--Sal Mineo, Conversations with My Elders
“I got a girl in every port—and a couple of guys in every port, too.”
--Sal Mineo, Conversations with My Elders
“I met him when I started at House & Garden. He had two sides: he was very elegant and had friends like Kitty Miller, but then he would be seen at the worst night clubs. He was quite a naughty boy.”
--Horst P. Horst, on Billy Baldwin, Horst, His Work and His World
The adventures of the Billy Baldwin character in Dominick Dunn'e The Two Mrs. Grenvilles seem to support Horst's assertion.
Image Credit: Horst, His Work and His World
“If you ever hear anybody refer to Elizabeth Taylor as Liz Taylor, you can be pretty sure that person doesn't know her.”
Image Credit: The Sixties, A Decade in Vogue
“People are fascinated by the rich: Shakespeare wrote plays about kings, not beggars.”
Image via The Power of Theatrical Madness
There is no feud like a Hollywood feud. As such, it was simply an oversight that we failed to mention the contretemps between Sue Mengers and Dominick Dunne in Monday's post "Twinkle, Twinkle Super Star: The Life of Sue Mengers." Dominick Dunne and Sue Mengers should have been great friends. They had so much in common. Both simply adored fame and the famous. They had other connections as well. Dunne produced the 1973 Elizabeth Taylor-film Ash Wednesday that was written by Sue Mengers's husband Jean-Claude Tramont.
It was actually a comment Dunne made about Jean-Claude that finished off Dunne's faltering career in Hollywood. Mengers became infuriated when the Hollywood Reporter quoted Dunne as implying that nepotism, not talent, was the reason Jean-Claude was hired to write the screenplay for Ash Wednesday. He compounded the insult by referring to Sue's weight problem. Mengers, then at the height of her powers, made certain Dominick Dunne never ate lunch in Hollywood again. Or, so she thought. How was she to know that the end result would be a dazzling new career for Dunne that would enable him to dine out anywhere he damed well pleased.
Read about it in greater detail at A Boat Against the Current.
Image Credit: The Way We Lived Then
“I have always been intrigued by the kind of people who call their lawyers before they call the police after a murder. It is a rich-people thing.”
Who says Americans do not have second acts? In his first act, Dominick Dunne was a minor player in the entertainment industry but a major firmament on the Hollywood social scene, hosting and attending the most talked-about parties in Beverly Hills, circa the super-glam 1960s. However, that was mere prologue to his second act. He returned to New York in the 1980s and became a star journalist for Vanity Fair, reporting on crimes committed by the rich and famous. He also moonlighted as a novelist, fictionalizing the sensational murders he wrote about in Vanity Fair.
We love signed copies of Dominick Dunne’s The Way We Live Then, which chronicles his Beverly Hills years. This is the closest Dunne came to writing his memoirs (though in his swan song novel--Too Much Money—he is clearly the narrator Gus Bailey). The home he shared with wife Lenny and three children became a hub for a glittering but cultivated Hollywood set. Regulars included Natalie Wood, Billy and Audrey Wilder, Jennifer Jones, Roddy McDowall, and the agent Freddie Fields. Occasionally their circle expanded to include Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Cecil Beaton, Princess Margaret, Lauren Bacall, Jane Fonda, Paul Newman and many others. Filled with black & white photographs, most shot by Dunne, the book offers the imagery one expects from a coffee table book but is smaller, making it easy to pick up and read.
Dominick and Lenny Dunne defied the primary rule of the entertainment industry. Generally in Hollywood, one’s popularity is directly proportional to one’s box office. Not so the Dunnes. His C-List career miraculously translated into an A-List social life. Perhaps that was because they gave such memorable parties. In fact, their most celebrated was a formal dance in which the ladies were requested to dress in black or white. Truman Capote attended and then copied the theme for his famed Black and White Ball (to which the Dunnes were not invited).
Dunne was the master of the society roman à clef. His novel People Like Us covered the excesses of Manhattan's Nouvelle Society. The book created a stir when both the old guard and the social climbers caught on that Dunne had pilfered from their lives to create the book's memorable characters. There is no doubt Glenn Bernbaum, of Mortimer’s fame, was the model for Chick. Chick was proprietor of Clarence’s, the society restaurant where the characters regularly dined. Nick Harvill Libraries acquired (and quickly sold) Bernbaum’s copy of People Like Us. In it, Dunne warmly inscribed, “For Glenn, aka Chick, there’s not too many people like you around, with great affection, Dominick Dunne, June 20, 1988.”
Occasionally books from Dominick Dunne’s own library appear on the resale market. They are noted with a “From the Estate of Dominick Dunne” stamp. One such book is currently available from Nick Harvill Libraries. It is Slim Keith’s memoir Slim, Memories of a Rich and Imperfect Life. Sadly, Slim died prior to its publication, but this copy is signed to Dunne by the book’s co-writer who was a colleague at Vanity Fair. It is warmly inscribed, “For Dominick, The godfather, guru, and all-time chronicler of rich & imperfect lives. All my love, Annette.”
In 2012, Nick Harvill Libraries sold a copy of The Way We Lived Then in which a program from Dominick Dunne’s memorial service was laid in. His Vanity Fair boss Tina Brown was one of the speakers. How great it would have been to witness her eulogize one of the journalists with whom she captured the zeitgeist of go-go 1980s.