crimesider

Remembering Dominick Dunne: His Niece Recalls a Remarkable Life

(CBS)
Liza Finley and her uncle, Dominick Dunne.

As Crimesider remembers crime journalist legend Dominick Dunne, we asked two people who knew him well to share their thoughts on his passing. Erin Moriarty blogged on Monday. Today, we hear from Liza Finley, Dunne's niece.

NEW YORK (CBS) From the time I was a child, my uncle, Nick Dunne, was larger than life – every bit as glamorous as the movies stars and Hollywood directors he lived and worked among. When he and his wife, the impossibly beautiful Ellen B (Lenny), came to visit those of us who still lived in Hartford (his mother Dorothy, great Aunt Harriet, Sisters Harriet and Virginia and Brother Dick) they would regale us with stories about their friends Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Kirk Douglas and Jimmy Stewart.

When my mother told Nick I was obsessed with the Annie Oakley TV series, I later received a surprise package in the mail: A signed life-sized poster of my hero twirling a lasso and a real suede cowgirl skirt with fringes. I was in heaven…

Though showbiz and all things rich and famous were a huge part of Nick, he was so much more: He was an adoring father to his three children, Griffin, Alex and Dominique… He was a loyal and lasting friend to Lenny, the wife from whom he was divorced but never stopped loving.

He could make you laugh even at the saddest times. But he was also there to hug you when it was time to cry. He understood these things – the joys and sorrows of life…

He had his share of both - a fall from grace in Hollywood, a divorce, the loss of his younger brother, Stephen, to suicide - but nothing comparable to the death of his beloved daughter Dominique, who was murdered by an ex boyfriend.

It was during these years that I learned what a fighter he was… He not only fought through the anger, the grief, and the despair… He fought – and kept fighting – for Dominique and for the justice she never got. He did it with words.

And he did it well. He again reached great heights – fame and fortune. He loved being a writer and telling stories. Even as his health declined, he was determined to finish his last book.

A couple of months ago, my longtime boyfriend, Brian Young and I, visited him at his Hadlyme home. He was thin and had just come out of the hospital, but he was happy. It was the first time he had felt well enough to write in a long time. Then I told him that Brian and I were getting married and he took a little gasp and slowly, sweetly started to clap his hands.

In the last days of his life, there was a constant procession of his many friends in and out of his hospital room for one more touch of the hand, one last story, one final goodbye.

He was surrounded by his family - his much adored granddaughter Hannah, his daughter-in-laws Anna and Amdhai. And through it all, his sons, Griffin and Alex, sat by their father's side telling stories and listening to stories- walking along side him every step of the way.

A remarkable man. A remarkable life.



Liza Finley is an Emmy Award-Winning producer for 48 Hours | Mystery. She has produced television from El Salvador, Tibet, and the top of Mt. Everest. Her credits include Fox News, CBS News, and 20/20. Her uncle is Dominick Dunne.

  • Neil Katz

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