Ignore the fact that O.J. Simpson is now a quaint anachronism in the post-Princess Diana age. Who cares if nearly every O.J. friend, foe, lawyer, prosecutor, highbrow journalist, and tabloid hack has already cashed in with their contributions to the remainder bins? That’s no reason to ignore this book, the one that finally tells us — drumroll, please! — what O.J. was like in bed.
Of course, were it not for the $3 million advance Paula Barbieri received for The Other Woman: My Years with O.J. Simpson, she could have saved herself the trouble of writing 312 pages and issued a simple statement about Simpson’s sexual prowess. ”I want to tell you,” she might have said, ”he’s not really that great.”
A simple thumbs-down? No chance, especially when Barbieri saw the opportunity to turn her pedestrian life story — and doomed stint as one of Simpson’s numerous non-Heisman trophies — into the stuff of romance novels. There’s no ghostwriter credit for The Other Woman, but judging by the florid prose you’d swear Janet Dailey — okay, make that Nora Roberts — had a hand in it. ”He kissed me and ran his fingers through my hair,” reads one passage that describes the moments just before they first made love at Simpson’s beach house. ”My skin tingled from the salt air and Dom Perignon and now from his touch…. As O.J. [later] undressed, I marveled at his body. I’d never seen such a sculpted torso. His abdominal muscles looked carved from granite; his bottom was high and round.” (High and round? Is there no end to the details we must be subjected to?)
Oddly, Barbieri glosses over her disappointment with Simpson’s ”humdrum” and ”ritualized” lovemaking. ”The thought [had] exhilarated me — more so than the act itself, I’m afraid,” she writes. ”Yet I wasn’t disappointed. It’s hard to explain.” This sets the chilling tone for the rest of the book. Barbieri broods about Simpson’s possible guilt, accuses him of infidelity, and describes his rages, including one time when he grabbed a cell phone from her, knocking it out of her hand and ”hurting” her. Yet she never seems truly troubled by any of it. His ”sheer animal magnetism” and their mutual affinity for John Gray’s Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus were apparently enough to offset double-murder charges, Simpson’s violent temper, and his other women.
Barbieri’s own father had once broken her mother’s ribs, she says, and that may be why she returned to Simpson after their many breakups — and stuck by him when he was on trial (for the first time, she admits doubts about his innocence). But even her family history can’t excuse her extraordinary, Nicole-like inability to truly write this guy off. She didn’t make the final break until well after his acquittal, but even that doesn’t sound so final: Her parting words here could keep Dr. Laura Schlessinger on the air for weeks. ”I started thinking about the good times…. I thought of how much I still cared for him,” she writes at the end. ”O.J. would always be part of me; there was no way around that.” File this in the ever-burgeoning folder of Women Who Love Too Much. C