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Novelist and journalist Dominick Dunne wrote fiction and nonfiction about the rich, famous, and corrupt. He covered the O. J. Simpson trial for Vanity Fair.
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Clarke reported that "every Christmas (Dunne) and his five siblings...were lined up, their faces scrubbed and shiny, to hand out oranges and shoes to the needy." These memories led Dunne, according to Clarke, to regard the maligning of his faith as "a blessing, however delayed. It forced him to be an outsider, someone who grew accustomed to looking through the window at what people were doing in the dark corners where they thought no one could see."
Dunne also witnessed shameful scenarios played out within the "dark corners" of his own house. Though a successful heart surgeon, Dunne's father's healing touch did not extend to his son Dominick. Wishing his son to be a sportsman and the picture of aggressive male youth, Dunne's father was dismayed by his son's artistic leanings. According to Clarke, young Dunne's production of childlike plays and puppet shows "kept his father in a continual state of rage. 'Sissy,' his father would yell at him, then beat him with a wooden coat hanger." Once, Dunne's father beat his left ear so viciously it swelled to three times its size and turned purple. Though he only shared this dark secret after his father's death, his mother denied it and insisted the abuse never happened. To this day, Dunne remains partially deaf in his left ear.
Dunne was eventually sent off to Connecticut's Catholic Canterbury School. His father later appeared proud when his son fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II and received a Bronze Star for saving the life of a wounded comrade. After the war, Dunne returned to study at Williams College and then moved to New York, where he experienced his first taste of show business. Television was still new at this time, and a fascinated Dunne found himself stage-manager of The Howdy-Doody Show. During this period, he married socialite Ellen "Lenny" Griffin. She gave birth to their first son in 1954, and by 1957, Dunne had moved his family to Los Angeles. Years later, Dunne made it to the top of the film industry, producing such films as The Boys in the Band (1970) and Play It As It Lays (1972).
During the early 1960s, Dunne threw grand parties attended by such celebrities as Dennis Hopper, Natalie Wood, Tuesday Weld, Paul Newman, and Steve McQueen. These parties encompassed everything Hollywood stood for in the early 1960s. As if to foretell his future as recorder and chronicler, Dunne took photos of the parties that he later showed to David Van Biema of People, saying, "I kept entering and recording everything, just to prove that it had happened." Dunne's uncertainty over events actual and perceived, combined with his father's legacy of abuse, fueled his descent into alcoholism. He felt that these parties were about letting loose the man with a constrictive past, and alcohol became his crutch. Before long, Dunne's drunken sarcasm resulted in eventual rejection by the Hollywood community. At the same time, his wife Lenny lost patience with Dunne and left him.
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