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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 : ALLAN PARK : Limo Driver Declined the Tips of a Lifetime

October 11, 1995|GREG KRIKORIAN

His testimony was pivotal. He was one of the few witnesses anyone trusted. And when the jury finally began deliberations, his were the only comments they reread.

But when the verdict came in, limousine driver Allan Park had had enough.

Of the trial.

Of the testimony.

Of the media.

"Tell them to leave me alone," was Park's only message to reporters, conveyed by his mother, attorney Wendy Putman Park.

As surely as the speed of the verdict stunned many, Park's comment was a surprise. For up until the time he refused to speak, the affable 25-year-old had somehow managed to keep the madness of the trial at bay.

"It really hasn't affected me," Park said of the trial one week before the verdicts. "I haven't let it."

Sure, he left his home in Torrance four days after the murders, escaping to Santa Catalina Island, where his mother lives, so he could have some privacy. To keep his sanity, he left his job as a chauffeur and went to work at a relative's ranch in Avalon, breaking horses.

He never wanted to flee, but felt he had no choice. Not after the media hounded him so badly in those crazed early days of the case that he had to sneak into his own home at night to avoid cameras and questions. "I had to go to a neighbor's house and through the yard and jump over the fence to my house," he recalled, still troubled by that memory.

So he settled in on Catalina, working at the ranch for several months before taking a new job--delivering packages for a private company associated with UPS.

Most days, Park said, the attention was manageable; often it was amusing. Like a recent weekday afternoon when he was pointed out to some Catalina tourists as he entered Coyote Joe's grill, where his cousin, Chris, is a bartender.

It was around noontime, Park said, when two couples from Florida, scrounging for some memento of the Simpson trial, settled for posing alongside a white Bronco.

Why do that, the bartender asked them, when you could have your picture taken with the limo driver who took O.J. to the airport?

The barkeep then pointed out his cousin, Park. When he did, one of the women let out a shout. "She absolutely flipped," Park recalled, grinning.

For the most part, that's what life has been like for Park ever since the world learned he was the limo driver. Autographs. Photographs. Attention.

"In a lot of ways, it's been fun," Park said, recalling the dinners where he has been a celebrity or the recent three-day cruise to Ensenada, where he recounted--for no fee--his testimony to a ship full of Simpson trial junkies.

"I've never been embarrassed by the attention. If anything," he said with a grin, "I thought it should be more embarrassing to those who noticed me."

And unlike so many others in the trial (including that other blond California archetype, Kato Kaelin), Park has done what many of us hope we'd be strong enough to do if we were in his shoes:

He has not cashed in on the tragedy.

From the first few days after the killings, when Park said he turned down $60,000 to tell his story to "A Current Affair," to more recently, when others have made offers of cash and celebrity, he has refused to accept money for his story.

"I didn't feel it was right to make yourself substantial sums of money off two people's deaths," he said.

"I don't want to be discredited . . . like so many others."

From the moment he realized his testimony would be required, Park said, he followed the one simple bit of advice offered by his mother:

"Tell the truth."

So with the trial over, and after all the questions, Park is asked if there is anything he would like to add about his testimony.

"Going on the stand is a lot harder than it looks," he said. "Other than that, there is nothing I can tell people that they don't already know.

"I told the truth."

And even as some see their celebrity fading, their ride on the O.J. bandwagon ending, the question is put to Park.

Does he wish someone else had driven the limousine that night?

"You can't really change fate," he said.

"I just wish the whole thing never happened . . . if I could go back and change anything."

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