Venice, Calif. -- Dennis Reid, an astrologer along this beachfront strip of tarot card readers, spray-paint artists and street comedians, inserts a disc into his laptop computer, pulls up the chart of O. J. Simpson and scrolls to June 12, the day his former wife was murdered.
"Mercury squaring his Neptune, that did it," says the computer analyst and astrologer-in-training, who does business on the beach as Astrology by Den. "He snapped that day. He did go temporarily insane."
That may be one view of the stars, but rest assured it's not the only one. Across the country, astrologers are clamoring for the essential facts about Orenthal James Simpson: the day, time and place of his birth.
With that information, they can identify the particular forces at work in his life in relationship to the planets, Moon and Sun. And just maybe they can put the right celestial spin on the events unfolding in a Los Angeles courtroom.
Since Mr. Simpson first became a suspect in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald L. Goldman, the American Federation of Astrology has received about a dozen requests daily for the celebrity sportscaster's essentials: He was born on July 9, 1947, at 8:08 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, in the city of San Francisco.
Mr. Simpson, who has been charged in the two murders, has maintained his innocence.
"This is one of the most captivating cases," says Lois Rodden, author of a five-volume set of birth data titled "The American Book of Charts." "Here's a guy who's good-looking. He's a winner. He's a champion. He's got everything . . . and he's touched the dark side in all of us."
The case also has sparked the interest of professionals of another kind. A handwriting expert in New York has analyzed Mr. Simpson's emotional letter read over national television during the now-famous freeway ride. Psychics from California to New York have been in touch with forces from the other side.
"You have to understand how psychic processes work," explains Timothy Dexter Latus, the 47-year-old president of the Dallas-based Academy of Psychic Arts and Sciences. "The first impressions are going to be the most valid ones. . . . My first impression on seeing O. J. on television after he was arrested was that he did not do this crime but that he was linked closely to the person who did."
Stephen Kaplan's impression was quite different. "Psychically, boy is he guilty," says Dr. Kaplan, executive director of the Parapsychology Institute of America in Queens, N.Y.
For astrologers, guilt or innocence is not their concern. They are interested in what they can learn from Mr. Simpson's astrological chart.
"When we look at a chart like O. J.'s we can take information back to our clients, our families and self [to determine] can violence explode here?" says Ms. Rodden, an astrologer from Yucaipa, Calif., who has received about "60 or 80" calls for Mr. Simpson's birth information. "People who come to us are very often people who are seeking to explore their own dark areas and how to handle their areas of difficulty."
To get Nicole Brown Simpson's birth data, Ms. Rodden says she relied on another astrologer, Larry Pines, who worked on the set of "Naked Gun," one of Mr. Simpson's movies.
"He was an extra so he sat and visited with Nicole for a couple of days and got her data [born May 19, 1959, at 4:44 p.m. in Rollwald, Germany]," said Ms. Rodden, 66. "We astrologers, we're always asking people their birth data."
In Baltimore, more than 50 callers have telephoned the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the majority seeking Mr. Simpson's birth date, says Averil Kadis, a library spokeswoman. Others wanted to know about his life, what the initials O. J. stood for, the movies in which he starred and his address "so people can write him letters of support," says Ms. Kadis.
"The minute somebody is in the news [the research librarians] get a flurry of calls about their signs and their birth dates," the spokeswoman says. "It happened when President Clinton was elected. They got them about Saddam Hussein . . . John and Lorena Bobbitt."
An astrology chart can help a person determine the best use of their talents, said Gail Stephens, a spokeswoman for the Tempe, Ariz.-based American Federation of Astrology.
It can also "tell you whether someone tends to be very emotional or possessive in a relationship," she says, adding, "But everything always comes back to free will."
Lynn Koiner, an astrologer from Silver Spring, wanted to do Mr. Simpson's chart to determine "what was going on astrologically that would cause this to happen in his life."
It's what she found in Mrs. Simpson's chart that astonished her.
"It was the powerful Pluto transit, which can be associated with a very violent death," says Ms. Koiner, who publishes a quarterly newsletter on astrology. "I've seen people who've been killed in automobile accidents [who had] Pluto transits. It has to do with sudden transformation events . . . Pluto has to do with control issues and death is the ultimate loss of control. In O. J.'s chart I didn't see the horrible aspects that I saw in Nicole's chart."
Mr. Reid, the beachfront astrologer, says he feels convinced from compiling Mr. Simpson's chart that temporary insanity played a role in the deaths of Mrs. Simpson and her friend.
But Colleen Sloan, a master astrologer who lives in the fashionable Brentwood area of West Los Angeles where the murders occurred, disagrees with her student's read on the stars.
"Dennis is very inexperienced. He's an Aries and he gets a little carried away," says Ms. Sloan, an astrologer since 1976. "On the day of the murders in O. J. Simpson's chart, he had no influence at all. It was a no aspect day. This is very, very confusing to me."
Ms. Sloan has a much better feel for what will transpire on Mr. Simpson's birthday, which is tomorrow.
"Uranus opposite Mercury," she says, recounting the planetary configuration. "It means plans may be unexpectedly upset and have to be changed. . . . On the same day, he has the Sun trining Jupiter. You can be lucky, optimistic . . . loved ones are a joy."
While professional astrologers like herself plot the Simpson chart because of its social significance, Ms. Sloan admits that her clients want to know the end result.
"When I first sat down to work it out, the first gestalt I got out of it was he was having money trouble," says Ms. Sloan. "I was looking to see if he did it. What I came out with is the bottom line is there is money trouble here. . . . This is a real whodunit and astrology is a way to find things without asking people's opinions and it always works."