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How I Did It: Judith Regan Remembers the Day O.J. Simpson (Almost) Confessed

by Judith Regan
April 18, 2024

No one ever really gets away with murder.

If O.J. Simpson had played football in the ’60s for Bay Shore High School and taken Harold Anderson’s humanities class, he would have known this.
Mr. Anderson would have lovingly encouraged O.J. to play less football and read more Shakespeare, which may have led to a better outcome for O.J. in the long run. O.J. could run fast, but Shakespeare and Mr. Anderson would have made it crystal clear to him that no matter how fast you run, you can’t hide, because there are ghosts and consequences. I am thinking, in particular, of that popular out, damn spot couple who had it all, Mr. and Mrs. Lady Macbeth.

Ghosts and consequences became amply apparent to me on that fall day in 2006, when O.J. came to confess.

We all have our own styles of confession. When I was a very nice young Catholic girl who obeyed and did not commit sins, I was forced to sit in a booth and whisper my sins to a priest behind a screen. This was called going to confession. At the age of 8, I did not have much to say, so I made up elaborate sins for the priest, which I think he considered a sin because he gave me a mile-long list of prayers to say as penance. Now, I love to confess and confess to everyone all day long. In fact, this is my confession.

I am not sure O.J. — one who loved not wisely and not well — ever had to confess before. But he was there, on that fall day in 2006, in this Miami warehouse, to do so. Sorta. Kinda.

We were in Miami to tape a four-hour, two-night TV special for Fox. Five cameras were set up around two closely placed chairs, and the entire crew was ready to go.

O.J. was nervous and having second thoughts when I first saw him in his dressing room. And he was sweating. A lot. He wanted to do the interview. Then he didn’t. He paced around a bit. Then he announced that he wanted to leave. Like most men, and maybe more women, at least in romance novels, O.J. wanted to be wanted. He liked playing games, and he wanted me to dance the jig to make him stay. Playing this little game was nerve-racking but no biggie.

I told him he looked amazing, which narcissists fall for 100 percent of the time, and we volleyed for a bit. Ping-pong. Lite stuff. Again, no biggie. Finally, I stated with a smile: Why don’t you just come out, and we’ll sit in the chairs and talk about your incredible, amazing, awe-inspiring career as a football player. After that, leave. Or stay. Whatever you want. Let’s just go and see what happens. Ah, life!

That did the trick.

(Let’s Just Go and See What Happens is the opening number in my musical adaptation of these events.)

O.J.’s interview was the first time he had agreed to talk about the night of the murders on camera. The pressure was on. On top of all that, I had a fever and a bad case of bronchitis that had turned into pneumonia. My mother spent years telling me that if she hadn’t been so tough on me, I never would have turned out the way I did. In this instance, she was correct, as I was deeply focused on making this happen. Or else. Or else, what? I do not know.

All I knew was that I could not have him walk out. I wasn’t desperate, though. I was just carefully considering my every move. One misstep and bam! You’re dead.

People often ask me, how did you land O.J. in the first place? Simple. I answered the phone.
Months before, a lawyer claiming to represent O.J. called out of the blue and said, “O.J. is ready to confess … under one condition.”

I was running ReganBooks, a publishing company I’d sold to HarperCollins, where I’d published a litany of best-sellers, such as the soon-to-be-a-major motion picture Wicked, by Gregory Maguire; I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb; and other notables including Howard Stern, Beyoncé, Michael Moore, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jenna Jameson.

The lawyer told me that O.J. would agree to reveal his story in book form, but only if the book was titled If I Did It. That was O.J.’s one condition. There had to be an “If” in front of “I Did It.” Simpson would explain what he did, what happened, if he had done it. The “If” was a must, said the lawyer, so O.J. could have deniability with his children.


“How could he ever admit to such a thing?” the attorney said. “He could never face them and say, ‘I did it! I killed your mother.’ ” But if he framed his story with an “If” — if he relied on that simple two-letter word — then he could tell us that he did it.


This was the only way he’d confess. The only way!

“What father,” I ventured to ask, “would write a book and then go public to recount a tale of murdering the mother of his children … to protect his children?”

Obviously, it made no sense. It was inane, profoundly twisted and insane.

I told him I would think about it and get back to him, profoundly twisted and insane being my childhood norm.

Enter Rupert Murdoch, known throughout the land — or at least to a professor I know who described him to me just yesterday as “the perpetrator of evil on a galactic scale, wreaking havoc on the world, destroying the lives of an unaccountable number of people.” (My response: “I am not sure how that happened since he mumbles in a very thick Aussie accent and is hard to understand.”)

After the weird phone call from O.J.’s lawyer, I explained the whole enchilada over dinner with the boss of bosses, whose empire included Fox News, HarperCollins and my imprint ReganBooks. We were joined that evening by Tom Perkins, the now-deceased (RIP!) billionaire, Kleiner Perkins partner, News Corporation board member and author of the often-unread Sex and the Single Zillionaire; and Tom’s ex-wife, the very charming romance author Danielle Steele.

Are you impressed that a girl from humble origins was at this table? I was.

It was the night of Tom Perkins’ book party. Tom was convinced that he could write a best-selling romance novel, which, incidentally, he could not and did not. But he wanted to prove he could to his ex-wife, the most successful romance author in the history of the world. (Shakespeare, included, probably.)

At dinner, I told Murdoch it was a twisted idea to even consider publishing such a book. It was completely crazy. But of course, we should do it.

“This might be the only way to get O.J. in a chair,” I said, “talking about what happened on the night of the murders. A skilled interviewer could get him to expose the truth, no matter how he tells the story. On camera!”

Murdoch, born with a nose for a great story and a superhuman business gut, unequivocally and politely (he has great manners) said yes. Green light!

The lawyers hammered out the deal. The proceeds from the book would go to a trust for Simpson’s two children. I chose ghostwriter Pablo Fenjves to work with O.J. As it happens, Pablo was also Nicole [Brown Simpson]’s neighbor who testified at Simpson’s trial about hearing the “plaintive wail” of Nicole’s dog shortly after the murders occurred. That didn’t seem to bother O.J., who was well aware that Pablo was well aware. As part of his contract, O.J. agreed to do one major TV interview — I wanted his confession on videotape so he could not deny it.

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