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A Yank at Oxford? // It's O. J. Simpson

Spring term, drizzling rain, ale on tap, the rattle, rattle, rattle of bicycle wheels on cobblestone: Nothing could seem more respectable than Oxford.

And nothing could be better, thought O. J. Simpson, to prop up his tarnished public image than a visit to the university.

"O. J. suggested Oxford," explained Paul Kenward, the president of the Oxford Union, which plays host to Simpson this week for his first public address since his October acquittal by a Los Angeles jury of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994.

"I suppose because Oxford is the second most-recognized brand name in the world, after Coca-Cola," Kenward said. "Americans have an affection for Oxford."

Most Americans at Oxford had no affection for Simpson.

"It's appalling that a sentenced wife batterer has been invited to speak about a crime of which he was acquitted, but I think he committed," said Amy Elaine Wakeland, a Rhodes scholar from Michigan joining a spirited discussion at the King's Arms, a local pub.

According to his British publicist, Max Clifford, Simpson chose Britain to make his first public address because "he was found not guilty by a jury, and probably guilty by the American media."

In London, Simpson will appear on a lightweight TV talk show, and the Times of London reported that he will meet with executives of a Spanish automobile company to discuss advertising and be interviewed by Fore!, a golf magazine.

Kenward, the Union president, said that if anything grabbed Britons about Simpson, it was the spectacle: "The Hollywood establishment has turned against him. Restaurants that fought to get him to come won't give him a table now. He can't play golf!"

The highlight of Simpson's visit will take place in the halls of the Oxford Union on Tuesday. He will dine with Union members before adjourning to the debate hall. Simpson will speak for 10 minutes, then take questions. That may be his undoing: British Oxford students are master debaters.

Those close to Simpson say he is hoping for the success enjoyed by former President Nixon, who won the Union over in 1978 and began his comeback.