Sarah tells Mike how an aspiring actor protected and then betrayed Nicole Brown Simpson without knowing he was doing either. Digressions include '80s movie tropes, ski-resort etiquette and the need for a process of "un-faming." Unfortunately, this episode contains graphic descriptions of violence and abuse.Support the show
The O.J. Simpson Trial: Kato Kaelin Part 1
Mike: While you're doing that, I'm looking up Kato Kaelin shirtless photos on Google. Oh fuck! Wow!
Sarah: Go on.
Mike: No, he's just in like… he's super ripped. Oh, now it's, like, the actor playing him who's, like, even more ripped.
Sarah: Because in the TV version of your life, everyone will be more ripped.
Mike: Welcome to You're Wrong About, the podcast that takes stories out of the pool house and into the main residence.
Sarah: Oh, I love how you have all these, like, “moving on up” type taglines. I think anytime you let someone articulate their situation, that's a form of justice.
Mike: I just want all of our protagonists to get their GED and go to community college and work in HVAC construction. That's what I'm trying to do. We're bettering the narratives of our youth.
Sarah: Oh, great. All right. Yeah. So you want the Kaelin-Barbieri HVAC Institute.
Mike: I am Michael Hobbes. I'm a reporter for the Huffington Post.
Sarah: I am Sarah Marshall. I'm a writer at work on a book about the Satanic Panic. And today we're going to talk about Kato Kaelin. And I'm so excited, because I decided this late last night as I lay in bed, thinking about what was truly in my soul. And it was Kato Kaelin. You're jumping on with me. You're joining me on this little time travel trip obsessively back and forth over the same period of five days in 1994.
Mike: So what's the period of time we're going to talk about today?
Sarah: Today, we are going to talk about Kato Kaelin, the life of Kato Kaelin.
Sarah: So we're going back in time again, as we did with the story of Nicole, to 1959. It's not going to take forever. And then we're going to talk about Kato's life with Nicole, and get as far as his life intersecting with Marcia Clark’s.
Mike: Can I ask you an essay question before we get started?
Sarah: I suppose.
Mike: Okay. So the question I've been wanting to ask you ever since we started this is what do you think happened? The actual murders. I know that it's hearsay and we'll never really know, but as maybe the country's leading expert on O.J. Simpson at this point, what is your hunch and your feeling of just how the murders went down?
Sarah: I think O.J. Simpson is the country's leading expert on O.J. Simpson.
Mike: Okay, fair.
Sarah: And that if we say publicly that I am the country's leading expert, Jeffery Toobin will challenge me to a duel of manly arts, which I am very open to.
So recently, as I was driving across the country, I was listening to an episode of the Nancy Grace podcast where Nancy Grace is like, “Shocking new footage of O.J. Simpson confessing to the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson”, and then siren noises probably. Apparently, at one time, O.J. Simpson was making a TV special to go along with the publication of his book, If I Did It, which was a very cynical cash grab. And so the TV special that he was making, that apparently was shelved and then brought back out many years after the fact, and talked about on Nancy Grace, there’s a recording of him saying “If I did this, if I did that, I would have looked in Nicole's window…” and then there's this part where suddenly the ‘if’ goes away and he's like, “And Nicole really did have a lot of candles. She really did. I always used to joke that she wanted to keep utilities down, but Nicole really did have candles everywhere.”
Mike: That's really dark.
Sarah: And he just suddenly seems to go back into remembering committing the murders. And I was listening to it and I was like, “I can't do this right now.” I just had this visceral feeling of not wanting to listen to it. But anyway, I know that, for this, I need to go back and listen to it in full and think about it and process it and think about how is he talking about the rest of the events? Because he also maintained that he had this theoretical person named Charlie there. There was speculation throughout the trial, and people still speculate, as to the idea that there was a second assailant. You know, how could he have killed two people at once?
Sarah: The answer is that I don't think it's at all unimaginable to kill two people at roughly the same time. We have reason to believe, and the prosecution will later argue, that Nicole was actually unconscious at the time he killed her because he had rendered her unconscious, and then murdered Ron Goldman, and then returned to Nicole. I kind of see it as when Ted Bundy does these similarly conditional descriptions of the murders that he did eventually, actually in the first person, confess to shortly before he was executed. He talks about what he calls “the entity,” which is this thing that takes him over and that he feels has complete control of him when he's stalking and killing someone. So I feel like if O.J. is talking about this other person being with him, I can see that being part of being able to describe it now only if he's able to outsource that to some other figure or some other part of himself.
Mike: Do you think, because what we know from the police interrogation is it sounds like he went out to get hamburgers with Kato, and then there's this half an hour or hour long period that he hasn't really accounted for.
Sarah: Much less than an hour.
Mike: Okay. So do you think he came home from hamburgers and was just in a rage and went over there to spy on her, and saw her through the window and ended up going inside, or what do you think actually happened?
Sarah: There's not a scenario I find most convincing. There are scenarios that I find equally convincing, I think. So, something I have thought about is if he was so accustomed to spying on her, if he spent so much time looking in her window, you know, this is consistent behavior of his. He watched her having sex with other men, and then harasses her about it. So, it makes sense that he would say to himself after this dance recital, where he felt that he had been pushed out and rejected by her and made to feel this way by her, made to feel rejected, made to feel unloved, and then it's like, would he go over seeking a confrontation or would he go over saying to himself, “I just want to go watch like I do all the time”?
Let me actually read you something. In the entry in her diary for June 3rd, Nicole quoted the exact words of O.J.'s threat: “You hung up on me last night. You're going to pay for this, bitch. You're holding money from the IRS. You're going to jail, you fucking cunt. You think you can do any fucking thing you want. You've got it coming. I've already talked to my lawyers about this, bitch. They'll get you for tax evasion, bitch. I'll see to it. You're not going to have a dime left, bitch. Et cetera.”
Mike: No way.
Sarah: To me, the most heartbreaking part of all that is that she ends it with, “et cetera.”
Mike: Yeah. Like she’s so used to this litany of abuse that just, “blah, blah, blah.”
Sarah: Blah, blah, blah, et cetera, and so forth, as we know.
Sarah: So, the way that he's talking to her nine days earlier.
Mike: I was also thinking a couple of episodes ago, as you were describing it, that he might've also gone over there to spy on her and then he sees Ron Goldman arriving and then he reads all this into it that like, “Oh, she's having a guy over after she had dinner with my kids, blah, blah, blah” and he goes in there and confronts them, and then the interaction in some way escalates. Because with the question of premeditation, you can't say anything is weird. Because as we've said a million times, so much about this is weird.
Sarah: Or just illogical.
Mike: Yes. It's extremely illogical to plan to murder somebody when you really only have an hour, and someone is coming to pick you up and take you on a flight.
Sarah: I love how the timing is the part that strikes you as weirdest. You're like, “If I were going to murder someone, I would plan at least three hours, you know, taking a day trip to Bellingham.”
Mike: It just seems like it's a much more risky strategy.
Mike: If you were this Hannibal Lecter type of killer, you wouldn't set up a scenario like that. You'd get something with an alibi, et cetera and you know so much more about this than I do, but it makes sense to me that he would have gone over there with a more benign intention than murder and then something would have set him off once he was there.
Sarah: I think people very rarely commit murders by thinking to themselves, “I'm going to go commit a murder now.” I don't think that happens in the majority of these cases. I think it often tends to be a heat of the moment thing and then I think it's like, how do we define premeditation? Because he obviously knew himself to be capable of harming her.
Mike: Right. That he might've put himself in a situation where there were going to be more triggers for that kind of impulse around him.
Sarah: Right. And so, even if you don't consider it textbook premeditation, I don't know. It's like these are degrees of intent that we don't have the legal language to really talk about very well.
Mike: And we have this binary between premeditated and non-premeditated. There's lots of ways you can put yourself into a situation where you know you're going to behave rashly. Like, I think of all those letters to Dan Savage where people write in and they're like, “Oh, there's, like, a hot fitness instructor who I'm really attracted to, but I'm married and I don't want to cheat on my wife, but it would be awkward if I stopped taking her exercise class and stopped getting massages from her.” Right? And it's like you're putting yourself in a situation where you kind of want to cheat.
Sarah: Right. You're putting yourself in a series of situations where, if you were to take a rational approach, you would be able to think it through and understand, like, “I'm asking for my will to be compromised by the situation I’m putting myself in” when maybe that means that I want this thing to happen actually, but I can't own that desire.
Mike: So, is that sort of your general theory?
Sarah: Yeah. In a general way and I can also imagine him– I mean, he had to have had a knife with him at the moment that things escalated, I think. Like, I don't see a scenario where he starts an altercation and then leaves and gets a knife and comes back.
Mike: Right. Or grabs a knife from her kitchen counter or something?
Sarah: Well, yeah. You’re right. That is possible or she could have come out holding a knife. That seems unlikely to me based on what we've seen before, but what do I know? I can also see him bringing a knife and just thinking, “I'm not going to kill Nicole.”
Mike: Or he could have intended to just threaten her. Right? He could have brought it as like, “I'm going to brandish the knife to scare her, so she won't see other guys anymore. I won't do anything with it.” That could have been what he was telling himself on his way over there.
Sarah: Yeah. And I think he also could have been telling himself that very loudly. Him telling himself that could be seen as evidence of the fact that, on some level, he's like, “I kind of want to use this knife on Nicole. I won't do it, but I'm just going to have it.” You know?
Mike: Yeah. “I’m going to go to the buffet, but I'm not going to eat anything. Like, my willpower will kick in at some point in the future” and I think a lot of our planning, as humans, gives our future selves more credit than we give our present selves. Right? You're like, “Oh, I'll be able to resist this later.”
Sarah: Absolutely. All of mine. That's why these calls always start fifteen to thirty minutes late.
Mike: Okay. So that's the working theory, but with a lot of the details still left quite murky.
Sarah: Yes. I've learned from Marcia Clark's mistakes. I'm not going to commit myself to anything before I absolutely have to.
Mike: That's fair. So, yeah. Rewind us. Where are we meeting Kato?
Sarah: Yeah. Why don't you tell me every single thing you know or think you might know about Kato Kaelin. I will tell you that when I was watching Saturday Night Live when I was, like, eleven years old, which was my introduction to O.J. Simpson really. I have very few actual memories of the trial itself, because I was six and seven years old at the time. I remember watching Saturday Night Live reruns and getting a sense of what America at least thought it was. And what's interesting about that is that I don't remember learning who Marcia Clark was. I don't remember learning who Bob Shapiro was. I don't remember learning who Ron Goldman was.
Mike: Yeah. That’s totally true. Yeah.
Sarah: But I knew that there was a guy named Kato Kaelin and it was always interesting to me that out of this clearly very big story with a big cast of characters and a lot going on, this sort of doofy guy with a perpetually confused expression received so much coverage.
Mike: Yeah, it is actually interesting. We seem to find this in a lot of these stories that people who play a very marginal role end up somehow being centered like Fawn Hall.
Sarah: Right. Fawn Hall is totally the Kato Kaelin of Iran Contra. Very similar hairstyles also. Kato Kaelin also is interesting because he was, like, a male bimbo. Like, he was maybe one of the people in the whole O.J. Simpson fiasco who got the most bimbo treatment.
Mike: That’s actually the most of what I remember of him. I remember he was just this goofy dude who was around, but it never was clear to me what part he actually played in the murders. And I remember, mentally at the time, I always replaced him with Fabio whenever anybody brought it up, because they had kind of the same hairstyle and it was… I think Fabio was the first time we had a male bimbo figure, right? Like, a kind of airhead, he's buff, but he's dumb, et cetera. He played that role and for some reason, even though they don't really look the same, in my head Kato Kaelin sort of was Fabio sitting on the stand.
Sarah: They were both wildly out of their depths in the nineties. Yeah. I mean, what do you know about Kato Kaelin? Tell me everything.
Mike: According to the previous episodes, you have learned me that he was originally a friend of Nicole's and she moved him into her guest house as a sort of, you know, way of having a guy as a buffer zone against O.J.’s abuse and then O.J. managed to O.J. Kato from Nicole's house and Nicole's trust into his and so eventually Kato ended up moving into O.J.’s guest house and so he becomes important because the night of the murders, he had hamburgers with O.J. and then later that night he hears vague thumps or something when O.J. is returning, rushing home from committing these murders. So, he's partly an alibi witness and he's partly an incriminating witness, I guess.
Sarah: Right. Which is very interesting because he's someone who, at the start of all this, has equal capacity to implicate or exonerate O.J.
Mike: Totally. Yeah.
Sarah: So I have, I think, the best possible introduction to Kato Kaelin prepared for you which is a highlight reel.
Mike: Oh no.
Sarah: Of – well, really of the whole movie but prominently featuring Kato, of a movie he was in in 1987 called Beach Fever.
Mike: Oh, I forgot he was, like, an actor. I totally forgot about that.
Sarah: He did get opportunities by fraternizing with O.J. Simpson, but here's an example of what he was up to in his prime. He made this when he was twenty-seven or twenty-eight. We're going to watch it together.
Sarah: This is straight to video, by the way.
Mike: I’ll bet it is.
Sarah: 3, 2, 1, go.
Mike: Beach Fever. We're opening on women's boobs.
Sarah: There were so many movies in the eighties where in the box art and the opening, they were like, “Don't worry. You're going to see lots of boobs.” Oh, there's Kato! He’s on his little motorcycle. Yeah.
Mike: Oh, he's driving a motorcycle and there's a dude in the sidecar.
Sarah: The main characters in this movie are Kato Kaelin's dude ,and an Asian American stereotype.
Mike: Oh no. Yeah. He's speaking, like, replacing his R's and L's with a really offensive accent.
Mike: Oh, his hair. So he has, like, The Rachel.
Sarah: Yes! I think Kato Kaelin inspired The Rachel. I've been thinking about this. I think whoever did The Rachel on Friends was watching the preliminary hearings in the Simpson trial in July of 1994 and was like, “I know what I'm going to do for Jennifer Anniston.”
Mike: Oh, so now there's a montage.
Sarah: Okay. So, they've invented a love potion that makes women really attracted to them.
Mike: Oh and now there's a bad guy in a limo like every eighties movie.
Sarah: Yeah, this is the Cobra Kai guy. Oh, there's Kato wearing just Nike's and tiny shorts.
Mike: Kato seems miscast for this role because he looks much older than his compatriot.
Mike: He looks, like, mid-thirties.
Sarah: Okay. So they've accidentally turned the area women into sex zombies.
Mike: Of course.
Sarah: Oh, and there's… yup, it worked out for Kato. That’s the end of the movie.
Mike: We had, like, an eight frame shot at the end of Kato walking away with his arm around a girl.
Sarah: That's what his career has been to this point.
Mike: Straight to video, high concept, racist comedies.
Sarah: Yeah. But I don’t know. What if you think of his presence in that?
Mike: I don't know. He's cute. He doesn't necessarily like to command the screen, necessarily. He's not like, “I can't take my eyes off him” kind of person, but he seems like a sort of Luke Wilson type of character where he's just… he's there. He's fine. He's just the guy they need for movies sometimes that are about women.
Sarah: Oh, I get it. Luke Wilson is who you cast when you're like, “This is really about Reese Witherspoon.”
Mike: Exactly. Right.
Sarah: Which can totally make sense, I think, in terms of the kinds of adventures he found himself in and where he was like… O.J. Simpson, apparently, after Kato moved in with Nicole was very agitated and then he finally comes to the house unannounced and meets Kato and after that, apparently, he was fine and Kato, like, becomes friends with O.J.’s secretary, Kathy Randy, who's like, “Yeah. O.J. was really worried and then he realized that he met you and he called me, and he was like, ‘You're right. That Kato guy is all right. He's no threat.” Like, everyone meets Kato and they're like, “Oh.”
Mike: That's actually kind of magical because he's a good looking guy.
Sarah: And he also was like, definitely on the make. His biographer, Mark Elliott, talks about when he and Kato were working on the book together, they’d interview during the day and then Kato would be like, “Alright. Let's go on the prowl. Let's meet some girls.”
Mike: Yeah. It's actually amazing that he projects that vibe.
Sarah: Right. So it's like, what is it exactly? And we saw in Beach Fever, he has very good definition. He ran 10 miles a day, right? Like, he used to do this thing when he was a struggling actor, around the Beach Fever days, he would buy pizzas. He said he spent like $50 a week buying pizzas for casting directors and casting agents and he would put his headshot and a plastic bag under the pizza and write “The pizza's on me” and then he would borrow a pizza delivery guy costume and take the pizza to a casting agent, and he said he got work that way. Like, he got auditions and I think he said he got a part that way.
Mike: It's kind of genius.
Sarah: It really speaks, I think, to the kind of person he seems to have been where you're like, “Aw, look at that.”
Sarah: It's funny that he became such a joke because there's something tragic about him too where like, he was there.
Mike: He was there for the 911 call, the horrible 911 call.
Sarah: Yeah. So you have to wonder about what his own hindsight of all this was and then the, I think, the criticism people have of him and the reason he was seen as a bimbo is because fame came for him and he grabbed on and I can see doing that in the wake of a tragedy, you know, because he became suddenly this overnight celebrity less than a month after the woman he had lived with for a year was murdered by the man who he was living with at the time.
Mike: I mean, it’s the kind of thing that would put you in therapy for years depending on your capacity to internalize the shame about that or to internalize your own role in that? I don't know to what extent Kato was capable of that level of self-reflection or if that was something he was doing underneath the sort of bimbo exterior that everybody projected onto him, but if you were living with someone for a year, you've seen this level of abuse, you move in with her abuser. Her abuser then kills her, probably. That's shit that haunts you for decades afterwards.
Sarah: Right. Like, in the world we want to live in, like, the Kato of the future would be someone who, when O.J. approaches him after this altercation that he stopped where he didn't see O.J. actually strike Nicole but he did see her yelling at her and threatening her and kicking in her door, this person, after O.J. invites him to come live with him, would be like, “Wait a minute. This seems like a tactic to separate the woman whose actions and life and sense of freedom you're trying to control. This seems like a tactic to control her further and it seems like you're using me against her and taking my friendship with her away from her as a resource and I don't want to be part of that.” And I guess the question is like, what ingredients do we need to make the Kato of the future if we learn from the Kato of the past?
Mike: Do you want to tell us about the ingredients of the Kato of the past? Is that where you’re going with this?
Sarah: I do.
Mike: So, you read his entire biography?
Sarah: I've read it twice. Yes.
Sarah: Kato Kaelin: The Whole Truth by Mark Elliot, conceived with the cooperation of Kato Kaelin based on hours and hours of taped interviews with Kato Kaelin, and then published after Kato Kaelin abruptly bowed out of the deal for reasons which, once again, we will get to, but which are very fun and very legal.
Mike: I'm so excited. I want us to have a non-abusive childhood so bad, like somewhere in the show.
Sarah: I think your wish is going to be granted. I’m going to read to you from Kato Kaelin: The Whole Truth, because I feel that Mark Elliot has worked really hard on it to make it a literary book and I'm proud of him, so I want to honor that a little bit. “He was born thirty-six years ago, March 9th, 1959, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the next to youngest of six children. He has three brothers and two sisters. A fourth brother died at birth in 1967. He first got the nickname Kato from the TV series, The Green Hornet, which all the brothers watched as children. Kato is the Green Hornet’s expert karate sidekick. For a while, all the boys in the family were called Kato. The nickname stuck to Brian in high school when he pitched for the baseball team. After that, no one who knew him ever called him Brian again.
Mike: Oh. So his real name is Brian.
Sarah: Yeah, Brian Kaelin. It's not as fun to say. I'm convinced that at least 15% of Kato Kaelin celebrity came from how much people enjoyed saying Kato Kaelin.
Mike: It's like Benedict Cumberbatch. His father was, by all accounts, a very warm and humorous man. He owned one of those Cask n’ Cleaver type steak houses and was also a sales representative from a major liquor distributorship. He did fairly well, as one might expect since Milwaukee's major industry is the production and distribution of hard liquor. Some might say consumption of it as well.” Rude. “By Kato's account, he was a typically happy middle-class family. The Kaelin's lived in a comfortable home in Glendale, right outside Milwaukee. Kato remembers laughing an awful lot as a child. He claims to have been blessed with a set of parents who had great senses of humor and got a big charge out of having a house full of happy kids.”
Mike: Maybe if Paula Barbieri is an example of what it does to you to grow up in an abusive household, Kato Kaelin is an example of what it does to you to grow up in a happy, affluent household.
Sarah: Yes. Where are the people from happy homes because they don't know what's going on?
Mike: There are six and they're all living in people's pool houses.
Sarah: “Kato attended Our Lady of Good Hope parochial school. He was always the class clown. Because of his ability to make everyone laugh, including the nuns, he was able to get away with a lot more than most kids.” I really love that detail. He grew up being able to make nuns laugh, which is like a great power in a society ruled by nuns. One of the things that he and Nicole used to do together is they would go to church. They were both raised Catholic. They were both, at least Nicole, still took her religion seriously as an adult and they would go to church together sometimes. Yeah, which I like to think about, cause it's just, yeah, they both liked to party and then they would go to church. So basically Kato grows up in, by his account, a happy home, happy family, bunch of Katos running around and his journey is that he's like, “I want more. I want to be the big Kato”
Mike: Yeah, the best Kato.
Sarah: “I want to go forth and entertain people.” He decides he wants to be a comedian and if that doesn't work out, he'll try being a professional baseball player. These are the thoughts we have when we are very young.
Mike: Yeah. These are very, like, afterschool special aspirations. This is great.
Sarah: Yeah, and he was a good athlete. When he was a teenager, he made the varsity baseball team his freshman year of high school, which is a big deal.
Mike: Okay. I'll trust you. Sports!
Sarah: Freshmen don't make varsity very often. I feel like the sense you got of Kato is that he had a kind of a charmed life. Making the nuns laugh, varsity baseball in his freshman year of high school.
Mike: Great hair.
Sarah: Great hair. I was just going to say. Yeah. He also does a bunch of theater when he's growing up. He was in Oklahoma and Carousel when he was in high school and he was the king of the senior prom.
Mike: Oh, so he's popular.
Sarah: Yeah. He seems like someone who was very successful at stuff that they tried until they were eighteen years old, and it was like, “All right. The rest of my life is going to be like this.”
Mike: It’s like people who grew up in Scandinavia. They're like, “Every country has functioning transport.”
Sarah: So he goes to UW-Eau Claire for two years. He has a weekly variety show on the school’s public access TV network called “Kato and Friends.”
Sarah: Let me read you. “Kato recalled making fun of a dean one time and having his show canceled. The next day, a petition appeared with 3,000 names and it was promptly reinstated. Kato also discovered girls in college, and when he did, determined to make up for lost time.” He is… you get the sense that his upbringing was, like, very Catholic. “He used to go from dormitory to dormitory in search of his next great conquest. In his freshman year, Kato developed mononucleosis, the so-called kissing disease, which, being a good Catholic, he took as a direct warning from above. ‘That's when I decided that no matter what, I would not actually sleep with a girl until I got married and that was one promise I kept. I stayed a virgin until, at the age of twenty-three, I met a woman who was to become my wife.”
Mike: Wow. What a waste of a torso. That's actually interesting that he had a brief period of womanizing and then settled down very early.
Sarah: Yeah, and then this marriage didn't really last, but he attempted to reign himself in and be like, “No, I'm going to be the kind of man I was raised to be, and I have done too much kissing.” And then spring break his sophomore year in 1979, he and a buddy go to Redlands, California. He's never been to the west coast before and he arrives and looks at the mountains and looks at the fact that it's 80 miles from L.A .and is like, “I'm going to come back here. I'm done. It's time for Kato to go west.” So, he basically goes back home long enough to get his stuff together and then drives west with $900 in his pocket in the summer of 1979.
Mike: So he doesn't graduate from college?
Sarah: He goes to school in California. He goes to Cal State Fullerton. He stops eight credits shy of graduating because he’s basically putting all of his energy in trying to make his show business career happen, and the job that he gets immediately after getting to California and the industry that he is in for several years is like, comedy waiter.
Mike: Oh, I didn't know that was a special kind of waiter.
Sarah: The job Kato gets is basically, “You can say whatever you want. You can do whatever comedy stuff you want. Just bring them the food they ask for.”
Mike: So, he's doing comedy and waitering?
Sarah: Yeah, he's a waiter who waits on you comedically.
Mike: What? Wait, what? This sounds insufferable. What are these restaurants?
Sarah: Do you think millennials killed the comedic waitering industry? That's another thing we killed, and we didn't even notice it.
Mike: So somebody comes to your table and they're like, ‘What's the deal with Brussels sprouts?”
Sarah: Do you want to hear an example from Kato’s book?
Mike: Oh my God. Please. This sounds miserable.
Sarah: Okay. So this is about a place called Bobby McGee's in Brea where Kato works.
Sarah: Kato says, “My routine wants something like this. I go over to a table of customers, introduce myself and say, ‘Hi. Our special tonight is lobster tails, 50 cents apiece.’ ‘Really? Sure.’ ‘Once upon a time there was this lobster…’
Mike: Oh my God. It's, like, dad jokes and not great food probably.
Sarah: Yes. You get the sense – and this is what people say about what Kato is like to be around – that he wasn't that funny, but he was just always trying. Like, he was always telling little jokes and stuff and his testimony during the preliminary hearings and then the trial really speaks to that.
Mike: Oh no. What, he's doing puns in a murder trial?
Sarah: No, just… he's asked, “Wouldn't you think that O.J. could get you parts in movies maybe?” and he's like, “We weren't going out for the same parts.” When you watch his testimony, you're like, “Oh yes, this is a career comedy waiter doing his best to be serious.”
Mike: That's the meanest thing you've ever said about someone on the show.
Sarah: I don’t think it’s mean. I love that he was a comedy waiter for so many years. I think that would really affect how you relate with people.
Mike: I mean, I'm glad Kato liked doing it.
Sarah: Yeah. He seems like an extrovert. He seemed to really like the comedy waiting and, at the time, he's also trying to make his comedy career happen and so he would drive to clubs like The Comedy Store in L.A. for their open mic nights and get there at 6:00 PM and wait to go on at two in the morning and he said he'd performed for, like, three people and “I'd wind up buying breakfast for them after the show. I got absolutely nowhere at an incredibly slow pace.”
Sarah: So I feel like this would be a great, slightly bleak, but also fun indie movie.
Mike: Yeah. It's so interesting because this could also be the plot of a super dark movie of some incel dude.
Sarah: Yeah. He could be the Joker.
Mike: Yeah. This could be a story of, like, desperation and dash dreams, but it sounds like Kato is such a sort of upbeat dude that he's enjoying it or making the most of it. It sounds like he just had a great attitude about everything.
Sarah: This is why I identify with Kato, this sort of untoward optimism and just the sense of, “I don't know what's going on. I'm totally out of my depth and I probably won't be helpful if you really need someone helpful, but I'm doing my best and I care about you.”
Mike: I saw a bumper sticker once that said, “I'm smiling because I don't know what's going on.” I feel like that's what was happening.
Sarah: So he marries Cindy, who's the woman who he's saving himself for. They meet and get married and his family comes out from Milwaukee for the wedding and the night before, he's talking to his dad about how, “I don't think I want to get married. I don't think I'm ready to get married. This might be a bad idea” and his dad's like, “No, no. We're all here. So, get married, champ.”
Mike: “I already used my miles.”
Sarah: “No one wants to get married anyway.” Then, after two years they decide to get divorced, and it's hard on Kato's family because it's the first time in recorded history that a Kaelin has gotten divorced.
Mike: Huge. Yeah.
Sarah: Yeah. And they have a kid together. Kato has a daughter named Tiffany and Kato's dad tries to convince Kato to get an annulment and it's like, “No, I think if you've had a kid, you can't really annul it.”
Mike: Yeah, it's harder that way…
Sarah: It's kind of proof that some things have happened.
Mike: At least once.
Sarah: This is very poignant. “Looking back, Kato realized he never should have married in the first place: ‘I was only twenty-three years old, looked like I was twelve and most of the time acted like it, had no career to speak of, no permanent place to live, and no real prospects. I was a tender babe in a very prickly woods.”
Mike: That’s a description of him that will continue.
Sarah: So I picture Kato Kaelin going through life just like, “Owwww. Owww.”
Mike: There's something so interesting too about somebody who grows up in a pretty privileged, pretty stable home having to have these revelations about the way the world works, that other people have much younger.
Sarah: Right. He also thought that everyone in the world was Catholic until he went to high school. His biographer says, like, he suddenly went to a majority Jewish high school and was like, “Oh wow.”
Mike: There's such a thing as minorities! There's such a thing as not being the dominant group. Huh!
Sarah: Yeah. He just seems like someone who life had treated gently.
Mike: Yeah. It's sort of sad that so much of the way that we form our personalities is in response to hardship. You don't want to wish hardship on people so that they'll be cooler or whatever, but it's also so interesting that these sorts of hardships that he's experiencing in his twenties are what a lot of people are experiencing when they're eleven.
Sarah: Yeah. I really see the great innocence of American ambition in a way in Kato Kaelin, because I think the fact that we forgot, but have retained the effect of, is that Kato Kaelin was aging out of the life he was in. He was thirty-five when he fell into the spotlight, which is like… thirty-five is not twenty-five. If he had been a twenty-five year old Beach Fever, pizza, delivering comedy waitstaff guy, I think he would have been received differently. He did get a lot of flack in the media for just the fact that he was a grown man whose career was like, babysitter/around-the-house guy.
Mike: Yeah. When they mint a millennial coin, he should be on it. He’s like the first millennial. He's like the pioneer. The millennial Magellan.
Sarah: According to him he has, on multiple occasions, the experience of getting cast in a big commercial. It's going to be a big campaign. He'll get residuals from it and then his part is cut from it. So he's one of those people who – I think there are a lot of people like this – were always almost making it in an industry, like always feeling like they're about to break through.
Mike: So you're close enough to making it happen that it's like, you can convince yourself that it will happen.
Sarah: Yeah. And then in 1987, he makes Beach Fever, which is his biggest project so far and he befriends the director of the film who later on introduces him to a guy named Grant Cramer because he's making another movie called Little Red Corvette and he wants Kato and Grant to team up and cast it for him basically, which is how Kato gets into the casting business and also ultimately how he meets Nicole, because he meets her in Aspen when it's Grant's idea for them to go there for New Year's. So Kato and Nicole, in a way, were brought together by Beach Fever. Yeah.
So, Kato and Grant Cramer drive to Aspen on Christmas morning of 1992. So, on December 30th, they crash a celebrity party at the Ritz Carlton. “It was a very exclusive affair filled with the upper echelon of Aspen players, movie stars, producers, directors, the Donald Trump's, and other regular members of the rich and famous cast. ‘Grant and I decided to sneak in through the kitchen. We got dressed in our best clothes and simply wrote up with the waiters in the service elevator. Nothing to it.”
Mike: Couldn't they get invited to these parties anyway if his partner's, like, kind of a mover and shaker dude?
Sarah: But like, mover and shaker with the Beach Fever filmmakers.
Mike: Oh, right.
Sarah: “We were into talking to as many great looking women as possible,’ Kato said. At one point Grant saw someone he thought he knew. It was Nicole Brown Simpson.” The book says “Grant had been introduced to her at a party at O.J. Simpson's house a while back. As soon as he saw her, he went for it. He told Kato he had ‘always wanted to do her.”
Sarah: I know. “They went over, said ‘hello’. Grant introduced Kato to Nicole. It was obvious that although Grant thought he knew her, neither she nor the friend she was with, Faye Resnick, remembered ever having met him before.”
Sarah: “It didn't matter though, for within minutes they were all laughing together as if they were old friends.”
Mike: One of the weirdest things about being super attractive is that everybody remembers meeting you. I feel like that would be very surreal.
Sarah: Yeah. And then the book says, “In Aspen, the four got along well. Grant and Nicole had really hit it off. ‘I could tell there were sparks flying,’ Kato said. ‘I liked Faye, but only as a friend. I was really more interested in Catherine Oxenberg, an actress I had recognized as soon as I walked in. I excused myself and went over to talk to her. We struck a harmonious chord and I wound up spending the night with her while Grant returned to Jerry’s condo with Nicole and Faye.”
Sarah: I just love this Kato-ism: “We struck a harmonious chord.” I think that says a lot about Kato, right? Maybe he has Jeff Bridges as The Dude energy where like, you recognize that he's so oblivious to what's going on that it's hard to blame him. You're like, “You seem genuinely well-intentioned.”
Mike: Yeah, it's weird. I know. It's difficult to dislike him, but it's also difficult to, like, really like him because there's also… they talk about active protagonists and passive protagonists in stories.
Sarah: Kato Kaelin is definitely a passive protagonist.
Mike: So it's always difficult to get engaged in these stories where it's not clear what the protagonist wants or really what's driving them other than just circumstance.
Sarah: Yeah, and just that he is open to follow other people along on their adventure. I'm sure Kato Kaelin has anxiety and worry and I'm sure he experiences all sorts of emotions.
Mike: Of course.
Sarah: But the major choices in his life do seem marked by a lack of self-reflection. Kato says he notices that Nicole has been seeing a guy back in L.A., but he's calling her while she's in Aspen and she's not calling him back and apparently it takes her a while to feel comfortable having sex with Grant. She and Faye call it playing, just like sexual stuff short of that.
Mike: As you said on the show before, there’s only, like, four things you can do. So, she's doing the other things and not the main thing.
Sarah: Yeah. So, apparently Grant's telling Kato that they'd done a lot of “fooling around,” but he still hadn't actually made love to Nicole. “It was Nicole's choice,’ he said. She wanted to get to know him a little more before they actually ‘did it.’ This, according to Kato, only made Grant more determined.” So, January 2nd, Kato and Grant drive back to L.A. and then a couple of weeks after they all get back, Nicole invites him to an engagement party that she is throwing and Kato goes out in the backyard and Nicole shows him the pool and the guest house and he's like, “Nicole, who lives here?” and she's like, “Nobody” and he's like, “Boy, I'd sure be able to live in this neighborhood” and she's like, “Oh, you can live in there.”
Mike: So they barely know each other at this point?
Sarah: Yeah. They've spent a few days together in Aspen. So Kato moves in. The original agreement is that he's going to live rent-free in exchange for childcare and ‘dude about house-ness’ and then after a while Nicole starts charging $500 a month.
Sarah: My sense is that she knew Kato and she knew him well enough to know he possessed that very... Kato, really he wasn't entirely unlike Kato the Akita. He was someone who is, like, big and strong and formidable and fundamentally very cuddly.
Mike: Right. Like, non-threatening.
Sarah: Yeah. If you think about someone who could be like… who you just feel better about having around, you know?
Sarah: And also probably that Kato had hung out with them and watched and facilitated his friend hooking up with Nicole and apparently not been weird about it at all. That seems like a good litmus test of, “Can I have this person around and they won’t make it weird because they want to start something with me?”
Mike: Right. Dudes who don't make it weird get very far in life.
Sarah: Yeah. They get to live in free guest houses in Brentwood sometimes. So it takes Kato several days to move all his stuff, because he just has a little sports car.
Sarah: It’s very cute to picture of Kato driving back and forth between Brentwood and Hermosa Beach.
Mike: With, like, one backpack at a time.
Sarah: When he arrives, he's greeted at the door by Nicole's housekeeper, Maria, who Nicole's daughter, Sydney, peaks out from behind and says, “Who are you?” And it says, “Kato grinned, put on a funny voice, and said, “I will be your new neighbor.” She broke into a big smile. “What is your name, young lady?” “Sydney”, she said, and added that it was okay with her that he moved in.
So, this is the kind of relationship that he has with the kids too, where he does funny voices for them. He plays video games with them. He plays softball with them. Like he does spend a lot of time with the kids, actually.
Mike: It's so interesting because yeah, in any other circumstance, Kato would have been, like, a great dude.
Sarah: Yeah, and they all lived together for a year and there was no, you know, there were no real issues. He says the only issue, actually, when he first moves in, from his perspective is that she will often sunbathe nude by the pool and – I know, poor Kato. Must be nice. Must be nice! And she notices that he gets uncomfortable when he, like, passes her when she's face up because she wants to get an even tan. So she's, like, turning around a lot and so after the first few days, whenever he comes by, she flips over so that she's on her stomach and he doesn't have to see anything he doesn't want to see.
Mike: God, by the standards of the story though, it's like, for all the dirt bag behavior that she's experienced in her life, like, this is extremely un-dirtbag behavior, right? That like…
Mike: “I don't feel super appropriate about you being naked around me and instead of being fucking weird about it or trying something with you, I'm going to, in some way, signal that ‘Let's keep this platonic,’ basically.”
Sarah: Yeah. I feel like it’s unfair that Kato Kaelin and Faye Resnick were two of the people who were the most mercilessly roasted in the press, and also they seem to have been people who were genuinely interested in being Nicole's friend. And despite whatever limitations they had, they did really try, and they did really care about her. So like, why are they the ones that we’re taking this much out on? Does it come from that feeling of ,“if I had been there, I would have known things that I still clearly culturally don't know about domestic violence, because look at how people are talking about Nicole's marriage even after the murder.”
Mike: It's just amazing these tiny, little moments of grace and it's such a, in some ways, inconsequential moment of grace, but just, like, an extremely attractive woman who a man is around who doesn't try to take advantage of her. It's just like, woooow. Like, by the standards of this story, we're like, medal of honor for Kato.
Sarah: Right. We're grading on a curve.
Mike: Yeah, my God.
Sarah: And Grant basically breaks things off with Nicole after he does finally “do it” with her and then Nicole gets pretty hung up on Grant according to Kato Kaelin. Here, I'll read this to you. “Grant invited Kato to a party to watch the game and Kato asked Nicole if she wanted to come along. It apparently never occurred to him that Kathy's presence might create a problem.” Kathy is Grant's new girl. “Sure enough, when Nicole showed up, she became annoyed when Grant paid more attention to Kathy than to her and when she and Kato got home, she said she wanted to talk to him about what had happened. It was the beginning of a new phase in their relationship, one in which Nicole would confide her innermost secrets to her new house guest. That night she told him that for the first time in her life, being at the party had made her feel self-conscious about her age. After all, she told Kato, she was in her early thirties and Grant's girlfriend was only nineteen. Twenty tops. Nicole said she felt like she was not only the other woman in Grant's life, but the older woman.” And that's when she tells Kato that she doesn't want Grant coming over ever and that's also when he proves himself as someone who she can be like, “Hey. Please don't do this. Here's how I feel about this, and this is why I want you to do this.” And he's like, “Okay.”
Mike: It also illustrates, in some ways, his obliviousness.
Sarah: Yeah. That he's like, “This'll be totally fine because if I went to a party that my ex were having with their younger, more attractive, new partner. I don't think I would care. I'm Kato Kaelin”
Mike: Right. Yeah.
Sarah: “I was a varsity baseball player when I was fourteen.”
Mike: But it's also a deepening of their relationship too, right? Like, a nice deepening that she's now telling him stuff and has a man that she's confiding in and who isn't using that against her, the way that O.J. has.
Sarah: Yeah. And I think it really sucks that we have to have spent so much time speculating and that some people will continue to speculate about what was the nature of her relationship with Ron Goldman or Kato Kaelin and were they having sex or were they going to? And it’s like, well, we could focus on that, but we could also talk about how, like, isn't it interesting that it seemed to be this meaningful, maybe even therapeutic thing for her to have just platonic friendships with men, for there to be men in her life who she trusted and who were worthy of her trust. Like, that's actually kind of amazing that she was doing that.
Mike: Yes. And who also were considerate in that “You're asking me not to bring my friend Grant over. Okay. I'm going to respect that.” It's the kind of thing that O.J. wouldn't do.
Sarah: I think just the experience of saying to someone like, “Hey, it would mean a lot to me if you would do this thing for me” and to have someone, like, just do it.
Sarah: That's amazing. Yeah. Mmm, Kato.
Mike: Aww, Kato.
Sarah: There was so much that he couldn’t do, but then there were things that Kato Kaelin could do.
Mike: I mean, I guess, as with so many of these things, it's like, what can people offer other people and then what are the limits of what they can offer other people?
Sarah: Yeah. And then what are causing those limits and how do we design the Kato of the future?
Mike: Does he mention the abuse other than the 911 call? Does he see it? Does he see signs of it everywhere or is that a unique case?
Sarah: I mean it's a while before he even meets O.J. He just here's tell of him. She tells Kato that she thinks O.J. has people spying on her. She tells him that she feels her life is in danger and that he could kill her and get away with it.
Mike: I mean, yes.
Sarah: But then at other times, she's reconciling with O.J. and she's like, “Let's not talk about all that other stuff we talked about before.”
Mike: This is, like, too much emotional complexity for Kato Kaelin to handle, I feel like.
Sarah: It's too much complexity for any of us to handle, you know? The people at the top of any field in the United States have historically really struggled with these concepts. Why do we expect Kato Kaelin, baseball star of Nikolay High, to be able to do what the L.A.P.D. couldn't do? Ron Shipp also knew about a lot of this, and he was the one who did domestic violence trainings for Los Angeles cops. So, the degree of ignorance here really feels hard to overstate.
And so the football season ends in 1993 and O.J. is working less because the kind of the bread and butter of his work, aside from golfing for Hertz type stuff, is football announcing and so he's around more. He sees Kato more. He and Nicole are attempting this reconciliation that they began in the spring of ‘93 where, you know, she decides, “I really want to be back with O.J. I really want to make this work again.” And so Kato starts seeing O.J. a lot more too. and so O.J. does stuff like he takes him on the set of The Naked Gun 33 1/3, which he's making at that time.
Mike: No, thirty-three and a third.
Sarah: Oh, sorry.
Mike: It’s two and a half. Sarah.
Sarah: I'm sorry.
Mike: We insist on accuracy in this podcast.
Sarah: Thirty-three and a third and Kato is, like, really dazzled and delighted by this and he especially enjoys that Leslie Nielsen has a battery device where he can start just, like, fart noises emanating from his person and at the end of the day O.J., “in a casual, almost joking manner reminded Kato that he was still living at Nicole's and, of course, there were certain things he just couldn't tell her. Kato reassured him that he had nothing to worry about, that he would never do anything like that. ‘Besides,’ he said, ‘why would it matter? After all, they were no longer married.’
‘It matters,’ O.J. said.” And this is about O.J. taking Kato out and his adventures with other women and not still meeting to deceive Nicole about that.
Mike: Oh. So he wants Kato to keep his secrets, basically.
Sarah: Yeah. “In May of 1993, at the start of this attempted reconciliation, Nicole and O.J. go to Cabo,” which is where, a year later, they're going to have their other terrible Cabo trip where O.J. makes his frogman comments.
Sarah: But a year earlier, Nicole comes back from this 1993 trip to Cabo and, according to the book, Nicole told Kato how awful the first two days had been. “It began as one of the worst trips of my life,’ she said. The reason, she explained, was that O.J. had set out to prove that he was still able to satisfy her sexually. He insisted upon making love to her five times a day, she said, violently, all while screaming, ‘I’ll do you like no one else can do you.”
Mike: Oh my God.
Sarah: “She told Kato she begged him to ease up: ‘O.J., please. Give me a break.’ She said it wasn't until the third day that he just physically wore himself out.”
Mike: Jesus fucking Christ.
Sarah: Yeah. As painful as this may be for her, if she's to try and say no, like, we know that the 1989 New Year's beating starts with her refusing to give him oral sex. So…
Sarah: What would happen if she said no? There's no consent when the alternative to sex is something even more violent.
Mike: And you don't have to make a physical threat to someone in that situation. It's just understood by both parties.
Sarah: Yeah, which is just harrowing. So, Kato hears all this and his first meeting with O.J. is after he learns about this Cabo trip.
Mike: And he still hangs out with O.J. He still goes to the sets with him. He still strikes up this friendship with O.J. knowing all this.
Sarah: Yeah. It's like he knows that O.J. did this and he's also able to go hang out with him and Leslie Nielsen and I feel like the question is, why?
Sarah: What were the factors that allowed this bystander who, like, hadn't been part of this relationship for years and years at this point to be like, “I guess you're telling me that it's fine and so, I guess, okay.”
Mike: Or like, “I went because he invited me.” Lots of people agree to do things that they're asked to do without really thinking them through. Especially people that have this kind of Kato-like obliviousness.
Sarah: Right. Or just Nicole says, “Things are fine with you now.” We're just getting at the fact that we won't always know what to do. Kato lives in all of us, which says hopeful things for our hair. Kato also says – I don't really know what to think of this story – Kato says that there was one night when he and Nicole were drinking and she's drinking pretty heavily and she says, “I don't know how to tell you this, but I'm falling in love with you.’ Kato felt the blood drain from his face. He couldn't believe what he was hearing.
‘No, you're not,’ he said.
‘Yes, I am.’ she insisted. ‘I've had dreams about you.’ He remembered now how sometimes in the mornings he'd meet Nicole in her kitchen for coffee, and she'd say, ‘Whoa, you don't want to be around me today. I had a dream about you.’
‘Come on,’ he'd say, thinking she was teasing him. ‘Were we… doing things? Was I good?’ He remembered how she’d laugh and that would be it. Now though, she wasn't laughing. ‘No, uh, hey. Listen, Nicole. I love you too, as a friend, but we could never be romantically involved. I couldn't do it.’ He meant it. He insisted he wasn't sexually attracted to her and was canny enough to know it could never work any other way between them than the way it was now.
‘But Kato,’ she went on, ‘It's perfect. The kids love you.’
‘Nicole,’ he said, groping for excuses, ‘I'm not a wealthy guy. I live in a guest house, remember? I'm the guy who was late with his rent.’
‘You're going to be very famous one day soon, Kato,’ she replied, ‘I can feel it.’
‘Yeah, and I'll be able to afford to move into a larger guest house.’
Nicole sensed his unease. ‘I know you're uncomfortable about what I've said,’ she told him, ‘But I had to say it.’ With that, she smiled and went back into the living room.” What do you think about that?
Mike: I like imagining Nicole running off with Kato and having just a normal L.A. life together with this nice guy who, as long as the circumstances don't put him into terrible situations, is a pretty dope husband.
Sarah: Yeah. They would get divorced, too, eventually, but he would be the ex-husband, who you're like, “Oh, it's Kato's weekend with the kids.”
Sarah: “I hope he doesn't take them dirt biking again.”
Mike: For all his faults, it doesn't seem like he has temper issues, impulse control issues, violence issues. It doesn't seem like he would be an agent of chaos in anybody's life.
Sarah: When I first read this, my first thought was like, “Did that really happen? I've never…” and also because other people were like, “Oh no, yeah. She wasn't interested in Kato. Nope. No tension between her and Kato. Do do do.” I think because of that, I was like, “Did Kato Kaelin just throw this in here just as a self-aggrandizing thing?” But now, reading it again this week though, because I spent a couple days in this book really thinking about Kato Kaelin and I was like, “No, I believe that.” It does seem to me completely possible that if you're living with this guy who's sweet and harmless and ripped and loves your kids and your kids love him and there's a scary guy chasing you around that, even if you didn't necessarily have a ton of romantic tension with him at any other time, would have a moment of like, “Kato, just like– agh. Fuck everything. Let’s just– you and me.”
Mike: Yeah. It’s not nuts.
Sarah: You know, like, people are attracted to each other in some moments and not in others.
Mike: Yeah. These are two hot people doing hot people's stuff.
Sarah: But the on-again, off-again reconciliation continues between Nicole and O.J. and then Kato talks about the incident on October 25th, 1993, that we heard part of in the 911 call.
Mike: Right, when O.J. came in and kicked in the back door.
Sarah: Yeah. Nicole is on the phone with the 911 operator and O.J. is terrorizing her and Kato, at first, decides to just head to his guest house and then, before he closes the door, he takes another look and decides he needs to go in and try and calm O.J. down, which he does and he kind of distracts O.J. and when the police come, they ask Kato to fix the french doors that O.J. has kicked in, and Mark Eliot writes, “After the police left, Kato continued to try to make repairs while Nicole, still upset, began talking. She said she couldn't believe the kids had slept through the whole noisy altercation. When she was still married to O.J., she told Kato they used to fight all the time in front of the children. It got to the point where Sydney, in Nicole's words, was so used to the fighting it became a normal part of her life, which is why she had to have a security blanket and continually sucked on her fingers. Kato asked Nicole what had happened to provoke O.J. into ‘the kind of rage I'd never experienced before.’
‘Absolutely nothing,’ she said. ‘O.J. just, we're fighting again.’ She told Kato that O.J. had come over a few nights earlier and had seen some photos of her and a man she used to date on the den table. That had kicked off a new round of fights between them.” This is a man who's sleeping with a photo of Paula Barbieri nude by his bed.
Mike: And probably cheating on Paula Barbieri with other people, too.
Sarah: Yeah. In light of O.J.'s repeated concern for what Nicole is doing while the kids are sleeping upstairs, the kids are sleeping upstairs at Nicole's house the night that she is murdered outside her front door.
Mike: Do they hear anything? What happens with them?
Sarah: Officer Riske finds them sleeping, apparently sleeping in their rooms when he is the first officer at the scene
Mike: And after the murder, do they go live with O.J.’s sister or something? What's the custody situation afterwards?
Sarah: They live with Nicole's family after O.J. is taken into custody.
Mike: Okay. I wish there were some way for courts or somebody to order that some people shouldn't be famous. I feel like with kids like that, that go through something so terrible at such a young point in their life, I feel like the best thing that everybody can do is just, like, un-fame them.
Sarah: Like a witness protection program.
Mike: Yeah. The way we do with the sons and daughters of presidents. I wish there was a way for everyone to just get together like a slack channel and just like, “We're going to leave these kids alone forever.”
Sarah: Yeah. That's what the Illuminati should be for.
Mike: I know!
Sarah: It's just talking about who we're going to leave. I know and also, if Sydney Simpson wins a flower arranging competition today, the headline will be, like, “Daughter of This Tragic Situation.”
Sarah: So after Nicole and Kato talk, post-fight, Kato goes back to his guest house and O.J. calls and asks him to come over to his house and have a little talk about what just happened and what Kato just saw.
Mike: Oh, wow. Like, the same day?
Sarah: Yeah. That very night. Kato says, “O.J., I don't know. Let me call you back.”
Sarah: And then he goes to the main house to talk to Nicole and told her about O.J. calling and she, in his words, freaked out. “If you go over there,’ she cried ‘I'll hate you. Don't you dare go over there.”
Sarah: “Kato was surprised. Although we should've expected that reaction, he hadn't. ‘Okay,’ he said, ‘but he really sounded upset on the phone.’
‘Kato,’ she said on the verge of tears, ‘he's trying to manipulate you. Don't you see? I don't want you going over there.’
‘Okay,’ he said, ‘I won't. Should I call him back?’
‘If you have to,’ Nicole said quietly.” Kato ultimately decides not to call O.J. back and just to do what Nicole says.
Sarah: What do you think of that little interaction again?
Mike: It's just again that you have to keep telling this guy basic stuff.
Sarah: Right. You're like, “No, Kato. You're being manipulated right now.”
Mike: At least he asked her, my God.
Sarah: He does well if he's given direction.
Sarah: Constant directions.
Sarah: And then Elliot writes, “Looking back on the incident, Kato recalled, ‘By the time I saw O.J. again, he and Nicole had made peace. The incident seemed completely forgotten by the both of them. At least that's the way they acted, as if neither wanted to admit it had ever taken place. Later on when I began seeing O.J. more frequently, he did mention it to me one more time, although not in any apologetic or explanatory way. I don't remember how it came up, but he brushed it off, insisting it had been no big thing.” So they’re also living in this kind of mini society where for as long as Nicole and O.J. are together, Nicole has to respect O.J.’s needed reality of “It wasn't a big deal. You provoked me.”
Mike: “It doesn't count.”
Sarah: And then Nicole decides that she needs to downsize and move out of the house on Gretna Green with the guest house, and when she finds the Bundy condo. She writes Kato a note saying that he can move in with them. They all really want him to live with them. He can pay the same rent and she would only let him move out “when you find a wife.” She signed the note, “Love, Me.”
At the same time O.J. is talking about maybe selling his house on Rockingham and moving Nicole and the kids to Florida and starting a new life there. Which, to me, is a little bit sinister given the context of what we're seeing from this reconciliation with him trying to control her friends and spy on her and follow her, but they don't do that.
She does decide to move into the house on Bundy, and then we're going to jump ahead to Kato's testimony in O.J. Simpson's trial on March 21st, 1995, being questioned by Marcia Clark. And Marcia says, “Did you ever move into the Bundy townhouse that Nicole purchased in January 1994, that you were going to?”
Marcia: “Why not? Why did you do that?”
Kato: “Because O.J. asked me to go to his house. I mean, it was part of a deal. I went there instead of moving in with Nicole.”
Marcia: “What did the defendant say to you about moving into his house instead of Nicole's condominium?”
Kato: “I mean, we talked about it and it was sort of like the right thing to do, not to be in the same house. That I should probably not go there, and O.J. offered me his place. It was free and he said you can stay as long as you want and when it was time for you to go, he'd let me know.”
Marcia: “Did he indicate with you with respect to what he thought of the fact that you'd be living in the same house with Nicole?”
Kato: “Didn't like it, but it probably wouldn’t be right.”
Mike: So again, “He asked me to do it. I didn't really think it through.”
Sarah: Right. According to Kato, he's already thinking “I'm not going to have my own little dwelling anymore. I used to have a lot more privacy” and at the same time O.J. is like, “Listen, I just don't think it would feel right for you to be living in the same house.” According to O.J., that's where he's going to draw a line and Kato's like, “Sure. I understand. I was maybe not super keen on staying there anyway. So can I just stay at Nicole's until I find a new place because I do have to find a new place now” and O.J.’s like, “Oh, no. You can live with me” and Kato is like, “I can't afford to live with you” and O.J.’s like, “Just come for free.”
Mike: In Kato's mind it's probably just an uncomplicated lateral move. “I'm going from one place to another. This one has lower rent. Maybe it's bigger. Maybe there's a better TV or whatever.”
Sarah: And I think he’s also, like, primarily looking out for Kato. Like, I think maybe in the moment he's like, “I kind of wanted to find a new place to live. This is a better deal for Kato.” Like, in these big decisions we do tend to maybe think that way first.
Sarah: And according to Kato, he goes in to talk to Nicole and says, “Guess what? O.J. doesn't feel it's right for me to move in with you and the kids, so he's offered to let me live in his guest house for free.”
Mike: Oh my God.
Sarah: “Isn't that great?”
Mike: Oh, my God.
Sarah: And Nicole says, “He's manipulating you, Kato. Don't you see what he's trying to do?”
Mike: Kato, think it through.
Sarah: “Kato claims he couldn't believe what he was hearing and couldn't understand what she was so upset about. Apparently, the idea of betrayal never entered his mind. Instead, he tried to explain to her how perfect this seemed to him, but Nicole didn't want to hear any of it. She became extremely upset and cut short the discussion. Kato went back to the guest house and started packing. A few minutes later Nicole came by to tell him she was sorry for blowing up, that she was okay with his moving in with O.J., and that she wasn't even angry at him for doing this to us. She said, ‘Every time I make a friend, he takes them away from me’.”
And then apparently, a little later, Nicole's friend, Cora Fishman, comes over and Kato's talking to Cora about how Nicole's much more upset than he thought she would be, and Cora says, “Maybe it's that Nicole was counting on him for the rent money every month.” and he's like, “Oh.”
Mike: Oh my God. Kato!
Sarah: And he goes and talks to Nicole and is like, “Wait. Cora said that you might need me for the rent money every month. So, if that's true, I'll go. I'll live with you. Like, I understand.” And according to Kato Kaelin: The Whole Truth, “Nicole, without emotion, said to the house guest she had once declared with happiness and conviction she'd wanted to be friends with for the rest of her life, ‘It's okay. Go live with O.J.”
Mike: Aw. It's so sad that she is perceiving the situation exactly as it is. As in so many chapters of her life, it's like, she gets it. Everyone around her is like, “Eehh.”
Sarah: Yeah. No one is able to take her seriously when she's just stating the truth of what's going on. Like, “He's manipulating you. He is taking you away from me. He is taking one of my strengths and turning it into one of my weaknesses and you're letting it happen and this is what always happens.”
Mike: Yeah. You can feel her deep sigh, just sort of watching all of this, of like, “Of course.” Right? Like, “Of course Kato is leaving. Of course, Kato is leaving to move in with my abusive ex-husband. Like, of-fucking-course.”
Sarah: Yeah. And like, “Why would I think that I could possibly have someone on my side? Like, why even try?” I feel like what's saddest for me about thinking about that little moment is that Kato actually kind of cluelessly signs on for this clearly bad idea and then actually thinks about it for a second and is like, “Oh. Nicole, I'm sorry. I'll totally live with you. I didn't realize you might be counting on me” and he's thinking of rent, but like…
Sarah: That could be a stand in for anything and she's like, “No. Just go. Just go.”
Mike: The kind of privilege that you need to go through life this oblivious is really fascinating. Is like a sort of easily attractive, friendly, varsity baseball team, kind of guy. You're just like, “I just do what people tell me to and then when they tell me, like, “Hey, that was mean” I'm like, “Hey, okay. Sorry. It was mean,” but he's never thinking of “what does it mean for me to move out?”
Sarah: Or that he's, like so many other people in the story, he understands that, like, he sees the way O.J. is breaking into her house so she's making this 911 call. He sees this fury in him that he says is unlike anything he's ever seen before. So, he's registering what's going on. He's not like, “Oh, O.J.’s just got a short fuse, but it's fine.” It seems like he's genuinely scared of him, but just, in the absence of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is able to be like, “Well, I think, but in the end it's fine and they're reconciling and Nicole's not in danger.” Like, I wonder if like, how much of this is denial and just the desire to believe that if people say things are fine then they really are fine.
I also wonder how many of America's lawmakers are essentially Kato Kaelin. Like, they're not bad people. They don't want to do bad things in the world, but they are, literally or spiritually, former varsity baseball players from Glendale who just are well-intentioned and need to be given direct instructions about everything in life that doesn't pertain directly to their interests. You know, so many of the people who inhabit roles in America where they really do need to understand abuse dynamics and they really do need to understand what it means to have a complex set of obligations to the people around you and to your community and who just, it's not a willingness thing. It's a capacity thing.
Mike: Right. It's also so interesting thinking about it in context of what we consider to be the bystander effect, right? Where there's this belief that all these people watched Kitty Genovese get stabbed to death and sort of shrugged and didn't call the cops. It's like we think of the bystander effect in terms of, “Did you see it, or did you not see it?” whereas there's also things like this where he did see it, but he didn't contextualize it. He saw what he needed to see, he just didn't do anything about it.
Sarah: Life is so much less scary in this weird, dark, Forensic Files-informed worldview where you're like, “People have the capacity to save each other, but they choose not to because they're evil.” That's much less scary. I think this world where all these hyper competent, yet evil people are walking around where it's like, no, the world is just full of Kato Kaelins. The worst things that happen in this world happen because of just doofy people with a lack of capacity for what they're really needed to do in the moment when they're needed.
Mike: Never trust good baseball players.
Sarah: Don't trust the prom Kings.
Sarah: They probably don't want to hurt you, but maybe they can't help you very much either.
Mike: Yes. Is that where we're stopping? Are we done?
Mike: So tell us, what are we going to hear about next time?
Sarah: We're going to hear more about Kato's adventures because that is going to take us through Kato basically, in his Kato way, hanging out with O.J. on the afternoon of June 12th and cluelessly tagging along to McDonald's with him.
Mike: We're all, in some way, cluelessly tagging along to McDonald's somewhere.
Sarah: Merry Christmas!
Mike: Merry Christmas!