OJ Fact Check: Did Chris Darden and Marcia Clark Almost Kiss?

FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson” suggests that it might be an important question

(Spoiler alert: Please do not read on if you haven’t watched Tuesday’s Episode 7 of “The People v. O.J. Simpson”)

Did anything romantic happen between Chris Darden and Marcia Clark? Darden has written that after the O.J. Simpson trial ended, “the question most often put to me was about Marcia. I have spent far too much time walking through airports, denying that we’re getting married.”

Tuesday’s episode of “The People v O.J. Simpson” confronts the question directly — but doesn’t answer it. They share a moment in Oakland, California, where Darden (Sterling K. Brown) has invited Clark (Sarah Paulson) to join him on a weekend trip to catch up with friends. He lingers outside her hotel room door, she looks up expectantly …

… And then nothing happens.

But did anything ever happen? Welcome to O.J. Fact Check.

THE POINT OF THE SCENE
What makes the Simpson trial so endlessly fascinating, even all this time later, is that it has everything: Highs and lows, grim comedy and the absurdist tragedy, questions about vital social issues and pointless gossip.

The Darden and Clark question might seem on its surface to be the latter, but this episode suggests that the non-kiss may have led indirectly into one of the worst most agonizing moments of the trial: The Trying On of The Gloves.

The episode seems to suggest that Darden — feeling like Clark was unimpressed by his hesitancy to kiss her — tried to prove his manhood with a rash courtroom stunt that blew up in his face. The show even shows Nathan Lane‘s F. Lee Bailey exploiting Darden’s insecurity by flat-out questioning the size of his balls.

JUST TELL ME IF THEY HOOKED UP
Neither of the prosecutors are ones to kiss and tell — if they ever kissed. Asked about her relationship by ET, Clark said this:

Chris and I were trench mates. He kept me from just utter depression so many days … Sometimes it would really get to me. And he would be there to say, ‘It’s alright, it’s going to be okay. If we just keep putting on the evidence, they’ll get it. They’ll get it.

Darden went a little further. Among other things, he said that the trip to the Bay Area absolutely happened — as did a moment outside their respective hotel rooms. But he indicates that he and Clark were not as physically close as they were in “The People v. O.J. Simpson.”

From Darden’s book, “In Contempt,” as excepted by Newsweek:

Much later, we paused at our separate doors, ten feet of papered wall between us. She faced her hotel room door in a trademark Marcia dress, short and black. She looked down toward her shoes.

“I’ll see you in the morn-ing,” I said.

“Good night, Chris.”

I am amazed and troubled by the media’s fascination over whether Marcia Clark and I had a romantic relationship. After the trial, with the injustice still bitter in my mouth, the question most often put to me was about Marcia. I have spent far too much time walking through airports, denying that we’re getting married.

She and I were two passionate people thrown together in a trial that left us exhausted and lonely. She was willing to take off her jewelry and go to jail with me over a ridiculous contempt ruling. I was willing to be at her side during her child custody deposition. We sat up listening to hip-hop and R&B. We danced a few times and drank a few bottles of wine. In my mind, that is a relationship.

Of course, the question the media ask is more base, a locker-room question, weighted with social and racial implications. You know the question. But I refuse to surrender the last posts of privacy that we have left, simply because the media in this country have lost their shame and their sense of propriety and dignity. I will say this. As spring melted into summer, I began to wonder what might happen away from the flash of tabloid photographers and television cameras. The glare from the people who wanted to know if we were together may have been one of the things that ultimately kept us apart.

THE VERDICT
“The People v. O.J. Simpson” seems to have amplified the tension of that moment outside Clark’s hotel room. But that’s what stories do: They condense and exaggerate moments for the sake of drama, or perhaps to emphasize greater truths. In this case, the greater truth is that Darden and Clark had a complicated, emotionally intense involvement.

No one can understand anyone else’s relationship from outside of it. But “The People v. O.J. Simpson” nicely captures the ambiguity of Chris Darden and Marcia Clark’s relationship … and so, so many other relationships.

As for whether a near-kiss inspired the major miss with the gloves, no one can say. It could well be a leap too far by “The People v. O.J. Simpson” — an attempt to roll too many plot lines together.

Then again, you can’t blame anyone for trying to guess why Darden thought the gloves were a good idea.

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