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DOMINICK DUNNE, A TOUGH MAN FOR TOUGH TIMES
HIS FIRST EXCLUSIVE LIFE STORY

JH: How did she feel about it when you said, "We're moving. We're going to California?"

DD: Well, I mean she went along with it.

JH: Was she excited when you made that first phone call?

DD: Yeah, yeah.

JH: Was she as interested in celebrities as you are?

DD: No, probably not. She was a very popular figure in Beverly Hills and at the Santa Monica house. We moved into the house that the Lawfords moved out of. They bought the Louis B. Mayer beach house. Our new house had been Harold Lloyd's beach house.  It was our first house. We were right near each other. Peter Lawford was a fabulous guy but he went downhill. He had a very tragic end to his life.

JH: He married into the wrong family?

DD: Of course, he did. He was a wonderful person and they ruined him...they ruined him.

JH: Especially Joe [Kennedy, Sr.]. Joe didn't like him because he was British.

DD: And he was an actor, and Joe never thought he was good enough for Pat. I once saw Joe be so mean to Peter—inexcusable to shame Peter in front of his friends.

JH: He was treated as a dolt and he wasn't. And then he was in between the family and Sinatra when the president [John F. Kennedy] would not land at the helipad that Sinatra built for him.

DD: Bobby talked Jack out of it because of the Mob connection, and Peter took the hit.

JH: I know he did, and boy was Sinatra an SOB about it.

DD: Well, do I know! Sinatra paid a waiter to hit me one time. He paid a waiter $50—when $50 would be like about $300 now—at a nightclub called The Daisy. It was a private club. You had to be a member. It was actually the captain, George, who punched me. He was a nice man, an Italian terrified of Sinatra. They all were.

Sinatra was at another table. He was with Mia Farrow, whom he hadn't married yet, and his two daughters. I knew Nancy and Tina Sinatra, and I knew Mia. And all of a sudden this guy comes and taps me on the shoulder, and it was George. He said, "Mr. Dunne, I'm so sorry. Mr. Sinatra made me do this." He punched me, and the whole place just stopped. And I looked over and Sinatra was like...it was like when you see those movies like Spartacus when the king sits there and watches the lions eat the gladiator. It was like an enjoyment for him when he saw what I was going through. And I hate him. I'll never forget the look on his face. And you know, to this day, I can't listen to his music.

And after he died, when Nancy Sinatra came to New York and wanted Guiliani to put a statue of Sinatra in Times Square, I wrote a letter to the Mayor and said, "He's Hoboken and Hollywood, he's not a New Yorker." I didn't use the Mafia stuff.

JH: Guiliani knew all about it.

DD: Yeah, he knew.

JH: He was a U.S. Attorney and he put a lot of mafiosi behind bars, so he knew.

DD: He knew. So I mean anyway...Sinatra....

JH: Had you been getting along okay with him before this incident? Did he do this to embarrass you?

DD: He didn't like us. He thought we were…I mean, we moved in very high circles, and I don't think my job warranted the circle that we moved in.

JH: You can't be popular because you have a job at a producer level?

DD: Yeah.

JH: When your son, Griffin, got started in Hollywood, did he express an interest in acting, directing or producing?

DD: Acting.

JH: Was that something where you could say to him, "Why don't you go talk to this person or go talk to that person"? Or did he just go in and do it on his own?

DD: He really did it on his own. He's always been very sensitive about all of the connections that he had.

Actually, at the time he started, I was on my ass. I mean, I went through quite a few years of being seriously in trouble. And I was in a cabin in Oregon when his picture was in New York magazine for producing the movie Chilly Scenes of Winter, a wonderful movie.

JH: You say you were on your ass. What I find remarkable is that you—unlike so many other people who just opt for rehab—you went to that cabin in Oregon and you got yourself off everything. How did you do that without any help; counseling, medication...?

DD: I just...I just knew I had to change.

JH: But you were fighting both alcohol and cocaine addictions at the same time?

DD: Oh yeah. Yeah. I stopped everything in that cabin. That cabin was again one of the great things of my life.

I was dropped when I went through my bad period, and then on the night before I left, I was invited to dinner at the last minute by Mrs. Jack Benny. She was a big Hollywood hostess. And I got there—and I knew her well, and her grandchildren and my children were friends—and she hardly spoke to me. I realized I was just like a fill-in for somebody who dropped out. And I thought...this is, you know...I can't handle this anymore. I gotta go. And I left the next day and I drove and drove and drove. I was heading for the Cascade Mountains because I thought the sound of it was nice.

By this time, I'd lost my convertible Mercedes. I'd lost everything. I was in this little, cheap Ford—two-door Ford—and I got a flat tire, and I didn't know how to change a flat tire. So I rented this little cabin for one night.

JH: Was it right where you broke down?

DD: Near, near, in this little town called Camp Sherman, and I ended up staying there for six months in that cabin. I had no telephone and no television, and I literally lived in silence. It was the most incredible period of recovering, licking my wounds and coming to terms with myself because all that time and stuff...you know? I had become a phony Hollywood person. And all that bulls--- ended in the cabin. I used to think it was "this person's" fault that I didn't get that movie," or "that person did this or that." I came to realize that the fault was always mine. It was an incredible period for me, and that's when I started to write my first book in that cabin.

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