Last Christmas...

O.J. and Nicole Simpson spent a joyous last Christmas together.

Just one year ago, the doomed couple, hugged and toasted their future together as they celebrated the holiday with friends and family at the football great's $5-million Brentwood estate.

No one thought then that the beautiful Nicole wouldn't live to see another Christmas.

Cora Fischman, Nicole's neighborhood jogging partner and closest confidante, says she has wondered "a million times" since then how it all went so wrong.

"I've cried so many times over Nicole," Cora tells STAR. "But it's going to be extremely hard to get through Christmas without her this year."

"I'll never forget how she made shopping for presents so much fun," says Cora Fischman.

"I expected we'd shop in Beverley Hills. But Nicole said, 'Oh Cora, that's crazy. We can save lots of money by going downtown.' So we drove there instead, and went to all these terrific little stores that sold T-shirts by the dozen and toys at a discount.

"Instead of Neiman Marcus, Nicole led me around places like Toys 'R' Us and Target. And she shopped for everyone - not just her kids and family, but her housekeeper, the gardener and mailman, as well as Jason and Arnelle."

Although Nicole, 35, was receiving $120,000-a-year child support from O.J. and lived in a $700,000 condo on Brentwood's Bundy Drive, she always stayed within her budget when it came to shopping, says Cora.

It was O.J.'s idea to organize the festive gathering with Cora and her family.
They sat down to champagne and caviar while the kids feasted on pasta and chicken from Rosti, their neighborhood Italian takeout restaurant.

The highlight of the evening for the kids - with O.J. - was the opening of the presents.

With Nicole taking everyone to the Browns for Christmas lunch, O.J. treated this get-together as his family Christmas.

Nicole and Cora had decided in advance to be "sensible" and keep their presents to one another under $100.

"So Nicole gave me a fake Chanel zippered pouch," says Cora. "I still carry it with me everyday. I gave her a huge jewelry box covered with a tapestry print that came just under the limit at $99.99. Nicole loved it."

Cora says: "Nicole absolutely loved Christmas and always insisted it should be spent with her family. She told me, 'It's a time for bringing loved ones together. It's important that the kids spend Christmas with their mother and father.'

"I wonder how O.J. feels this Christmas. I wonder if his thoughts will drift back to last year and he'll remember how close we all felt that night.

"For me, Christmas won't be the same without Nicole. My heart goes out to Sydney and Justin. Nicole made every Christmas so special for them."

Star Magazine (December 27 1994)