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Tale of ‘that’ white Ford Bronco has a lot of miles on it

I received an email the other day from Maria Elena Fernandez, not to be confused with Maria Elena Santiago, who was Buddy Holly’s wife. Marina Elena Fernandez writes the entertainment/pop culture column for the NBC News website.

A couple of years ago, I had written about the Ford Bronco. That Ford Bronco. The white one. It was parked in front of the Luxor, which is what Maria Elena Fernandez wanted to confirm. She couldn’t believe it, either.

People will never forget Al Cowling’s white Ford Bronco, the one with his pal O.J. Simpson in the back seat, reportedly pointing a gun at his own head. The Juice, as he was known on the football field and in airports while running through them, had been accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, a waiter named Ron Goldman.

Rather than turn himself in, O.J. led cops on a low-speed “chase” that was televised on national TV. It also interrupted coverage of Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Knicks vs. Rockets.

It was surreal.

It was the first time I remember TV covering a chase involving a fugitive from justice not named Dr. Richard Kimble.

So people remember the white Ford Bronco, especially on anniversaries of its infamous ride that end in zero.

On Tuesday, it will have been exactly 20 years since Al Cowlings outlined the situation on his cellphone and told the police dispatch man: “My name is AC. You know who I am, Goddamn it!”

It was June 17, 1994.

I was watching at the bar at Alias Smith &Jones on Twain Avenue. It was Friday, and that’s where a bunch of my wife’s co-workers and a couple of mine would meet just about every Friday for happy hour, at least until somebody torched the place.

It was July 1, 2012 when somebody left a message on my voicemail that said the white Bronco was parked outside the Luxor. It was around midnight when I went out there to see for myself. The white Bronco was parked behind velvet ropes. A placard said it was that Ford Bronco, the official one. As seen on TV.

For a while, I was the only one checking it out.

As I said, it was close to midnight, on a Sunday. Carrot Top was on vacation. He would not be appearing at the Atrium Showroom. Plus, it had been 18 years since the Bronco’s infamous ride. It was not an anniversary that ended in zero.

Some dancing girls that had been at the Luxor nightclub clacked right past the white Bronco in their high heels without even stopping. I’m sure those girls probably never heard of Abraham Zapruder, either.

“I not recognize,” said a man with a dark complexion who identified himself as Luigi from Florence, in Italy. “Then I read (the placard in the back window). Now I recognize.”

A local sports memorabilia shop supposedly had arranged for the Bronco to be there by contacting its secretive owner(s). Maria Elena Fernandez’s story said when one of the higher-ups at MGM Resorts International discovered the Bronco was in front of the Luxor with gawkers, it was removed in less than ceremonial style.

Later, I read about the white Bronco being displayed at an art exhibit opening in Connecticut. For a fee, people could pose for photos with it. It was like the Bronco had become Pete Rose, except it was parked on a polo lawn and was not wearing a silly hat.

If you could still buy a Bronco, a lot of people probably would want the white ones. But Ford stopped making them in 1996. One story I read attributed this to the infamous low-speed chase on the 405 freeway two years earlier.

Too much negative publicity, the theory went. If you owned a bar called the Grassy Knoll, wouldn’t you want to change the name?

Ford replaced the Bronco with an SUV called the Expedition.

A Bronco enthusiast in San Diego told Mary Elena Fernandez it was news to him that Ford stopped making the Bronco because it was O.J.’s getaway ride. He said the Ford people had told him it was because the Bronco had just two doors when soccer moms were demanding four.

But he could understand how that story got started, owing to the timing and all.

Anyway, as Tuesday is the 20th anniversary of the infamous low-speed chase, a lot of people probably will think back to where they were on June 17, 1994. I, on the other hand, will be watching Mexico play Brazil in the World Cup.

I already know how the Bronco thing turned out. O.J. finally turned himself in at his mansion, after it got dark outside.

In the little box on the bottom right-hand corner of the TV screen, the Knicks beat the Rockets 91-84.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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