Fragments From 'Me And O.J.! The Musical'

From time to time the news cycle offers up an event of such import and complexity that it can only be comprehended through the medium of musical theater. This week resident composer Ben Greenman examines the recent antics of O.J. Simpson and provides a possible motive.

[BEN GREENMAN is on a yacht in the Mediterranean. GAWKER calls. BEN GREENMAN's assistant holds the telephone near his head so he can talk.]

GAWKER

Do you know why we're calling?

It's musical time

Twice every month

You make the news rhyme

BEN GREENMAN

Yeah, well, I'm in a kind of reassessment phase with regard to those musicals.

GAWKER

Maybe there's a bad connection

As you know, we have a contract

We met your price; you signed the deal

That is an accomplished fact.

BEN GREENMAN

I can have my lawyers call you if you like. But the recent behavior of celebrities has been pretty dismal, and not in the right way. It just hasn't sparked any productive thoughts.

GAWKER

Do you like your new Bugatti

Or your Gerald Genta jump hour?

We can and will withhold your fee

That's well within our power.

BEN GREENMAN

I'm mentally tapped for the moment. If it costs me the full amount every month, I'll be sad to see it go, but there's not much I can do. Plus, it's almost Yom Kippur. I'm not especially devout, but I've been wondering if maybe it's wrong to trivialize the news in this way. Who does it help? Isn't Larry Craig in terrible pain like any man with a double life? Isn't Salman Rushdie suffering from his divorce like any man who has lost his wife? Isn't Lindsay Lohan, even, a victim of her fame? Should I be mocking those people? Their priorities have been twisted in some cases, or they've been undone by circumstance, but they're still people. If only there was a target that absolutely deserved all the mockery I could deliver, someone who was utterly unsympathetic.

GAWKER

You've overthinking.

Have you been drinking?

You have exactly seven days

To pass out of this phase.

[BEN GREENMAN hangs up the phone. He stretches out dolorously on his yacht. A few days later he flies to New York City to meet some friends for dinner at Masa. During the meal, he notices that O.J. SIMPSON is also eating at the restaurant. A little while longer, O.J. SIMPSON notices BEN GREENMAN.]

O.J. SIMPSON

Oh my stars

Oh my Lord

My heart has just soared

The joy that I'm feeling

Cannot be ignored

It's Ben Greenman

Sitting right here

It's Ben Greenman

Sitting so near

His musicals have brought me so much pleasure

It's like I'm Mel Fisher and they're sunken treasure

Whenever I read them they make me laugh

If I charted my mirth upon a graph

The line would start at zero and rise high

Perhaps it would reach up to the sky

[BEN GREENMAN continues to eat.]

O.J. SIMPSON

Should I speak to him?

Or should I not?

I don't know

The moment's fraught

I feel like

A schoolgirl

My jumbo-size head is in a whirl

[O.J. SIMPSON screws up his courage and approaches BEN GREENMAN.]

O.J. SIMPSON

Mr. Greenman?

Hi. I'm O.J.

I'm not sure I

Know what to say.

I've read your writing

I love your work

Oh, man, I feel

Like such a jerk.

You wrote a piece

About my confession


I had it framed

It's a prize possession

BEN GREENMAN

I'm glad you laughed

That's what they were for

But I'm not doing

Those things anymore

O.J. SIMPSON

What? I can't breathe.

I feel like I'm choking

It's as if Leslie Nielsen

Left off with joking

In the musical about me that you wrote

There's one rhyming couplet that I love to quote

"Murder! Mayhem! Spousal abuse!

The juice is loose! The juice is loose!"

BEN GREENMAN

You understand that I was damning you as an opportunistic psychopath, right?

O.J. SIMPSON

"Murder! Mayhem! Spousal abuse!

The juice is loose! The juice is loose!"

BEN GREENMAN

Anyway, I think I'm done with the musicals for a while. They seem to be vessels of pain. They take people who have humiliated themselves and make sport of them. The only way I'd do another one is if a celebrity, preferably a crazy one, did something that didn't cause any actual pain but demonstrated intense arrogance and moral blindness. Like if, say, Phil Spector did one of those "Fire in the Hole" pranks. You know what I'm talking about? When kids order soda in a fast-food drive-thru and then toss it back into the window?

O.J. SIMPSON

That's comical, I will admit

But I can't even smile

The news that you're retiring

Will have me downcast for a while

I can't even tell you

How miserable I feel

I'm sorry to have bothered you.

Please enjoy your meal.

[O.J. goes away. Over the next few days, as he is golfing, opening nightclubs, and searching for the real killer, he thinks about what BEN GREENMAN said.]

O.J. SIMPSON

The world needs doggerel based on the news

I know what I'll do: I'll serve as his muse

I need a plan

I need a plan

I need to inspire

That wonderful man

[O.J. comes up with an idea. Having long heard rumors that his sports memorabilia, which has been stolen from him, is being sold on the gray market, he decides to set up an informal sting to nab one of the memorabilia dealers.]

O.J. SIMPSON

I'll be steady

I won't falter

I'll lay this offering

At Ben Greenman's altar

[O.J. travels to Las Vegas with a team of accomplices. He goes to the casino hotel, locates the memorabilia dealer, and bursts into the man's hotel room.]

O.J. SIMPSON

This is a sting

MAN

Please stop pointing that thing

O.J. SIMPSON

Motherfucker, you think you can

Steal my shit and sell it?

I'm in charge of this tale

And you won't live to tell it.

MAN

O.J., please, stay calm

Maintain your aplomb

O.J. SIMPSON

I'll kill ya

I'll kill ya

Give me back my memorabilia

MAN

O.J., look, don't shout

What's this all about?

O.J. SIMPSON

I always thought you were a straight shooter

I'll shut your ass down like a laptop computer

[O.J. SIMPSON is arrested for the break-in.]

O.J. SIMPSON

Go ahead and arrest me

You'll never best me

I run cause I can

I'm the gingerbread man

You'll never catch me

You've met your match, see

The yards I gained: two thousand three

The charge I face: armed robbery

Before you put me in the pen

Please call Ben, oh, please call Ben

Tell him it's me and I hope he feels better

Tell him it's all one gigantic fan letter

[BEN GREENMAN is at his ski lodge in Ischgl. There is a phone call. It is not the Las Vegas Police Department. It is GAWKER.]

GAWKER

Do you still have the blahs and blues?

You should go and turn on the news.

[BEN GREENMAN's assistant turns on the TV. BEN GREENMAN sees a report about O.J. SIMPSON's robbery arrest.]

BEN GREENMAN

I was sure I'd never feel again

The spark of inspiration

And yet, it's there, right here, right now

What a strange sensation

[BEN GREENMAN sits down at his vintage Brenner Coronet desk and begins to write a musical. It opens with O.J. SIMPSON arriving in Las Vegas for his meeting with a sports memorabilia dealer.]

CHARACTER O.J.

Where is room 1301?

CHARACTER CLERK

Excuse me, sir: is that a gun?

[The musical is finished in just four days. Fragments from O.J. and Me! The Musical is published on GAWKER, and two months later it opens in a small Off-Broadway theatre. It remains there for six months; the actor playing O.J. receives an Obie nomination. The next year, it moves to Broadway. Box office numbers are tremendous. BEN GREENMAN donates 80 percent of his profits to the Goldman family. Ten percent, he keeps. The other ten percent, he sends to O.J. SIMPSON. The check is returned to him along with a note that says, "I cannot accept this, il miglior fabbro. Yours in eternal rage, O.J." The "O" has a smiley face drawn inside of it.]

Ben Greenman is an editor at the New Yorker and the author of several books of fiction. His latest book, A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both, was recently published.

Previously: Fragments from "Larry! The Muscial"