A Soulful Sky…

Twenty Four Years and Counting…

Remembering the life of Nicole Brown Simpson who died on this day in 1994 at the age of 35.

Nicole was an attractive and free-spirited person, loyal to her family and friends and a devoted mother to her two children.

However in June 1994, it was revealed that Nicole had suffered many years of domestic abuse during the course of her relationship with O.J. Simpson and he was to be sensationally acquitted of her murder and that of Ronald Lyle Goldman in October 1995.

Nicole Brown Simpson (1959-1994) with Artist and Storyteller Tee Bylo (A Glass Ball circa October 1993)

And in 1997 the jury of a civil court would eventually return the verdict that held Simpson ‘responsible’ for their deaths.

Despite the divisive issues that had surrounded the trial of Simpson, Nicole’s tragic death was to illuminate a much needed awareness about domestic abuse for in November 1994, a foundation in Nicole’s name was created by the Brown family and many women who upon learning about Nicole’s life and death were to find a renewed strength and resolve to leave their abusive partners.

 

“You Can Close Your Eyes to Reality But Not to Memories.”

Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

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Happy Ever After? That’s a Privilege Denied to Many!

Yesterday against my better judgement I found myself wasting several hours of my life that I will never get back again watching the spectacle that was the Royal Wedding!

I really hadn’t intended to but before I knew it, there I was perched in front of the television watching a masterpiece of a public relations exercise in all things H.R.H and I’ve been regretting it ever since.

But it was only a wedding I hear you say!

And yes, it was only a wedding but when I think back to that July day in 1981 as a young teenager and naive monarchist watching another fairy tale wedding and later when we heard the chatter about mistresses, dubious telephone calls, obsessive behaviour and emotional turmoil with the realisation that this fairy tale could never have had a ‘happily ever after’ – I felt duped by the House of Windsor and my cynicism only increases every passing year with yet another promise of a ‘perfect’ Royal event.

The cynic in me also knows that we are subjected to these ostentatious shows of pomp and pageantry from a family who live in an absurd cocoon of wealth and privilege in order to keep the interest level high enough to keep their subjects pliant.

But I also believe that the monarchy will eventually stumble to the finish line what with the apathy of the younger generation, the rise of the ‘self-made’ and for those who long for a more democratic and inclusive country – I only wish that I’d got out of that chair yesterday and turned the damn television off!

Alas! I did not…

However, yesterday was also Nicole’s birthday and if she were still with us – she would have been celebrating her 59th year…

And having shared a lovely image of her on the Facebook page, I lit a candle in her memory and enjoyed a rather large slice of this delicious cake!

Ever heard of the ‘Hatched, Matched and Dispatched’ quip?

Although May 19 was also the day that an ancestor of mine was dispatched as she tumbled down a cliff to her death in the picturesque seaside village of Staithes, famous for it’s connection to the great explorer Captain Cook and delicious fish and chips – the story of which is one for my family history blog; I have a different kind of ‘dispatch’ in mind.

Earlier this month I pulled out a May 1995 copy of Vogue and having shared some of the long and informative article from Marie Brenner on Blogger and WordPress; I was struck by Brenner’s interview with Nicole’s older sister Denise during the course of the murder trial.

“I don’t want to spend my time thinking about what-ifs, what-ifs. Nicole never told us she was battered! She would say, ‘He threw me against the wine cabinet, and then we went out to lunch’…

“What good would that do?… I want to help other women now. This foundation is my crusade for life. Now I am a happy person. I have a mission and a cause.” ~ Denise Brown

In the winter of 1994 and several months after the brutal murder of Nicole and that of her friend Ron Goldman; a foundation was established in her name by her family and although initially known as the ‘Nicole Brown Simpson Charitable Foundation’, this was later changed to the ‘Nicole Brown Foundation’.

In the aftermath of her murder and as the world became privy to the abuse that she endured during her marriage to O.J. Simpson; the campaign against domestic violence was to enjoy something of a renaissance with increased calls from women in search of help, the implementation of vital legislation and the creation of several educational programmes.

Headed by Denise, the foundation pledged to raise awareness about domestic violence through “awareness, education and inspiration”.

What initially began as a poignant tribute to the loss of a loved one and an admirable desire to continue to raise the profile of domestic violence awareness; Nicole’s foundation enjoyed a controversial history from the very beginning:

Nicole Simpson Foundation Management is Questioned

Tax Records Paint a Troubling Picture of Nicole Brown Charity

Charity in Honor of Nicole Brown Simpson Claims Only $66 Left in Assets

20 Years After the Murders, the Nicole Brown Simpson Foundation is Gone

Nor did the Ron Goldman Foundation for Justice – the charity established by father Fred and sister Kim which promised to offer practical and inspired resources for the organisations supporting victims of crime fair any better if a report from the journalist Brian Heiss is to be believed.

Now, I don’t know very much about the law governing charitable foundations in the US but to have your status revoked by the IRS sounds pretty bad to me!

Although Nicole’s foundation still has a Facebook page, the website domain now belongs to a dubious looking ‘Health & ‘Lifestyle site and Ron’s foundation website has been hijacked by an ambulance chaser BUT when I think of the continuing success of other high profile foundations including the Suzy Lamplugh Trust –  it saddens me that Nicole and Ron’s legacies supported by much public goodwill have been dispatched in this way.

I need to console myself with some more cake…

At Home With Nicole…

Is Nicole’s House a ‘Real’ Model?
Yes, it is a ‘real’ model! And created in 12th scale.

Can I Visit Nicole’s House?
As Nicole’s House has been on private and public display in the past; there are occasions when it can ‘seen’ in person and a subscription to the Brentwood Ghost Newsletter will keep you informed about our studio open-days and forthcoming exhibitions.

What is the Story Behind the Creation and Design of Nicole’s House?
Nicole’s House began life in kit form purchased from an independent dolls’ house supplier with the original design having been ‘tweaked’.

However the house has been created primarily with the use of MDF, plaster, strip wood, paints, mountboard, papier-mâché, air-drying clay, natural foliage and of course with plenty of glue and lots of imagination!

The model remains the exclusive work of Tee Bylo.

Can I Follow the Stories from Nicole’s House?
As well as sharing the stories on the blog The Ghost of Brentwood, you can also follow the news from Nicole’s House on InstagramFlickrTwitterPinterestFacebookTumblr and Google+

And you can now join Tee as she continues the story on her blog A Life Interrupted…

Why the Creation of Nicole’s House?
Beginning with the news of the murders in June 1994 and from the first book she bought in the Autumn of 1994 to the sensational murder trial with the lurid tabloid tales and the campaign to raise much needed awareness against domestic abuse as well as being the subject of a controversial thesis; Tee’s interest in the life of Nicole Brown Simpson has been an enduring constant.

Tee’s contention is that for all of the many thousands of words written about Nicole with the tales of glamour, celebrity, wealth and beauty have only served to make Nicole a remote and insignificant figure – a wrong Tee is determined to remedy.

“The woman loved life. She loved to entertain, and she went all out when you visited, whether it was for coffee, lunch, to play tennis, to have drinks to eat dinner. You always felt special walking into her world…”

Tanya Brown

And even though Tee has been making ‘Small Worlds’ for many years now and the passion for design remains just as intoxicating; the creation and story of Nicole’s House celebrates the life of a talented and much-loved young woman who relished nothing more than being with her family in the home that she had made for them.​

How Can I Learn More About the Work of Tee Bylo?
You can discover more about the artist’s work with a visit to her official website Creating Life in 12th Scale… or by signing up to follow her blog Tee Bylo and you can also support Tee and enjoy exclusive access to the creation of Nicole’s House on the membership site Patreon.

Tee can also be found on the usual social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and Twitter.

And Your Plans for Nicole’s House?
With ‘pumpkin carving’ planned for Halloween, a turkey to ‘roast’ for Thanksgiving and gingerbread cookies to decorate for Christmas; there is plenty to keep the artist busy in the kitchen of Nicole’s House for some time to come!

With completion scheduled for Christmas 2018, Tee is now busy with the ambitious design of another and much larger Nicole’s House and plans to recreate Nicole’s last home at 875 South Bundy Drive as faithfully as possible; the story of which will be published on the Ghost of Brentwood blog with further exclusive updates available on Tee’s Patreon Page.

There will also be an opportunity to buy Tee’s tribute to Nicole Brown Simpson as a gift for yourself or a loved one with the release of a beautiful coffee table book which tells the story of Nicole’s House and is due for publication in June 2019.

Can I Share the Information and the Images from Nicole’s House on My Website or Blog?
Of course! However, all we ask is that you will remember to fully and accurately credit the artist and her work. Thank you!

Home IS Where the Heart IS! The Story and Creation of Nicole’s House…

For as well as enduring interest in the life and legacy of Nicole Brown Simpson, a passion for the Regency world of the Poet Lord Byron and the occasional bar of chocolate, I am also an artist and storyteller creating ‘Life’ in 12th scale.

AND as one of the most popular ‘Small Worlds’ is still Nicole’s House, I thought I’d share a ‘little’ more about this unique 12th scale house.

 “I just don’t see how our stories compare -I was so bad because I wore sweats & left shoes around & didn’t keep a perfect house or comb my hair the way you like it – or had dinner ready at the precise moment you walked through the door or that I just plain got on your nerves sometimes.

 I just don’t see how that compares to infidelity, wife beating, verbal abuse.

 I just don’t think everybody goes through this…. I called the cops to save my life whether you believe it or not..”

 These are the harrowing words written by Nicole shortly before her brutal murder on Sunday June 12 1994 in the garden of her Brentwood home in Los Angeles as her two children were sleeping.

Nicole’s former husband O.J. Simpson was subsequently arrested, tried and acquitted of her murder and that of her friend Ronald Goldman in a relentless blaze of publicity the following year.

 I began to read about Nicole shortly after her murder in 1994, she was the focus for the research and publication of my BA thesis in 1999 and I have been reading about her ever since.

 She was also the inspiration for the creation of the ‘Ghost of Brentwood’ and now known as ‘Nicole’s House’.

For in June 1994 and shortly before her brutal murder, Nicole was making plans to leave her home in Brentwood in order to escape the abuse and obsession that had characterised her long relationship with Simpson.

 Only days before her death, Nicole had seen a beach house in Malibu available for rent and she was excited and positive at the prospect of a move there with their children.

 ‘Nicole’s House’ is a 12th scale miniature of several narratives:

A recreation of some of the principle rooms at 875 South Bundy Drive as they were discovered in the early hours of Monday June 13 1994 as the investigation into the murders of Nicole and Ronald Lyle Goldman was underway.

Additional rooms are created as a tribute to the style and essence of Nicole who loved the style of interior design that has come to typify the “California Look”.

Finally, as we know that Nicole was planning a move to a beach house in Malibu, ‘Nicole’s House’ is a poignant reminder of ‘what might have been’.

To learn more about the life of Nicole through the creation of this unique house, follow the link: The Ghost of Brentwood – At Home With Nicole…

Twenty Three Years After THAT Verdict and the Protest Continues!

This is THE post that I should  have shared yesterday but I did not on account of a lack of time, natural light and inclination!

Despite the issues of time and natural light notwithstanding for as I had published six (yes, six!) stories about the anniversary of THAT Verdict by yesterday evening; the only inclination that remained was for me to crawl away into the dark night and watch a trashy movie with only a huge slice of cake for company And no, the trashy movie that I watched was NOT about the Simpson Matter!

For even though the Late (and great!) Dominick Dunne had once argued that the Simpson case was like a ‘great trash novel come to life, a mammoth fireworks display of interracial marriage, love, lust, lies, hate, fame, wealth, beauty, obsession, spousal abuse, stalking, brokenhearted children, the bloodiest of bloody knife-slashing homicides, and all the justice that money can buy’; THE movie that I enjoyed featured quite a number of the above, although thankfully minus the bloodshed for the only ‘corpse’ at the finale was a metaphorical one!

However, enough of my weekend evening television viewing habits and back to the matter in hand – THE Simpson Matter and the incredible realisation that  October 3 2017 marks the twenty second year since the reading of THAT verdict; you know, the one that begins with: “We the jury… find the defendant, ‪Orenthal James Simpson, NOT guilty of the crime of murder… upon ‪Nicole Brown Simpson, a human being…”

For it was on a cold and dark Tuesday evening and I was returning home from my flower shop in the City of York in a car packed with fellow travellers including school bags, grocery shopping and a 11-week old baby, (thankfully silent!) as I turned on the radio to listen to the reading of THAT verdict from some 5,000 miles away.

In her brilliant memoir Without a Doubt,  prosecutor Marcia Clark shares the reaction of Simpson’s defence attorney to THAT verdict as ‘not the verdict I would’ve thought.’… You can say that again Bob Shapiro!

I was so convinced that I would still hear a ‘Guilty’ verdict despite those allegations of LAPD incompetence and the charges of racism that tried (and failed!) to obscure the powerful circumstantial evidence and Simpson’s long history of domestic abuse…

Alas, as it was not to be and at a distance of twenty two years, I thought it would be interesting to share the reactions of some other Simpson supporters and detractors and of their feelings about THAT verdict that I have published on my other blogs and as I felt that a little mischief was entirely appropriate, some ‘creative’ imagery has also been included.

If you click on THIS link you can read the stories from Marcia Clark and Kris Jenner and over at Nicole’s House… Mike Gilbert will take you behind the front door of Simpson’s former abode on Rockingham Avenue and you can join Dominick Dunne as he takes a walk along the tiled walkway at 875 South Bundy Drive.

And from her book Bitch, I have included a controversial essay by the fabulous Elizabeth Wurtzel over on my A Life in Headlines blog including a scathing indictment of Simpson’s guilt from the brilliant Andrea Dworkin and of her observations about the complicated relationship between Nicole and Simpson.

Although I agree with Wurtzel’s belief that Nicole’s death was a ‘stupid waste of a life of a woman’; I do NOT support her assertion that her death supported ‘well-intentioned but still fruitless attempts to make it into a clarion call for domestic-violence awareness’ and here’s my reason why: for since 1994, I have been a witness to subtle and positive change that despite the divisive issues that had surrounded the trial of Simpson, Nicole’s tragic death was to  illuminate a much needed awareness about domestic abuse and that many women who upon learning about Nicole’s life and death were to find a renewed strength and resolve to leave their abusive partners and this STILL continues to be the case, more than twenty three years later.

Do you recall the ‘11-week old’ baby who slept his way through the reading of THAT verdict, I told you about?

Well, this is him in the image above in his 17th year and as THE poster boy for the Real Man Campaign to raise awareness about domestic abuse and on behalf of the UK charity Women’s Aid.

The Nobel Laureate and political activist Elie Wiesal once said that “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

And on that note, I bid you ‘Adieu’ for now and thank you for Remembering Nicole Brown Simpson!

Me and My Shadow! Recollecting Nicole…

On Sunday June 12 1994 Nicole Brown Simpson became a public figure overnight for on that balmy Sunday evening she was senselessly and brutally murdered in the grounds of her home at 875 South Bundy Drive in the leafy suburb of Brentwood in California.

Her murder trial and that of her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman who had been murdered alongside her became known as the ‘Trial of the Century’ with her former husband Orenthal James Simpson as the accused.

It is hard to believe that Nicole was murdered over twenty two years ago for I can remember the BBC news reports and the iconic photographs of the bloody pathway lined with the neat rows of purple and lilac Agapanthus.

I also remember the farcical ‘Bronco Chase’, the sensational headlines week after week in The National Enquirer, the court testimony of Mark Fuhrman and the shock of the “Not Guilty” verdict on October 3 in the following year.

And yet what I most recall is the realisation of a grotesque dichotomy that despite the voluminous photographs of a beautiful and happy Nicole that she had in fact been abused by Simpson throughout most of their seventeen year relationship.

I just don’t see how our stories compare -I was so bad because I wore sweats & left shoes around & didn’t keep a perfect house or comb my hair the way you like it – or had dinner ready at the precise moment you walked through the door or that I just plain got on your nerves sometimes…

Published in October 1994 and written by her friend Faye Resnick, Nicole Brown Simpson: A Private Diary of a Life Interrupted was the first book that I ever bought about Nicole and I am still reading about her.

She was the subject of my Thesis in 1999 and remains the purpose for my work ever since.

There are literally hundreds of books that have been written about the life of Nicole and of her life with Simpson and the tales of glamour, celebrity, wealth and beauty have frequently made her appear remote, abstract and insignificant.

Yet it is the very tragedy of her early death that makes her life a compelling human story of hope, love, obsession and betrayal and that is why I choose to remember her.

Recollect Nicole? And So IT Begins!

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

T.S. Eliot

Hello again! As this blog post begins with two apologies, my first apology is that even though January is well and truly upon us and the month of February is now beckoning; I would still like to wish you all a very ‘Happy New Year’!

And secondly, I apologise for the lack of recent updates about Nicole and to my chagrin having realised that I had posted my last story about her in September!

In my defence, I can only say that I have been very busy with other projects and as some of which were and are about Nicole; I had by no means forgotten about her…

Already 2015 promises to be interesting year with the release of the much anticipated ‘American Crime Story: The People v. O.J Simpson’ which will share the tales of the trial that began an incredible twenty years ago this month!

The mini-series has been inspired by the fabulous book The Run of His Life by Jeffrey Toobin and will feature John Travolta and David Schwimmer as the two ‘Bobs’, the former as Robert Shapiro, Simpson’s swathe and duplicitous defence lawyer and the latter as Robert Kardashian, Simpson’s mysteriously conflicted friend, former spouse of Kris and the lawyer whose jaw-dropping expression as the ‘Not Guilty’ verdict was delivered remains burned in the image of that unforgettable day.

A statement from the television channel FX, the producers of the ‘American Crime Story’ revealed that ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’ will share the tales of the “the chaotic behind-the-scenes dealings and manoeuvring on both sides of the court, and how a combination of prosecution overconfidence, defence shrewdness, and the LAPD’s history with the city’s African-American community gave the jury what it needed: reasonable doubt.”

Personally speaking, I have never had any doubts, reasonable or otherwise as to the question of Simpson’s guilt!

As the ‘People v. O.J. Simpson’ is certain to shine the spotlight upon Simpson who is currently languishing inside the notorious Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada for anything from nine to thirty three years for his part in an armed confrontation in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2007; I was disappointed to learn of the statement from Denise Brown that she had withdrawn her support for the Heart & Soul Food, a film that would focus on the life and the memories of her younger sister.

Denise had personally launched the idea for Heart & Soul Food through Kickstarter, the crowd funding website with Jimi James, Message Mon in 2014 to raise $360,000 in a campaign that would last 55 days; Nicole’s age.

Having taken a look at the campaign on Kickstarter today and even though 14 backers have pledged at total of $403, the message board simply reads Funding Canceled: Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on January 5.

The statement by Denise on her decision remains unequivocal:

“The minute people said you have to market this with Simpson’s name I said no,” she says. “I won’t do anything to acknowledge the acquittal this year. So many are jumping on the bandwagon and doing the same old stuff, and I thought this could be different because the story is different. But I won’t go there.”

As Denise is apparently ‘brainstorming other ways to honor her sister’s life.’; I still wonder about the publication of her book that never was.

Due for publication in October 1998 by Harpercollins, Nicole’s Story promised to offer ‘a compelling portrait of her late sister which serves a two-fold purpose: to introduce readers to the smart, beautiful, and nurturing woman whom she loved; and to warn other women of the dangers of staying in an abusive relationship.’

With the promise of sixteen pages of colour photographs, this is the book I would love to read and I can’t imagine that I would be alone in thinking this!

Surely a balanced and realistic portrayal by those who actually knew and loved Nicole could begin the long process of shifting the spotlight away from the man who took her life and that of Ron Goldman one Sunday evening in June over twenty years ago.

Alas, until that time comes, I shall continue to do all that I can to keep the memory of Nicole alive…

Thank you for Remembering Nicole!