The Los Angeles exhibition will examine America’s cult of celebrity and the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman
The trial of the 20th century now has a museum to call its own.
A gallery in Los Angeles will be hosting a pop-up exhibition dedicated to the notorious life of football star-turned-felon O.J. Simpson. “The O.J. Simpson Museum,” which runs from August 18 to 22, is the brainchild of Adam Papagan, an Angeleno creative type who’s been living with Simpson’s alleged crimes since his childhood.
As a kid, Papagan went to day camp down the road from the home where Simpson’s wife, Nicole Brown, was murdered alongside waiter Ron Goldman in 1994. “You’re a kid and you don’t know things, but we drove by the house every day and always saw news trucks. It was very surreal,” the 29-year-old tells Moneyish. “Now I think, was it really such a crazy time or did I misinterpret as a kid? Meeting people who have kept mementos of the trial has been really affirming.”
Simpson is very much a name of the last millennium, but the 70-year-old has been in the news again after his successful recent parole hearing after being imprisoned for almost a decade for armed robbery. Once a star for the Buffalo Bills, Simpson made headlines in the 1990s after he was accused of the murders of Brown and Goldman. He was acquitted at a criminal trial, but found guilty in civil court.
About 300 items will be on display at the L.A. show, which tracks Simpson’s life from football running back to his recent parole. These include O.J. Simpson football cards, the press pass and notes of a reporter who covered the trial, t-shirts and even a sign reading “O.J. is a killer” that was wielded by a woman who attended his civil trial. Some of the memorabilia comes from Papagan’s personal collection, which he accumulated from thrift stores and eBay over the years.
But he’s most excited about the items that donors have offered– many of them after hearing news about the exhibition. “People came out of the woodwork, they were so excited to have an avenue” to put their stuff on display, he says. It costs $5 to enter the exhibition, which includes pricey items like a replica of the white Bronco Simpson drove (Papagan has crowdsourced over $4,000 on IndieGogo to buy the car.)
This is @adampapagan. He is a genius and also Los Angeles's premiere and only OJ Simpson tour guide. Adam, thank you for an unforgettable experience! You truly have IT factor!
Papagan didn’t expect Simpson to get released, so he’s rushing to include items from after the recent parole hearing. But he insists the museum will be objective and focuses more on the phenomenon of fan culture around Simpson rather than the man himself. “We’re not editorializing, just presenting items,” he says. “It’s not a statement on his guilt or innocence, but we’re just trying to present many objects and leave it up to the viewer.
That said, Papagan is aware that there’s something about Simpson and the double murders that triggers an instinct to snicker. He would know, having run an informal tour of locations linked to the killings for some time (Lena Dunham is a fan of the tours and has called him a genius.) Papagan’s collection, for instance, includes bootleg press passes made by reporters covering the trial on which they inscribed jokes about the athlete, as well as a novelty “O.J’s legal pad” made by a comedian that consists of crude words and doodles.
That’s why the exhibit will close with a memorial to Brown and Goldman. “O.J. wants the attention, but these were just two people going about their lives,” says Papagan, who hasn’t spoken to the families of anyone involved in the murder trial. “Hopefully people who’ve made the jokes will be like ‘woah’ at the end and realize their enjoyment comes down to a dark reality. I hope they reflect on taking pleasure.”
Over two decades since the so-called trial of the century, what is it that explains America’s collective fascination with Simpson? Apart from the country’s obsession with celebrity, Papagan thinks there’s something epic about the tale. “O.J.’s the luckiest guy ever– he killed his wife and the guy who got in the way because he was so arrogant and thought he could get away with it,” he says. “And he did get away. This is like Shakespeare, but it happened.”
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