Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Way Dominick Dunne Lived Then


Boy, do I miss Dominick Dunne.

I thought of him the other day as I was planning my summer reading, because his books were really the best kind of reading for a lazy summer day. Murder, high-society, and scandal. I don't know about you, but those are exactly the kind of subjects about which I want to read while lounging by the pool. (Can't you just picture being on a sunny beach- slathered in Bain de Soleil Orange Gelèe, no less- with a copy of The Two Mrs. Grenvilles in one hand and an Evian Brumisateur in the other?) But salacious subject-matter aside, Dunne's books remain compelling because they were well-written.  Dominick Dunne was no hack writer.

This stroll down memory-lane prompted me to pull my copy of Dunne's memoir, The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper, down from the shelf. Of course, Dunne's reminiscences of his life in 1960s-era Hollywood are fascinating as are the many photos of the rich and famous who frequented the Beverly Hills home that Dunne shared with his wife and children. But what really captures my attention are the photos of Dunne's house, which was furbished in an elegant and rather formal style. This really doesn't come as a surprise considering that the Dunnes and their friends often dressed in formal attire to attend weeknight dinner parties.

When you look at these photos, you'll notice quite a bit of trellis, some of which had been installed especially for the Dunnes' Black and White Ball in 1964. When My Fair Lady was released, the Dunnes had been enchanted by the film's Cecil Beaton-designed Ascot scene, which was famously decorated entirely in black and white. This scene inspired the couple to host a Black and White Ball, which was attended by Hollywood's A-list crowd. The ball was also attended by Truman Capote, who by the looks of Dunne's photos appeared to have had a very good time. Capote, of course, went on to host his own Black and White Ball, to which the Dunnes were not invited. As Dunne once said of Capote, "he was duplicitous."  But back to the trellis. The Dunnes chose to keep some of their trellised-party decorations in situ, a decision which is completely understandable.  That trellis looked too beautiful to dismantle.

And later this week, I'll take you on a brief tour of Dunne's Connecticut home, which might have lacked the beautiful trellis but which was no less striking.


The Dunnes house, which was located on Walden Drive in Beverly Hills.



The exterior of the house on the night of the Dunnes' Black and White Ball.




Dunne and his wife, Lenny, photographed as they awaited their guests.  Dunne referred to their Black and White Ball as the high point of their social life.



The Dunnes' daughter, Dominique, posed in front of a trellised-backdrop.  Sadly, Dominique was later murdered by her boyfriend, an event which impelled Dunne's career in journalism and his advocacy for victims' rights.


A glamorous shot of Dunne's wife, Lenny.


All photos from The Way We Lived Then by Dominick Dunne and the documentary, Dominick Dunne: After the Party.

19 comments:

  1. A walk down memory lane, as you say, and the trellis is superb – it coincides with thoughts I've been having for the east-facing balcony. We'll talk. Terrific post!

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    1. Always happy to talk about trellis!

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  2. Jennifer,
    What a life! Yes, DD was the best- I always enjoyed his TV program as well. I once got to meet him, when he was popping in to Saks, in NY, I sold him a hostess gift (chocolate truffles) - he was very nice. His novels are worth reading more than once. I would call them classic social commentary, from an insiders point of view. I wonder what ever happened to the beautiful Mrs. Dunne? She seemed to be in the background. It's a very interesting story. Good job!
    Dean

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    1. Dean, You have certainly had interesting encounters with such interesting people. You seem to be at the right place at the right time! :)

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  3. Yes on all counts! Only difference is I would have been the one with Sea and Ski under an umbrella!! Love the house of course.

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    1. And you would have been the smart one who knew better than to tan! ;)

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  4. I loved Dominick Dunne's pieces for Vanity Fair (why I had a subscription) and all of his books - especially 'A Season in Purgatory.' After a brush with tragedy myself, I wrote to him. He sent a sincere, heartfelt reply. It was type written; including the VF envelope (1998). It is funny how one can miss a person without having met them (I still miss Orson Welles). Thank you for today's post. The family portrait is all the more poignant... Not a T-shirt or trainers in sight. Naughty Capote. I look forward to seeing DD's Connecticut home.

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    1. Pamela, Thank you for your comment. It makes me think even more highly of DD. How kind of him to have replied to your letter.

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  5. Loved that book, and everything else Dunne wrote!

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  6. Anonymous11:01 AM

    LOVE this book - it's a great one to put in a guest room.

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    1. Anon- What a great idea! The book never fails to interest me.

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  7. I too own the book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it...and devoured the photos! So perfectly captures Beverly Hills glamour of the 60's!!
    Marvelous post!!

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    1. Thank you, Foodie! The photos are fabulous. Isn't it amazing how many famous people attended Dunne's parties?! My favorite photo is the one of Cecil Beaton eating an ice-cream cone with a spoon.

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  8. This was a great book. The parties they gave were amazing.

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    1. Jennifer, So true. Oh to have been a fly on the wall at one of those parties!

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  9. Anonymous8:36 AM

    Do you have any photos of DD's NYC apartment? Have always been curious about that one.

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  10. Anonymous2:39 PM

    I too miss Mr. Dunne. It's wonderful that he saved all of his invitations and took so many photographs. If he had not, he would not have been able to produce The Way We Lived Then. It's a wonderful memoir, but bittersweet. Looking forward to seeing his home in CT.

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  11. Jennifer, I miss Dunne and his writing terribly. I look forward to seeing more of his homes and lifestyle. So glad they kept the trellis up from the Black and White Ball!

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

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