Attend the tale of Mike Gilbert. The former sports agent is the maybe-owner of one of the stranger items of pop memorabilia: the suit O.J. Simpson was wearing when he was acquitted of murder, lo those fourteen years ago.
A great feature in the Los Angeles Times today explains that Gilbert, who is retired and lives in Fresno, was friends with the Heisman trophy winner turned double murderer. He even penned a book entitled How I Helped O.J. Simpson Get Away With Murder in which he says that he told Simpson to go off his arthritis medication so his joints would swell and the famous glove wouldn't fit on his hand. The morning after Simpson's big acquittal night of partying, Gilbert saw the suit lying in a closet and Simpson told him he could have it.
But it might not actually be the suit! Gilbert can coy about whether or not the garments are authentic—saying he is not "under oath" when asked if the suit is real—and also has a spotty record with the family of victim Ron Goldman, who sought any of the running back's valuable assets after they won a multimillion dollar civil settlement against Simpson. That family claims that Gilbert has refused to turn over the suit, which could be worth thousands of dollars, though Gilbert claims he has made many efforts to do just that. (And then sometimes he says he's never promised anyone anything, and it wouldn't matter anyway because he acquired the suit [if it's real!] before the civil suit was filed.)
Promoting a book about his soured friendship with Simpson, Gilbert said that he had the suit, that it was worth at least $50,000 and that he would give it and other items to the Goldmans to atone for the help he gave a man he now believes is a murderer.
But the Goldmans say Gilbert refused to return their calls or produce the suit. This quickly led to another kind of suit — the type written by lawyers. The Goldmans demanded the clothing and anything else Simpson had given to Gilbert after the slayings.
The outfit worn by Simpson during what was then the most-watched moment in U.S. television history "might have significant economic value," wrote one of their lawyers.
Gilbert also makes claims to have other rare and "valuable" Simpson memorabilia, such as a swatch of the carpeting where O.J. and his wife Nicole allegedly first had sex. Still, the suit remains his most prized cultural artifact, one that, if it's real, is just a pretty sad artifact.
Goldman attorney Peter Haven, who has spoken at length with Gilbert about the suit, called Gilbert "a tortured soul." "The entourage is over. It's busted up. It's gone. The leader is in jail," he said. "The saddest thing about this whole case is people . . . who cling to its electricity because it's all they got."