The Knife, The Gun And Those Ugly Shoes

LIKE A STEVE FORBES POLITICAL AD IN Iowa, O. J. Simpson seemed to be everywhere last week. He spoke to the Los Angeles Times for 90 minutes, to CNN for about an hour and even to a local radio station. O.J. analysts sprang into action once more, debating whether Simpson's appearances would help polish his image or whether he was merely exploiting a free platform to hawk his $29.95 video. But now there's an even fuller, quirkier picture of Simpson's character; this springs out of the sworn deposition he gave last month in a wrongful-death suit brought by the Goldman and Brown families. The 1,534-page transcript, obtained by NEWSWEEK, reveals inconsistencies with evidence presented at the criminal trial (chart), which plaintiffs will try to exploit. It also shows Simpson as a man of huge appetites -- for golf, for public adulation, for women -- and for shoes. He is a generous and devoted father, to hear him tell it, and a long-suffering husband who endured his wife's excessive drinking, her jealous rages and her allegedly lowlife friends, including Faye Resnick. Explaining an argument in 1993 in which he tried to kick in Nicole's door, Simpson said: "". . . I was just very unhappy with all this crap about drugs, about hookers, and I wanted to know why she had brought these people into my kids' home . . .''

Simpson's charged and complicated life came into sharp relief the day of the murders, June 12, 1994. He returned to Los Angeles, rather than remain in New York to play golf, in order to attend his daughter's dance recital, he said. During the recital, he said, he saw the other girls getting bouquets, so he rushed out to buy his daughter some flowers. Later that day Simpson's appetite for women took over. While he said he had been faithful to his girlfriend Paula Barbieri for ""three to four weeks'' at the time, he called two women -- a Playboy playmate and a former football cheerleader. Daniel Petrocelli, the lawyer for Ronald Goldman's father, asked Simpson about the apparent two-timing of Barbieri. ""Well,'' he said, stumbling, ""Paula and I was trying to get back together. I don't -- I didn't consider Paula and I an attachment or unattachment.''

Simpson apparently had a tendency to juggle the women in his life. On Nicole's birthday he had bought a Cartier cigarette lighter for the children to give to Nicole. But then, remembering that their kids hated smoking, he retrieved from his car a $6,000 sapphire-and-diamond bracelet he had purchased for Barbieri -- and gave it to Nicole. She was delighted at first, Simpson said, but later she suspected it was intended for someone else -- ""it wasn't the type of jewelry I buy her'' -- and gave it back. Simpson said he later gave the bracelet to Barbieri. ""Did you tell her you had given it to Nicole?''Petrocelli asked. ""No,'' Simpson responded. ""He's not stupid,'' injected Robert Baker, Simpson's lawyer.

Simpson repeatedly depicted himself as a tolerant, forgiving husband. He told the lawyers he wasn't disturbed when he learned that Nicole had slept with his good friend football star Marcus Allen. He later threw Allen a wedding reception. ""Her...with Marcus, with any of them, didn't bother me.''

Like many celebrities, Simpson was showered with freebies. The golf clubs he took to Chicago the night of the murders were a gift from the manufacturer, Calloway Golf Co. The gun he gripped during the slow-speed chase was a Christmas gift from a friend. (He also owned an M-16 and two .357s.) Simpson also enjoys nice things. He said he bought a knife weeks before the murder because ""esthetically I like it, because I'm not really a woodsman.'' And he scoffed at the notion that he could have worn the pair of Bruno Magli shoes introduced at the trial -- ""those ugly-ass shoes.'' Where shoes are concerned, he's a bit of a connoisseur: he owns between 20 and 40 pairs, he estimated.

As always, Simpson displayed confidence in his ability to sway his listeners. Ignoring his lawyer's advice to stay silent, Simpson answered several questions about his own use of illegal drugs; he denied that he took any. A frustrated Baker exclaimed: ""Am I a potted plant?''

Simpson has a lot more talking to do. His deposition is to resume next week. While much of the interrogation will never be raised at the trial -- it would be legally irrelevant -- it at least fixes Simpson's story under oath. The question is: when a jury finally hears him tell it, how much will they believe?