This Day in History — October 29

Before there was John Walsh catching murderers, rapists and all the other ugly faces of humanity there was Dominick Dunne. On this day in 1925 in Hartford, Connecticut, Dominick Dunne, a best-selling author, journalist and TV personality was born.  He was the second of six children  and had served in the Army during World War 2 and had received a bronze star for rescuing an injured solider at the battle of the Bulge. After his military service he went to college and graduated in 1949.  He went on to become a TV and film producer, and made famous friends in Hollywood (as well as some enemies—Frank Sinatra once paid a waiter to punch Dunne in the face).  When he got into drugs and alcohol he decided to spend six months in rural Oregon to get sober and write a novel. In 1982 his debut novel ”The Winners” got bad reviews, but in 1985 he proved critics wrong and moved to New York, where he wrote a number one best selling novel “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles” and his fame just kept on getting bigger when he wrote more crime novels and reported on the 1995 OJ Simpson trial. When OJ got acquitted he wrote another novel about his experiences with the case called “Another City, Not My Own.” As a result of a tragedy in his own life, Dunne was known for often siding with crime victims and their families in the cases he covered: In 1982, his 22-year-old daughter, Dominique, an actress, was strangled by her ex-boyfriend, John Sweeney, who was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and served less than three years in prison. In addition to the Simpson case, Dunne wrote about other sensational trials for Vanity Fair, including those of Claus von Bulow, Erik and Lyle Menendez, William Kennedy Smith, Phil Spector and Michael Skakel. According to The Los Angeles Times, “Dunne—with his silver hair, tortoiseshell glasses and Turnbull & Asser finery—became a celebrity in his own right, sympathizing with crime victims, skewering the perpetrators and riding in limousines to his front-row seat at their trials.”

Besides his work as a novelist and journalist, Dunne hosted “Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege and Justice” on Court TV (now TruTV) from 2002 to 2009. In 2008, while battling bladder cancer, Dunne traveled to Las Vegas to cover his final court event: the kidnapping and robbery trial of OJ Simpson, who was convicted that October and later sentenced to 33 years behind bars.

On August 26, 2009, Dunne died of cancer at age 83 at his Manhattan home.

Senior Staff Writer

Pennie Hull

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