LOS ANGELES, JUNE 23 -- Nicole Brown Simpson is choking back sobs on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. Her ex-husband, O.J., has kicked down the back door of her Brentwood house and is screaming obscenities and threatening her, while their two young children are closeted in an upstairs bedroom.

The dispatcher asks, "Has this happened before or no?" Nicole's reply: "Many times."

No blows were struck that night last October. But the 911 report, released by police Wednesday, is one piece of a growing collection of scenes and accounts from police and friends that offer a more detailed portrait of the turbulent relationship between the former football superstar and the ex-wife he is accused of murdering. O.J. Simpson has denied the charge.

Just as O.J. Simpson for two decades was America's archetypal Football Hero -- the wayward kid from the projects who made good through sports -- Nicole Brown Simpson now has become America's archetypal Battered Wife, the powerless, pitiful spouse who was incapable of escaping her tormentor.

To a large extent, both stereotypes ring true. But the relationship between the Simpsons was more complex and even more tempestuous than that. Nicole Simpson, who was 35 when she was killed, was more than just a victim, friends insisted. She had her own expectations, anger and demands.

"Their relationship was passionate, full-bodied. They really truly cared about each other. It was also volatile," said Cathy Lee Crosby, an entertainer who has known O.J. Simpson for 15 years. She said the Simpsons were trying to get back together but realized recently "it wasn't going to work."

Other friends put it more harshly. After trying hard to put back the pieces, they said, Nicole Simpson realized that her former husband was the same obsessively jealous, possessive and violent man he had been during their marriage. As a result, she called a halt to their attempt to reconcile, provoking him to even worse flights of anger.

"When he was around, she would tense up," said a female friend who had talked to Nicole about the marriage. "She watched every move she made and every step she took. She was aware of his reactions to everything. When he wasn't around, she was a direct, smart person. But when he was around ... she was scared to death of him."

"She wasn't perfect. She was a person," said the friend, who insisted on anonymity. "She could be thoughtless, impatient and, like me, sometimes had a mouth like a sewer. But she had character and she was dedicated to her kids. The worst thing he would do is threaten to take away the kids."

Five years ago -- while O.J. and Nicole were still married -- O.J. had lunch with nightclub singer Jennifer Young and other friends at La Scala, a Beverly Hills restaurant. According to Young's account, Nicole spotted them and flew into a rage. As the pair left La Scala, Nicole, driving a black Mercedes, screamed "Son of a bitch!" at her husband.

"We were just walking. The next thing you know out she comes, out of the blue, flipping out, screaming, 'If you're going to {expletive} cheat on me, why don't you pick somebody who's pretty? She's a {expletive} ugly dog,' " Young said.

Simpson remained calm, Young recalled. "It wasn't him that had the temper that day. It was her."

A woman, who knew Nicole for four years and saw her frequently at a private school where they both sent their children, recalled, "Everybody was doing this happy {expletive} about how 'nice' O.J. was. But he had a ferocious temper. The physical abuse was pretty constant. Everybody knew about it. She was covered in bruises -- and I am not trying to exaggerate this.

"The fights never stopped. When they separated, he stayed in the big house {on Rockingham Avenue} and she moved to a house on Gretna Green Way. The cops were there nonstop. When she got the place on Bundy {where she died}, the cops were called there too.

"At one school function, she was walking down a hallway and he came after her. He grabbed her so hard that she almost went down and Sydney {their daughter, who was holding Nicole's hand} did go down. He was shouting at her... . It was one of the most frightening things I've ever seen."

Nicole Simpson talked about her troubles with O.J. only "when she was having a really bad day. She was not the kind of person who would sit down and spill her guts. But even then she wasn't going to feel sorry for herself," the friend said.

Nicole stayed with O.J. as long as she did, the friend recalled, because "I don't think she had that great a sense of self-worth. She wasn't that well-educated... . She didn't have any particular job skills. She was too old to be a model and she was trapped."

"He always used money to force her to do what he wanted -- money for the kids, money for whatever." Nicole changed slowly, in some visible ways, after she broke from the marriage, the friend said. "For a lot of years, she had looked the way he wanted her to look. Once she broke it off, she began dressing a lot more casual, a lot less sequins... . Her style became a lot simpler."

Nicole Brown was born in West Germany, her mother's homeland, but grew up in Monarch Bay south of Los Angeles. At Dana Hills High School, she was a homecoming princess a year after her sister Denise was crowned queen. "I wouldn't say she was your typical high school girl ... she was very mature," teacher Bill Prestridge said.

She met Simpson at a club in Hollywood soon after her 18th birthday. "I'm sure she came down from Dana Point as an 18-year-old girl to check out Hollywood and the people in it," said record producer Val Garay, who was her previous boyfriend. "She was a sweetheart, a very sweet girl... . "

Although O.J. was still married, she began dating Simpson and moved in with him almost immediately. He was divorced the following year, and five years later, in February 1985, they were married. She gave birth to their first child, Sydney, eight months later. Their second child, Justin, was born in August 1988.

It was an old-fashioned marriage in which Nicole was responsible for the children and O.J. had the power of the purse. But it was also a deeply troubled relationship. According to police records, Nicole made at least eight calls to the 911 number to complain about her husband's verbal and physical abuse. Then came the 1989 New Year's Eve incident in which Nicole suffered bruises, a split lip and a blackened eye.

He was charged with spousal abuse and pleaded no contest to the lesser charge of battery, paid a fine and promised to do community service. But within weeks of his conviction, O.J. Simpson dismissed the seriousness of the incident in an interview with an ESPN broadcaster. "When I look at it, it really wasn't that big of a fight," he recalled, adding later, "Hey, you know, we had a fight. We were both guilty. No one was hurt. It was no big deal -- and we got on with our lives."

Three years later, Nicole Simpson filed for divorce. The legal papers offer a hint of how economically dependent she had become on her wealthy husband, and how subservient she felt. "I've always told O.J. what he wants to hear," she said in a deposition.

"Petitioner only attended junior college for a very short time because respondent required that she be with him," Nicole's lawyer said in an affidavit where she appears as the petitioner and O.J. as respondent. "Petitioner worked as a waitress for two months. Prior to that, she worked as a sales clerk in a boutique. She worked there for a total of two weeks and did not make a single sale... . Although she sometimes worked as an interior decorator, her only clients were respondent and his friends."

When they signed the divorce decree on Oct. 15, 1992, O.J., who was worth an estimated $10 million, paid her $433,750 and agreed to pay $10,000 a month in child support. He would have joint custody with Nicole, but she would have the children 90 percent of the time. Included in the order: "Each party shall have the right to live separate and apart from the other, free of any interference or harassment."

A year after the divorce, the Simpsons appeared determined to reconcile. But last October O.J. again exploded at his ex-wife in the incident that led to the 911 call. According to the police report, his outrage was sparked by his discovery of a snapshot of an old boyfriend in a photo album. But the tape of Nicole's phone call suggests he was also infuriated by an article that had appeared in that week's National Enquirer.

The article reported on O.J.'s attempts to woo back his ex-wife. It is filled with details that appeared to have come from Nicole or her friends, including O.J.'s apologetic claim: "Baby, I was a fool to let you slip through my fingers. You're the best thing that ever happened to me."

The article also states that Nicole told friends the real reason she divorced O.J. was that "he was cheating with so many women that she was terrified he'd get AIDS."

In the 911 tape, O.J. can be heard shouting in the background, "Hey! I've been reading this {expletive} all week in the National Enquirer. Her words exactly."

The tape also suggests that O.J. Simpson believed Nicole had been seeing other men. "Is he upset with something you did?" the dispatcher asks her at one point. "Oh, a long time ago," she replies. "It always comes back."

Staff writer William Hamilton and researcher Kathryn Wexler contributed to this report.