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Been There, Dunne That Glamorously

October 05, 1999|MARY ROURKE

We know Dominick Dunne has a way with words; let's see what he does with pictures. The journalist and novelist, who can clog even a gossip monger's arteries with his steady output of Vanity Fair articles penned from celebrity court (about O.J. Simpson, the brothers Menendez and Claus von Bulow) and his novels about dastardly characters who act a lot like famous people in the news ("The Two Mrs. Grenvilles"), has penned a new book.

About himself.

"The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper" (Crown, $27.50) is a photo album wrapped in a personal memoir, mostly about life in Hollywood, where Dunne, 74, worked as a writer for television and screen from the '50s through the '70s.

A snapshot of his kids meeting the Beatles in the early 1960s is bittersweet. Dominique, his daughter, was murdered at age 22 by an ex-boyfriend in 1982. Alex, 42, had a brush with death in 1995 when he fell during a hike and was stranded for five days. Griffin, 44, has led a comparatively peaceful life as a successful filmmaker.

Dunne's photo of the family house on Walden Drive in Beverly Hills shows the site of the many memorable parties he threw with his wife, Lenny, before they divorced. (She died in 1997.)

And then, there are the guests: Mia Farrow and Ryan O'Neal stopped in after hours at a moment in gossip history when they were lovers on and off the set of "Peyton Place." Natalie Wood came to dinner and inspected her lipstick by looking into the shiny blade of a silver knife. George Hamilton and Elizabeth Montgomery danced in Dunne's library until Gig Young, Montgomery's husband, tried to outdance the competition. The last shot in that series shows Hamilton in tears.

A photograph of Dunne with a caption about being on LSD shows the dark side of his glamorous life. He is open about a years-long struggle with substance abuse. Even then, he was gathering string for his future as a gourmet gossip. Where does he get all those ideas for his novels? Read this book and you won't have to ask.

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