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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Larry King Interviews Dominick Dunne

Aired February 4, 2006 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Dominick Dunne, the high society insider sharing secrets of the scandals and the trials of the rich and the famous. He may have helped reopen the murder case of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel. And, he'll weigh in on the Menendez murders in Beverly Hills and a lot more. Dominick Dunne for the hour with your calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.
He's one of my favorite people. He's about to launch a new season of "Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege, and Justice" on Court TV, it's one of that network's best shows.

He's a special correspondent for "Vanity Fair," a "New York Times" best-selling author for fiction and non-fiction. He covers all the bases. He's a true renaissance man.

First, get me up to date. You were going to leave "Vanity Fair" and you're not, is everything OK?

DOMINICK DUNNE: Oh, I am at "Vanity Fair." I'll be in the next issue and the issue after that. We went through, you know, a difficult period. That happens in long relationships and, you know, you either work your way through them or you get a divorce. And I didn't want a divorce and we've worked our way through and Graydon and I are close and he's a great editor and I'm thrilled to be there.

KING: For the readers we are all thrilled to have you. Why are you fascinated with crime?

DUNNE: I don't know why I am but, you know, I always have been. When I was a kid in boarding school I used to sneak into the town because there used to be a newspaper called "The Journal American" and the "New York Mirror" that had all the crime cases and I used to sneak in and risk getting kicked out of school so I could read those tabloid papers about murder cases.

And, you know, and then on the night that Lana Turner's lover was murdered, allegedly by her daughter Cheryl Crane, I was just a few houses away. That was just a few houses away from where we lived and I became so obsessed about that, that I stood outside I mean all night long watching Jerry Geisler (ph), the lawyer, go in to be with Lana Turner before the police were called.

KING: What do we -- do we know the percentage of crimes in which let's say murder cases in which they never catch the perpetrator?

DUNNE: Well, I don't know what the percentage is but there's certainly a lot of those, yes.

KING: And someone also said that you can get away with it if you only do it once unless, of course, not crimes of passion.

DUNNE: Well...

KING: If you don't leave any trail.

DUNNE: Well, I mean I guess you can, I mean there's a lot of unsolved murders.

KING: Did you get -- you must have gotten more interested when it happened to your own daughter.

DUNNE: Well, of course, that's the thing that changed my life. I mean that just wasn't a scandalous murder. That was a violent man who my daughter was terrified of and he followed her, haunted her and ultimately strangled her and that absolutely changed my life, the life of my two sons and the life of my late former wife.

We were all different after that and that is when I saw how the kind of showbiz effect that trials have now. The man who killed my daughter, John Sweeney his name was then, he's changed it, came dressed as like a sacristan at a Catholic seminary and he held a Bible and he read it piously and it was all an act.

I had never been to a trial before and it disgusted me. And, the extraordinary thing is it fooled the jury and this man, who strangled my daughter for five minutes, got a slap on the wrist.

He was out of prison in two and a half years. And, you know, I went so nuts, Larry, at that time, so crazed, I mean I wanted to hire a killer and have him killed, you know. I really had those thoughts and even though I wouldn't do it.

And then I thought, you know, I can write about this. I can go on TV and talk about this and tell about this trial that I have just attended and that's what got me started writing about it.

KING: And he was found guilty right?

DUNNE: He was found guilty, yes, but I mean and there was a sentence of six years automatically cut on the day of the verdict to three years and he served two and a half.

KING: And I remember an unusual night here at the CNN studios when we were doing a show during the O.J. Simpson trial and scheduled on the show much to our chagrin was the judge who made that decision. You walked in and did a U-turn. If he's on, I ain't.

DUNNE: That's right. I certainly remember that. Judge Katz and Judge Katz, you know, I really blamed for that verdict. He favored in all his decisions the defense over the prosecution.

He and the prosecutor had trouble on a prior trial and, yes, I didn't like him a lot. And then I didn't see him for years and then I walked on your show one night and he's in the Green Room and we're supposed to go on together and I said no way.

KING: What do you make of the Connecticut Supreme Court upholding the Michael Skakel conviction, the murder conviction in 1975 for the bludgeoning death that happened so many years ago of Martha Moxley? Did you fear that might be overturned?

DUNNE: I thought there was a chance that it could be overturned because of the fact that he was a juvenile at the time. That would have been overturned on a technicality. But the verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court of the state of Connecticut.

And now, despite that the Skakel family is still petitioning for a new trial and you can petition for a new trial if evidence has been discovered that was not known at the time of the trial.

KING: Right.

DUNNE: And there is a guy called Gitano Bryant, he's the cousin of Kobe Bryant, he went to the Brunswick School, a private school in Greenwich that Michael Skakel went to and on the year after the verdict in this -- in Michael Skakel's trial, after the guilty verdict, he came forward and said that he was in the gated community of Bel Haven, part of Greenwich, Connecticut and that he was with two teenage friends of his, African American boys from New York City and that his two friends or one of his two friends killed Martha Moxley.

Well, I mean that is such a highly improbable story that for 30 years no one has ever mentioned these three boys in the gated community but I don't know. They're petitioning for a new trial on those grounds.

KING: You once admitted to me, Dominick, I wonder if you still feel this way that based on what happened to your daughter you tend to be prosecution oriented.

DUNNE: I don't tend to be. I am prosecution oriented.

KING: You believe -- you don't have the presumption of innocence?

DUNNE: Well, yes, I have the presumption of innocence but when I go into a story I'm pretty sure of what I feel. And, you know, I felt O.J. was guilty from day one and, yes, I do.

KING: Our guest is Dominick Dunne. As we go to break, here's a clip from his terrific show. If you like good crime shows, this is one of the best. It's on Court TV. Here's a clip from "Power, Privilege, and Justice."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Andrew Cunanan was a personality who lived to have any kind of contact however brief with anybody famous.

DUNNE: There was an after opera party for Versace at a popular gay nightclub called the Colossus. Rumor has it Versace approached Cunanan and mistook him for a young man he had met in Italy. Cunanan played along. (END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Around 8:40, Versace walks back to his villa. From across the street, Cunanan is watching. As Versace unlocks the gate to Casa Casuarina, Cunanan walks up behind him, pulls a .40 caliber gun from his knapsack and aims at the designer's head. Cunanan has struck a fifth time. His celebrated victim is rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital. At 9:21 a.m. Johnny Versace is pronounced dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Our guest is Dominick Dunne. Do we know why Andrew Cunanan did those things?

DUNNE: No but I have to tell you, well I think he did it because he was desperate to be famous himself and nothing else in his life worked. He was a pretender. He was a fake always. He was after rich men. He had a list of rich men and he went on a killing spree across the country.

Versace was exactly the kind of person that Andrew Cunanan wanted to know, rich, famous, decadent. And, you know, a lot of stuff went on in the Versace home at South Beach in Florida, the great estate that he had there or great mansion I mean that he had there and it was drugs, hustlers and whatever went on.

And, Andrew Cunanan had only met him once and had -- and when he was in South Beach he never became part of the scene at Versace's house. But on that morning, he walked up and shot him in the head twice.

KING: I remember that well. You put Andrew Cunanan in that novel "Another City not my own" right?

DUNNE: Yes, I did. I did.

KING: Why?

DUNNE: Well because he was on this -- I had him kill the character based on me. You know, I have this alter ego called Gus Bailey, whom I use in a lot of my novels, and Gus Bailey, like Dominick Dunne, became so obsessed with O.J. Simpson I couldn't get O.J.'s -- I mean it took me a year to get rid of O.J. Simpson out of my system.

KING: Boy, I remember that.

DUNNE: So, I thought that if I had Andrew Cunanan kill Gus Bailey that would rid me of my obsession. Well, it was the most terrible mistake. It didn't rid me of my obsession at all and I really missed Gus Bailey and so I brought him back to life in my new novel without any explanation. KING: When is it coming out?

DUNNE: Well, I've got about two more months work on it and then I'm going to turn it in.

KING: Got a title?

DUNNE: It's called "A Solo Act" and it's a really -- it's a really good one.

KING: You always have a great title. Without speculating, I don't want to deal with speculation, any overview of this missing groom story on the boat?

DUNNE: Well, I don't have any overview. I certainly watched your show last night, which I thought was fascinating and I mean there's just a lot of stuff. You know Henry Lee was, you know, you know he's got something to say and he wasn't ready to say it last night. I mean I can't wait to hear, yes.

KING: Is it possible, Dominick, that this kind of crime might not be solved?

DUNNE: Very possible because all those people have gone to the four corners of the earth, you know, people whom they need. And, you know, but there's odd things. I mean I think that the wife is a strange character in that. I mean about this sleeping in the hall.

KING: And we, of course, we're never going to find the body.

DUNNE: Never find the body (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Yes. All right, let's move on. I did a show about the Menendez, I had Erik Menendez on. I don't know if you saw it.

DUNNE: Oh, I saw it. Of course I saw it.

KING: And his wife. First, do you understand why women and a girl as pretty and smart as Tammi would marry Erik Menendez?

DUNNE: I don't. I find it one of the most puzzling things when women fall in love with and marry men who are lifers or who are on death row. It's a very curious thing. But the woman who married, I'm now reading her book and enjoying it but she's a very attractive woman I mean you know.

KING: She is.

DUNNE: You sometimes think that a 600-pound woman is the one who would have that kind of marriage but this is a very attractive woman. And, you know, I was so impressed with Erik in a way.

I mean his voice was so strong and everything from the -- you know, that was another trial that I devoted a lot of time to and it was a fascinating trial. And, you know, I just never understood what those guys did. They had everything, everything that you'd want in life and... KING: Well, did you believe the father did to them what they said he did?

DUNNE: I believe this, Larry. I believe the father was physically and mentally abusive to them. I have never believed that he was sexually abusive to them. I have never believed it. You know just the violence of that crime, you know it only takes two shots to kill somebody.

And so when you shoot 16 rounds into your mother and your father and you hold it's called a contact wound when you touch the skin with the barrel of the gun and so they shot to wound, you know, in the legs and everything.

I mean it was so hate filled what they did and then the coldness of it was that they ran out of ammunition. They had to go outside the house, reload the guns, come in. Dad's dead shot in the head, back of the head's gone.

And, the mother wounded is crawling on the thing and Lyle takes his 12-gauge shotgun right to her face and shoots. And, I've seen the photographs of her with her teeth, her nose, her eye, everything gone and I don't know. I just, I can't, it's just hard for me to fathom these educated, rich boys, one went to Princeton, I mean I don't know.

KING: When we come back we'll talk about the multimillionaire James Sullivan, the pending murder trial of multimillionaire James Sullivan in Atlanta. If it's a murder especially involving people on the wealthy side Dominick Dunne knows all about it.

As we go to break, here's a clip from our show of last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIK MENENDEZ (by telephone): The first time I looked into Tammi's eyes I felt like I'd come home. She's not just my best friend. She's my -- she's my great love, Larry. This woman is everything to me. And so, at the beginning of our relationship we tried to just make it a friendship and it was a friendship for many, many years, a platonic friendship.

But then when she came up to visit, and you can tell him about this baby, when she came up to visit I just, I saw so much more in her and I fell hopelessly in love with her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lita and Jim Sullivan were wed in a small ceremony in December of 1976. They made a striking couple. For Jim it was a milepost on a journey that had begun 29 years earlier on the mean streets of Boston's notorious South Side. Jim was born with little money but with plenty of smarts and, most of all, charm, a quality he would put to good use.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Dominick Dunne did an episode of a show on this case and a week later Mr. Sullivan was arrested for arranging the murder of his wife. What's the story here Dominick?

DUNNE: Well, he was arrested in Thailand and so obviously somebody who saw the show on "Power, Privilege, and Justice" spotted him and recognized him in Thailand where he was living with I think a fourth wife and he was extradited back to the United States. And this trial is going to begin in Atlanta in I think it's February 15th or 20th coming up very shortly.

KING: Now will you go down to that trial?

DUNNE: I think I might, yes. I think I'm going to -- I don't know if I'll stay for the whole thing but I would like to see the opening of this trial.

KING: What is your determining factor in what you -- what trials you go to?

DUNNE: Well, I'll tell you, I really like celebrity trials I have to confess and I'm very looking forward to the trial of Phil Spector, the music genius, the rock and roll genius of the '60s whose case is -- whose trial is coming up in April and I certainly plan to be there for that trial.

And he has Bruce Cutler, who was John Gotti's lawyer, for his lawyer and I think that should be very exciting. And, Phil Spector is this sort of out of control guy, kind of fascinating, brilliant, sort of scary and who talks out of turn. He had Leslie Abramson for a lawyer for a while and so...

KING: And he had Bob Shapiro.

DUNNE: And Bob Shapiro first, exactly right. And he's in litigation with Bob Shapiro. Bob Shapiro is in litigation with him now. But I saw him with Leslie Abramson do a press conference and he kept interrupting her and so forth. And, I don't think Bruce Cutler is going to put up with any of that and Bruce Cutler is a very dynamic, theatrical figure. I think that's going to be a big time trial.

KING: Why do so many very rich people, do you think, get in trouble?

DUNNE: Well they sure are in trouble and if it's not murder, it's...

KING: Mayhem.

DUNNE: Mayhem.

KING: Do you know why is it money breeds it?

DUNNE: Well, I don't know if the odds are any higher than people without money. It's just that we're more fascinated by crime when it happens in the upper classes and in the upper reaches of society.

I mean my first best-selling novel was based on the Woodward, the famous Woodward case in Long Island in 1955 that became the novel "The Two Mrs. Grenvilles" and I mean that was -- it's because people are fascinated with the rich.

KING: Yes. All right, he was on this program. At the end of the program, Oprah Winfrey called in. We understand that tomorrow she's going to have him back on with his editor Nan Talese and I'm talking about James Frey and the "Million Little Pieces" book. What do you make of that whole story?

DUNNE: Well, you know, I have to tell you I haven't read the book, so I certainly plan to read the book. You know I don't know why he didn't write it as a novel and...

KING: He said he submitted it as a novel and that Nan Talese thought it would read better as non-fiction.

DUNNE: Yes. I know there's a big to do over this and it's -- but you know the curious thing is I feel funny commenting on it as I haven't read it. But I mean what is curious about it with all the scandal of the book it is nonetheless, it is number one on the "New York Time" best seller list non-fiction.

KING: And its sales almost doubled after she called into this program and most of the press has ripped him apart.

DUNNE: Ripped him apart, absolutely ripped him apart.

KING: All right. What to you is a memoir?

DUNNE: Well, a memoir, I've written a memoir. I've written a memoir of my Hollywood life and...

KING: Great book.

DUNNE: Yes, I like the book.

KING: It was a great book.

DUNNE: And, I mean it's got to be the truth. I mean you just can't make it up. I mean your own life is, if you feel that your life is worth a memoir, you just got to tell what happened to you.

But this guy really has gone way out on a limb. And I was reading today about Hazeldon, you know, the treatment center for alcoholic and drug addiction, mostly drug addiction, and they just absolutely deny the things that he said took place there.

KING: Our guest is Dominick Dunne, curiouser (ph) and curiouser. Dominick Dunne is about to launch a new season of "Power, Privilege, and Justice." How many years now for that Dom?

DUNNE: Four. This is the fourth year. KING: And he's got a new book of fiction. It will be out soon. And we're going to take your phone calls for Dominick Dunne right after these words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the morning of Friday, January 16, 1987, Lita Sullivan was preparing to take the next step toward getting half of the couple's estate. That morning she was due at the Atlanta courthouse for a judge's ruling on whether the post-nuptial agreement she signed with Jim was binding or whether she would have the opportunity to take her case to a jury but Lita never made the hearing.

At 8:15 in the morning the doorbell rang. When she answered it, a man handed her a flower box, then raised a pistol and fired. The bullet plowed through the flower box and into Lita's skull. She was killed instantly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Dominick Dunne. We're going to go to your phone calls. One thing about celebrity and you're certainly a student of it. Why is Paris Hilton internationally known and recognized?

DUNNE: Paris Hilton is an extraordinary phenomena of our time. You know, we had her on the cover of "Vanity Fair," but I mean, and there's a very interesting story about her. She earned $7 million last year. That's pretty good for -- I mean she is everywhere.

She's absolutely everywhere. Her picture's in the paper every single day. I saw her earlier tonight on a TV thing, she's at, you know, Robert Redford's place.

KING: Sundance.

DUNNE: At Sundance, I couldn't think of the word, and you know, getting freebies in, you know, the gift shop there. And I mean, she's absolutely everywhere. And I had a Christmas card from her family. I know her mother and father, and it was the most normal family looking.

KING: Yes, I got it, too.

DUNNE: You know, her sisters and her two brothers, I didn't know about the two brothers, but it's so normal looking. And then you see her out all the time and in these strange outfits.

And I think she's in a bit of a jam now because she's in a slander suit with the heiress to the Graff diamond fortune. And I think that's a serious suit. It's a $10 million suit that the Graff heiress has filed against the Hilton heiress.

KING: Let's go to calls. Toronto, hello. CALLER: Hi, Dominick, I love all of your books, and I've read all of your "Vanity Fair" articles. My question is Dominick, what do you personally think about the verdict in the Michael Jackson case and have -- do you have an opinion on why Michael is currently living in Bahrain?

DUNNE: Well, let me answer the second. I mean, I will tell you what to be quite honest. If I had been on that jury, I would have hung the jury, because I would not have acquitted him.

And number two, it is my understanding that the playboy brother of the sultan of Bahrain has, in the past, when the going was good, when he's had parties, he has had Michael over to sing at his parties like for $10 million, you know, a shot. And so there was a friendliness between them.

And what I understand is that, during the trial, the prince, who is the brother of the head of Bahrain, said there was a palace there that he could use. I understand now he's going to buy a palace there to live. I saw some shots of him going shopping today with his kids, and they're all in veils and so forth.

KING: Why would you have voted to find him guilty?

DUNNE: Well, because I believe him to be guilty of that, and I think they had the evidence. He had a very, very good lawyer. I will say that, but -- well, you know, I believed he was guilty the first time, and the second time.

KING: Pittsburg, Kansas, for our man, Dominick Dunne. Hello.

CALLER: Hi.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Mr. Dunne, first of all, thank you for coming back to "Vanity Fair." I've missed you.

DUNNE: Thank you.

CALLER: And secondly, as a public defender who doesn't get paid much by the state, I might add, and goes up against the prosecution everyday, what do you think of us? What do you think of public defenders I'd like to know?

DUNNE: Well, I think it's quite admirable what public defenders do, and I'm interested that you're from Pittsburg, Kansas. Pittsburg, Kansas, is the town that Ann Woodward of the famous Woodward shooting was born in. I went out there once. Anyway...

KING: You hold public defenders in high -- I mean, they are -- they don't get a lot of public attention.

DUNNE: No.

KING: They get the toughest cases. DUNNE: They get the toughest cases. They work hard and, you know, it's a necessity. And, you know, I admire them.

KING: New York City, hello. CALLER: New York?

KING: Yes.

CALLER: Mr. Dunne, I wanted to say that I'm a very big fan, and I've read everything you've written. I have two questions this evening. First of all, do you keep in touch with Martha Moxley's mother? And secondly, have you ever been referred to as a modern-day F. Scott Fitzgerald?

DUNNE: As a modern day what?

KING: F. Scott Fitzgerald.

DUNNE: Oh, my word what a compliment that is.

KING: You'll take it.

DUNNE: I don't think I ever have. But I'll take it.

Now, do I keep in touch with Mrs. Moxley? I certainly do. Dorothy Moxley is a fine, wonderful woman. I met her when I decided to write about her case. I located her. She was living in Annapolis, Maryland. She had left Greenwich. She couldn't stand living next to the house where the Skakels lived.

She said I didn't know who did it, but I knew in that house someone knew, and over the years it's been a lot of years now that I have known her, I have nothing but the greatest admiration for her. And I do, indeed, keep in touch with her.

KING: Why do you think your show has done so well on court TV?

DUNNE: Well, I think I'm wonderful on it, Larry. No.

KING: I'll tell you what they do well. They put together the pieces well.

DUNNE: I'll tell you what, we have some shows coming up, I mean, you saw a bit of the Versace thing. It is absolutely--I hate to brag--but it's just wonderful. And we have another one coming up that you are going to like, the Spider Savage. You remember the Olympic skier?

KING: Sure.

DUNNE: Claudine Longet, who had been married to Andy Williams.

KING: Yes.

DUNNE: And she was a gorgeous lady, and she and Andy divorced. And she went to Aspen. Spider was this good looking guy Olympic skier, the most popular guy in town, and they had an affair. And he left her, and she shot and killed him. And there was a trial, and she got off.

And he was loved. She was not loved in Aspen, but my God, she's still there. She married her defense attorney and it's -- but that's another just great episode coming up.

KING: As we go to break, here's another scene from the expert from the -- excerpt rather from the show about the killing of Versace. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Almost 12 hours after Gianni Versace was shot dead, police named Andrew Cunanan their prime suspect. A week after the murder, a caretaker notices that the house boat in his charge has been broken into, and that someone has ransacked the place.

A gunshot rings out. Police arrive in less than five minutes, and so does the media. The siege goes on all afternoon. Police climb to the second floor. They come upon a shocking scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cunanan's body was there in the bed. The gun had been found close to his hand. He apparently put the gun in his mouth and fired it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ,

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry, if I may.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your portrait of those men was terrifying, terrifying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Come back here dad. Have any of you met my father?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I know you knew Truman Capote. How good was that performance?

DUNNE: That performance is perfection. I mean, I think Philip Seymour Hoffman, to me--you know, I see every movie because I vote for the Academy Awards. I'm still, you know--I had the earlier career as a movie producer and a studio executive.

And I did indeed know Truman Capote, and it's just incredible. It's not like an imitation performance. He's got the essence. He's got the wit, the thing and the duplicity, which is very important in the character of Truman.

KING: Do you agree "In Cold Blood" is one of the great crime books ever written?

DUNNE: I absolutely agree. You know, that created a whole new way of writing, you know. And which I have followed. I mean I kind of -- he was, you know, a mentor of mine as well.

KING: Putting yourself in the story. By the way, you must be so proud of your sister-in-law, Joan Didion and "The Year of Magical Thinking." The husband -- the wife of your late brother John Gregory Dunne. What a book.

DUNNE: What a book. What a book. What a woman, what a woman Joan Didion is. You know, I have known her for 40 years, and I am astonished by her. I mean her brilliance. You know, she's this frail-looking little thing.

KING: I know.

DUNNE: And weighs about 70 pounds, but she is one of the strongest people I've ever met in my life. I'm so thrilled for her, that she's had this just enormous success. It's now going to be a Broadway play, and David Heir (ph) and she doing the--writing the novel as a play and David Heir, I believe, will direct it.

KING: Your brother would have been so proud.

DUNNE: So proud. So proud. And you know, her daughter, Quintana, my niece also died. I mean, she had a double barrel thing, and she dealt with it brilliantly.

KING: Tulsa, Oklahoma, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Mr. Dunne, have you ever thought about investigating the mysterious death of Dorothy Kilgallen, and did you know Dorothy?

DUNNE: Well, you know, I actually only met her. I can't say I know her, but you know, you're absolutely right. That is a mysterious death.

KING: Sure is.

DUNNE: Absolutely, and you know, they said...

KING: By the way for the audience, she was a major reporter. She was on "What's My Line?"

DUNNE: Oh, yes and "The New York Journal America."

KING: She was a guest on my radio show here. And she wrote for "The New York Journal." She was a gossip columnist.

DUNNE: Gossip columnist, but she was also the daughter of a crime writer. And she was herself a brilliant crime writer. She covered trials.

KING: And she cohosted a radio show called, "Dorothy and Dick."

DUNNE: "Dorothy and Dick," and she was on "What's My Line?" with Arlene Francis. Do you remember all of that?

KING: And her death was mysterious.

DUNNE: Yes, and they said it was a suicide of pills, but you know, the pills had not dissolved as they found during the autopsy. And she had just, you know--as a lot of people connected with the Kennedy assassination, who had mysterious deaths over the years.

And she had just had the first, and I believe only interview with Jack Ruby, the guy who shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Do you remember that day, Larry, and the thing?

KING: Yes.

DUNNE: And it was right after that, that she died. I mean, I think she had some material, something, something that they didn't want, somebody didn't want to come out. That's a great question whoever called that in. And, you know, I don't think we'd ever find anything this many years later. But it's a mysterious death.

KING: No. We'll take a break and be back with more of Dominick Dunne right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Dominick Dunne.

Manhattan, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hi Larry. Hi Mr. Dunne.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: I'm thrilled to have gotten through. My former boyfriend grew up with Alex Kelly in Darien, Connecticut. And I am just wondering a couple of quick questions. One, do we know when he's expected to get out? Do we hear anything about how he's fared in prison? And what do you suspect the future holds for him once he is paroled?

DUNNE: Well, you know, I actually can't answer that. I mean I don't know when he gets out. I can't remember what his sentence was.

KING: What was the trial about?

DUNNE: It was a rape. He was that well-to-do boy from--I can't think of where he was from--New Canaan, Connecticut, or someplace like that.

KING: Darien.

DUNNE: Darien exactly, next town. And he escaped to Europe, and his family paid his way in Europe for years and so forth.

KING: Oh, yes.

DUNNE: Do you remember that?

KING: Yes.

DUNNE: And then he came back. He was represented by Tom Puccio, a wonderful defense attorney. But he was found guilty, and there were two rapes. And of -- he was a handsome, you know, school hero, all that stuff. And so there was a lot of attention given to it.

And I think his parents were -- I don't admire them at all. I mean, you know, they knew what he had done, and they paid his way in Europe to avoid prosecution.

KING: I'm told he was up for parole last year, but it was denied.

Brewster, Massachusetts, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Mr. Dunne?

DUNNE: Yes.

CALLER: Is it possible in the Martha Moxley case, now that Mr. Skakel has been convicted, that anyone who may have assisted him can still be sentenced -- could still be prosecuted?

DUNNE: Well, I'll tell you, I think there's a statute of limitations on that, but certainly, certainly. The only reason I wish that there -- only I don't really wish there would be another trial but, you know, Michael Skakel had help that night.

I mean, you can't -- with the amount of -- after beating her with a golf club, bludgeoning her, putting the broken golf club through her neck, I mean the amount of blood that spurted out of her came onto him, had to come onto him.

KING: If there was another person, then the statute wouldn't run out because he would be part of the murder?

DUNNE: Well, not if he came in after the murder.

KING: Oh, yes. So you believe that based on the crime scene?

DUNNE: Well, yes. I mean, somebody had to -- where are the bloody clothes? Where is the part of the -- where is the shaft of the golf club that had the fingerprints on it?

KING: Yes, good point. Is there any investigation still going on?

DUNNE: Well, I suppose there is, but I mean, you know, I don't really know that. But I know he had help. I mean I've heard that as many as four people helped him, but I mean, they don't seem to want to go there.

KING: We will take a break and come back with our remaining moments with Dominick Dunne. He's back. Back as a special correspondent for "Vanity Fair." He starts his fourth season of, "Power, Privilege and Justice" on Court TV. He's written many successful books, fiction and nonfiction. A new one coming in fiction soon. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Take another call for Dominick Dunne. Sooke, British Columbia, hello.

CALLER: Oh, hi, thank you for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: Mr. Dunne, have you heard any more about the case, I believe it was in Monaco, and I can't remember the man's name off the top of my head, who was very wealthy, he was elderly, there was a small fire in his bedroom and he ended up in the panic room?

KING: The Safra case.

CALLER: That's it.

DUNNE: That's the Safra case. That's the murder of Edmund Safra, who died from asphyxiation in his panic room with a nurse, with one of his many nurses. And there was a trial, which I attended in Monte Carlo.

A male nurse called Ted Maher, is in the Monaco prison, and he got ten years, and he was due for parole, but then he escaped. This is something I couldn't -- I would never understand, is that he sawed through three bars in the window, and somehow wasn't ever discovered. I can't figure that one out.

And he went out the window, and down the side of the Monaco prison, and escaped, but only for a couple of hours. He was caught, and he is due to come to trial for the prison escape in February or March. And I'm going over for that.

KING: Why are you so fascinated by this?

DUNNE: Well, because I mean, this is a -- Edmund Safra had ratted out the Russian Mafia with whom he had dealings to the FBI. There's a lot of mysterious things about that death. I personally think that it's a much more complicated thing than the male nurse setting a fire.

It turns out that there were two other fires that never came into the story. There's a lot of unanswered questions on that. And I'm going over, and I'm hoping to interview the male nurse, Ted Maher.

KING: What is a panic room? DUNNE: It's a safe room, really. He always -- you know, he had 25 guards trained by the Messad (ph), not one of which was on duty on that particular night, which is a very odd thing, because he was ill. He was medicated. He was paranoid. He thought there were people behind curtains. And he escaped to this room that had every security. It was the highest security you can buy in the world, he had in this Monte Carlo apartment, and somehow, it didn't work.

KING: All right, you're in your 80th year now. How is your health?

DUNNE: My health is great, and I'm cooking. I'm working as hard as ever, Larry, and I feel wonderful.

KING: Do you -- we got about a minute. Do you prefer fiction to nonfiction?

DUNNE: You know, I kind of like them both. I mean that's why I love this sort of double life I have of being able to write for "Vanity Fair" magazine and cover trials and do that, and then a lot of what I learn from my "Vanity Fair" work is then novelized. And I put it into my novels. My novels are all based on things that have actually happened, and it's fun, because you can use your imagination.

I love it when I let the characters take over, as I get deep into it, and so I'm having a nice time writing that book.

KING: Dominick, it's always great to have you on. You're a delightful guest and a continued success and a long, long life. And again, wish you nothing but the best.

DUNNE: Thank you, Larry. I like being here.

KING: My pleasure. "Power, Privilege and Justice," a terrific show. Dominick Dunne's "Power, Privilege and Justice" new season on Court TV, continues as special correspondent for "Vanity Fair." He's a "New York Time's" best selling author for fiction and nonfiction.

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