Dunne eulogized as great father, friend and gossip

NEW YORK (AP) - September 10, 2009 The Mass was held Thursday at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Manhattan, where stars such as Richard Gere, Julianna Margulies, Liev Schreiber and Dana Delany rubbed shoulders with society figures including Diane von Furstenberg.

Father Daniel Morrisey said Dunne spent over nine years planning every detail of the funeral, which began with the singing of his favorite Cole Porter song, "Anything Goes."

The Vanity Fair columnist and author of numerous books, including "Another City, Not My Own," about O.J. Simpson's murder trial, died Aug. 26 after a long battle with bladder cancer. He was 83.

The funeral began with Dunne's casket being accompanied into the church by a number of honorary pallbearers including, composer Stephen Sondheim, current Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and playwright Mart Crowley.

Sondheim and Dunne performed in plays together when they were both students at Williams College. Crowley wrote the play, "The Boys in the Band," which Dunne produced.

Also at the funeral was Dorothy Moxley, whose daughter, Martha Moxley, was slain in 1975. Dunne's 1993 book, "A Season in Purgatory," helped revive interest in the case and a Kennedy relative, Michael Skakel, was convicted in the killing in 2002.

Morrisey said he first met Dunne at a funeral for Gary Cooper's wife, saying the writer approached him with tears streaming down his face and spoke of having a spiritual awakening.

"He said, 'Father, I get it. I really get it. Now, I want to talk to you about my funeral,"' Morrisey said.

Morrisey said the conversation went on for nine years, with Dunne adding and subtracting ideas and finally settling on a theme centering on resurrection.

The same theme was repeated in speeches by Dunne's sons, Griffin and Alex, who spoke of their father's ability to transcend his grief over the murder of their sister, Dominique, and launch a new career as a writer after her death.

A one-time movie producer, Dunne carved a new career starting in the 1980s as a chronicler of the problems of the wealthy and powerful.

Tragedy struck his life in 1982 when his actress daughter, Dominique Dunne, was slain - and that experience informed his later fiction and journalistic efforts.

Tina Brown, former Vanity Fair editor, who hired Dunne as a columnist, said that in the years he began writing he found his true calling.

"He became a celebrity, but never behaved like one," Brown said. "Do any of us doubt that if he was alive he would be working this funeral today."

Writing for Vanity Fair, Dunne covered such cases as the William Kennedy Smith rape trial in 1991 and the trial of Erik and Lyle Menendez, accused of murdering their millionaire parents, in 1993.

Dunne became a familiar face to millions during the heavily televised O.J. Simpson trial in 1994.

Dunne's sister-in-law, author Joan Didion, spoke of his bravery and his devotion to his family, even though she acknowledged that he and his late brother, her husband, novelist and screenwriter John Gregory Dunne, frequently had periods of disagreement.

"I came to see the very clear pleasure he took at seeing a celebrity," Didion said. "He wasn't ashamed when people spoke to him on the street and was never afraid to share the moment."

His colleague and longtime friend, columnist Liz Smith, said she spoke to Dunne regularly.

In his final days, "I'd say, 'How are you?' And he'd say, 'I'm dying, but sit down. I have something to tell,"' Liz Smith recalled.

She said Dunne was indomitable and fought hard to overcome his illness.

"He had the gift of gossip, friendship and intimacy," she said. "Goodbye Dominick. We're all so glad we knew you."

The service ended with his granddaughter, 18-year-old Hannah Dunne, telling how he always sent her flowers for Valentine's Day.

She then sang the song, "Funny Valentine."

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