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July 28, 2014

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Trial run

Scot Savage hopes his website devoted to the O.J. Simpson case becomes a cash cow

“How lucky for me that he made the stupidest mistake of his life in my city!” Scot Savage is talking about former NFL star, television pitchman and double-murder acquittee Orenthal James Simpson. On September 13, 2007, Simpson and three armed men allegedly went into the Palace Station to retrieve his sports memorabilia. As a result, Simpson’s facing armed robbery and kidnapping charges in a trial scheduled to start in September.

It’s kinda funny seeing a grown man this gleeful. A tie-dye-shirt-wearing real-estate agent by day, by evening Savage is the hucksterish webmaster behind OJtalk.com, a cartoonishly amateur website featuring O.J. chat rooms (five in all), photos, paraphernalia, even an O.J. crossword puzzle. The site’s promo line: “100 percent Juice all the time.”

Days after Simpson’s arrest, Savage bought the domain name, figuring he could create the web repository for anything trial-related. Savage got someone to hold up an “OJtalk.com” placard at the first police press conference and, within a day, 50 people signed into the chat room. Double-whammied by the housing market meltdown and foreclosure crisis, Savage reconfigured the site into an e-commerce destination where you can buy all sorts of cheesy items, such as coffee mugs with Simpson’s mug shot. (Get it?) Thus, the glee: “Ultimately, I hope to make some money off of this,” he says.

It hasn’t happened yet. Maybe America has O.J. fatigue. If so, Savage has an answer. During Simpson’s arraignment, he saw how more colorful characters—the guy in a chicken suit, the funky-dressed Chicago soul brother, the Nicole Brown Simpson look-alike—got all the media attention. So he put an ad on Craigslist looking for “freaks.”

“I answered the call,” says “Moondog” Wantland, a 52-year-old, wheelchair-bound former professional wrestler whose first match was against Andre the Giant.

We’re inside Moondog’s cramped Henderson studio. In case you’re wondering—no, he doesn’t mind being called a freak, and yes, he’s tickled to be the bespectacled, Santa-bearded, Dr. Seuss-hat-wearing face of OJtalk.com. (The website’s other spokesperson, a 36-year-old naval reservist grandmother who dresses as Wonder Woman and Xena the Warrior Princess, was out of town at the time.)

“Get it in there that I’m disabled but that I’m still a fully functioning individual who can work for a living,” Moondog says. At this, he and his guest, a black-clad, sequin-bloused Lady El Vis (real name: Shawnda Guerra), launch into a humorous version of “All Shook Up” that, I suspect, isn’t supposed to be funny. All three met while working with madman comic Jeff Beacher.

Now it all makes sense.

When the trial starts, Moondog plans to be parading about in his sequined, bandana-ed wheelchair and outrageous getups too colorful to ignore. (This day, he wore bright red trousers, a glittery vest and a necklace with lighted skulls.) It’s in his best interest if the trial becomes a spectacle. If not, he may have nothing to show for his smug opportunism. Savage tries to sound optimistic.

“Hopefully, justice will be served this time,” Savage says. And if the word “justice” fits on a coffee mug, all the better, eh?

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