The gossip-filled, star-studded life of a writer who thrived on scandal.
Journalist, novelist, and TV and film producer Dominick Dunne (1925-2009) had two favorite pursuits: gossip—the more salacious the better—and star-watching. Sharing his subject’s fascination for celebrities behaving badly, TheWrap lead theater critic Hofler (Sexplosion: From Andy Warhol to A Clockwork Orange: How a Generation of Pop Rebels Broke All the Taboos, 2014, etc.) proves to be an apt and entertaining chronicler of Dunne’s eventful, turbulent, and often sorrowful life. As a child, Dunne was belittled by his father, who called him a sissy, regularly whipped him, and incited his fear that he really was a girl trapped in a boy’s body. “I never felt I belonged anywhere, even in my own family,” Dunne admitted later. Hofler highlights Dunne’s difficult relationship with his younger brother, writer John Gregory Dunne, husband of Joan Didion, from whom Dominick was estranged for many years. But Dunne’s family interests Hofler less than his cavorting with celebrities. On the set of Ash Wednesday (1973), which Dunne produced, Elizabeth Taylor was demanding and roaring drunk. She began with bloody marys in the morning (a 16-ounce glass of vodka with a splash of tomato juice) followed by wine at lunch and Jack Daniels all afternoon. At one party (the book is filled with them), the sexually insatiable Rudolf Nureyev sequestered himself in a cottage “and quickly inspired two dozen men to offer him their bodies.” A closeted homosexual, Dunne married, had two sons, and tried, unsuccessfully, to play the family man until his wife divorced him. One son violently resented him for many years; the other, more charitably, realized that his father’s “big mouth, getting hammered and telling stories out of school” ensured his popularity. Dunne’s reputation as a journalist soared when he covered sensational murder trials for Vanity Fair, including O.J. Simpson, Claus von Bülow, Phil Spector, Michael Skakel, and, not least, the man accused of murdering Dunne’s daughter.
A spirited biography of a complicated, combative, self-aggrandizing, and tormented man.