The Friday Afternoon Club

Griffin Dunne

The Friday Afternoon Club
Atlantic Books
United Kingdom
4 June 2024

The Friday Afternoon Club

Griffin Dunne

At nine, Sean Connery saved him from drowning. At thirteen, desperate to hook up with Janis Joplin, he attended his aunt Joan Didion's legendary L.A. party for the publication of Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. In his early 20s, he shared an apartment in Manhattan's Hotel Des Artistes with his best friend and soulmate Carrie Fisher, while she was filming some sci-fi movie called Star Wars and he was a struggling actor working as a popcorn seller at Radio City Music Hall.

A few years later, he produced and starred in the now-iconic film After Hours, directed by Martin Scorsese. In the midst of it all, Griffin's 22-year-old sister Dominique, a rising star in Hollywood, was brutally strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend, leading to one of the most infamous public trials of the 1980s, which ended in a travesty of justice that also somehow marked the beginning of their father Dominick Dunne's career as a bestselling author of true crime narratives.

And yet, for all its bold-face cast of characters and jaw-dropping scenes, The Friday Afternoon Club is no celebrity memoir. It is, down to its bones, a family story that brilliantly embraces the poignant absurdities and best and worst efforts of its loveable, infuriating, funny and moving characters - its author most of all - finding wicked, self-deprecating humour and glints of surprising light in even the most harrowing and painful of circumstances.


In the first few pages of The Friday Afternoon Club, the author drops the names of Jacqueline Bouvier, Admiral John Cain, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, his future aunt Joan Didion, his uncle John Gregory Dunne, Stephen Sondheim, Clifford Odets, Bono, Paul Newman, James Dean, his bewitching babysitter Elizabeth Montgomery and his father Dominick Dunne. He also mentions that Sean Connery saved him from drowning at a pool party. Not for self-aggrandisement, more to give the reader a feeling of the milieu that he grew up in and setting the scene for what the book is going to explore.

The ‘family memoir’ promise of the subtitle is strictly adhered to; Griffin, the star of After Hours, is not the centre of this memoir. The sprawling Irish-American Dunne family hold the heart of this story.

Griffin grows up in serious bourgeois comfort. Dominick is a big-time producer of TV shows and eventually movies. The first third of this book details Dominick’s rise and fall. Producing a disastrous movie overseas that cost him his career, Dominick returned to Hollywood in ignominy and fled to a cabin in the woods to become a writer.

When Griffin’s sister Dominique is strangled by her abusive boyfriend, the family are appalled at how the murderer’s defence team tries to blame the victim for provoking the killer. Tina Brown, who Dominick had met at a party to celebrate when she took over Vanity Fair magazine, had promised him if he kept a diary she would find a way to publish it. This diary became a testimony to the horror of the legal system. It also made a literary star out of Dominick, who became famous for writing about high-society murder cases all the way through to O.J. Simpson.

This is one of the most fascinating and tragic family sagas you could ever hope to read.

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