naked Gun movies, I didn’t think about O.J. much again until several years later, in 1994, when he was in the back of the White Bronco speeding down the L.A. freeways with Al Cowlings at the wheel. My West L.A. roommates and myself were watching the infamous chase on live television and when we saw the Bronco turn onto the 405 Freeway, which was the closest to us, we all ran out, piled into my car, and drove to get a glimpse of the most famous car chase in history. By the time we got anywhere close, though, we could hear on the news that Cowlings had already turned off onto surface streets, and we went home dejectedly.

I told my “I once met O.J.” story to friends that day, of course, because it made me feel more important, but I would be one of literal thousands in Los Angeles who were simultaneously telling similar stories. While picking the jury for the murder trial, numerous people were dismissed simply because they had met O.J. at one time or another, leading one news commentator to note, “It seems like nearly everyone in L.A. had an O.J. encounter of their own.” One juror was actually dismissed because he hadn’t disclosed that he had taken a picture with O.J. at a store where he worked.

A few months later, by December 1994, I was in the middle of a disintegrating roommate situation and was in a rush to find a new place to live. It turns out that one Paul Amakori, the owner of the apartment I had answered an ad about, was also in a rush to find a new place to live. So much so that he quickly approved me without a credit check to move into his apartment on Dorothy Street in Brentwood, which was about a block away from the condominium where Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman had been murdered just five months earlier, across the street from the intersection of Dorothy and Bundy Drive. I had looked at several apartments that day in the general neighborhood of West L.A., and had not put together how close I was to the “murder house,” as it was known in the neighborhood, until a few days after moving, when a friend came to visit and marveled, “I didn’t realize. You’re right HERE!”

The location of my new apartment wasn’t a factor plus or minus for me, but it was for my new landlord, Mr. Amakori, who later confided that he wanted to move somewhere else until all the “weirdos” went away. He seemed to want to get out of the neighborhood so badly that I used to half-joke to myself that Mr. Amakori had something to do with the murders, but also partially because of another reason, unspoken by Mr. Amakori, and which I found out from neighbors. Mr. Amakori was really moving out was because he had assaulted my upstairs neighbor, a senior man, for making too much noise while walking around in the middle of the night. The senior man did walk loud as hell in fact, but I just turned my music louder. Apparently, Mr. Amakori had tackled the old man and tried to choke him before the man’s wife pulled him off. However, as the O.J. Trial went on, it became clearer that while my landlord was a violent asshole, he probably was not the violent asshole who committed these murders a block away.

The “weirdos” had certainly now descended upon Dorothy Street in 1994, which was otherwise a small residential artery between the far bigger Barrington and Bundy passages, largely composed of 2–3 story apartment buildings and duplexes, where young professional twenty-somethings lived with roommates, along with some couples, and some seniors. Sleepy for the most part. A place that basically went to bed pretty early, because most people worked. Younger folks would occasionally have a party, but that was a rarity.

Bundy Drive was a major street which ran through West L.A., although it was just one lane on each side. Not long after moving into the apartment on Dorothy, I became obsessed with the details of the Simpson case, largely because I could walk right out my door and come up with my own theories on the actual street the murders happened on.

The traffic on Bundy came in waves, so there were times at night, sometimes as long as a minute, when there was no traffic at all. Then there would be several cars at once, all going fast, with little time for a driver to glance on either side of the road. The corner of Bundy and Dorothy was very quiet at times in the evening. There were dog walkers, the occasional jogger, a few pedestrians, but often, there was simply no one. At night, the street remained dimly lit, with just a few street lights, but pockets of shadow everywhere. In short, there was ample time for someone covered in blood and even carrying a knife, to run out of the condo and to a car, without anyone seeing a thing. Around the 10 PM hour, when the murders were thought to have occurred, Bundy could have been very inactive and silent, as it often was. Even if one of the cars that sped down Bundy were passing at the exact right moment, the driver would have to look to the side and catch a glimpse of the running killer on a poorly-lit road.

875 South Bundy Drive, the condo owned by Nicole Brown Simpson, wasn’t in a traditional “condo” complex. I think that there were separate units next to each other, but remain unsure. The doorway to her condo could barely be seen from Bundy, nor much of the building itself, only the entrance and gate, flanked by shrubbery. Although it came to be one of the most photographed locations in the world for a time, and I stood across from it more often than I can count, I still couldn’t tell you what the shape of the building itself was. There was a path of tan tiles leading up to the gate, small palm leaves and shrubs which obscured the gate itself, and another walkway inside of the gate, which could only partially be seen.

About once a week, always in the evening, I would walk up Dorothy to Bundy, and stare across at the palm-covered entrance. I could never bring myself to walk right up to the gate of the condo. It somehow felt like that would be more disrespectful, although I don’t know who I thought was going to be judging me.

I, along with countless others surely, engaged in a “What if I were there?” conversation with myself, as I stood across from the condo What if I were just walking past when the killer, presumably covered in blood and perhaps carrying a knife, came running out? Suppose it was O.J.? Or O.J. and accomplices? Or a different killer altogether? Was I so celebrity-obsessed that I would ask O.J. if he remembered meeting me at the Red Onion during Spring Break 89 and only after notice the blood? Would I have had the guts to try to stop him? Would I have even known he should be stopped?

Some of my neighbors on the street would start appearing as witnesses in the trial, the most notable being Robert Heidstra, a shaggy-haired man with a heavy European accent who appeared to be in his early 60s, worked as a car detailer according to the news, and who was walking his large sheepdog close to Nicole Brown Simpson’s condo close to the time of the murders. He remembered hearing two male voices who appeared to be arguing. He then walked a bit further down and, shortly thereafter, saw a “white, jeep-like vehicle” speed off. Heidstra also announced that he was writing a book about his experiences, although I’m not sure they would merit more than a novella. I would often see Heidstra, who basically lived across the street from me, walking his large sheep dog up and down Dorothy Street. He seemed to walk the dog constantly. We once got into an argument over a parking spot that I had nabbed before him, and that was the extent of our personal interaction.

The Trial made me aware of other neighbors who I never would have likely noticed otherwise. Such as actress Gloria Stuart, then in her 80s, who lived almost directly across the street from Nicole Simpson’s condo, in a lovely house on South Bundy Drive. Initially most famous for co-starring in The Invisible Man in 1933, Titanic would bring her a late-life comeback, and Oscar nomination, two years later in 1997. I never saw Gloria Stuart while living on Dorothy, but she reportedly had to move out during the peak years of the trial, due to the number of random people knocking on her door, looking for the house. And unlike my landlord Mr. Amakori, I was 100 percent sure that Gloria Stuart did not commit the murders.

Perhaps the most surreal thing about life on Dorothy Street in the middle of the last decade of the 20th Century, was that, while the road may have been eerily quiet for long stretches at night, the days had become something different. “O.J. Lookee-Loos,” or tourists in search of the the murder house, would constantly be stopping their cars to take pictures in front of it. Sometimes on the sidewalk. Sometimes right up by the gate. Some somber, some smiling. Sometimes entire families took pictures in front of the condo, mom, dad, and two kids. Their arms around each other, often they would be wearing t-shirts from Universal Studios and Disney. Today, those people would have likely posted those photos on Instagram. But there were others who were there with less crass, and more emotional responses, to the murders. One woman stood across the street with a large hand-written sign that began, “Nicole, my heart breaks for you…” along with several other lines that I was driving too fast to read. It wasn’t clear if she was holding the sign for anyone in particular to see, and likely, this was something she just wanted to express, with the sign being the method. There was no media covering the neighborhood the day the woman with the sign appeared, unlike the day when the Jury was walked through the murder site, and I myself walked out the front door into a street filled with people and news crews. “Melrose” Larry Green, who was a Z-List celebrity vaguely famous for standing on the corner of Melrose Avenue and La Brea with signs every day praising Howard Stern, was walking past at the same time with an O.J.-Howard-related sign worn as a poster board, the nonsensical text of which I have forgotten. A Stern fan myself back then, I made the mistake of telling him that I enjoyed his work, and he quickly asked if he could use my bathroom. I told him, sorry, the toilet wasn’t flushing, and he shuffled down the street. Maybe my landlord had had the right idea about getting out of this neighborhood while he could.

Just a few blocks away, in downtown Brentwood, the suddenly most famous restaurant in America, Mezzaluna, constantly mentioned as the place where Ron Goldman worked as a waiter and Nicole Brown Simpson had her last meal, was actually struggling, after years of success prior to the murders. A maitre’d had told a mutual friend that tourists would come in and order one drink and take pictures, and then just leave. The regular clientele had subsequently moved on, partially to avoid the gawkers, but also because there was a morbidity hanging over the place. An unescapable eeriness that went along with dining there. El Coyote, which was where Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, and Wojiech Frykowski dined last before being murdered by the Manson Family, had somehow survived that same type of stigma and is still packing them in for moderately-priced Mexican food and margaritas today. A difference may have been that El Coyote was something of a tourist trap to begin with, whereas Mezzaluna reluctantly became one.

O.J. Fever didn’t last forever. By 1999, the Lookee-Loo traffic at the condo dwindled down to the point that you could wait a few hours and not notice anyone looking for the condo. The world had moved on. Except that a seismic event like the O.J. Simpson Trial resonates through the decades. The fame of the name Kardashian started with the late attorney Robert Kardashian representing O.J. as part of his Dream Team. Numerous news pundits and analysts got their first big breaks covering the Trial, including Harvey Levin, who went on to create Arguments about race and the LAPD that became a centerpiece of the Trial were still being debated decades later when the very well-written and directed mini-series “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” aired.

I had been gone from L.A. for over a decade when I returned last year and drove down Dorothy Street again, one night. I parked at the corner near Bundy and stood across the street from the condo. The street number and facade of the building had changed, but land doesn’t often change. It was clear where the original condo location was. There were no Lookie-Loos.

Bundy was quiet, as it often was at night. Several cars then flew past, in a wave like they always did decades before. And then it was quiet once more.



Terry Keefe

Filmmaker, writer, comics guy. Writing a number of short stories about my L.A. life in the 80s and 90s. Decade of celeb talks at