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

DD: Yeah, yeah.

JH: Your account of her trial was the basis of your first novel about murder. I admire you for going to the trial and writing about it. You must have been incensed when this happened.

DD: Unbelievably.

JH: Had you ever met John Sweeney?

DD: Oh yeah. Yeah, and I never liked him, and she thought it was a snob thing because he was a chef and not a kid from Hotchkiss, you know what I mean? She thought thatís why I didnít like him, but that wasnít it at all. I just didnít like him. My son, Alex, was the first one who saw a sign that scared him.

JH: What did Alex see?

DD: They were at PJ Clarkís, and Sweeney had gone into the menís room and a guy recognized Dominique from Poltergeist, and she had had this line in Poltergeist, "What's happening?" And the guy says, "What happening?" And she was laughing when Sweeney came out. Sweeny grabbed the coat of this guy, and Alex thought it was terrifying.

JH: Did his family ever apologize to you about what their son had done?

DD: No.

JH: What did Lenny think of him?

DD: She didnít like him either. We were all nice to him because he was from a poor family and all that. We all should have spoken up, but we didnít.

JH: When you covered the trial, what did you think of the proceedings?

DD: When I covered the trial, It was awful sitting in that courtroom a few feet away from [Sweeney], but the judge in that trial I blame totally, completely and utterly, for the way that trial turned out. The killer did two-and-a-half years. It was a six-year sentence that was cut to three on the day of the sentencing, and the judge got lambasted in the newspapers, and then I wrote the article. Thatís when I learned about the power that you have [as a writer]. I wrote that this judge summoned the photographer from People magazine, who was in the courtroom [to the bench]óthe photographer thought he was going to be asked to leave. Instead, the judge tried on three different pairs of glasses to see which he would look better in in the photograph for the magazine, and I wrote all this stuff.

Now that judge in the space of a year went from the superior court, to childrenís court, to traffic court, to no court, and I know Iím responsible.

Anyway, years pass, and I go out for the OJ trial, and thereís a reporter there from The Malibu Times. The Malibu Times? Iíve never heard of that. It was the judge. Iíll never forget how much I hate him.

Then, one night during the OJ trial, I was on Larry KingóI was on Larry King almost every nightóand I got there late, and they told me to go to the green room, andóI couldn't believe it. There was the judge. He was going to go on with me!

JH: Did Larry King know about your relationship with the judge?

DD: No. I walked out the door and said, "Get me the producer." I said to him, "Iím not going on." "But weíre going on in two minutes." I said, "Too bad. I will not go on with that man. I will not go on. That was the judge in the trial of the man who killed my daughter, and heís responsible totally for the thing." He said, "I didnít know." I said, "I know you didnít know, but Iím not going to do it." So I go to the elevator, and Larry comes out. "Dominick, Dominick, you canít go. You canít go. Itís too late. You canít go." I said, "Larry, I wonít go on with him. Iím sorry." He said, "I got rid of him. Youíre a better guest."

JH: You and Larry have a great relationship.

DD: I love Larry. I was one of the people invited to be on his 70th birthday show.

JH: You've discussed various stories about your kids, but we haven't heard a great deal about your son Alex.

DD: Well, Iím going to tell you something. Weíve lost Alex in our lives. He has left us. I think the trouble started at the time of [Dominique's] murder. I think that they [Alex and Dominique] were the closest brother and sister I ever saw. He has just left us. We know where he isóGriffin and me and every friend of his, lifetime friends. I have not heard from Alex in five years. So thatís a bad thing.

JH: Let's switch gears. If you had a choice about what your readers readóif it had to be one or the otherówould you want them to read your Vanity Fair articles or your novels?

DD: How could you ask that? [Laughs.] I donít know. I think the novels will always have a longer life span, and I love writing for Vanity Fair.

You know, Iíve had a hard time writing this novel [A Solo Act to be released soon] because I havenít written one for several years. It was hard to get back into it. In the beginning, it was as if I was writing an article and changing the names to fake names, and there was nothing novelistic about it, and, so it took me quite some time to get back in, but I love the feeling when Iím writing a novel. I have a general idea of whatís going to happen and I let it happen. Thatís why I spend so much time here and not in New York, because when youíre finally into it so that your novel is more important in your mind and more real in your mind than whatís actually happening, that is bliss.

JH: Do you find that once you get on a roll you donít want to be interrupted by anything?

DD: Thatís right.

JH: Do you outline your books ahead of time or do you let let them just come from you?

DD: I let them come right from me, but I have an idea where Iím going. If it takes me in another way, I go with it.

JH: Do you collaborate with anyone?

It's interesting. My daughter had this friend who is a painter, and three weeks before he killed her, Sweeney attacked her; hands around her throat. She got in her car and went to this painterís house. Great guy. She had a friendship with him, and he hid her for several days. He photographed her neck, which was used during the trial. She had gone on Hill Street Blues and played a battered woman, and a lot of the black and blue on her face was not makeup. A lot of it was what he [Sweeney] had done to her. But Iíve always been very grateful to this guy.

He moved to Hawaii. Heís a very good artist, once a year, he comes to visit his family in Chicago and he comes here, so I see him once a year over the Memorial Day weekend.

After all these years, this amazing thing has happened. I now read him my novels [as I write them]. It started with the articles. And then he said, "Donít you remember that last month you said...?" and weíve established this thing now. Itís unbelievable. I talk to him every day now, this guy in Hawaii, and I read it to him rough, and then I hear it, because you canít read out loud to yourself. You gotta read to another person. And I have no embarrassment if it stinks, do you know what I mean? I donít care, because once I hear it, then I can fine-tune it.

JH: Whatís his name?

DD: Norman Carby.

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