Friday, August 28, 2009
Goodbye Old Friends
It was a sad week indeed with the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy. Whether you liked his politics or not, you had to admit that the man took public service to another level. Like most Americans, I can't remember a time when he was not a senator. It feels like an institution has closed its doors after almost 50 years of operation.
Writer Dominick Dunne died on the same day this week. For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Dunne specialized in novels loosely based on real murders. An Inconvenient Woman was rumored to be about the mysterious death of Alfred Bloomingdale's mistress. A City Not My Own was most certainly inspired by the O.J. Simpson trial. A Season in Purgatory was based on the murder of Martha Moxley, a crime which ultimately sent Ethel Kennedy's nephew Michael Skakel to jail.
Tragically, Dunne's own daughter was a victim of murder. An ex-boyfriend stalked her and killed her when she was 22 years old. Dominick often attributed his obsession with celebrity murderers to this sad event. Somehow, his writing about the rich ones who literally got away with murder gave him solace.
I started reading Dunne's books because of my good friend Janet. In 1994, she had recently married and moved to Los Angeles, and when we spoke on the phone the topic was O.J., O.J. and O.J. Like millions of other Americans, Janet was fixated on the trial and told me that she first got hooked when she read an article about Simpson in Vanity Fair magazine. The article was written by Dominick Dunne who gathered all sorts of evidence and rumor about the murders, much of which was ruled inadmissible in court.
Then I start reading Dunne's articles in Vanity Fair, and like a virus, I too was infected. From there, it was a short hop, skip and a jump to his novels. So somehow, when I think of Dominick Dunne my memory calls up images of the Simpson trial, and the summer of 1994 when I visited Janet and we went to the courthouse to see the media circus. There was an area across the street filled with media trailers and camera equipment. There were protesters for and against Simpson. But mostly there were street vendors, making a buck off the lunacy. (I bought a t-shirt with a photo of Simpson trying on the glove with text that screamed "IT DOESN'T FIT!" Janet bought a jello mold in the shape of Judge Ito's head. I am not making this up.)
Dominick Dunne's death is completely overshadowed by Ted Kennedy's, of course. This happens often, in fact, recently happened again with the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. And do you know what day both C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died? November 22, 1963.