Airport users note Simpson in passing

Only in Las Vegas could airport visitors score celebrity sightings of both O.J. Simpson and Carrot Top on the same afternoon.

The orange-haired comedian, whose real name is Scott Thompson, arrived Wednesday at McCarran International Airport around the same time Simpson departed.

"I was going to say, 'Hey, what's up, killer?' But I didn't see him," Thompson cracked.

Thompson had just returned from Los Angeles after an appearance on the season finale of NBC-TV's "Last Comic Standing," which aired Wednesday night. Predictably, his bit on the show included an O.J. joke.

"Every comic in the world is like, 'Thank you, O.J.,' " said Thompson, who performs regularly at the Luxor.

About half a dozen Las Vegas police officers escorted Simpson from the valet area of the airport to the A gate, where he caught a 4:10 p.m. flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on U.S. Airways.

"He's going back to my state," said Thompson, a Sunshine State native.

Andrew Wohlhuter was working at a booth near the A gate entrance Wednesday afternoon when he received word of Simpson's impending arrival. Wohlhuter used his cell phone to shoot video of Simpson as the former football player was ushered by him.

"We're not exposed to anything like this back where I'm from," said Wohlhuter, who recently moved to Las Vegas from Fargo, N.D.

Wohlhuter, who earns a commission for each person he signs up for a U.S. Airways MasterCard, lamented that Simpson's appearance had hurt business.

"Nobody would pay attention to us," he said.

Some of those boarding flight 888 to Fort Lauderdale were not pleased to learn the notorious passenger had joined their plane. Simpson and his female companion boarded the aircraft first.

"He better not be on our flight," said Kim Hart, a woman who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla. "I'll slap him."

Michael Ryan, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, said he wasn't thrilled when he saw Simpson walk past him to get on the plane.

"I was talking to my wife on the phone. I said, 'You're not going to believe who's on my flight,' " Ryan said.

John Landgren rushed to the security entrance for the A and B gates after arriving on a flight from Denver and was disappointed to learn he had missed Simpson by about five minutes.

"Shoot. I wanted to get a picture," said Landgren, who had his camera phone ready. "He got lucky again. He made bail."

Landgren had been watching news coverage of Simpson's release before boarding his flight and spotted news cameras after his arrival at McCarran.

"I wasn't going to heckle him or anything," Landgren said. "I was just going to yell out, 'You got lucky again, O.J.' "

Landgren said he was surprised to learn that Simpson hadn't been treated like a member of the general public at the airport.

Simpson, wearing a white visor, was whisked through the security checkpoint via a "first-class lane" normally reserved for flight crews, airport employees and people in wheelchairs. He did not answer questions from reporters at the checkpoint.

Capt. Bob Chinn, who heads the police substation at McCarran, said Simpson received no special treatment at the airport.

"The reason we set up this particular operation was to prevent any disruption to the airport services," he said.

In fact, Chinn said Simpson had to go through secondary screening after he set off a metal detector. Simpson told Transportation Security Administration officials he had two rebuilt knees that always trigger an alarm on the machines, Chinn said.

Chinn said passengers on Simpson's flight "were actually very grateful that the flight was on time and there were no delays."