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Nicole's champion or exploiter?

Until Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered, few people outside the chic boutiques of Rodeo Drive, Starbuck's in Brentwood and some charity circles of Beverly Hills had ever heard of Faye Resnick.

Even afterward, as the O. J. Simpson case spun out a huge cast of characters, she remained in the peripheral world of the tabloids.

But now, with a giant assist from Judge Lance Ito, who urged potential jurors to avoid Resnick's new book about Mrs. Simpson and beseeched television figures like Larry King and Connie Chung not to talk with her, Resnick has strutted onto center stage.

And, like so many other facets of the drama, people have diametrically different views about Resnick and what she has written.

To some who know Resnick, 37, she is as she portrays herself: a courageous voice for the truth and a champion for women, someone bucking O. J. Simpson's powerful network of lawyers and loyalists to describe the jealous and violent man behind the affable facade.

To others formerly in her circle, like Cora Fishman, she is "Faye the Fake": an opportunist making a quick buck on the bloodied body of her former friend.

Simpson's lawyers say she is completely untrustworthy, given what she concedes to have been a history of broken marriages and drug abuse that landed her twice at the Betty Ford Clinic.

Even the intensity of her friendship with Nicole Simpson is in dispute. Mrs. Simpson's father has said that Resnick "wasn't that close" to his daughter. But others say they were inseparable, particularly over the last 18 months of Mrs. Simpson's life.

Resnick's former husband, Paul, maintained that Nicole Simpson had pledged to stop drinking and taking drugs to help Resnick break her own habits, a habit that Mrs. Simpson's family said she never had.

"The two of them were absolute best friends, like two peanuts in a shell," said Paul Resnick, a Los Angeles businessman who was married to Resnick from 1986 to 1991.

"When Faye is straight, if she's not in the middle of a drug thing _ which she's not _ she's a great girl, very honest and very forthright."

Some 750,000 copies of Resnick's book, Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted, have been rushed into print.

In the book, co-written with Mike Walker, a columnist at the National Enquirer, Resnick says Simpson repeatedly beat Nicole Simpson and threatened to kill her if he found her with another man.

In an interview, Resnick, who has met with the chief prosecutor in the case, Marcia Clark, and may still be a witness, albeit an extremely vulnerable one, said she had written the book because of a promise she had made to Nicole Simpson, one she could keep far more effectively in print than she could on the stand.

"When Nicole told me she knew she was going to die and that O. J. would get away with it, I made a promise to her: I would tell the truth and not let that happen," she said.

"My testimony could possibly be shot down by Robert Shapiro because of my history, and nothing that I had to say would be taken seriously."

Resnick said that within a week of the killings, both Simpson his friend Al Cowlings had called her and others in Mrs. Simpson's entourage, urging them to keep mum about the Simpsons' stormy relationship.

"I truly believe she did not write this book just to make a buck," said Robin Greer, an actor who was close to Mrs. Simpson. "She did it because she felt that O. J. was going to commit murder and get away with it. She wanted to expose the darker side to him." But Fishman, another member of Mrs. Simpson's social circle, called Resnick conniving and manipulative.

"All her friends called her a "drama queen,' " she said. "A lot of those things were fabricated because she wanted attention. This is the only way she could get the world's attention, and she did. She stopped the world."

Resnick would not say how much she expects to make, though her publisher, Michael Viner of Dove Books, said she could have profited far more by selling her story to the tabloids.

"She was offered $1-million in the aggregate to do the Hard Copies, the Current Affairs, the National Enquirers," he said. "She wanted her story to have credibility, and wasn't doing it for the money."

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