Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Obit Montage (I Smelled Dominick Dunne)

Obituaries intrigue me. Death creates an occasion for us to pause and re-visit past accomplishments that otherwise fade with time for lack of any other single reason to celebrate them, no matter how historically or culturally important. Only death seems to be compelling and instantaneous enough to give us all a sufficient excuse for a collective and simultaneous pause. NBC Nightly News aired an excellent 3 minute montage of the famous people who passed away this year, which I've embedded below.

We'll all remember that Michael Jackson and Walter Cronkite died in 2009. But this montage made me remember several others. One in particular was Dominick Dunne. I really liked his column in Vanity Fair magazine, and flipped to it first whenever I happened upon an issue. I 'met' him once, too, actually. Well, sort of. It was in an airport (I can't remember which one now), maybe 10 years ago or so. It was not that long after the 1995 OJ Simpson trial, so he was probably at the peak of his fame. I was connecting from one flight to another, and so was walking within the terminal from one gate to another. From behind me on my right, up came Dominick Donne. He was being wheeled in a wheelchair (unusually briskly, I thought), that was pushed from behind by a uniformed sky cap. He looked much older and more frail than I expected, even back then.

As he passed, my first thought (after, "No way, that's Dominick Dunne!") was, "Huh. What's that he smells like? Is it cologne? No. After-shave? I don't think so. What is that?" He smelled, I don't know, like he'd just bathed, I guess. There was also something vaguely feminine about it. But only vaguely. Not perfume, for sure. But almost overpowering nonetheless. I didn't know what that was.

As he passed me (and everyone else), he had this detached but vigilant air about him, which clearly said to everyone around, "Yes, it's 'Me.' But I am way too busy to stop to talk to you. So don't try." Yet he was also very intently scanning the people around him from his seat in that nondescript airport wheelchair, to be sure that he was indeed being noticed anyway. It was a very strange mien for him, I thought, since his literary persona was based in part on skewering the foibles of the idle rich. It was only when I read his obituary a few months ago that I learned this was his standard behavior in public. Oh, and that that smell was in fact his 'inevitable' talcum powder.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

1 comment: