DOMINICK, THEIR HERO: There’s a moment in the documentary film about Vanity Fair writer Dominick Dunne, screened Wednesday night, when he is met at the Paris Hilton trial by celebrity journalists and paparazzi who seem almost awed to meet him. Respectfully, they offer microphones and cameras and questions, calling him “sir.” In an interview with one, he marvels at Hilton, whom he describes as being famous “for going to parties…it’s a great career.”
The irony seems intended in a film called “After the Party,” where Dunne is brutally honest about the highs and lows of his personal life and his career as a Hollywood producer, novelist and crime journalist. “The reason I can write a--holes so well,” he says in the film, “is that I once was one.”
Two surgeries kept Dunne from the after-screening dinner on Wednesday, which was one of the first held at the restored Oak Room restaurant at the Plaza Hotel and was hosted by Tina Brown, Joan Didion, Liz Smith and Marie Brenner (though the last two in absentia).
Harry Evans said he felt the press had been “misogynist” in its coverage of Hillary Clinton and “suspended its critical faculties” when it came to President-elect Barack Obama, but called the election a “transcendental moment.” He also put in a plug for his wife’s Web site, The Daily Beast, seeming particularly delighted by the comments left under stories, so immediate and plentiful compared with newspapers. “Editors who never bothered with letters to the editor published mediocre newspapers,” he said. “So I relish all that, as a newspaperman.” Brown had just voted in the United States for the first time, and said she felt like “a jubilant Iraqi.”
Brown met Dunne at a dinner party at Brenner’s, as they relate in the film, and launched his crime writing career. In the documentary, she calls him “the defining voice of the magazine.” Since then, relations haven’t always been easy with her successor, Graydon Carter. On screen, Dunne claims Carter told him Condé Nast (which also owns WWD) would cover his legal fees when he was sued by Gary Condit. When that didn’t happen, “that was the beginning of the end between Graydon and me,” Dunne said. Carter tells the filmmakers the Condit lawsuit was just “one spat” in a long relationship. “I don’t think it’s that bad,” he said. Dunne also says his coverage of the Phil Spector murder trial was how he thought he’d end his Vanity Fair career. Carter wasn’t so sure: “He’ll probably work till the very end, whenever that is…he’s a heck of a great writer.”
— Irin Carmon