When Diane Keaton arrived, the conversation never wavered. She asked about some of the jurors, as a number of them had been replaced.
“Incredible things have happened to these jurists who have been dismissed,” Dunne said. “This one girl, who is about 26 and is a flight attendant, I knew she was flipping out because she never watched the drama that was happening and never took one note. She totally freaked out and begged to leave and Judge Ito kept her on for five more days. She ate a light bulb, she swallowed a bottle of perfume, and she slit her wrists. This is an unknown fact of the trial. All these things are happening. Extraordinary stories all around.”
When the subject of race came up, Dunne talked about the disparity between the black reporters and the white reporters. “It’s divided. It seems to me that all the advances of the last thirty years are going to be washed away. And it’s Simpson’s blackness that’s going to save him. He has retreated into blackness during this trial through the two sisters. He is re-becoming the black man that he long ago stopped being. That is his salvation. If he was white: gas chamber. Which is where he belongs.”
As dinner was served the talk turned to movies. Leonard said that the L.A. County Museum wanted him to come for a screening of Get Shorty. “I said to Travolta and Danny DeVito, ‘You guys want to appear with me?’ And they said, ‘Oh yeah, sure.’ Well, you know they’re not going to be there.”
“Of course not,” Diane Keaton laughed. She spoke of how she had been to Cannes to promote Unstrung Heroes. “I never experienced anything like it. There’s just more press there than ever. It’s like three intensive days. The Academy Awards doesn’t compare to it. Nothing that I’ve ever been through compares with that. And then when it’s over you’re back to where you were before you went.”
Schiller spoke about how he got Norman Mailer to write Executioner’s Song. And Dunne brought up the miniseries being done based on his novel A Season in Purgatory. “Sherry Lansing was going to do it as a feature,” he said, “but there was a problem with the Kennedys over it, so now it’s a miniseries. I hear the screenplay is wonderful but I can’t bring myself to read it. I know I’d get upset. You’ve just got to take the nice big check and stay away.”
Dunne’s earlier novel, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, was also made into a miniseries. “That was with Ann-Margaret,” he said. “It was beautiful. I haven’t heard from her for years, until two days ago when she called me to say, ‘I see you on TV every day with the trial. I have to tell you this: I don’t think he did it.’ I said, ‘Ann-Margaret, hang up. I can’t have this conversation.’”
“Good for you,” Christine said.
And then Dominick told us about another phone call he received, from Elizabeth Taylor, who was in Ash Wednesday, a film Dunne produced in 1973. “I’ve seen you on TV,” Taylor told him. “I’ve been so depressed, come to lunch tomorrow.”
“So I went up there on Sunday,” Dunne continued. “I don’t see her that much, but we’re friends. When all these crummy books get written about her, they all call me, and she knows I never say anything. I haven’t seen her in about a year and I’ve heard all these stories that she’s grotesque, she’s drunk, she’s failing in the marriage…well, she’s fine. She just went underground for a while. She had an artificial hip and it didn’t work and had it done again, she’s always sick. So anyway, you know how some people’s lives are just so different. Her mother at 96 died within the year and all the mother’s belongings had just arrived. So she said, ‘I was talking to Michael on the phone and I was so depressed.’ And I didn’t quite pick up on what Michael she was talking about. And she said, ‘Look what he sent over.’ She has this long sleeve caftan on which she pulls back and she has on this ruby, sapphire and gold bracelet. I said, ‘Who’s Michael?’ And she said, ‘Jackson. I had told him how sad I was about my mother and about an hour later his chauffeur comes.’ They’ve got this incredible friendship. Then she said, ‘Have you heard Michael’s new CD? Look at the wonderful speakers he sent over so I could hear it.’ The CD wasn’t even out yet. The speakers were not like the kind you cross the street to the store to buy, it’s like what the studio built for him. It’s like being at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. I said, ‘Is this a loan?’ And she said, ‘I don’t know.’ I mean, they’re living a life that’s just so different.”
The talk went back and forth for hours, over good food (salmon sushi, sesame chicken, shumai dumplings, lettuce cups, string beans and spinach) and good wine, returning, time and again, to the Simpson trial, to all the characters involved—the defense lawyers, the prosecution team, the witnesses like Kato Kalin, Ron Shipp, Faye Resnick and Rosa Lopez, the theories, the time line, the speculation over what would happen after the verdict came in. Everyone had something to say, and everyone was so attentive when Dominick Dunne spoke. He was a wonderful raconteur, a man with strong opinions, who was sensitive to what victims went through. He had lived his life through many trials and tribulations and found a second life through writing.
And over the years, when we spoke, the thing he seemed to most lament was how technology was changing the way we communicated. “What I hate to see,” he told me, “is the end of letter writing. I think letter writing is one of the most beautiful things—it’s a way of communicating that faxes and telephones can’t match. I love to write and to receive letters, but I think it’s a thing of the past.”
We’ve lost Dominick Dunne, though we will always have his books, and some pretty good movies he produced a long time ago.