Kato Kaelin is best known as a witness in the famous 1995 O.J. Simpson murder trial.
Born March 9, 1959, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Kato Kaelin moved to Hollywood in the 1970s to pursue an acting career. He was living in Nicole Brown Simpson's guesthouse when she and her friend Ronald Goldman were killed in June 1994. Kaelin was a key witness in the 1995 murder trial of O.J. Simpson, delivering a rambling account of events that earned him the scorn of the prosecution but also made him a celebrity. Leveraging the attention, Kaelin has since appeared on several TV shows and launched a clothing line.
Brian Gerard "Kato" Kaelin was born March 9, 1959, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fifth of six children, Kaelin was raised Catholic and came from a modest, middle-class family. His father, Al, worked as a liquor salesman, and his mother, Izzy, was a nurse.
As a child, he earned the nickname "Kato" after Bruce Lee’s character from the 1960s television show The Green Hornet. Popular among his classmates, Kaelin was named prom king at Nicolet High School as a junior and helped lead the school’s baseball team to the state finals.
Kaelin dreamed of making it big in show business, in particular as the next Johnny Carson. As a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire he hosted his own campus talk show. Feeling the urgency to make it on a bigger stage, Kaelin left after his second year of college and moved to Hollywood in 1979.
Early Hollywood Life
The quest to land consistent acting work plagued Kaelin. To make ends meet he waited tables and took odd jobs that allowed him to perform, including working as a singing waiter, car-show pitchman and production assistant. Sometimes he got creative, delivering pizzas to producers and casting agents even when they didn’t order them, just so he could leave his card and phone number.
By the early 1990s, Kaelin was freshly divorced with a young daughter and nearly broke. During a 1992 trip to Aspen, Colorado, he met Nicole Brown Simpson, ex-wife of retired football star O.J. Simpson. Immediately charmed by the struggling and likable actor, Nicole offered to let him move into her guesthouse in L.A. Kaelin paid a reduced rent, in exchange for babysitting his new landlord's two children.
O.J. Simpson Murder Trial
Kato Kaelin was staying at the guesthouse when Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were murdered on the property on June 12, 1994. O.J. Simpson was charged with the murders, setting in motion a high-profile criminal trial that began in January 1995.
Fingered as a key witness in the case, Kaelin, who claimed to have shared a meal with O.J. the night of the murders, testified that he could not account for O.J.’s whereabouts during the hours Simpson and Goldman were believed to have been killed. However, his oft-rambling testimony diminished his value to the prosecution, with lead prosecutor Marcia Clark accusing him of protecting O.J. and having him declared a hostile witness.
Ironically, the highly publicized trial achieved for Kaelin what his earlier efforts failed to do: He became a national star, albeit one who was often mocked in the media and by comedians.
“It wasn't always easy,” Kaelin later recalled in an interview with Details. “People either hated me or loved me. I was just a witness, but people formed their opinions. They wanted to think I knew something I didn't. They also made judgments about my demeanor in the trial, but honestly, I was just nervous. It gave me migraines and stomach pains because I didn't know what reaction I'd get when I'd meet people, and I don't like not being liked. Barbara Walters would tell me, 'If everybody likes you, you're doing something wrong.' But I honestly don't know if that's true."
In the more than two decades since the Simpson-Goldman murders, Kaelin has leveraged his celebrity from the trial into a steady stream of work and opportunities. He’s befriended well-known actors, appeared on reality TV programs and even co-hosted a fake court show called Eye for an Eye. In 2014 he launched Kato Potato, a clothing line that makes light of the performer’s slacker image.
He’s come around on the Simpson murder and now believes his former friend, O.J., killed Simpson and Goldman. "In my opinion, yes, I think he’s guilty," he told Barbara Walters in November 2015. "In hindsight of everything, like 20 years later, I think that O.J. Simpson is guilty."