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Welcome back to Complex Pop’s Official American Crime Story Fact Check! Week two takes us in a different direction than the case-heavy first episode, using the famous Bronco chase as a vehicle (eyy) to further explore each character’s personal relationships, conflicts, ideologies and motivations. It’s certainly creatively effective, with a stand-out performance from Cuba Gooding Jr. playing O.J. at his most vulnerable. Still, we can’t let our fandom get in the way of The Truth—for reasons that should go without saying. In today’s cross: how did O.J. really sign his suicide note? What pizza chain blew up during the Bronco chase? And who doesn’t know how to spell “Kardashian?” All that, and more, below.
The Bronco Chase
True or False: The white Bronco was actually A.C.’s.
True. The Bronco was definitely A.C.’s vehicle. Believe it or not (but actually do—that's the point of this whole thing), O.J. didn’t own a white Bronco at all—according to transcripts, the car found at the initial crime scene was owned by Hertz, who O.J. was doing commercial spots for. So not only was the notorious white Bronco not O.J.’s, he never really technically owned one to begin with.
True or False: A couple in a van spotted O.J. on the highway by accident before tipping off police.
We’re inclined to say true, but it depends who you ask—there are actually two parties claiming to have first caught sight of the fugitive duo. Chris Thomas and his girlfriend did spot the car while heading north on the 5 freeway, and a transcription of Thomas’s call to police can be found here. Officer Larry Pool remembers things a bit differently, though, giving interviews both after the chase and twenty years later claiming he stumbled onto the Bronco by accident. So while Thomas may have spotted the vehicle first, it’s still possible Pool made his discovery before hearing Thomas’s tip.
True or False: Pizza sales skyrocketed during the chase.
This was another slice (eyy) of trivia so weird it had to be true. The chain that saw the biggest sales? Domino’s. The company hasn’t copped to just how many slices they turned out on June 17th, 1994, but claim the day was “as big as Super Bowl Sunday.” (FWIW, pizza.com’s “Pizza Fun Facts” lists Super Bowl Sunday as the number one biggest pizza day of the year).
True or False: The chase was “the world’s longest Ford Bronco commercial.”
Advertising was much simpler in 1994: nothing was “native” or “branded” or “in-feed” or “growth hack.” So no, the chase wasn’t literally a commercial. Still, according to Off-The-Wall Marketing Ideas: Jump-Start Your Sales Without Busting Your Budget, Ford Bronco sales went up 14 percent after the televised chase. I guess we can add “viral marketing” in with the litany of other 21st century trends the O.J. trial inspired.
True or False: The U.S. Open and NBA Finals were on during the Bronco chase.
True, and then some. There was actually a ton of major sporting news happening that same day, including the World Cup’s American-soil debut.
True or False: O.J. signed his suicide note with a happy face, referred to himself as a battered husband and his letter to the press with “Peace and Love.”
True. While Toobin (author of The Run of His Life) believes the letter was edited by Kardashian, claiming that O.J. himself was “near illiterate,” text of the note archived on CNN does include “Peace & Love,” and the reference to himself as the abused, rather than the abuser. As for the smiley face (which is also true), handwriting expert Andrea McNichol took it as a sign of insincerity.
True or False: O.J. made A.C. drive by Nicole Simpson’s grave.
We were sure this was added for dramatic effect (the sight of the white Bronco slowly driving away from Nicole’s grave right before the title break is fantastic) but this is, according to the man himself, totally true. In the testimony from his civil case, O.J. tells the jury: “I was feeling a lot of pain… I wanted to go to Nicole's grave and I, you know, I was I guess feeling suicidal.”
True or False: O.J. exits the Bronco holding framed pictures of his children.
This was verified in The Run of his Life, where Toobin wrote: “In his hands, O.J. held a couple of family pictures, which he had been clutching in the car.” But because it wouldn’t be totally fair to only rely on the text the show is based on, here’s an LA Times article from 1994 backing up the moment further.
The Historical Context
True or False: Cochran worked on the Leonard Deadwyler case.
True. Of all the lingering details in The People v. O.J. Simpson we still see reflected in American culture today, the actions of the police in the Deadwyler case are by far the most upsetting. Race and racism were integral issues in the O.J. case, and ones American Crime Story isn’t willing to gloss over.
True or False: Onlookers to press: “We’re not cheering for OJ, we’re booing the LAPD.”
We don’t doubt that this was a sentiment held by those cheering O.J. on as A.C. drove the Bronco, although this wasn’t a quote we could find anyone actually giving to reporters (real quotes, and real cheering, you can find here). Still, the exchange helps elaborate on broader tensions between police and the community—both then and now.
True or False: Shapiro backed District Attorney Gil Garcetti’s campaign.
This sleazy remark made in a phone conversation between Shapiro and Garcetti at the start of the episode checks out. An LA Times article from June 1994 notes that Shapiro made a $5,000 donation to Garcetti’s campaign the previous year, and also places Garcetti at Shapiro’s son’s bar mitzvah (along with “such celebrity clients as Strawberry and Coleman and movie star Jack Nicholson”), so the two were obviously tight. Whether or not this relationship affected O.J.’s trial, however, is very much up for debate.
True or False: Tipsters claimed to have seen O.J. in weird places, from The Ivy restaurant to Atlanta.
Certainly not our first outright false, but this isn’t anything we were able to concretely verify. There wasn’t any mention of this in The Run of His Life, and searches on “O.J. Simpson Magic Johnson,” “O.J. Simpson Atlanta” and “O.J. Simpson Ivy” didn’t reel in anything relevant. That’s not to say it didn’t happen—there was certainly tipline drama later on, with number mix-ups and insane outpourings of support sent in to the defense.
True or False: Reporters at Shapiro’s press conference couldn’t pronounce Robert Kardashian’s last name.
There is no evidence of this exchange between R.K. and the press we could drudge up. Footage cuts out after Kardashian reads O.J.’s letter, meaning we can’t say for sure whether this happened or it didn’t. It is possible, though: the press conference was Robert Kardashian’s formal introduction to the public, so reporters wouldn’t have been familiar with him—yet. More than anything, this bit serves as a reminder that there was once a point in history where people didn’t know the name “Kardashian.”
True or False: Kim and co. watched their dad’s conference on TV.
This is another bit (like the conference above) most likely added in as “cultural commentary” more so than “hard evidence.” Would the Kardashian kids have been excited to see their dad on TV? Probably. Did they chant his name and their own in an early phase of brand development? Maybe not. None of the sisters have mentioned this bit of family branding/bonding in interviews, and gossip rags are already claiming the sibs had some issues with their portrayal in episode one. We even tossed this question over to a local teen—who tossed it to her group chat—and still turned up zero.
(Good insight, teens)
True or False: Fans left signs of support in O.J.’s front yard.
Yep. Here’s a slideshow documenting them.
True or False: Photographer Roger Sandler was among press waiting for O.J. at his home.
True! Sandler, who would go on to cause a minor scandal later in the trial, was in fact waiting for Simpson as he exited the Bronco.
True or False: O.J. Simpson grew up in the same neighborhood as Christopher Darden.
False. To American Crime Story’s credit, they didn’t state this outright, but did imply it when Darden’s neighbor claimed “O.J.’s a local!” Darden grew up in Richmond, CA, while O.J. was raised in Potrero Hill—about 30 minutes away by car.