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The Dominick Dunne/Imelda Marcos Show

In 1998, I did an interview with Dominick Dunne, which was published that same year in The Country and Abroad. Following is an excerpt:

Kelly: What was your strangest experience as a reporter? I know you've had a lot of them.

Dunne: A lot. I really had a lot of them.

Kelly: What stands out in your mind, as of this moment?

Dunne: Imelda Marcos. I was the first person to see her after the fall [of the Marcos dictatorship in the Phillipines]. The word was out that she was not to meet with anybody. I went out to Honolulu with Sarah Giles, who was an English girl, a great friend of Tina's [Tina Brown, then-editor of Vanity Fair], who worked at the magazine. Sarah, in this great-lady-English way of hers, can be very pushy, and she really helped me get into Imelda's.

Imelda finally agreed to see me for ten minutes, but in the presence of other people. It was at this sort of crappy house they had put her in, her and Ferdinand. Ferdinand had a toothache that day, and had gone to the dentist. He wasn't there, and I had gone in for ten minutes. And Imelda was still very much the queen of the country. She hadn't gotten it yet, that it was all over. This was a temporary situation she was in until they begged her and her husband to come back, was her whole attitude. I never wasted a minute on her shoes. I didn't give a shit about her shoes. [Author's note: Imelda Marcos was a legendary collector of designer shoes, owning thousands of pairs. There were seemingly endless newspaper stories about her collection.]

I have an instinct about people. I know a social climber when I see one. I said to her, "Oh, Reinaldo and Carolina Herrera [the noted designer] send their love." And she LOOKED at me and said, "Why don't you stay?" She got rid of all the others who were in there. We go into another room. I was the little reporter and she was the queen. I was getting the stock answers to all my questions about all the "wonderful" things she'd done. And I said to her, "That's the most beautiful ring you have on your finger." There's something about rich women and jewelry. She said, "Oh! Oh! Yes! My husband gave me this. Oh!"

Now I had her full attention. She said, "Everyone said my husband took money. Before he was the president, he gave me this ring!" Just at this time, a little maid walked through, and Imelda spoke Filipino to her. And the maid [left and] came back with this Lucite jewelry box. The next thing, Imelda has it open and she's showing me jewelry. Then the maid comes back with a second huge box. It was incredible. After telling me that the United States government had taken everything from them when they landed in Honolulu, she had all this stuff.

Just at this moment, when she had all the diamonds out, all over the place, and we're down on the floor looking at them, Ferdinand comes home from the dentist. He and she had a fight in front of me. It was hilarious. It was truly hilarious. I'm always interested in what happens with people [I'm interviewing] while I'm there. Do you understand what I mean?

Kelly: Sure. That's the best part of the story.

Dunne: I CREATED this situation.

Kelly: You caused an uproar, literally. Is there anyone you have not interviewed yet, that you would like to?

Dunne: I would have liked to have interviewed Mrs. Onassis. That wasn't ever going to happen, of course. And if it had, it would have been totally blah. But there's always the hope that something would happen.

I always wanted to interview Princess Diana. That was in the works, but I didn't meet with her...I don't know. Personally, as a journalist, I prefer stories. I like trials, because I get into who the people are at the trial. As opposed to "then the judge ruled." The newspaper reporters can do that.

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