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

JH: The way you're describing it, it was almost epiphanic for you. You had this epiphany of yourself and had gone back to being yourself. You rid your system, from the psychological level straight to the physical level, of all of the trappings of Hollywood.

DD: Yeah. Yeah. And then this wonderful woman whom I rented this little cabin from, she invited me to her house and her husband's for Thanksgiving. I didn't know them. She had daughters and their husbands and all kinds of people. And they would start to talk, you know, about—I never told her anything about my life, and they never asked any questions—but one of the sisters or daughters-in-law, whomever it was, was talking about Elizabeth Taylor's husbands. I produced a movie with Elizabeth Taylor.

JH: Ash Wednesday.

DD: And I knew her very, very well, and the information that this daughter was providing about Elizabeth Taylor was wrong. And I let it pass, and that was like scissoring one more thing that tied me to Hollywood, you see what I'm saying? It was the most fascinating thing. She was talking about Elizabeth's seven husbands and she had the order wrong. Now the old me would have said, "Oh, no, no, Nicky Hilton was the first husband, and..." but I let it pass. It didn't matter any more. It was an amazing moment, you know what I mean? When I'd let all that stuff just take over my life?

JH: It must have been extraordinary.

DD: Yeah. It felt so good.

JH: I'll bet it did because you were yourself again. You had yourself back.

DD: Yeah, yeah. It was amazing!

JH: After the cabin you just went back to Hollywood?

DD: No, after the cabin, I didn't. What happened that ended that idea my brother's suicide. My brother Stephen. I was so broke that I didn't have enough money to go to his funeral, nor did I have a telephone. To get me, you had to call this lady who owned the cabin. My aunt called me and said, "You have got to come." She said, "I will pay for the ticket," or something. So, I went to New Canaan, Connecticut, where my brother lived. [It was] a terrible thing. We still don't know why he did what he did.

But at that funeral...you see I'd toyed with the idea of suicide myself.

JH: While you were in the cabin?

DD: Yeah, I did. And when I saw that...that casket go up the aisle with three little kids, 9, 6 and 3, I felt, I'll never do that. I will never be tempted by that. That was no longer an option.

JH: So, you decided that after the funeral, I'm not going to....

DD: I'm not gonna [commit suicide]. And I went back and I got to Portland Oregon. And in the Portland Airport when I got off, the whole thing hit me. I mean of the six months that I'd been there, the whole failure of Hollywood after the golden days there, and the the loss of the brother, and my wife had left me and everything happened. We had two children who had died—this was long before the murder [of Dominique]—and it was like in the Portland Airport, I just fell apart.

Then I went back...I took the bus back...and I knew that my time in Hollywood was over. Time to move. I stayed maybe another two weeks in the cabin, and I went back to LA and I had no money, but I had a beautiful apartment that somebody sublet when I was away, and beautiful things, and I sold every single thing I owned, including my Turnbull and Asser shirts. And all of the people whom I knew came in and bought, and I then left there and went to New York to start my life over. I had one suitcase and a typewriter and that's all from my old life. I sold everything.

JH: When you were in the cabin did you stay in touch with your children by correspondence or phone?

DD: Letters. They were thrilled. My children were so supportive of what I had done. And when I sold everything, my daughter Dominique had by then started to act and was making money and she helped me with the sale. She was so wonderful, and my last month’s rent—a thousand dollars—Dominique paid from her first paycheck. I’ll never forget that. She was divine.

JH: The outpouring for her on the Web is truly extraordinary. There are numerous sites, updated to current date, about people just putting their thoughts about Dominique up there. I was really impressed by how she is still alive in the hearts of those people.

DD: You know, the other night I was at the theatre. I saw The Boy from Oz with Hugh Jackman. Beyond! Beyond anything! Jackman is brilliant—a couple of times in a lifetime do you see this kind of star.

I’ve had prostate cancer and it makes you pee a lot. The ache is just terrible. At the intermission, I said to the people I was with, "I gotta go." I get to the rest room and there's a double line of people waiting. There must have been 90 ahead of me. I was just dying. I walked up the stairs to the front of the line just to see how long it was, and there was this guy who was about fifth in line. He was about six feet three. Big guy. He had a big head of hair. He reaches out and pulls me in front of him. I said, "I can’t do this. People hate it." He said, "Mr. Dunne, if you’ve ever noticed white flowers at your daughter’s grave, I’m the one who puts them there." A urinal became available and I ran to it, and I never saw the guy again.

JH: She is alive in the hearts of the people who found her fascinating.

DD: Isn’t that incredible?

JH: She had more friends than anybody of the group of Hollywood kids who were just coming up and starting to make big splashes in movies, and I was just amazed. They have videos of her on the Web, they have photographs of her up there with her friends.

There is, I would say, a unique and compelling hatred of John Sweeney [Dominique’s murderer] on all of those sites and different versions of what happened that night.

But this outpouring is something for you to be very proud of because she is still revered by a great many people. Did you think that she had star quality?

DD: Oh, I did.

JH: I saw her in Poltergeist and was enchanted by her, and we watched the miniseries V, and were disappointed to read that she had been a major character in the series when she was killed. How did you feel about her going from movies to TV? Did it make any difference in your mind?

DD: No. No. I just feel that my whole second life has been directed by her. Completely, absolutely.

JH: She had poise, not only on screen but in life as well. You have said of her in the past that she could deal with sophisticated people, yet she wasn’t sophisticated herself. And you meant by that that she was a laid back person who didn’t get star struck herself?

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