Thursday, September 25, 2008

This Week's LVW Column: He Dunne It

Here's this week's column for the Las Vegas Weekly. Enjoy.

He Dunne it

How a famous writer taught me to savor my O.J.


As recently as 10 days ago, I was just like most of you out there. I had absolutely, positively, 100 percent no interest in whatever tawdry affair would unfold in a criminal trial that was news solely because it involved one Orenthal James Simpson.

Heck, I can go one further. I wasn’t just indifferent; I was actively resentful that I was about to have to turn over my career and life—in the middle of the most fascinating election of our time, no less—to sit in a courtroom for weeks just because this maniac took some screwy characters on a misadventure in search of some keepsakes. And I felt the lash of condescension—and thought I deserved it—from Review-Journal columnist Jane Ann Morrison when she explained her disdain not just for the topic but even for the journalists documenting it.

Then I met Dominick Dunne, and I fell in love with this story.

I don’t expect any of you to take more interest in what’s taking place on the 15th floor of the Regional Justice Center right now. I understand why you may be repelled. And I don’t pretend that it has the broad societal significance of, say, Jane Ann’s series on naming her kitten.

But my assigned seat in the courtroom is beside that of the diminutive white-haired man with the Coke-bottle glasses, a latter-day (and heterosexual) Truman Capote who feeds anecdotes and observations about such events to high society via his monthly pieces in Vanity Fair and his TruTV appearances.

That was a bizarre glitch of fate, because the night before I met him, I had read Dunne’s latest column. In it, per the occasion of Vanity Fair’s 25th anniversary, he reflected on his career as a film producer, on his turn toward journalism at 50 after his daughter’s murder, about being in the thick of the trials of Claus von Bulow, William Kennedy Smith, the Menendez brothers, Phil Spector and, of course, O.J. Simpson. Alongside this piece, VF ran the classic photo of Simpson at his 1995 murder trial trying on that glove—you know, “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”—with a riveted Dunne as the most distinctive presence in the audience.

Here’s the last line, the last thing I read before turning off the lights on September 14: “What a swell party it’s been. Next, it’s off to Las Vegas for O. J. Simpson’s trial for armed robbery and kidnapping.” The next morning, I entered the courtroom to sit down, and, holy cow, there he was!

Read the rest HERE