Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Farewell to the two Mr. Dunnes

       It's been nine months since the death of Dominick Dunne, author, commentator and for his 15 minutes of fame, Los Angeles jet-setter. Few people know that Mr. Dunne was part of the 1960s California scene, hob-nobbing with the rich and famous, directing Playhouse 90 and being, generally, cool.

      Until, that is, his wife decided she had outgrown him and divorced him. Mr. Dunne went from hot commodity to Dog of the Dow in his social circles. At the time his three children, including namesake Dominique, were young. It was before Mr. Dunne found his true calling, and only then so after tragedy struck, a heartbreak so profound it pierced him to the marrow. And it happened at a time when Mr. Dunne was so broke he couldn't find two nickels to rub together. That sad time when newly divorced, Mr. Dunne packed all he could fit into his car and drove to Oregon where he lived in a cabin and tried to eke out a living as a writer.  
       Now, most people are aware of the Mr. Dunne who is rich and famous and marvelously gossipy. The one who wrote best selling novels: A Season in Purgatory,  The Two Mrs. Grenvilles: A Novel (also based on a true story); An Inconvenient Woman; People Like Us: A Novel and Another City, Not My Own, based on the OJ Simpson murder trial. (Read it, couldn't put it down). Mr. Dunne gave voice to voiceless victims. He did it in many books and on television in Power, Privilege and Justice on TruTV.
       But before all that, Mr. Dunne was trying to put out a book while living in a cold one-room flat in Oregon. Daughter Dominique was finding parts as an actress on television and movies, her biggest role in the Poltergeist (25th Anniversary Edition).  During these months she also met and broke up with nut case John Thomas Sweeney.  Dominique sought and won a restraining order against the physically abusive Sweeney, but the obsessed and enraged Sweeney found out where Dominique was staying one night in November, 1982. He went to see her. She made the mistake of going out to speak to him. In a fit of rage, Sweeney beat Dominique to death.

       An editor for Vanity Fair noticed Mr. Dunne at the trial, day after sorrowful day. He took notes. He was in despair. So she asked if Dunne would write a column about how he felt, just his feelings and views. He felt the victim was getting more protection than Dominique ever got. Soon a writer of legend was born, the other Mr. Dunne. He wrote about Sweeney getting a mere 6 1/2 years after brutally taking a life, and Mr. Dunne went on to write about many other true murder cases in a fictionalized style for Vanity Fair. The other Mr. Dunne had no stomach for Los Angeles. He wrote of his feeling about LA in his sort- of autobiography, Another City: " Good times. Bad times. The bad times were badder than the good times were good...." 

      I recently finished A Season In Purgatory. Gripping and fast-paced. Mr. Dunne has a wonderful way with character development that I envy. The novel is based on the Martha Moxley murder in Connecticut. Yes, the rich and famous just seem to get away with so much. We are more enlightened for having the two Mr. Dunnes. Good night, sweet prince.

don't forget this

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