Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dominick Dunne, R.I.P.

By Mitchell Hadley

Dominick Dunne, it seems, knew everyone and did everything.

He was a veteran of the literary circuit, a Hollywood producer, a constant fixture wherever the stars were on both coasts. He succeeded, he failed, became an addict, sobered up, and succeeded again. He could drop names with the very best of them, and the names he dropped were always heavy ones.

He was the brother of John Gregory Dunne, which made him the brother-in-law of Joan Didion. He was a survivor - the murder of his daughter and the lenient sentence her killer received propelled him into the area of true crime, which he made his own personal domain, and it propelled him back to the front pages.

He was a successful author, lighting up the pages of Vanity Fair with his accounts of the trials of the rich and famous. He was a familiar face on television, both on his own show on CourtTV and as a guest of Larry King’s. It was said that he was the people’s representative at the trials he covered, and each night he would tell you what he’d seen as if you were an old and trusted friend.

He wrote best sellers. The Two Mrs. Grenvilles. People Like Us. An Inconvenient Woman. A Season in Purgatory. He was a most outspoken critic of the O.J. Simpson fiasco, believing beyond doubt that Simpson was guilty of murder, a story he told in his memorable novel, Another City, Not My Own.

Dominick Dunne died of cancer today, at age 83. There is some irony in the fact that he died the day after Edward Kennedy, insofar as he chronicled the story of Michael Skakel, the nephew of Ethel Kennedy (widow of Robert), in A Season in Purgatory. I imagine he might have appreciated that irony, or at least acknowledged it.

I enjoyed watching him on television. I enjoyed reading his books. I’ll miss him, but the wonderful thing about words is that they have the power to live long after their authors have departed, and for that we can always be grateful.

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