Welcome To My Book Blog

A place to update and discuss facts surrounding the controversial, tragic death of legendary Hollywood film actress, wife and mother, Natalie Wood who drowned mysteriously Nov. 29, 1981 off Catalina Island. Thank you for visiting.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Central Park 1992

Marti Rulli and Dennis Davern, NYC July 1992
This photo of me and Dennis was taken late at night in a horse drawn carriage in Central Park, NYC. We had spent the day visiting five publishers, and sat in executive offices in the publishing houses and not one of the company presidents we met that day disbelieved Dennis's account of  the 1981 Thanksgiving weekend  when Natalie Wood drowned. 

Each publisher kept us for at least an hour, asking important questions, and we answered each one honestly. One warned us that "word was out that we were in the city promoting an untouchable story." I asked why GNGS was untouchable and I learned about "affiliates" that day. For instance, if a certain TV Network had an interest in that particular publishing house, or with another of its affiliates, a book option would eventually be shot down. We were told by another publisher that although it's one of the most fascinating stories he'd heard in years, that we should take our information to our graves with us. Another told us that although it was an intriguing story, and one that deserves recognition, lawsuits would tie it up for years. He admitted that he had already been "warned" to stay away from it. Dennis and I were very green but perceptive as well. We knew no one would have the courage to publish GNGS at that time. Even after we clinked glasses that very evening with editors from St. Martin's Press, agreeing on a projected publishing date, we knew we would face all of the obstacles the other four publishers had warned us of that day. 

One publishing president said something I will never forget. After being upfront about not being able to touch the story, he looked at me and said, "You and Dennis should never go at this dark story separately. The strength he draws from you is obvious, and the trust you put in him is essential. It's the ONLY combination that will ever bring you success in getting this important story told. I wish you both the best."

Dennis and I agreed to shelve GNGS that night. We realized we would not hear back from St. Martin's (and we didn't). So, we decided to do something special. Of all the visits I had made to New York City, even though there had been opportunities, I had never ridden in a horse drawn carriage. That night, Bob, Dennis and I dined at the St. Moritz (where we stayed), and we shared a bottle of champagne and a bottle of wine. We basically said "goodbye" to GNGS, and we had a fun evening just catching up and conversing. When we walked out of the restaurant into the July night, warm but oddly a tad chilly, we all decided to take our first carriage ride through Central Park together. 

The buggy driver was friendly and he took us on an extra long ride, as he told stories about his family. It was dark and we could barely see 10 feet beyond the carriage. The clicking of the horse's shoes on the pavement created a rhythm and Dennis jokingly asked me to sing a song. My singing voice is fair, if that, but I started singing "Prove it All Night" by Bruce Springsteen (as it went with the clicking). The carriage driver kept saying, "That sounds great!" (It wasn't)  About half way through the song, a drunken man's voice came loud as anything from the dark bushes on the sidelines and he screamed out, "Wow, girl, that sound's really great!" 

We laughed so hard all the way back to the hotel that we had to wait to enter the hotel foyer.
Yes, it's one of those "you had to be there" moments, but it's a wonderful memory that makes me laugh to this day. Tonight, I happened across this photo that Bob took of me and Den in the carriage that night. I will also never forget what Dennis said to me before we parted ways that night: "Marti, tonight reminded me of one of the fun nights me, RJ, and Natalie used to have on the private outings. It felt good to laugh like that again..." 

I didn't see Dennis for a year after the night in Central Park. He visited my home the next July in 1993 with the woman he married, lovely Ellen. After that night, Dennis and I moved on with our separate lives and didn't see each other for over five years. He visited with his wife, daughter, and son, for the Thanksgiving weekend of 1998. We talked about what a shame it was that Natalie seemed destined to not receive her due justice. We knew it was up to us, but the effort seemed hopeless. But, Thanksgiving always, always reminds Dennis and me of what Natalie deserved, and it was that weekend of 1998 when I transferred the previous GNGS manuscript to a new computer and made a vow to do my best to tell the story Natalie would never be able to tell: to give Natalie a voice through Dennis's account.

Dennis was so much more than hired help for the Wagners. They offered him Splendour as his home. They invited him to their family parties and barbecues. He had an anytime-open-door-welcome at the Wagner home. He was Natalie's confidant on private outings, her partner in fun for goofing around on playful outings, and an assistant who would do anything for her. Dennis was a close, trusted family friend, an "Uncle Dennis" to Natalie's daughters. Dennis is the man who slept in Natalie Wood's final bed with her, as her friend and "protector" -- Dennis went to dinner with RJ, Natalie and Christopher Walken because Dennis was considered a friend, not an employee. Dennis loved Natalie Wood as a dear friend. 

I know how Natalie felt having Dennis as a friend. I know because I have such a close friendship with Dennis myself. I know what Natalie saw in him, what about him would have made her smile, made her upset, or what made her enjoy Dennis's company. He's a lucky man to have had such a close friendship with thee Natalie Wood!  But Natalie was also fortunate to have had such a caring friend in Dennis.


  1. What a wonderful story to tell us, the part about all the publishers is very sad and scary, but you both showed them and I for one am grateful you did. Thanks for sharing always. Pam

  2. Pam,
    Thanks for your comment. When I think about how Wagner played-down Dennis's relationship with the family, I become so angered. In Lambert's book Wagner tried to whitewash Dennis's relationship with the family, insinuating that Dennis and others read too much into Natalie's kindness toward them, that she really didn't know them all that well. Would Natalie have allowed Dennis to remain in her room at the Pavillion on Friday night of that cruise if she did not KNOW him through and through? I highly doubt it. Their friendship was close enough that she was not concerned one bit of Dennis's trust and loyalty. Lambert really goes after Lana and Dennis in his book, calling them "the special cases" who believed Natalie cared more for them than she actually did. Lana is her sister! GNGS is only the beginning of what is coming by way of justice for Natalie! Dennis is a courageous person, too.

  3. Dennis looks like a psychiatrist in this picture (Dr. Freud).

  4. LOL, I had the same thought, Kevin.

  5. LOL, he'll get a kick out of that! It had been a long day that day. When meeting with the final publisher in the evening, we had the scare of a lifetime. We got up around 6 AM that morning, had breakfast with our NY agent (who had once been an executive at St. Martin's), Jay Actin, and we had to take a taxi at 6 PM through the city to Gramercy Park Hotel for the St. Martin's meeting. The ride was horrendous at that time of day and our taxi driver was scaring the living daylights out of us. I remember Jay sharing something he recalled about his late friend, Christa McAuliffe, just before she was to leave on her Challenger shuttle disaster Jay had asked her if she was nervous or scared, and she had answered, "No, I'm more afraid every time I step into a New York City cab."

    We had a drink at the bar waiting for St. Martin's editors. At dinner that night we drank champagne and wine after being up for over 15 hours. We wanted to do something fun before Den would fly out early the next morning. The horse carriage ride through the park was senseless at night, but now I can get another laugh out of it when I call Dennis and say, "Hello, Dr. Freud..."

  6. Great story. :-) Interesting insight into the culture of publishing houses. I'm surprised that no one has wanted to touch this story -- it's not like RJ is a tycoon or a legendary screen presence.