After 11 Years of Broken-Field Marriage, the Juice Is Loose

updated 04/02/1979 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/02/1979 AT 01:00 AM EST

When pretty Marguerite Whitely first met Orenthal James Simpson in San Francisco in the early 1960s, he was bad news. He had belonged to San Francisco street gangs and had a minor police record. "He was," recalled Marguerite (who was dating his best friend), "really an awful person then." But undeniably charming. Like the day he happened to drive Marguerite's beau to her house, and she walked straight past the miffed boyfriend to chat with Simpson, lounging in a Mustang borrowed from a college recruiter. O.J. never forgot the magic of that moment; "She came out of the house and she had on this white dress, looking like the Virgin Mary or something. I sat there thinking, 'Boy, that is a beautiful lady!' "

The beautiful lady and the street kid married, and lived...well, not always happily. O.J. became "The Juice," one of football's legendary running backs. Not to mention a movie star (Towering Inferno, Capricorn One) and one of America's most recognizable faces, thanks to TV commercials. His estimated income this year: $2 million.

But a man in motion not unlike the part he plays in the Hertz spots, O.J. was constantly away from Marguerite, their daughters Arnelle, 10, and Aaren, 1, son Jason, 8, and their $1.2 million house in L.A.'s Brentwood. Inevitably, there were rumors of other women. "I guess any healthy, good-looking guy who's cocky—and I'm certainly cocky—could conceivably get girls," he admitted. "But my wife knows I'm under control." That was two football seasons ago, and last September, after some trial separations, they made it legal. Now O.J. has filed for divorce. Marguerite, 31, will get the children, but he will have visiting rights. They have not decided who keeps what he calls "my dream house," or the division of other assets. "I would term this a friendly divorce," says Marguerite's attorney Harry Fain. When asked if other women were a factor, Fain hedged: "Frankly, we haven't gone into the reasons for the divorce—but I would say she knew or sensed it."

"The price of fame was our biggest problem," O.J. once observed. "My wife is a private person, yet we can't walk down the street without causing a commotion." Today, because of injuries and age (31), his football glory seems past. Ironically, so is the marriage between O.J. and the person he credits most (along with baseball idol Willie Mays) with straightening him out when he was a troubled ghetto kid.

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