Most people probably view the recent news of the arrest of O. J. Simpson as a here-we-go-again story with intimations that the guy may finally get what's coming to him. However, for those of us who follow the plays of David Mamet, the scent of life imitating art is beginning to diffuse through the air. Consider the dispatch that Kathleen Hennessey file from Las Vegas yesterday for the Associate Press. Here is her lead:
O.J. Simpson's alleged hotel room heist involved a group of men with little in common, save for an interest in an infamous former football star and, in some cases, a penchant for running afoul of the law.
Simpson and his five co-defendants are accused of holding memorabilia dealers Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley at gunpoint Sept. 13 in a hotel room and taking autographed footballs and other collectibles. Simpson claims some of the items belonged to him and he was retrieving them.
That first sentence bears such a close family resemblance to the plot line for American Buffalo that it is hard to believe that this was a play he dreamed up in 1976. One can then read the bulk of Hennessey's story almost as if it were a proposal for a cast of characters:
• Fromong, 53: An associate of Beardsley's, Fromong appears to have owned the memorabilia allegedly stolen from the Palace Station casino hotel room and calls himself a friend of Simpson's.
After Simpson was acquitted in the slayings of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, Fromong, of North Las Vegas, testified for the defense at Simpson's civil trial.
Fromong told jurors that the market for Simpson's autograph had slowed since his acquittal in the slayings.
After the hotel room incident Fromong suffered a heart attack and spent several days in a hospital.
• Beardsley, 45: As a longtime Simpson paraphernalia collector, he frequently has emerged in the struggle of the families to reclaim Simpson memorabilia to help satisfy the families' $33.5 million civil judgment against Simpson.
He recently was peddling a suit worn by Simpson when the jury returned a not guilty verdict in his double murder trial. He hoped it would fetch $100,000, Beardsley told TMZ.com.
The Burbank, Calif., man was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in 2000 after he slammed his car into newspaper columnist's van while the columnist was inside.
In 2004, he was convicted of stalking a waitress, a felony that landed him three years probation.
• Tom Riccio, 44: An auctioneer and part owner of Universal Rarities in Corona, Calif., he first made headlines when he brought Simpson to a horror convention in Los Angeles for an autograph signing after Simpson was acquitted.
He later sold Anna Nicole Smith's handwritten diary.
In the mid-1980s Riccio was convicted of felony grand larceny in Florida. In 1994, a California jury convicted him of receiving thousands of dollars worth of stolen rare coins.
Riccio's attorney Ryan Okabe says his client's past legal troubles are irrelevant.
He arranged the meeting between Simpson and the memorabilia dealers; he has not been charged.
• Walter Alexander, 46: Simpson reached out to Alexander shortly after both men arrived in Las Vegas for a mutual friend's wedding, according Alexander's lawyer, Robert Dennis Rentzer.
A real estate agent from Mesa, Ariz., Alexander had been Simpson's golfing partner before a falling out. His uncle was the godfather of a child from Simpson's first marriage, who died in a swimming pool accident.
Simpson told Alexander about his plans to surprise Beardsley and Fromong and retrieve memorabilia. Police say Alexander was armed at the time of the robbery, but that his firearm was not drawn.
In 1987, Alexander was arrested in Los Angeles for kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon, but the charges were dismissed because a "witness refused to ID the defendant," court records show.
"For at least 10 years, if not longer, he has been leading a very upright and proper life," Rentzer said.
• Clarence Stewart, 53: "C.J.", of North Las Vegas, also golfed with Simpson when he visited.
Stewart's lawyer, Robert Lucherini, described him as a mortgage broker, a family friend and a sort of "concierge" for Simpson on his Las Vegas trips. He has no criminal record.
The evening of the hotel incident Simpson wanted a ride to meet Beardsley and Fromong, Stewart reluctantly obliged, Lucherini said. Stewart brought a friend, Charles Cashmore, who wanted to meet the infamous star.
• Charles Cashmore, 40: He's a "local union guy" who does a little bit of everything, his lawyer Edward Miley said.
He's spent most of the past 15 years in Las Vegas and finds work at the local laborers union hall, sometimes as a chef. In his off time, he deejays at private parties, Miley said.
In 1996, he was charged with felony theft in an embezzlement case in Provo, Utah. Cashmore pleaded guilty and bargained the charge to a misdemeanor and probation.
• Michael McClinton, 50: McClinton is the man police believe pulled a gun, acted like a police officer, and searched Fromong and Beardsley for weapons.
A search of his Las Vegas home turned up two handguns, a suit that matched one worn by a suspect, and a concealed weapons permit in McClinton's name, according to police.
McClinton's attorney, Bill Terry, said his client works in security and has a clean record. He declined to comment on McClinton's connection to Simpson.
• Charles Ehrlich, 53: A real estate agent, he lives with and cares for his elderly mother outside Miami, according to his lawyer John Moran Jr. Ehrlich, a Simpson acquaintance, also was in Las Vegas for the wedding, Moran said.
Ehrlich's criminal record includes a conviction in the early 1990s for trafficking cocaine. Moran describes it as "brushes with the law." "His role is basically a non-role," Moran said.
The one reason we can assume this is not Mamet's work is that almost all of his plays involve a much smaller number of characters. Still, one has to wonder if all of these guys talk the same way as Mamet's characters, constantly wrestling with a poor command of language to wrap their words around ill-formed ideas. My only regret is that this sort of stuff still makes for better drama that anything I have seen recently on The Unit!