Thursday, October 15, 2009

When I Met Marcus Allen (Just Don't Tell OJ)

Writing about having met Junior Seau reminded me that I also once met another NFL Hall of Famer (who also happens to be from San Diego), running back Marcus Allen.

It was in the spring of 1989, during my freshman year at UCLA. I had lost the "dorm lottery" at the start of the school year and so had to live off-campus in an apartment complex in Westwood. I was riding down in the elevator one saturday afternoon with one of my roommates to go out to lunch. But before we got to the ground floor, the elevator stopped and in walked Marcus Allen accompanied by a beautiful blonde woman. My roommate was a heavy set guy who didn't know much about sports. But he got star struck easily (and often, living where we did). So as soon as Marcus gets in the elevator, my roommate looks straight at him and exclaims (way too loudly for the confined space), "No way! You're Tony Dorsett!"

There was about a half second pause where I wasn't sure whether Marcus Allen was offended. But if he was, he caught himself quickly and smiled back and said "no" in a very gracious way, with a knowing glance at the blonde. Undaunted, my roommate pointed at him and tried again, "Franco Harris!?!" That was so insane, it caused all three of us (other than my roommate) to laugh out loud. When the laughter subsided, the woman said sweetly, "He's Marcus Allen." And just then the elevator doors opened and we all went our separate ways forever.
It wasn't until five years later, in 1994, among all the publicity about the murders of OJ Simpson's estranged wife Nicole and waiter Ronald Goldman that I realized the woman in the elevator that day with Marcus Allen was Nicole Brown Simpson herself.
My college apartment complex was renowned at the time for temporarily housing rich divorcees from the area before their divorces were finalized. Just a few months before that elevator ride, OJ Simpson had been arrested on New Years Day 1989 at his Brentwood mansion, just a few miles from that apartment, on charges of spousal battery. (Remember the recording of that infamous 911 call by Nicole?) And during OJ's 1995 murder trial, rumors swirled that, in addition to being a good friend of OJ, Marcus Allen had also had an affair with Nicole.
That was quite a 15 second elevator ride, on hindsight.

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