By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
By Frank Owen
By Allie Conti
It's really nothing special, seeing the guy. There he is shopping at Wicker House furniture near the Falls, or nibbling on pasta at Perricone's Marketplace off Brickell Avenue, or having his picture taken at a charity auction held at the Hotel Inter-Continental. Since he moved here for good last August, it's common to see him trolling the Grove in search of a good time, a good meal, and no doubt a good woman. He's just another middle-age guy with a past, trying to start life over in Miami.
Which may explain why O.J. Simpson is so welcome here. South Floridians cheer the infamous football star almost everywhere he goes. And he goes almost everywhere. Whereas Miami's most recent celebrities rarely left their heavily fortified compounds, and then only to sequester themselves in the VIP room of some South Beach club, 53-year-old Simpson is out on the street, mingling freely among his many admirers. While anyone who spends time here will run into him eventually -- dining on jumbos at Joe's Stone Crab or strolling through the South Miami art festival while enjoying a fat cigar and the company of a beautiful blonde -- there are some places the tourist can go to increase the odds of a sighting.
12595 Red Rd.
Now that he's a full-time single parent, Simpson's daily routine revolves around his kids. Most weekday mornings he can be found behind the wheel of his SUV -- black nowadays -- blasting Boyz II Men on the CD player as he drives his kids to the Gulliver Schools, one of Miami's most elite private education academies. First he drops off Justin at Gulliver Prep in Pinecrest, and then he swings over to Coral Gables to drop off Sydney at the middle school. His kids enjoy an eight-to-one student-teacher ratio at Gulliver. Famous alumni include the children of Jeb Bush, Julio Iglesias, and Gloria Estefan. Simpson ruffles few feathers on campus. "He keeps a pretty low profile," says one Gulliver parent.
Roasters 'N Toasters
11293 S. Dixie Hwy.
This is your best bet for a Simpson sighting. After dropping off the kids, Simpson likes to relax at his favorite bagel place, leisurely sipping a beverage while reading the paper and watching WSVN-TV (Channel 7) on the television that hangs from the ceiling. Aerobics enthusiasts from the gym next door ignore Simpson with practiced nonchalance as he eats and chats with the bagel shop's owner, who has become a friend. A piece of advice: Get there early; Simpson has a tee time to keep.
Deering Bay Yacht & Country Club
13610 Deering Bay Dr.
Although golf is an essential part of Simpson's day, predicting which course he'll play is no easy task. He samples the variety of Miami's two dozen public golf courses. Favorites include Melreese and the Doral. He is a regular at Deering Bay, a beautiful eighteen-hole course that Arnold Palmer carved out of protected mangroves lining Biscayne Bay. Described by the proprietors as one of Florida's top twenty courses, Deering Bay challenges players of every skill level. Best of all, Deering Bay's putting greens are not located near any major roads, unlike at the Killian Greens Golf Club in Kendall, where a passerby recently stopped his truck, backed up so he was adjacent to the practice green, and proceeded to shout, "Hey, O.J.! I think I saw the true killers on the back nine!" Simpson just smiled and waved his putter.
Flanigan's Seafood Bar & Grill
12790 SW 88th St.
Our hall-of-famer still likes his football. On Sundays during the season Simpson usually can be found at his local sports bar, watching the Dolphins while rooting for his old team, the Buffalo Bills. When the Green Bay Packers played the Fins in October, Simpson took in the game at Flanigan's, accompanied by a strikingly beautiful female friend. Bar patrons shook hands with their famous neighbor, peppering him with questions about his playing days. Simpson enjoyed the attention and cheered loudly throughout the game, quieting only when CBS advertised the upcoming miniseries American Tragedy, which was based on Simpson's 1995 criminal trial. During those commercials Simpson, who unsuccessfully sued to block the airing of the show, silently studied his menu.
Miami is a great financial shelter for Simpson, who lives here largely protected from paying the $33.5 million debt he owes for the wrongful deaths of his ex-wife and her friend. State law safeguards his house and his approximately $25,000-per-month pension, which leaves him with plenty of money to hit the clubs. Like most nightlife enthusiasts, Simpson motors over to South Beach from time to time, hanging in a booth at Astor Place (956 Washington Ave.), perhaps, or the Living Room (671 Washington Ave.). Most often he chooses to cruise Coconut Grove, specifically CocoWalk. His precious pension goes largely untouched as he drifts on a sea of free beers offered by fans at Café Tu Tu Tango and Fat Tuesday and then up to Hooters, where he has been known to admire a certain orange-shorted waitress named Julie. Throughout the evening Simpson signs place mats and T-shirts thrust in front of him, smiling when a patron calls out Juice's new nickname. In Miami, the fan says, Simpson is "the man."
* All pictures used in this story are New Times photo illustrations.