Inside the O.J. nesting dolls

By Jon Roig
Arizona Daily Wildcat
December 6, 1996

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Photo Courtesy of Dynawestern Sales


Dale Miller of Beaverton, Oregon, has a rather unusual problem. Miller, a semi-retired importer, spent time creating a series of traditional Russian "Matreshka" wooden nesting dolls. He contracted with an agent in Kowloon, China, found an artist, and began production. The dolls are lathed from solid "Toothed" Oak (Quercus Mongolica) and then hand painted with great detail by professional artists in the city of Zhijiang in central China, about 500 miles northwest of Hong Kong.

After an associate brought back some of the dolls from the former Soviet Union, Dale became fascinated with the idea of "contemporizing" the traditional dolls with likenesses of great American sports figures, actors, artists, and politicians.

His current offering of dolls, which commemorate the O.J. Simpson trial, fit inside one another and decrease in size from the outer doll to the innermost. The stunning result is as contemporary as this afternoon's CNN broadcast. The outer doll is a 9-inch tall Judge Lance Ito. Inside Ito is the Juice himself. The rest, in descending order of size, are Marcia Clark, Johnnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro, Kato Kaelin, and Mark Fuhrman - wouldn't you know Fuhrman would be at the center of it all?

So what's Miller's problem? His predicament isn't simply that Kato looks distinctly Asian and somewhat unrecognizable. For some reason, sales are lagging ... and he's not sure why.

"They really aren't selling like they should," says Miller. "I thought I would easily sell 1,000 sets within a year. So far, I have sold about 140 sets and given away 20."

One of those twenty sets managed to find its way to me at the Arizona Daily Wildcat. I'm in good company - Miller sent them out to Geraldo, Larry King, and various L.A. radio stations to gain exposure. He's even donating a small portion of the proceeds to the Ron Goldman Fund.

"Books based on the trial are selling like crazy, but merchandise is not," complains Miller. "Why is this? My dolls are innocuous, well made, nicely handpainted and signed and dated by the Chinese artist. They are not O.J. Simpson Dolls! They are the main characters in the 'Trial of the Century.' Millions of people all over the world have watched this trial. It will go down in history."

There are those who might take offense at the lighthearted treatment of the courtroom controversy that resulted from O.J.'s alleged murder of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown ... but I think Miller is on to something. The trial is the most significant event of the decade, and the characters on the O.J. Simpson show no longer seem like real people, just actors in a never-ending soap opera. They are instantly recognizable as icons, and nothing dominates a room like a 9-inch reproduction of Judge Ito.

"The National Enquirer and The Examiner have a policy of not accepting any ads based on the O.J. Simpson trial," Miller points out. "Isn't this ridiculous, when they run all of the wild and gory articles? The books sell, the TV commands great viewer audiences, and still there is a stigma against merchandise based on the trial."

I've gotta say, there isn't a Christmas gift out there that says "ironic distance" like a set of "Trial of the Century" matreshka dolls. They're $49.95 from the Dynawestern Sales Co. 1-800-365-9360.