Tuesday, July 12, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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A Day In The Life Of Bk 4013970 -- Prisoner O.J. Simpson Must Get Accustomed To A Lower-Key Lifestyle


LOS ANGELES - The lights in O.J. Simpson's air-conditioned 9-by-7-foot cell come on at 6 a.m., and he wakes up alone in a room without bars or windows.

The Los Angeles Men's Central Jail is five miles from the Los Angeles Coliseum, where Simpson once ran to glory in crimson and gold for the University of Southern California. Now he wears a dark-blue cotton prison-issue uniform and a white T-shirt and walks the cement jailhouse floors locked inside a silent and lonely cell.

Simpson is the sole prisoner in the high-security wing that he leaves - in handcuffs linked to a waist chain - only to talk to visitors. He sees them through a thick glass partition, sits on a round wooden chair and speaks through a black telephone receiver wired to the wall's other side.

Simpson recently looked through the glass with piercing, brown eyes and told one friend, "I didn't do it. I am innocent."

Then Simpson, charged with the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and her friend Ronald Goldman, 25, went on to more mundane things, saying that life in jail was bearable except for the food.

Expensive tastes

At breakfast, Simpson drinks the same juice, milk and coffee as the other 6,000 inmates. Yesterday, he got Kool-Aid for lunch and tea with dinner, and he can drink water from the sink in his cell.

But that's not good enough for prisoner No. BK 4013970, who used to be a regular at Toscana, an Italian restaurant near his Brentwood

estate. In jail, there are no more dinners of grilled swordfish with rosemary and olive oil, a $19.50 entree, or the $11 homemade ravioli with radicchio and the gourmet pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven.

"He was one of our regular customers," said Giorgio, the maitre d' and manager at Toscana. "He was one of our favorites."

Simpson's breakfast comes to his cell around 6:45 a.m. If he likes, he can usually choose among the oatmeal, scrambled eggs and a variety of individual cereals, according to Deputy Sheriff George Ducolombier, a jail spokesman. A deputy brings the breakfast to his cell, opens the steel door and delivers it to the former football star.

But the breakfasts don't do anything for Simpson's palate, nor do the bologna and tuna sandwiches at lunch or the meat, mashed potatoes, peas and Jell-o that are served at dinner.

The fare might be served on plastic trays and with plastic utensils. But jail officials say Simpson has nothing to complain about. It meets state-mandated nutrition requirements, Ducolombier said. Days of isolation

Every time he leaves his cell, Simpson, who does not eat or work out with other inmates, is escorted by deputies. He is not allowed to join the others on the jail's rooftop basketball courts, but a stationary bicycle is in the corridor outside his cell for his exercise.

It is a regular old metal model with two handlebars and cable for resistance - nothing like the electronic Windracers and Lifecycles at The Gym, a health club where a poster of Simpson from his Heisman Trophy days still hangs. There are no weights to lift at the jail, and certainly none of the custom-designed workout machines he used at The Gym.

A deputy sheriff checks on Simpson through the small sliding grate in the door every 30 minutes. The temperature in the cell is kept between 68 and 70 degrees. It has a stainless-steel toilet, a sink and a metal bunk with a 2 1/2-inch-thick mattress. Simpson sleeps on a special cervical pillow granted him by order of a judge.

The wing has seven cells in its row. When Simpson was arrested last month, Erik Menendez was also there, but Menendez, charged with his brother, Lyle, in the murders of their wealthy parents, was soon transferred.

"The transfer was done to preserve an atmosphere of confidentiality," Ducolombier said. "Due to the extremely high-profile nature of both cases, the decision was made to move Menendez to another room in the wing."

Some advantages

There are some advantages to being isolated from the general jail population. Simpson may spend up to two hours a day on the pay phone outside his cell while other prison phones have long lines. It is also a short walk to the special jail hospital visiting area, where Simpson can see friends and family through the glass partition.

His oldest son, Jason, 24, and daughter, Arnelle, 25, have recently visited, as have a few of his golfing pals from the Riviera Country Club, where he remains a member, and football friends, including former wide receiver Bob Chandler and ex-running back Marcus Allen. Former football player Rosie Grier, who runs a ministry in Los Angeles, came by over the weekend.

The visits are usually kept to 20 minutes a day, but Simpson can meet longer with his defense team, which includes entrepreneur-attorney Robert Kardashian, one of his closest friends.

Reading the mail

Simpson has been reading a lot of mail, jail officials said. He has received up to 3,500 letters and cards on a single day. The mail is given to his lawyers, who screen it and then pass it along to Simpson.

After 5 p.m. Simpson is allowed to watch a few hours of television. A set is brought to his cell if he desires. Then, as in the rest of the cells in the jail, the lights on Simpson's ceiling go out at 10 p.m.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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