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ANN CONWAY

Reunited After a Trial Separation : Clark, Darden and Nicole Brown Family Trade Sentiments and Memories at Benefit

July 01, 1996|ANN CONWAY

Marcia Clark slipped quietly into the Always in Our Hearts gala Saturday night, two hours after it began.

"I'm not giving interviews," she whispered, taking her seat in the ballroom of the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. Or posing for pictures. Or mingling with guests.

But in minutes, Christopher Darden blew her cover. He brought her onstage at the $200-per-person benefit for the Nicole Brown Simpson Charitable Foundation.

It was the moment more than 400 guests had been waiting for. They were there to support a foundation that helps provide shelter for victims of domestic violence. But they also wanted to see the stars of the O.J. Simpson prosecution team together again.

"When I wrote my book," Darden began--referring to his best-selling "In Contempt"--"I described an evening I spent with this woman and talked about her singing."

("You've never heard anything until you've heard Marcia Clark sing Janis Joplin," he writes in his book about the O.J. Simpson trial. "But if you haven't heard that, consider yourself lucky.")

"After Marcia read that, she called me," Darden continued, "tore into me about it. . . . Marcia, come on up!"

Reluctantly, Clark--wearing an ankle-length white gown--took the stage before guests, who included Juditha and Lou Brown of Dana Point, parents of the slain Nicole Brown Simpson.

"It's horrible when your dear friends tell the truth to the world like that," Clark joked from a flower-banked stage. "I can sing!" she said.

Turning to Darden, she added: "We use to stand in court together, harmonizing to 'Earth Angel.' Isn't that true?"

And then, addressing guests, a solemn Clark said: "It's a pleasure to be here. . . . I think it's a natural thing to suffer from tragedy. I know that everyone in the Brown and Goldman families did. . . .

"But it's supreme to bring something beautiful and positive from that tragedy. I commend all of you for being here tonight."

Gala festivities began with a cocktail reception, where guests chatted with members of the Brown family--including Nicole's sisters, Denise, Dominique and Tanya--and New York television host Geraldo Rivera attending with his wife, C.C., actress Loni Anderson and attorney Gloria Allred, foundation spokeswoman.

*

Before the sit-down dinner was served, Rivera and Darden went onstage to address guests.

Rivera set the jovial tone: "My invitation to the event at Rockingham was somehow lost," he said, referring to Thursday's benefit for Stop the Violence--Increase the Peace at O.J. Simpson's home. "I figured you and I would be the first two people invited. I don't understand what happened."

Darden replied: "Especially when you stop and consider that we've done so much for them over the past two years. You'd think they'd have had the decency to invite us.

"But then, I've been there [Rockingham]. We wouldn't want to go there and get blood all over our nice tuxedos."

*

Said Rivera: "I don't feel as severely negative as some people do about what happened Thursday. People in these organizations need money. I don't think it's exactly like the KKK campaigning to stop the arson of black churches.

"It's more like the tobacco industry. When you get that money, it has a tint of red on it that you just can't get off your fingers."

*

Finally, Darden--who has joined the foundation board--gave a tribute to the Brown family. "A lot of people just climb inside of themselves, lock the door, close the shutters . . . grieve alone," he said.

"It takes courage to get through times like these, and it takes a strong family, spirit and belief in God.

"When I think of courage, I think of the Brown family. I believe they are real American heroes."

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