Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Natalie Wood's Death Probed 30 Years Later

THIS weekend -- ending tonight -- Lincoln Center has sponsored a Natalie Wood retrospective.

Natalie Wood. Glorious wide-eyed brunette. Movie star married to movie star Robert Wagner. Oscar nominee for "Splendor in the Grass" and "Rebel Without a Cause" co-starring James Dean. At age 43, on Nov. 29, 1981, in sight of her yacht Splendour, she drowned off Santa Catalina Island's Blue Cavern Point. Police ruled it accidental death.

Coming out now is the book "Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour." Last year I was told, "Don't mention this manuscript until everyone figures out how to do it. It's too hot. Right now we're talking about a lie-detector test." Recently an advance copy arrived, and I was told, "Write about it."

It's the words of the yacht's captain, Dennis Davern. The back cover says this "is the long awaited, detailed account of events that led to the mysterious death of Hollywood legend Natalie Wood . . . a story told by a haunted witness to that fateful evening." The cover says Davern's version of that evening's events was initially the same as Wagner's, but that now Davern feels he somehow failed Natalie.

Capt. Dennis Davern reached out to a collaborator, his friend Marti Rulli, "and little by little, at his own emotional pace," talked "of the fateful weekend Natalie died, and of the events following her death that prevented him from telling the whole story -- until now."

The captain said: "It's the kind of story that never goes away . . . and, you know, you just have to do this for her."

His story includes words like "drunkenness . . . screamed profanities . . . raging mad . . . wine bottle smashed . . . "broken glass . . . master stateroom in disarray . . . terrible argument . . . "

The last chapter claims Dennis Davern "willingly agreed to a polygraph test and a hypnosis session to validate his truth" -- and "passed."

The book's imprint is Medallion Publishing Inc. of Beverly Hills.

Click here for more info on "Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour."