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Dominick Dunne, 83; updated

Matt Schudel

Dominick Dunne, the irrepressible Vanity Fair reporter who became a journalist and novelist late in life, died Aug. 26 at his home in Manhattan. He died right on deadline for morning newspapers, but fortunately I had prepared an obituary several months earlier, which I updated and reworked and managed to squeeze into the paper.

Dunne had a failed early career as a Hollywood producer and insider before turning his hand to writing -- after encountering two Washington Post reporters who were covering the story of David Begelman, a Hollywood producer who was accused of forgery. Dunne wrote about that experience for the Post (not online, unfortunately) and became perhaps as big a celebrity as the figures he covered in high-profile trials around the country. The first trial he covered, of course, was of the man who was charged with killing his daughter, 22-year-old actress Dominique Dunne.

From then on, he made no pretense of siding with prosecutors in murder trials, believing that the rich always had a way of escaping justice.

His novels, which were thinly veiled accounts of high-society crimes, became page-turning best sellers and were made into a series of top-rated TV movies. In some ways, his fame came to eclipse that of his once-famous brother, author John Gregory Dunne, and his son, actor Griffin Dunne.

You wouldn't expect someone like Dominick Dunne to be all over YouTube, but he is, with a lot of interesting, revelatory film clips. If you have only three minutes and want a quick introduction to his life and his story of reporting, check this one out:

It has one of the greatest statements of self-recognition I've ever heard from a famous person: "The reason I can write a------s so well is that I used to be an a-----."

Dunne's website is unusally good for a writer or celebrity, and you can find it here.
He had one of the greatest second acts in American cultural history.

By Matt Schudel  |  August 26, 2009; 5:39 PM ET
Categories:  Matt Schudel  
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