Published January 29, 2003
No Votes Here for Denise Brown Senate Talk
I really had to laugh when I read yesterday that Denise Brown was considering a run for the U.S. Senate. The sister of slain Nicole Brown Simpson actually suggested this and the story ran on the wire.
Senator Denise Brown? I don't think so. For years, Denise has pocketed much of the tax-free money donated to the Nicole Brown Charitable Foundation. Funds that could have gone to groups that help homeless and battered women and families instead went to Denise. We've written about this in this space since the very first day of this column in July 1999 and now I will explain it again.
For example: According to the Nicole Brown Charitable Foundation's tax filing for 2000, the organization gave exactly $2,000 divided among four organizations.
In the same year, Denise paid herself $22,000 in salary as head of the foundation.
The foundation also listed $26,740 in expenses, like nearly $3,000 for the phone bill, $2,000 for unidentified "miscellaneous," and $1,870 for unspecified "outside expenses."
My favorite line item is $14,448 for "event expenses." Event expenses? What was the event? Did it generate any revenue? If it did, the foundation didn't feel compelled to tell the IRS.
The filing also indicates the group had $23,000 in expenses that went to "educating the public through public speaking and appearances, on spousal abuse." But it would seem from the filing that those expenses are about equal to Denise's salary, which is paid to her for the same function. If Brown received the money independent of her salary, then she's double-dipping the charity.
I covered the Nicole Simpson-Ron Goldman murder trial -- or the O.J. trial -- for New York magazine in 1994-95. While the murder of Nicole was a tragedy, an even worse situation existed in the Brown household. Although they lived in a beautiful neighborhood, the Browns were not income earners independent of Simpson.
During the trial they sold Nicole and O.J.'s wedding tape over an 800 number and charged the tabloids for photographs of Nicole. They shared in the profits of at least one book about Nicole by Sheila Weller.
So what kind of senator would Denise be? I think her first order of business should be cleaning up the tax-free charities established by newly minted celebrities in which the funds are used to support the celeb's families. But maybe real senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer can look into that before Denise gets too far.
Denise Brown also apparently feels the murder of her sister is equivalent to the mass murder in Oklahoma City. She advertises "the Memorial Season," something she created, between April 19 and June 12 every year -- the former date when 168 people were killed in Oklahoma City and the latter the day that O.J. Simpson, according to a civil juror, was responsible for Nicole Brown's death.
Even Tom Robbins couldn't make this stuff up, folks. Only in California, only in Southern California.
I wish I had a publicist. Or at the very least some chits in fancy restaurants. In the new issue of Gotham magazine, a local glossy aimed at the young and aimless, a feature on China Grill owner Jeffrey Chodorow manages to completely skip his 1996 conviction for fraud against the U.S. government in the bankruptcy of Braniff Airlines.
Chodorow wound up serving only four months in federal prison and got probation for the rest of the time. Why? Because his astute lawyer argued Chodorow's then 10-year-old son had Tourette's Syndrome and couldn't be separated from his dad. I reported this story in the New York Post at the end of 1996. You could look it up.
In the Gotham piece, the writer comments that Chodorow's restaurants thrive on "communal dining." Maybe the federal prison system will sue -- it was their idea first! You may wonder how a former felon has a liquor license, also, in posh places like Asia de Cuba and the many Ian Schrager hotels. It was a loophole in the system, and a break for Chodorow, that liquor licenses are handed out by the state, and his conviction was federal.
Anyway, congratulations to Gotham. But no doubt no one there is old enough to remember Braniff. The 20,000 people who were stranded in airports the day Braniff abruptly closed, however, recall it vividly.