|Natalie Wood sitting in "Natalie's Perch" aboard Splendour. Photo by Dennis Davern|
Into the second year of Dennis's job, Natalie and the Wagner couple daughters attended boat outings more frequently. Natalie began to notice Dennis differently. She saw he genuinely cared about the Wagner family and her trust in him grew. She had no qualms letting Dennis baby-sit while she and RJ went off to Avalon for dinner. She might check to make sure Dennis changed Courtney's diapers enough while she'd been away, always to learn that Dennis never once disobeyed anything Natalie ever asked of him. Thus, her trust in Dennis continued to grow. Dennis by this time was told he was welcomed at the Wagner home at any time, and what he saw there only enforced his initial opinion about the couple: they seemed happy.
By the fourth year, when the Splendour, yet again, was moved to a different marina, Dennis was forced to choose between continuing his budding charter business at the former marina, or to move on with the Wagner family to Tahiti Marina. Of course, by this time, the Wagners did not want to lose Dennis, but Dennis, although he cared for the entire family, was making more money from his side business than from working for the Wagners. He was living with his fiancé and thinking of starting a family, so he chose to stay and grow his charter business. RJ offered Dennis a hefty pay raise to remain as Splendour's Captain and caretaker, but it was Natalie who offered the ultimate. She said, "Dennis, I know you are engaged, but I also know you're having problems in the relationship, so why don't you stay with us and live aboard the Splendour until you figure out what you want to do?" Dennis accepted, and Splendour became his home.
After year four of Dennis's Splendour tenure, it was his friendship with Natalie that really warmed-up. She felt as if she really knew Dennis by this time, and Dennis became her cruising buddy. Natalie didn't like the ocean, but she liked her yacht, especially because by this time she had turned it into her own cozy little haven. She would do her needlepoint or read scripts while Dennis kept her company in the wheelhouse. When Natalie was sitting in her wheelhouse "perch" her tension faded. "Natalie's perch" was her fort away from it all. But she didn't like to be alone, so Dennis would happily keep her company. They talked about so many things in general, it's difficult for Dennis to pinpoint specific conversations, but there are several that stand out memorably.
Dennis knew Natalie in a personal way, rather than as the iconic Hollywood actress she actually was and remains. In fact, Natalie liked that Dennis didn't treat her as an "unapproachable star" or celebrity, or even as a boss, which technically, she was. Dennis treated Natalie as a caring friend. Yes, they had a few disagreements over the years. Yes, as Dennis now says, Natalie was always right, but he remembers her with such fondness, as well as with genuine grief over how and why she lost her life.
Being the person Natalie turned to for comfort in the midst of all the emotional discomfort of her final cruise aboard Splendour, Dennis remains her true friend, and intends to bring this deserving "perfect person" (as Dennis calls Natalie) her justice.
So, in case any of you are wondering what has happened to Dennis Davern, he's here, and he's about to speak out again, which he will continue to do until he's content Natalie has received the voice she rightfully deserves, the voice that really needs to be heard: Natalie's.