Christmas, 1993, was blissful in the O.J. Simpson household.
A 6-ft tall tree sparkled in the family room – decorated with gold bows that Nicole had lovingly made by hand.
Carefully wrapped gifts were piled under the tree and the atmosphere was warm and festive.
Cora Fischman, her prominent doctor husband Ron, and their children, Michael, 11, Leslie, 9, and Nicole, 5, were guests at O.J.’s pre-Christmas celebrations at the Rockingham Avenue mansion on December 23.
Nicole had already arranged for O.J. and the kids to spend Christmas Day with her parents, Lou and Juditha Brown, and sisters Denise, Dominque and Tanya, at the family home in Dana Point, Orange County.
So O.J. decided to host a small, intimate party for their great pals the Fischmans. Their daughters were best friends with the Simpson’s two children.
“It was a magical night,” Cora recalls. “Everyone felt it. O.J. and Nicole never seemed happier together. There was such love between them.”
Cora was aware of the couple’s stormy relationship. But on this special night it was as if O.J. had never once raised his hand in anger against Nicole.
“They were so content. They were like a normal married couple,” she says.
Following years of abuse, Nicole legally separated from O.J. in the spring of 1992. They were divorced in October that year.
But the next summer, after she attended a self-realization therapy course, Nicole decided she wanted to reconcile with O.J., who was then dating sexy model Paula Barbieri.
Christmas was the “crunch” time for Nicole to decide whether she should return on a permanent basis to the Rockingham mansion.
“It was so perfect,” says Cora “Their happiness was infectious. I felt a warm glow for both of them. I was so happy that they were happy.”
So Cora was stunned to hear how O.J. flew into a rage the next night during a Christmas Eve party at the home of Olympic decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner and his wife Kris.
Friends described to her how the gridiron hero ‘blew his stack’ when Joseph Perrulli, a male model and ex-lover of Nicole’s walked in with his new woman.
One guest tells STAR: “As soon as Joseph arrived I knew there’d be trouble. O.J.’s face went taunt. He had that look of thunder. He grabbed Nicole’s arm and ordered: ‘We’re leaving – now!’
“He told Nicole to get her coat and to bring Sydney and Justin with her. The children didn’t want to leave. They hadn’t been there long and were bewildered by O.J.’s actions.”
O.J.’s family festivities were brought to an end by his football commentary duties for NBC – and he rang in the New Year in New York, with unknown to Nicole at the time, Playboy cover girl Paula Barbieri.
Paula had already created waves in the Simpson household last Christmas by sending a huge basket of fruit to the mansion.
It was accompanied by a note that read: “Sweetheart, have a lovely Christmas. Sorry we can’t be together: Love, Paula.”
Cora says: “Nicole was not amused. She saw it as an attempt by Paula to ruin the family holiday. But she didn’t let it worry her too much.”
Star Magazine (December 27 1994)