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THE SIMPSON VERDICTS : Callers to Talk Radio Span the Dial With Debate : Reaction: About the only person to claim no opinion is Kato Kaelin, even though his station billed his afternoon show as a 'worldwide exclusive.'

October 04, 1995|JUDITH MICHAELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Shortly before noon Tuesday, the verdict on O.J. Simpson seemed to have really sunk in, and the divide that is often talk radio was once more heard across Los Angeles.

Here was a caller named Janet from South-Central Los Angeles on KJLH-FM (102.3)--the call letters standing for "Joy, Love and Happiness"--a mix of joy and righteousness in her voice at Simpson's acquittal. "The jury did the job," she said. Detective Mark Furhman was "a liar from Jump Street." The jury "went by the law" and people "should be happy" that Simpson will be "reunited with his kids." As for prosecutors Marcia Clark and Christopher A. Darden, their "hands are too short to box with God."

And there, maybe four miles away at KFI-AM (640), hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou were in a fury. "We can't allow O.J. to make money off this," Kobylt said, referring to potential pay-for-view interviews. "This is evil. . . . This is too sick. We've got to stop it."

Chiampou chimed in, decrying the books and merchandise that might make money for Simpson. Both said people should boycott places that sell Simpson paraphernalia and cancel their cable TV subscriptions if the rumored pay-for-view TV interview comes to pass.

So it went through the day as callers and hosts debated the jury's verdict. About the only person on radio who kept insisting he had no definitive opinion was Brian (Kato) Kaelin.

Kaelin--who vaulted from being the house guest of Nicole Brown Simpson and then O.J. Simpson to become a witness for the prosecution and on to an afternoon talk show on KLSX-FM (97.1)--opened his show Tuesday with a shy "Hi." Then, in brief, rather neutral remarks, he said that "the verdict cannot bring Nicole and Ron back to life," that it was "time to turn off the case and let the healing process begin," and that "two small children" will never have their mother.

When his callers came on, Kaelin blunted listener expectations and ever so graciously turned aside repeated requests to say innocent or guilty .

His approach was a letdown after KLSX had promoted Kaelin's broadcast Tuesday as a "worldwide exclusive," since he was finally out from under the court's admonition not to say anything about the case. In large measure, he continued that posture.

"I do not have an opinion," Kaelin told a caller named Jack. And when Jack persisted, Kaelin would not budge. "Truthfully," he said, he did not have an opinion. "I wish I could know what happened."

At another point, asked whether he was surprised by the verdict, Kaelin said his mind "is just a blank" and pleaded that it's "not a good day to be me."

The reaction to the verdict at some local black stations sounded surprised.

There were no hosannas at gospel station KGJF-AM (1230) among the trio of hosts--Rod Wright, Jean Tillman and Melba Jackson. Jackson and Tillman started talking about what life would mean for Simpson's children by Nicole--Syndey and Justin--with Tillman noting: "I don't think things will ever be the same."

And when a man called in to say he was "so excited," Wright asked: "Why do you believe he didn't do it?"

On KKBT-FM (92.3), when a woman caller mockingly said prosecutor Clark had made a fool of herself, host Dominique DiPrima poured on cold water, saying everybody did the job they were supposed to do and what they "were paid to do."

The feeling of righteousness, whether someone felt justice was or wasn't done, came in all colors. A caller named Barbara told Dennis Prager on KABC-AM (790) that "the ultimate judgment of God" will be rendered in the Simpson case.

And Prager, whose noon-to-3 p.m. show is billed as talk about social issues from an ethical perspective, said it was appropriate that the verdict should fall on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. He said the jury, lead defense lawyer Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. "and O.J. Simpson" have to face that ultimate judgment on a day when not only Jews "but the whole world" is judged.

"I am bitter," said Prager. "I am bitter. I don't like murderers getting away with murder, and I don't like racism."

Not all was bitter. A man identifying himself as white on KACE-FM (103.9), whose listener demographic is nearly half African American, echoed the words of Rodney G. King: "I wish we could all get along."

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