Gus, who was used to being on camera, nodded agreement with her statement. "True," he replied.
"Do people ever dislike you, the way you write about them?" asked Gillian, who was producing and directing the documentary.
"There seems to be a long line," answered Gus.
"Does that bother you?" she asked.
"It's an occupational hazard, I suppose," said Gus.
"Does it bother you?" Gillian repeated.
"Sometimes yes. It depends who, really. Do I care that a killer or a rapist dislikes me? Or the lawyers who get them acquitted? Of course not. Some of those people, like Leslie Abramson, I am proud to be disliked by."
"Yes, yes, Leslie Abramson," said Gillian. "She told us you weren't in her league when we interviewed her for this documentary."
Gus, who was a lapsed Catholic, looked heavenward as he replied, "Thank you, God, that I am not in Leslie Abramson's league."
"What happens when you meet these people you write about? You must run into some of them, the way you go out so much, and the circles you travel in."
"It does happen. It's not uncommon. Mostly, it's very civilized. Averted eyes, that sort of thing. A fashionable lady in New York, Mrs. de la Renta, turned her back on me at dinner one night and spoke not a word in my direction for the hour and a half we were sitting on gold chairs in Chessy Rayner's dining room. I rather enjoyed that. Sometimes it's not quite so civilized, and there have been a few minor skirmishes in public."
"That's what I want to hear about," said Gillian.
Gus laughed. "I seem to have annoyed a rather select number of your countrymen when I wrote in Vanity Fair magazine that I believed the British aristocrat Lord Lucan, who murdered his children's nanny in the mistaken belief that she was his wife and then vanished off the face of the earth, was alive and well and being supported in exile by a group of very rich men who enjoyed the sport of harboring a killer from the law. Certain of those men were very annoyed with me."
"Oh, let me guess," said Gillian. "You annoyed the all-powerful James Goldsmith, and he's very litigious."
"Curiously enough, not Jimmy Goldsmith, who had every reason to be annoyed," said Gus. "He chose to treat the whole thing as a tremendous joke. 'Gus here thinks Lucky Lucan is hiding out at my place in Mexico,' he said one night at a party at Wendy Stark's in Hollywood, which we both attended, and everyone roared with laughter at such an absurdity."
"Who, then?" persisted Gillian.
"Selim Zilkha, a very rich Iraqi who used to live in London, had dinner with Lucky Lucan the night before the murder, which I wrote about. Now he lives in Bel Air. He made a public fuss about me at the opening night of Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, when he chastised one of his guests, the Countess of Dudley, who was visiting from London, for greeting me with a kiss on each cheek. He referred to me by a four-letter word beginning with s that I can't say on television."
"The countess, who was no stranger to controversy herself, told off Zilkha in no uncertain terms," said Gus.
"She said she'd kiss whomever she wanted to kiss and, furthermore, 'Gus Bailey is an old friend of many years.'"
"Tell me more."
"Another Lucan instance happened in your country," said Gus. "Another of the men I mentioned, John Aspinall, a rich guy who owned the gambling club above Annabel's where Lord Lucan was a shill, made a terrible fuss at a Rothschild dance in London. He wanted Evelyn to throw me out."
"Were you thrown out?"
"Of course not. The way I look at it is this: If Lucan is dead, as they all claim, why don't they just laugh me off as a quack? Why do I enrage them so?"
Use of this excerpt from Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne may be made only for purposes of promoting the book, with no changes, editing, or additions whatsoever, and must be accompanied by the following copyright notice: Copyright© 1997 by Dominick Dunne. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
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