Cover image for The way we lived then : recollections of a well-known name dropper
The way we lived then : recollections of a well-known name dropper
Dunne, Dominick.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown, [1999]

Physical Description:
218 pages : illustrations ; 27 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PS3554.U492 Z474 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Central Library PS3554.U492 Z474 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Angola Public Library PS3554.U492 Z474 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Clarence Library PS3554.U492 Z474 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Concord Library PS3554.U492 Z474 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Grand Island Library PS3554.U492 Z474 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
Hamburg Library PS3554.U492 Z474 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library PS3554.U492 Z474 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Lancaster Library PS3554.U492 Z474 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Orchard Park Library PS3554.U492 Z474 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Williamsville Library PS3554.U492 Z474 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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Mesmerizing, revelatory text combines with more than two hundred photographs -- most of them taken by the author -- in a startling illustrated memoir that will both astonish and move you. When Dominick Dunne lived and worked in Hollywood, he had it all: a beautiful family, a glamorous career, and the friendship of the talented and powerful. He also had a camera and loved to take pictures. These photographs, which Dunne carefully preserved in more than a dozen leatherbound scrapbooks -- along with invitations, telegrams, personal notes, and other memorabilia -- record the parties, the glittering receptions, the society weddings, and scenes from the everyday lives of the Dunnes and those they knew, including Jane Fonda, Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman, Roddy McDowall, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, Brooke Hayward, Jennifer Jones, and David Selznick. You'll meet them all in this fascinating book -- captured in snapshots as these celebrities relax at poolside barbecues, gossip at cozy get-togethers and dance at the Dunnes' dazzling black-and-white ball. And you will meet Dominick Dunne's beautiful wife, Lenny, and his children, Griffin, Alex, and Dominique, as they celebrate Christmases, birthdays, and graduations.  But, most of all, you will meet Dominick Dunne and learn about the peaks and valleys of his years in Hollywood, the disastrous turn his life took, and the long road back that led to his triumphant career as a writer. With its engaging photographs and candid text, The Way We Lived Then is a riveting and unvarnished account of a life among the stars and a life almost lost.

Author Notes

Dominick Dunne was born in Hartford, Connecticut on October 29, 1925. He served in World War II and was awarded the Bronze Star for rescuing a wounded soldier at the Battle of the Bulge. After receiving a bachelor's degree from Williams College in 1949, he worked as a stage manager for the Howdy Doody Show and Robert Montgomery Presents. He then directed Playhouse 90 and was an executive producer of the ABC drama Adventures in Paradise. He started producing films in 1970 including The Boys in the Band, The Panic in Needle Park, Play It as It Lays, and Ash Wednesday. His addiction to alcohol and drugs eventually lead to the end of his career as a television and film producer.

He beat his addictions and decided to become writer. He wrote several memoirs including The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper and novels including An Inconvenient Woman, A Season in Purgatory, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, and Too Much Money. In 1982, his daughter was strangled by her boyfriend. Dunne kept a journal during the trial, which eventually became the Vanity Fair article Justice: A Father's Account of the Trial of His Daughter's Killer. After that, he wrote regularly for Vanity Fair and covered famous trials such as those of Claus von Bulow, O.J. Simpson, and the Menendez brothers. He also wrote a column entitled Dominick Dunne's Diary and hosted the television series Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege, and Justice on CourtTV. He died from bladder cancer on August 26, 2009 at the age of 83.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

At first glance, novelist and Vanity Fair journalist Dunne's picture book looks like Hollywood fluff, but it is actually an urbanely confessional memoir. At nine years of age, Dunne was already so "starstruck" that when he visited L.A. for the first time he felt destined to live there. He held on to this dream all through a stint in the army and college, entering show business in New York as the stage manager for The Howdy Doody Show and then Robert Montgomery Presents, which provided his ticket west. He married the perfect wife and moved triumphantly to L.A. in 1957, determined not to merely work with the stars but to be part of the in-crowd. Dunne traces the impetus for what unfortunately became a "hectic and aggressive social quest" to a troubled relationship with his father and the shame of being looked down on as an Irish Catholic in his WASPy hometown of Hartford, Connecticut. At any rate, with neighbors like Peter Lawford and his wife, JFK's sister Pat, Jack Benny, and Roddy McDowall, the Dunnes were at the heart of 1960s Hollywood, and they made the most of it, attending and hosting a phenomenal number of parties. Dunne avidly photographed these now historic soirees, creating the scrapbooks he mined for this unique insider's volume. Here are snapshots of Merle Oberon, Billy Wilder, David Selznick, Natalie Wood, Angie Dickinson, Mia Farrow, and many more, but beneath all the glamour lay the seeds for Dunne's self-destruction, and he chronicles his dramatic fall from grace, and subsequent resurrection as a writer, with admirable candor. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Before becoming a bestselling novelist (The Two Mrs. Grenvilles) and Vanity Fair correspondent noted for skeptical dispatches from the O.J. Simpson and Menendez brothers murder trials, Dunne was a TV and movie producer in the 1960s. Less a memoir than a scrapbook, this slim volume consists largely of Dunne's often appealing celebrity snapshots. There's a young Warren Beatty at the piano, Elizabeth Taylor in white mink and a gimlet-eyed Princess Margaret, poised with a cigarette holder. The book's subtitle is well-taken. Plenty of names are dropped, though there's a paucity of fresh or compelling anecdotes. Dunne notes the "deep devotion" of Nancy and Ronald Reagan; in person, Elizabeth Taylor "is even more breathtaking than on the screen"; Natalie Wood, who "always looked like a million bucks," checks her makeup in the mirror-bright blade of a butter knife. There are exceptions to the pat anecdotes: a vicious Frank Sinatra, for instance, makes a memorable appearance. The book is further distinguished by the pages that focus on Dunne's own capitulation to drugs, alcohol and promiscuity; the irrevocable damage his tailspin wrought on his heroic wife (herself suffering from MS); and his slow but determined recovery. But it's odd that the Hollywood elite that betrayed Dunne at the nadir of his life should be so unreflectively celebrated here. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Dunne draws on his scrapbook accounts of the great Hollywood parties he's given. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



When I was nine years old and growing up in Hartford, Connecticut, a city that I knew from the age of four would not be the city of my life, my aunt Harriet, my mother's sister, a maiden lady as well as a former Catholic nun who quit the convent--a subject that fascinated my brothers, sisters, and me, although it was a subject that was never discussed by my parents--took me on a trip out west that summer. Our first stop was Los Angeles. For me, it was a breathtaking experience. I had always been starstruck, one of those kids who preferred movie star magazines to baseball cards. I believed everything I read in them. I believed that Paulette Goddard did something unspeakable to the director Anatole Litvak under the nightclub table at Mocambo. I believed that Louis B. Mayer, the all-powerful head of MGM, had taken Paul Bern's suicide note--"Forgive me for last night," he wrote to his bride, Jean Harlow, MGM's great star--out of Jean's hands and destroyed it before the police got to the scene. I believed that Lana Turner had been discovered by Mervyn LeRoy at the counter of Schwab's, the famous drugstore on the Sunset Strip. On the tour bus that took us to the movie star homes,  I sat right next to the guide so I wouldn't miss anything; actually I knew more about the stars than the guide did, although he knew all their addresses. For years afterward I could remember their streets and their houses. Shirley Temple lived on Rockingham in Brentwood, just a few houses away from where O. J. Simpson lived years later at the time of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman; Deanna Durbin lived on Amalfi Drive in a house where Steve Bochco, the television mogul, later lived. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard lived in a house on the flats of Beverly Hills, right up to the time she was killed in an air crash while on a bond-selling tour in the early days of World War II; Mary Pickford lived at Pickfair, behind ducal gates, but you couldn't see her house from the street. Jean Harlow, who was soon to die at the age of twenty-six at the peak of her MGM stardom, lived in a big white movie star house on Beverly Glen. I remembered stuff like that. We went to the Brown Derby for lunch and had Cobb salad, which was a specialty of the house. The Brown Derby was built in the shape of a derby. I already knew that Louella Parsons and Barbara Stanwyck often lunched there, but they weren't there that day, much to my disappointment. We went to Schwab's, and I tried to imagine on which stool Lana Turner had been sitting when she was discovered by Mervyn LeRoy. Schwab's was full of starlets drinking coffee at the counter, buying makeup, and reading what I learned were the trade papers, the Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety. It was perfect. We stayed at the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard, which was at that time the best place to be staying. One night we had dinner at the Coconut Grove, the famous nightclub at the Ambassador, where glamorous women wore evening dresses and gardenia corsages. Eddie Duchin's orchestra played, and Eddie, who was in a white dinner jacket and had a deep tan, looked like a million bucks leading the band. The next day in the Ambassador pool, Eddie Duchin spoke to me. He was the first celebrity I ever talked to, and I can still remember the whole conversation. He told me I should put suntan lotion on my freckling shoulders. I was tongue-tied. I could only mumble, "Thank you." Later I learned that his wife had died after childbirth. Eddie Duchin's son, Peter, grew up to be a famous bandleader himself, as well as a friend. Peter's second wife, Brooke Hayward, appears in this book during the time of her earlier marriage to the actor Dennis Hopper. The rest of the trip out west with Aunt Harriet was a bit of an anticlimax for me after my five days in Hollywood. I had fallen in love with a place. I knew that Los Angeles was going to play an important part in my life. I also knew with the certainty of a child with a vision that the day would come when I would walk in the front doors of the houses I had peered at from the tour bus window. Hartford was a terrible letdown after Los Angeles. My family's position in Hartford then was perplexing to me, and I used to think that all of my problems would be solved if only I could be an Episcopalian. We were the big-deal Irish Catholic family in a WASP city. My brother, the writer John Gregory Dunne, once wrote that we'd gone from steerage to suburbs in three generations, which was pretty accurate. A school was named after my grandfather, Dominick Burns, who made his fortune in the grocery business and later became a bank president. I always played down the grocery part of his life and played up the bank president part, but the bucks came from the grocery store. He never forgot that he had been born poor, and giving to the poor was a mainstay of his life. My mother and my aunt sometimes feared there'd be nothing left if he kept giving away so much, but it was a source of great pride in our family when he was made a papal knight by Pope Pius XII for his philanthropic work for the poor of Hartford. My father was a famous heart surgeon, who had received medical acclaim for an operation on a twelve-year-old boy whose heart he held in his hand while removing a bullet. The boy lived. Excerpted from The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper by Dominick Dunne All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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