A black man in a bejeweled white jumpsuit stands on the pedestrian bridge linking the Tropicana to MGM Grand. He strums a guitar, flirts with lady passersby and earns $1 for his performance. Although Las Vegas is no stranger to Elvis impersonators, this one is not the average street performer who hit the block after purchasing a bottle of hair gel. This one is O.J. Simpson.
The scene is from a bizarre candid camera show called Juiced, in which Simpson pranks unsuspecting victims. It was filmed in Los Angeles and Las Vegas and premiered as a pay-per-view special in 2006, a little more than a decade after the former NFL star and actor was acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. Most traces of the one-off vanished until recently, when it was re-released on DVD. This American Life did a segment about the show in August.
So many moments in Juiced are cringeworthy: Simpson dresses as a homeless man washing the windshields of people at a drive-thru window. He stands on a street corner selling oranges. He pretends to be the suitor of an unfaithful wife as the clueless husband attempts to confront her. The worst is when he poses as a Las Vegas car salesman, attempting to sell a white Ford Bronco to potential buyers, praising it for its “escapabilty.”
After the murder trial, whose verdict was handed down 20 years ago this week, Simpson faced a barrage of negative press that lasted years. In 2001, there were rumors that he was involved with money laundering and a drug-trafficking ring, and he faced battery charges in a road rage incident. Perhaps Juiced was an attempt to rehabilitate his image, and, if you subtract all the awkward and insensitive moments, it was one of the few semipositive media appearances he made after the trial.
But the show was a brief pause in the Heisman Trophy winner’s downward trajectory. In September 2007, Simpson and a group of men were suspected of robbing sports memorabilia collector Bruce Fromong at gunpoint while Fromong was staying at Palace Station. At the time of his arrest, Simpson denied the charges, saying he was only trying to retrieve items that were rightfully his. During the media circus that ensued, he told the Los Angeles Times, “I thought what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
Eventually he was found guilty on 12 charges of robbery, kidnapping and use of a deadly weapon, and currently sits in Lovelock Correctional Center until 2017, when he’s eligible for parole.
Considering everything that followed Juiced, one sequence stands out, a poignant moment in a life filled with missteps—it’s series of scenes that punctuate each prank in which topless women strip for Simpson and his male companion. An uptempo beat pulses in the background at first, as Simpson gasps when the women bend themselves in the typical positions. But by the end, the music becomes slow and somber, almost sad. Maybe some things really should stay in Vegas, or in the forgotten archives of pay-per-view specials.