Defending Dad

updated 04/10/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/10/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

AS A TV NEWS ANCHOR, TIFFANY Cochran is used to the spotlight. Lately, though, the vivacious 25-year-old has been attracting a little more attention than she would like. It's not because of anything the Florence, S.C., broadcaster has done, but who she is: the daughter of Johnnie Cochran, captain of O.J. Simpson's defense team. "Boy, did my life change all of a sudden," she says. "The phone started ringing, and it hasn't stopped."

Callers have ranged from CNN to tabloid TV shows such as Inside Edition, says Cochran, the younger of the lawyer's two daughters (both by his first wife, Barbara). They're all after the same thing: her response to nasty allegations about her father. These include disclosures that during their 1977 divorce her mother accused him in court papers of abuse. They also include complaints by an ex-mistress that he stopped her monthly payments after she went public about their relationship on Geraldo. Claiming he had promised to support her, the mistress has now filed a palimony suit against Cochran for $1 million.

"It was a shock," says Tiffany of the abuse charges. "My father is not a violent man." She believes that the allegations may have been a way to meet grounds for divorce at the time. (Tiffany's mother, Barbara Cochran Berry, 60, an elementary school teacher in the San Fernando Valley, says she is saving her comments for the book she plans to publish during the Simpson trial. But, she adds, "sometimes things can go on in marriages that children never see.")

Tiffany was more upset over claims made by Patricia Cochran, 55, her father's mistress of 20 years, who is the mother of Tiffany's half-brother Jonathan, now 22 and a senior at UCLA planning to become a veterinarian. (Though the couple never married, Patricia took the elder Cochran's name.) "I saw her on Geraldo and I thought, 'Oh, this is really disgusting,' " says Tiffany. "She made it seem like she was a secret.... That was not the case." Cochran says her father, now 58, gave Patricia $4,000 a month and treated her and his son as family. (Johnnie Cochran declines to comment.) "We all embraced Patty," she says.

Tiffany's mother still does, in a way. "I definitely feel that she should [pursue the palimony suit]," Berry says. "I feel she's been caught up in a web of deceit spun by Johnnie....I'm just glad I'm not part of that circus anymore."

Her daughter has far happier memories of life with Johnnie. Tiffany says she and her sister Melodie, now 32 and the CEO of a California engineering company, enjoyed a privileged childhood in the Hollywood Hills. Her parents divorced when she was 8, but shared custody; it was at her father's and Patricia's houses that she got to know Jonathan. Johnnie, she says, was a soft touch. "He never, ever disciplined me," she laughs. "But he didn't want my mom to know that."

When Tiffany was 10—the age at which she decided on a TV-news career—she experienced what she describes as her first encounter with racism. She and Jonathan were riding down Sunset Boulevard with their father in his Rolls-Royce when Cochran was pulled over by police. With guns drawn, they ordered him out of the car. "Here was your father, someone who is going to protect you," Tiffany says, "and he's in a really vulnerable position." The cops withdrew when, during their search of Cochran's belongings, they discovered I.D. showing that he was a deputy D.A.

Most of the time, though, Tiffany was carefully shielded. After making her debut at a cotillion with O.J. Simpson's daughter Arnelle, she majored in broadcast journalism at Pepperdine University in Malibu. Her first job was writing ads for a Fox affiliate in Augusta, Ga. Within months, she jumped to the town's top station as weekend anchor. In January 1994 she moved to Florence's ABC affiliate, WPDE, where she anchors the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts.

"She's very personable, and professional beyond her years," says Pete Owens, the station's news director. Though Owens would like to keep her "as long as I can," he knows Tiffany's future lies elsewhere. "My dream job," says Tiffany, "is to report in Los Angeles."

For now, though, she seems to be enjoying this small southern city (pop. 30,800). She shares a two-bedroom apartment with her black poodle Nubian, a gift from her boyfriend of 11 months, Parish Brown, 28, a local deejay and personal trainer. In her spare time, she speaks at schools and works on a committee to bring scouting to poor children.

But even in Florence, Johnnie Cochran continues to influence her life. She doesn't deliver O.J. updates, but the station did assign her to two O.J. segments. For the first, about the defense team, she interviewed her father; the second, called "O.J. Overkill," was about local residents hooked on the trial. "People all told me the same thing, 'You can't help but be drawn in by the drama,' " she says. "I thought, 'You people just don't have enough to do.' "

PAM LAMBERT
CINDY DAMPIER in Florence and JOHNNY DOOD in Los Angeles

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