Dominick Dunne, a best-selling author and special correspondent for Vanity Fair, died today at his home in Manhattan. He was 83.
The cause of death was bladder cancer, said his son Griffin Dunne.
Dunne—who joined Vanity Fair in 1984 as a contributing editor and was named special correspondent in 1993—famously covered the trials of O. J. Simpson, the Menendez brothers, Michael Skakel, William Kennedy Smith, and Phil Spector, as well as the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. He wrote memorable profiles on numerous personalities, among them Imelda Marcos, Robert Mapplethorpe, Elizabeth Taylor, Claus von Bülow, Adnan Khashoggi, and Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. His monthly column provided a glimpse inside high society, and captivated readers.
His first article for the magazine appeared in March 1984—an account of the trial of the man who murdered his daughter Dominique. Throughout his life, Dunne was a vocal advocate for victims’ rights.
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, on October 29, 1925, Dunne was awarded the Bronze Star, at age 19, for his service in World War II. In 1949, he graduated from Williams College with a B.A.
In April 1954, Dunne married Ellen Beatriz Griffin, who went by Lenny. The marriage ended in divorce in 1965.
Dunne began his career in New York City as the stage manager of The Howdy Doody Show, and in 1957 he moved to Hollywood, where he became the executive producer of the television series Adventures in Paradise. Later, Dunne was made a vice president of Four Star Productions, a television company owned by David Niven, Dick Powell, and Charles Boyer. He then moved on to producing feature films, including The Boys in the Band, Panic in Needle Park, Play It as It Lays, and Ash Wednesday.
But by this time drugs and alcohol had become an unmanageable part of his life, and in 1975 he drove himself up to the woods in Oregon. Living alone in a cabin, he became sober and began, at age 50, to write.
In 1980, Dunne moved back to New York and saw five of his novels become bestsellers. His books include The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (Crown, 1985), Fatal Charms (Crown, 1987), People Like Us (Crown, 1988), An Inconvenient Woman (Crown, 1990), A Season in Purgatory (Crown, 1993)—which was adapted for television as a four-hour CBS mini-series—and Another City, Not My Own (Crown, 1997). A collection of essays, Fatal Charms (Crown), was published in 1987, and his memoir, The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper (Crown), was published in 1999. Justice (Crown), a collection of articles that had appeared in Vanity Fair, was published in 2001. And his last book, Too Much Money: A Novel, is scheduled for publication in December 2009 by Random House.
The documentary series Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege and Justice premiered on Court TV in June 2002. Dominick Dunne: After the Party, a documentary about his life, premiered in 2008.
In addition to his son Griffin, of Manhattan, Dunne is survived by another son, Alex, of Portland, Oregon, and a granddaughter, Hannah.