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THE SIMPSON LEGACY: LOS ANGELES TIMES SPECIAL REPORT : Twist of Fate / HOW THE CASE CHANGED THE LIVES OF THOSE IT TOUCHED : IRENE ALLEN : At Shoeshine Stand, Life Stays in Perspective

October 11, 1995|TINA DAUNT

The fan mail has stopped. London doesn't check in anymore. Rockford, Ill., no longer calls for updates.

After months of giving live radio reports daily from the lobby of the Criminal Courts Building during the O.J. Simpson trial, Irene Allen, the courthouse shoeshine booth operator, is back at her day job.

"It's nice to get some peace and quiet," said Allen, who spent the early months of the trial offering zany asides to gossip-hungry radio stations around the globe that became fascinated by her chance familiarity with hotshot lawyers.

Allen's life became an improbable whirlwind of interviews. More than a dozen stations were calling Allen on pay phones near her booth, looking for any fresh perspective on the trial.

"I hear a lot of things," said Allen, who would spend her days gossiping with attorneys, custodians and security personnel and then relay the information she gleaned to the stations. "I know a lot of people on a one-to-one basis."

Allen sometimes found herself juggling several calls at once, providing tidbits on everything from the type of boots F. Lee Bailey wore to gossip about Mark Fuhrman. A radio station in Nashville, Tenn., started a fan club for her. Her grandchildren would get up early to listen to her on a radio station in Seattle.

For all her efforts, she never made much money. (Although one station did promise to send her a T-shirt.) But the attention was payment enough.

But as the pace of the trial crawled through the complicated stages of DNA, the calls dropped off. Today, Allen is left with only the day-to-day task of operating the four-seat shoeshine stand.

"It's just a phase like anything else--here for one minute and it's gone," she says with only a trace of regret. "I have to keep things in perspective. I have a business to run."

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