There are some anniversaries that are indelible in your mind: Your wedding anniversary, the day JFK got assassinated, etc.
But Monday, June 17 was an anniversary of another kind: The day reality TV got born.
Because on June 17, 1994, O.J. Simpson and his best buddy A.C. Cowlings took America on a freeway chase that 95 million people watched. (A tip of the cap to my friend Lisa, who reminded me that June 17 is also the great Barry Manilow’s birthday. From all your Fanilows, Barry, you are still the man.)
Like most of you who were alive then, I remember exactly where I was that day. I was still euphoric over the Rangers having won the Stanley Cup three days earlier, and I was hope from college for the summer and watching the Rangers’ Stanley Cup parade that day.
Later that night my Dad and I planned to watch the Knicks-Rockets NBA Finals Game 5 together, when early in the game all hell broke loose.
Suddenly Tom Brokaw was breaking in saying O.J. was on the 5 Freeway in California, with 100 police cars after him, with a gun to his head after allegedly killing his ex-wife and lover a few days earlier.
It was incredible. The chase went on and on, and you were afraid to look away from the TV. The newscasters had no idea what was going on, NBC split the screen for a while between the chase and the game, and all I wanted to do was watch that lone car going down the highway.
Of course we know what happened; O.J. eventually got out of the car, went on the trial of the century, and was somehow found not guilty.
But really, that was the day reality TV was born. Everybody was glued to their sets, pre-Internet, waiting to see if one of the most famous football players ever who may have been a murderer, was going to surrender or kill himself.
It doesn’t get much more real than that.
The fantastic ESPN documentary “June 17, 1994” (check out the trailer above) has great footage of that day; the whole movie is on YouTube here, I highly recommend checking it out.
Anyway, hope everyone had a great “OJ chase” anniversary.
**OK, since I couldn’t get my Hawaii honeymoon all out of my system in one day, I have a few more thoughts to share from my just-completed trip.
— Definitely the most fun/scariest thing we did was ziplining through a rainforest on Kauai. I had ziplined (zipped?) before, but my wife hadn’t. It was thrilling and terrifying all at once; the best of the 3 ziplines we did was 1,800 feet long, where you traveled 65 miles per hour across the line for about 80 seconds. Me, who’s scared of heights, thought it was great as long as I didn’t look down.
The feeling of flying through the air is really, really cool.
— Other favorite activity we did was a night manta ray snorkel, where we saw these huge manta rays swim right up to us. (here’s a manta ray). They’re totally harmless but it was still squeal-provoking.
— Interacting with so many tour guide employees in Hawaii, I noticed they must possess a ton of patience to deal with the public every day. I asked one guy named Noel what the dumbest question he ever got from a customer was.
“Probably the lady who, when we went to a shrimp farm, asked if shrimp grow on trees or on bushes,” Noel said. (His reply: “They grow on trees, because we all know crabs grow on bushes.” Took me a few seconds to get that joke.)
— A fun game on your honeymoon: Count how many times the hotel staff calls you by your name. If I heard “Mr. Lewis” one more time I thought I would scream. Good thing I’m not a teacher or anything where I hear my name a lot.
— Finally, luaus. They’re just weird. I liked the dancing and the fire-eating and all that, but I had no idea what was going on on stage most of the time. Still, the food was great.
**Finally today, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a clip of a truly clueless beauty pageant contestant. We all remember Miss South Carolina and her lack of even basic speaking skills.
Well, now we have a new entrant into the club, Miss Utah, Merissa Powell. She was asked at the Miss USA pageant over the weekend what I thought to be a pretty straightforward question about women in the workplace, and Miss Utah, well, you need to watch to truly appreciate its wretchedness.
And you know, I saw a lot of people defending her on the Web today, saying “oh, she’s a beauty pageant contestant, what do you expect?” and “she was nervous, etc.”
But I’m sorry, just because you’re beautiful doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to know stuff, or have opinions on something like women in the workplace.
Just makes me sad how empty-headed some people are.