Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01



BOOKS Well-'Dunne': Author on life of legendary writer/producer
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

This article shared 941 times since Tue Jun 13, 2017
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Dominick Dunne's life was about much more than his articles for Vanity Fair and coverage of trials such as O.J. Simpson's.

In the book Money, Murder, and Dominick Dunne, writer Robert Hofler takes readers through the fascinating life of the late producer/author/trial reporter/journalist, presenting a man who was fascinated by everything from crime to social constructs—including public views on celebrities and Dunne's own sexual orientation.

Holfer covered all these topics and more in an extended, but always intriguing, conversation.

Windy City Times: This book is very absorbing. What drew you to Dominick Dunne as a subject?

Robert Hofler: I had written this book, Sexplosion, that was set from 1968 to 1972; it was about the filmmakers, novelists and people like that who broke the taboos regarding sex. I was looking for another book to do, and I had a couple other proposals that were looking back over subjects like that and, frankly, the publishing world didn't want them.

I was reading the newspaper one day and the name "Dominick Dunne" came up; I immediately thought that was a real roller-coaster of a ride. I'm always looking for that dramatic roller-coaster, as opposed to someone who's just very, very successful. I honestly don't think that David Geffen and Scott Rudin are roller-coaster rides, although they're very, very successful.

I interviewed Dominick twice, but they were very, very focused interviews; one was for a feature I did at Variety ( in which he talked about how the movie Now, Voyager affected his life ) and the other was for the Allan Carr book I did. I didn't know at that time that [Dunne] had this really low period and that he reinvented himself as a writer. That's what attracted me to him.

Also, all three of the books I've done have been about gay men. Not only do I identify with it, but there's something about that particular generation of men who came of age pre-Stonewall. You already have conflict because there's conflict with society at large; they're a minority within a majority. But I find that, for them, there's a conflict within themselves—and I think that has to do with the fact that [gay people] are the only minority group that's in conflict with their own family.

WCT: Researching Dominick, I came across—more than once—where son Griffin Dunne acknowledged his father's bisexuality. You state that Dominick was gay. Could he have been bisexual, sexually fluid or beyond labels?

RH: Griffin did give some interviews promoting Dominick's book Too Much Money, which was published posthumously. In Too Much Money, Dominick had a character named Gus Bailey—which was a name he put in for himself. He was someone who had a daughter who was killed, who had two sons and who had an ex-wife with multiple sclerosis.

My understanding was that Griffin and Dominick did not have a conversation about his homosexuality. When it gets to the whole bisexual thing and Kinsey, the shock about Dominick is that, in his private papers, he wrote about performing oral sex on adult men when he was 8 or 9. That's very sophisticated for an 8- or 9-year-old, although that may have happened when he was even younger.

Outside of his wife, I don't think there was another major heterosexual experience that he had. Surely, his longtime boyfriend said that he never expressed any sexual interested in women. Now, [certain] wealthy women helped him along the way. I don't know how much of that was sexual, but it could've been image.

There is a disappointment [that Dunne didn't come out until very late in his life]. I understand that I don't sympathize with it. I can guarantee those AA meetings he went to were full of gay guys and it would've seemed to be the right time to come out, but I'm sure [the AIDS era] had something to do with [him staying closeted]. I remember how things changed on Fire Island when AIDS came along; it wasn't the time to come out unless you were politically motivated.

He did a documentary in 2006 called After the Party. I asked the filmmaker if he talked about being gay and [co-director Kirsty de Garis] said, "I knew he wasn't going to go there." It wasn't until he knew he was going to die that he spoke with The Times of London and said, "I'm a closeted bisexual celibate"—none of which was true. I don't think he was bisexual; he was homosexual. It's possible that he was celibate in the sense that Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton didn't consider oral sex to be sex.

WCT: It was overwhelming to see just how many famous people Dominick knew. How difficult was it to whittle the book down to 300 pages when there were all these celebrity encounters?

RH: It's 350 pages and it's small type. [Laughs] I think I cut out about 30,000 words along the way.

Yes, he knew everybody and knew a lot about a vast number of subjects. One of the things I didn't touch on as much is that he really knew European royalty, although it's not a huge interest of mine. He really knew that world.

He certainly knew high society. My book focuses on later in his life—more on the trials and less on high society. To be honest, I find high society a total snooze. I did find his hatred of [socialite] Lily Safra fascinating, though.

WCT: And speaking of hatred, it was interesting to see how Frank Sinatra disliked Dominick.

RH: Yes. I don't know for a fact, but I think Frank's hatred had to do with Dominick being a little effeminate. Frank Sinatra was a jerk, and he went after Dominick's wife, saying, "Oh, you're married to a loser." Frank Sinatra knew what the gig was; all of those TV executives, like Dominick, had to be married.

There's a famous story about Frank being close to [gay actor] Montgomery Clift. Then, Montgomery Clift got drunk and made a pass at some guy; Frank Sinatra freaked out, and that was the end of that. Frank was a homophobe, but a really nasty one.

WCT: Elizabeth Taylor is mentioned in the book as well.

RH: With Ash Wednesday, she was kind of out of control. What is interesting is that she regaled the other actors one night, saying, "When Roddy McDowell and I were making one of the Lassie movies, we had to have our faces anesthetized because the bleached corn flakes they were using for snow had us squinting."

I love that episode because this book is about people treating each other badly and why they do so—which they generally did because they were treated badly. I think Dominick was treated badly by his father [among others], so he grew up being insecure.

I found that a lot of stuff with him with Vanity Fair was just petty, and that's because he was shit on by people like Frank Sinatra.

There's one anecdote that's not in the book: Writer Kevin Sessums and Dominick knew each other because of Vanity Fair, and Kevin asked Dominick to write a blurb for his new book Mississippi Sissy. Anyway, Dominick's blurb was not used—and Dominick wrote a letter saying, "How dare you not use my blurb." I've never check to see if the blurb's ever been used; it just seemed so petty to me.

WCT: Pettiness just seems to be a pervasive theme throughout the book. People start plenty of false rumors. "Fake news" is definitely not a new phenomenon; that started long ago. The pettiness saddened me a little bit.

RH: With these three biographies I've done, I have a reputation for being a little scabrous. [Laughs] There are some interesting characters. Quite often, people are like coins; the [two sides] are related. Dominick loved being a mentor to young journalists, but the flip side was that he didn't like people of authority. I find that it's true of me, too; I related to that. My biographies are about men who really wanted to be famous—and that was their undoing.

Dominick came along at the right time in terms of trials like O.J. Simpson and the Menendez brothers. However, what happened later in life was that he didn't have those great cases to follow. So, he started pushing this stupid Gary Condit thing that cost him $1 million to settle out of court—and his reputation really took a hit because of it.

Also, Dominick was an advocate journalist. He didn't tell a story from all sides, and I think that—putting a point of view to every subject—can get you into trouble.

WCT: What was one very surprising thing you discovered in your research?

RH: Dominick wrote Another City, Not My Own [inspired by the O.J. Simpson trial]. With himself and his immediate family, he would put in names like Gus Bailey—but everybody else was O.J. Simpson and Marcia Clark, and he would have quotes from them that turned out to be real. In that book, he said he went to Roddy McDowell's house and had dinner with Gavin Lambert and Mart Crowley. I asked Mart, "When you four gay guys were all together, you didn't talk about being gay in any way?"—and Mart said "No." I found that amazing.

Interestingly, he never wrote that his interest in grisly murders—like the case involving Lana Turner and her gangster boyfriend—preceded his own daughter's murder; he never connected the two. Dominick actually thought that Lana murdered the boyfriend and pinned it on her daughter to keep her career going—but that's really fiendish. Dominick would talk about other murders, but would get upset if others talked about his daughter or her murder.

WCT: If you could interview Dominick a third time, what would you ask him?

RH: [Pauses] It would probably be silly things like, "Did you have to write a sample chapter for The Two Mrs. Grenvilles to get the book deal?" It'd be something silly like that. [Laughs] I like to get basic outlines of things when writing stories; I don't want [the subjects'] opinions.

I'd probably press him about the Frank Sinatra thing: "Do you think he acted that way toward you because you were gay?" And I'd probably ask him about the time he moved to New York and went to the AA meetings.

WCT: I was also fascinated by the Menendez [brothers'] trial, and how Dominick felt he related to Eric.

RH: In that documentary, Dominick comes so close to outing himself it's ridiculous. One thing that impressed me was that when he wrote a letter to his children in 1979, he said, "The secret of my homosexuality is eating at my life like a cancer." He said "the secret"—which is very aware. One of the weird and painful things is seeing the number of times he comes so close to saying, "I'm gay."

With the Menendez brothers, Dunne said, "I identified with Eric; we were both stutterers and took abuse from our fathers. I'm sure Eric's father called him all those horrible, faggy names." Then, he takes a little step back and says, "My father called me a sissy, and it's a tough word." Probably, in the '20s and '30s, "sissy" was code for gay. So Dominick didn't give the major point of identification, which was the homosexuality.

You asked me earlier about one of the big shocks I had while researching, and here it is: I knew that Dominick was in the closet, like Roddy McDowell was in the closet—but when you sat down with dinner with Roddy, he wasn't in the closet. I was surprised by how much Dominick was still in the closet. What straight man talks about Now, Voyager and then talks about how much he identifies with Bette Davis? [Interviewer laughs.]

WCT: What would you like people to take away from this book?

RH: I don't know. [Pauses] My books have gotten some bad reviews, saying that people want [a certain thing].

I think there are certain themes that come out of my books. I want to simply tell a good story with a great character. I don't have the talent to write a novel; I can't make up the stuff.

You know what? There are more interesting stories than Ed Wood or Florence Foster Jenkins. My books aren't made into TV series or movies, and I think it's because they're about gay guys. If you have a drag queen who's straight, that gets made into a movie.

I'm curious about what people take away from my books. Sometimes, they are things that I never intend, but that are there. I think the idea of people treating each other badly—and where that behavior comes from—is a [prominent theme].

I think also that it's a book about the debilitating effect of the closet. It's something to keep in mind, especially regarding the older generation.

This article shared 941 times since Tue Jun 13, 2017
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Equality Illinois CEO Brian C. Johnson on new book, 'Our Fair Share' 2021-09-22
- In Equality Illinois CEO Brian C. Johnson's new book, Our Fair Share: How One Small Change Can Create a More Equitable American Economy, he posits that receiving a Citizen Dividend will help all U.S. residents achieve ...

Gay News

BOOKS 'Mission Possible' released before 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' anniversary 2021-09-20
- C. Dixon Osburn, co-founder and former CEO of the Servicmembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), has written Mission Possible: The Story of the Repealing 'Don't Ask Don't Tell. This is the inside story of SLDN, which was ...

Gay News

Women & Children First hosting virtual event with Anita Hill on Sept. 29 2021-09-11
- Anita Hill—the University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women's and Gender Studies at Brandeis University who played a major role in the 1991 Senate confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas—will be part ...

Gay News

Chicago Literary Hall of Fame announces 2021 class of new inductees 2021-08-18
--From a press release - Chicago, August 17, 2021 — The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame (CLHOF) announced that its 2021 Class of Inductees will include Frank London Brown, Jeanette Howard Foster, Carlos Cortez, and Gene Wolfe. The inductees will be ...

Gay News

Chicago-area author releases book about gay, autistic African-American 2021-08-18
- PenPower Book Marketing Services and Chicago-area author Jaire Sims have released his debut young adult novel, Getting By, which was named a finalist in the African American (Fiction) category in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book ...

Gay News

Printers Row Lit Fest returns to Chicago Sept. 11-12 2021-08-12
--From a press release - CHICAGO (August 12, 2021) Printers Row Lit Fest, the largest free outdoor literary showcase in the Midwest, returns for its 36th year with 100% free programming for book lovers the weekend after Labor Day, Saturday, Sept. ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Rent 2021-08-10
- Playwright: book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson At: Possibilities Theatre Company at NorthCenter Town Square, 4100 N. Damen Ave. Tickets: suggested donation $20; or ...

Gay News

Equality Illinois' new deputy director talks goals, position and books 2021-08-01
- On July 15, Mony Ruiz-Velasco officially started in the new position of Equality Illinois' deputy director. Ruiz-Velasco is an experienced attorney who has worked for immigrants rights for many years, and has even been the legal ...

Gay News

Gerber/Hart comedy benefit Sept. 18 2021-07-31
- Gerber/Hart Library and Archives, 6500 N. Clark St.. will host a comedy benefit, "Stacks of Laughter," on Saturday, Sept. 18. At 6 p.m., there will be a VIP reception with local historian John D'Emilio. Also, a ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Amazon, condo collapse, T-shirt controversy, GLSEN 2021-07-18
- At least two Amazon employees have resigned in recent weeks to protest the company's decision to continue to sell a book they say frames young people who identify as transgender as mentally ill, NBC News reported. ...

Gay News

BOOKS Author, activist Roy Wesley on his new book about his father 2021-07-12
- Gay Chicago author, activist and Fermalogic, Inc. COO Roy Wesley has written a new book about his father—Invisible Vision: The hidden story of Dr. Newton K. Wesley, American contact-lens pioneer. Windy City Times: What made you ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Pray Away,' film contest, LGBTQ book, musicians, 'Star Trek' 2021-07-11
- The new Netflix Original Documentary Pray Away, from executive producers Ryan Murphy and Jason Blum, will make its global launch on the platform Aug. 3, a press release noted. In the film, former leaders of the ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Wanda Sykes on TV, trans jazz musician, book award, 'Red Table Talk' 2021-06-27
- Wanda Sykes has been tapped for a recurring role in the upcoming fifth season of Robert and Michelle King's legal drama The Good Fight, on Paramount+, Deadline noted. She will play Allegra Durado—a brilliant, strategic attorney ...

Gay News

BOOKS Grandma, Grace Jones are heroes in non-binary author's children's book 2021-06-22
- Non-binary author, alternative hip hop artist, mother and activist Ris iRAWniQ Anderson has published the children's book in Charlie's Best Work Yet. Charlie's Best Work Yet tells the semi-autobiographical story of Charlie—a shy, artistic ...

Gay News

New book: Majority Leader Hoyer unsung hero of Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal 2021-06-22
--From a press release - WASHINGTON, DC — In a new book, LGBTQ Lobbying in the United States, authored by Dr. Christopher Pepin-Neff, LGBTQ researcher and Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Sydney and first lobbyist for Don't ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.