The shocking true crime story of a beloved Hollywood star gone too soon—told by the captain of the boat on which Natalie Wood spent her last night. Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour is the long‑awaited, detailed account of events that led to the mysterious death of Hollywood legend Natalie Wood off the coast of Catalina Island on November 28, 1981. It is a story told by a haunted witness to that fateful evening: Dennis Davern, the young captain of Splendour, the yacht belonging to Wood and husband Robert Wagner. Davern initially backed up Wagner’s version of that evening’s events through a signed statement prepared by attorneys. But Davern’s guilt over failing Natalie tormented him. Davern reached out to his old friend Marti Rulli, and little by little, at his own emotional pace, he revealed the details of his years in Wood’s employ, of the fateful weekend that Natalie died, and of the events following her death that prevented him from telling the whole story—until now.
|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Marti Rulli has been a lifelong resident of New Jersey. For thirty-five years, she has been employed in executive positions for newspaper corporations, commercial printing companies, and magazines. She runs her own advertising business and has been a freelance writer since 1972.
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Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour
By Marti Rulli, Dennis Davern
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2009 Martin Rulli, Dennis Davern
All rights reserved.
August 17, 1983, 11:30 p.m., Pacific Time. Nearly two years after Natalie Wood's death, Dennis Davern sat on the edge of the bed in Splendour's master stateroom—formerly Natalie's room—and painfully relived, perhaps for the thousandth time, the day he had identified her body. Dreading sleep, he filled a glass with scotch—a nightly ritual in which both he and Robert Wagner (known as R.J.) had indulged, often together, since Natalie's funeral.
Dennis feared sleep without the booze that usually helped to muffle his recurring dreams of Natalie's face—alive and dead—as raging thoughts tortured him with the knowledge that nearly two years before, on November 29, 1981, he, Dennis Davern, the proud and conscientious skipper of Splendour, had made a terrible, terrible mistake.
Dennis's memories suspended him in a time warp he could not escape. He continually visualized Natalie sitting in her wheelhouse settee—"Natalie's perch" they had called it—creating her needlepoint pillows or reading her scripts. He had long ago cleared Splendour of Natalie's personal belongings: her oriental face mirror, her music box, her beautifully stitched pillows, and her earring found in the corner of the stateroom that matched the pieces-of-gold chain she had given him the night before she died—the chain he still wore around his neck. Even with the yacht cleared, Natalie still filled the space around him.
Natalie had turned her husband's sport-fishing boat into a haven, a home on the sea that had received many of the most celebrated people of the entertainment industry. Dennis recalled how Natalie had poured herself into decorating the yacht's interior in a blue color scheme, tastefully caught in the fabrics and wallpaper. The exception to the blue motif was the master stateroom, where Dennis now slept, still surrounded by Natalie's subtle peach and soothing earth-toned choices. For him, those colors were anything but soothing; they were just another reminder of the tragedy in which Dennis had played an unwilling part.
Dennis refilled his scotch glass and carried it to the open rear deck. The still night was a stark contrast to the night when Natalie had met her death through her greatest lifelong fear—deep, dark water.
Dennis was approaching a breaking point. For nearly two years, he had held a secret inside him—a horrible secret that he wished to God he did not know. The very keeping of it went against everything he knew was right, yet at the crucial moment he could have revealed what he knew, his fear and confusion in the midst of an unbearable tragedy had immobilized him. Keeping the secret had seemed not only the right thing but the only thing to do. The secret now churned inside him like a living thing that clawed desperately for a way out.
He paced the deck, then rushed back to the stateroom and randomly pulled open a drawer. Pencil drawings of Natalie's two young girls, which Dennis had deliberately kept on board, transported him to a long-ago cruise when Natalie had sketched her daughters, Natasha and Courtney. Dennis lay on the bed, motionless, and recalled another time:
There's Natalie, nestled into her settee in the wheelhouse—a stack of unread scripts beside her, with one in her lap. She's rubbing her dark eyes. She takes a sip of Pouilly-Fuissé, her favorite wine.
Dennis struggled to focus on the memory, but tonight the scotch failed him. Dennis closed his eyes against hot tears—tears that no longer took him by surprise.
* * *
Same night, different coast, 2:30 a.m., Eastern Standard Time. From a sound sleep, my eyes sprang open. Ironically, within a minute, the startling ring of the telephone confirmed my uneasiness, and I jumped up, ran to my desk, and grabbed it before it awakened my husband.
"Marti, Marti, I need your help ... to talk ... to tell you. Please."
It was my friend Dennis Davern.
Now living aboard Splendour, he called a lot lately, without regard for the east–west time difference—I lived in New Jersey. I had never heard such distress in his voice. I knew, before he said another word, what the call was about.
Dennis agonized constantly over Natalie Wood's death. He had tried to hide his difficulty in coping with the tragedy, but there was no concealing his pain. We had discussed it occasionally but briefly over the past twenty months. It was his determined avoidance of the subject and his recent, drastic weight loss that told me how deeply he was wounded. Now, tonight, I could tell from his voice that Dennis, anesthetized with booze, was about to perform drunken surgery on himself. My immediate thought was to stop him.
"Denny, where are you?"
"I'm on Splendour ... the murder yacht, that's where I am," he answered sarcastically. "People call it the murder yacht, and the tabloids are calling me the death-yacht captain."
"I'm sorry, Den. I know you're hurting. Has the therapist you've been seeing helped at all?"
"I've been seeing Wagner's doctor. I can't talk there. I'm going to burst," he cried. "I'm ready to burst ... I can't take it anymore."
I wouldn't take advantage of Dennis's drunkenness, and I wasn't so sure I wanted to hear his obvious, enormous burden. But Dennis, even in his most inebriated state, knew that I would listen to whatever he had to tell me and that I would do anything in my power to help him.
"I'll never regret telling you, Marti," he continued. "Tape me so I can never take this back. I'll shock you with something you ... that you won't...."
Despite preferring to believe that Natalie Wood's death had indeed been accidental, I suspected there was a dark side to the story. The subject was widely discussed among my circle of friends and family. Dennis, to this point, had not spoken of the details of that night, and more than the contradictory news stories, more than the downward turn Dennis had taken since Natalie's death, it was his silence that bothered me. This night, as he sobbed on the telephone, I feared he would say too much, and my stomach churned with anxiety for him.
"I won't tape you like this, Den," I told him. "You're dealing with enough. When you wake up tomorrow and realize what you said—well, this is serious."
"It's beyond serious, Marti. It's beyond your worst thought. It's eating me alive. Identifying her body.... You know I had to identify her," Dennis sobbed.
I stayed quiet. Quiet and numb.
"Marti, ask me anything, so I can answer. Take this out of me, please."
I fought temptation and said, "Den, I just can't. Right now, I don't care how she died. I just care that you—"
"Everyone cares how she died!" he vehemently interrupted.
"Denny, I need you sober for this."
"I'm never sober anymore," he yelled. "If I'm not drunk on scotch, I'm drunk on fucking bullshit! It's all total bullshit, and I can't stand it!"
He mumbled more, and I waited with no idea what to say.
Finally, Dennis said, "I want this story in a book, Marti, and I want you to write it. The strangers and reporters who hound me, they just care about getting it first, but I need it explained right."
I sandwiched the receiver between my shoulder and jaw and grabbed a pen and paper, as if I could finish a book by daybreak. Natalie Wood's death had become one of many intriguing Hollywood mysteries, and I was talking to a witness—a desperate one. Had I any inkling that I was facing decades of frustration, disappointment, outrage, and consuming work, I still would not have put down that pen.
"Marti, will you answer me?" Den asked.
"You've never told me what happened that night, and your whole demeanor since then leaves me imagining the worst. That's scary."
"Remember the night we met? What I told you?" Dennis asked.
"Of course, I do. You said we would do something big together one day."
"Well, this is it, Marti. This is our something big. The big truth."
Chills ran through me. I had no clue what secrets Dennis would reveal, but I trusted him. To be privy to something as shrouded in mystery as Natalie Wood's death overwhelmed me, but there was more at stake: I thought about the word "justice" and now suspected that Natalie hadn't received it.
"Den. I can't just say 'yes, I'll write a book' at three in the morning."
Dennis was prepared to tell me every detail of the weekend Natalie Wood died. I sensed I might regret what I said next, but at the moment, it seemed the only right thing to say. "Den, you're in no state of mind to relive that weekend tonight, so tell me something nice about your relationship with Natalie instead."
"She knew she would die in water, Marti. Natalie knew it—even said it. That's two predictions made years ago, and here we are."
"Den, we'll talk about all that later. Tonight, go lighter."
Perfect medicine. His voiced cleared to a less burdened tone. He seemed to sober up. "I got along great with Natalie," he said. "We spent a lot of time together on the boat. I was their friend, not just an employee."
"I've talked to you enough through the years to know that much. But are you still friends with Wagner?"
"The world should know just how much of a friend I've been to him."
His strange response startled me. "Meaning?" I asked.
"Meaning I lied for him, like friends do. Like I was told to do, anyway. But what about Natalie? Is it okay to lie because she's dead and doesn't matter?"
I stayed quiet as Dennis yelled out the answer to his own question, "No!"
"Den, please, just tell me about a boat outing or something."
He paused and took a deep breath. "We would sit in the wheelhouse, just hanging out. I knew when to leave her alone and when to start a conversation. Sometimes, I'd say, 'Hey, Natalie, wanna listen to some music?' I'd throw in the Doors or a Jimmy Buffet tape, but she would say, 'Take that out and put on Dylan.' She loved listening to Bob Dylan. Sometimes we'd dance around and sing. One day, I made her feel ten years younger. I was thinking about that cruise right before I called you. I told her she would never drown out there."
* * *
The Wagner family set out aboard Splendour for a day of shopping the boutique-lined streets of Avalon on Catalina Island, but when they moored, the brutally hot sun persuaded everyone to stay with the yacht.
Natalie lounged lazily on her corner settee and read a script. Her jeans obviously irritated her legs, and she shifted about constantly. She glanced over at Dennis, where he dozed in his captain's chair at the wheel. He lifted an eyelid each time she stirred.
"Dennis, it's hot," she complained. "I can't move, I can't read, I can't even think. Would you please get me a glass of ice water?"
"Ice water isn't good for you in this kind of heat, Natalie."
"Maybe we do need air conditioning," she suggested.
"Like R.J. would go for that," he grinned. "He thinks he'd be laughed off the boat by his fishing buds, but I'm with you, Natalie," Dennis agreed, wiping his brow with his forearm.
Courtney's, Natasha's, and R.J.'s voices, sounding from the rear of the boat where they played and swam, reverberated against the thick calm. Natalie delighted in hearing her husband's teasing laughter mixed with her daughters' playful squeals. She closed her eyes and tuned in.
Dennis watched Natalie's face. Never was she more serene and beautiful than on days like this one. Her smile grew wider with each burst of laughter from the stern.
"Dennis, why don't you take some pictures of all those children out there?" she said, smiling.
R.J. and his stepdaughter, Natasha, treaded the crystal blue water as four-year-old Courtney watched from the deck. Courtney would not budge toward the water as her father coaxed her to the swim step, but no one teased her. Instead, R.J. asked Natasha to come on deck while he gathered tackle boxes and poles for fishing. The girls were excited to help reel in dinner.
Dennis returned to Natalie, who had lost concentration on her script. She stood up as he entered the wheelhouse.
"These things aren't helping today," she complained, looking down at her blue jeans. "Dennis, did you notice those girls back at the marina, how skimpy their cutoff jeans were? Their cheeks showed!"
"What if I cut these like that? Am I too old for that look?"
"You'd look great in anything, Natalie."
Her lethargy disappeared as she rushed off to her stateroom. A few minutes later, she returned, frustrated, with scissors in one hand, a glass of ice water in the other.
"I ruined them," she whined, looking down at the ragged, uneven edges of her jeans, which barely allowed her knees to peek out. Her untucked tee shirt made her look almost frumpy.
Dennis burst out laughing. "If you were after the long, leggy look, Natalie, you missed it."
She tried not to laugh while defending her attempt. "I buy clothes. I wear them. I don't alter them! Can you cut them, Dennis?"
"Yeah, I'll fix them."
Natalie squirmed out of her homemade knickers, down to her bathing suit bottom, and reluctantly handed over her jeans. As Dennis reached for them, she clutched them back. "Be careful!"
Dennis cut just below the crotch, ignoring Natalie's "Wait! Not so short!"
"Here, put these on. They'll be perfect," he assured her.
The custom cutoffs revealed Natalie's smooth, tanned legs. She did a slow pirouette, confident she triumphed over the scantily clad marina beauties that she, of all people, had envied.
"Now, hand over that glass of ice water," Dennis reprimanded.
She threw back her head and filled the wheelhouse with her laughter.
The day lingered on as Natalie read scripts, and R.J. fished with the girls. At dinnertime, R.J. barbecued steaks on deck while Dennis prepared a salad in the galley. When Dennis went to call Natalie for dinner, he noticed her pensive expression. "I just love coming out here," she said. "It's a balm for my spirit." Then she leaned forward, looked at Dennis, and admitted, "Only two things scare me, though. What if I have a heart attack? What would happen, Dennis? Help couldn't get here in time."
"We could be on the island, to a hospital, within minutes, Natalie," Dennis assured her.
She wasn't satisfied.
"What brought this on?"
"I'm under a lot of stress, and I just worry about heart attacks. I just want to be cautious. Maybe we should all take CPR training. You should know CPR, Dennis."
"I'll check into it," Dennis promised, "but I don't see you having a heart attack. You're worrying for no good reason."
"Okay, Doctor Dennis, but what about drowning?" she asked.
"Drowning? You're sure high on anxiety today."
She exhaled loudly, telling Dennis she was perturbed at his dismissal of her fears.
Dennis sat quietly at the wheel. The melodic wash of water lapped at Splendour's hull.
"Natalie, check out the sunset," Dennis finally said.
Side by side, Natalie and Dennis watched the sun's orange wings spread across the island and horizon. A rosy glow hid Catalina's hilltops and spread across the sky. As golden sparkles danced off the calm water's surface, Natalie drew in a deep, peaceful breath, and Dennis knew she felt better.
"You'll be fine out here, Natalie," he assured her.
Natalie gave him a beaming smile. "Okay, Dennis, let's go eat."
At the dinner table in the galley, Natalie cut Courtney's portions into tiny, tiny pieces.
"The sunset was awesome tonight," R.J. commented.
Natalie agreed, and then teasingly asked her husband, "So, where are the fillets to complement our steaks, R.J.? Catch anything other than the sunset?"
Natasha burst into a fit of giggles. Courtney, following her older sister's cue, laughed along. As conversation drifted lazily over dinner, Courtney dozed off. Natalie carried Courtney to the sofa in the adjoining main salon, then asked Natasha what she wanted to do.
Natasha pleaded, "Mommy, will you draw a picture of me? Please?"
Natalie attached a few sheets of cream cotton paper to a clipboard. "Now, stay still, Natasha," she instructed.
Natasha loved the attention and repeatedly asked to see the work in progress as her mom's pencil moved in downward strokes and upward sweeps across the paper. "You'll have to wait until I'm done," Natalie insisted.
When the sketch was completed, Natasha beamed at her mother's rendition of her pretty young face and long, flowing hair. "Now draw Courtney, too, Mommy," Natasha insisted.
Excerpted from Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour by Marti Rulli, Dennis Davern. Copyright © 2009 Martin Rulli, Dennis Davern. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I was watching a football game when the news of Natalie Wood's death flashed up as a special report. Yes, Natalie's death is one of those "I remember where I was when I heard" type of events. What guy wasn't in love with Natalie Wood? IMO, she had it all over Liz, Marilyn, and all the others not even worth mentioning. Natalie Wood's elegance, spirit, and beauty shone through the most beautiful eyes ever. That's how I felt about Natalie when I was a teen. I saw many of her movies, many while dating, and girls I knew loved Natalie too. Her appeal transcended gender. Time passed, I grew up, and I didn't think much about Natalie as life went on. I married a woman almost as beautiful as Natalie (my wife is fine with me saying that) and as the years passed, when my wife and myself would be asked: Who is your favorite actress, we both would answer, Natalie Wood. We were shocked to learn of her death. I think we both mourned that day. I turned off the game and my wife cried. Then we accepted what we heard in the news. She tried to fix the passenger dinghy tied to their yacht, she fell and drowned. Case closed. We did not follow coverage. Now there is this new book. My wife read it first and insisted I read it. I'm not much of a reader lately, but the tears were back in my wife's eyes for Natalie, so I agreed, and intended to skim through it so we could talk. I didn't skim. I read every single blasted word and felt compelled to spread the word about this book. I've read reviews and I most agree with MysteryArtist: REOPEN THIS CASE!!!!!! I agree with each and every positive review and I don't understand the negative reviews because this book is a true page-turner. It is informative, it is thorough, it is locked-up BELIEVABLE! I don't hand out credit easily. I manage a crew of 40. I keep my eye on the deserving people, the ones who give their all. The credit here goes to author Marti Rulli who spent half of her life working a case that professional incompetents spent a few days on to violate every standard procedure expected of a crime scene. The cops did NOTHING by the book. We should all be so privileged. Goodbye Natalie Goodbye Splendour is one of the most fascinating books my wife and I have ever come across (we both worked on this review). I have no words for this author's sheer grit. The story and details are presented intelligently, comprehensively, with dedication and sincerity, and the results compliment if not exceed the effort. WHERE IN THE HELL ARE THE COPS? If this book doesn't turn your guts inside out, you are remorseless. Kudos to Rulli. Without Rulli, I doubt we would have a Davern. Without Davern, we would've been snowed by the cops, celebrity, and the media forever as we often are. Brave people are behind this book. We commend you all. T&L
Marti Rulli has accomplished the near impossible! She has taken a fabled, legendary actress and torn away the facade, removed the pedestal, dumped the hair and make up department and barred the costume designer's door to show us the woman. The flesh and blood female. The wife, the Mother, the friend, the employer, the confidante. The tragedy! In my lifetime I have read so many biographies, autobiographies and factual books it would take pages to list them all and I do not exaggerate. This is the first book I have read that removes that misty aura of celluloid that always accompanies star outings in print. I laughed, I cried (Lord! How I cried!) but above all I asked myself why? Why have we been fed absolute rubbish for 27 + years? Why has the truth been buried with Natalie Wood all these years? Why was everyone else allowed to come forth with their fallacies but the one man who had the truth right in his hands has been stifled for almost three decades? Dennis Davern. Marti's writing is quick, direct and to the point. She doesn't waltz around facts racking up adjectives and verbs and descriptive fillers. She hands the facts to the reader head on much as a lawyer in a courtroom presents the facts. Once I started, I could not put the book down until I finished. Thank you Marti Rulli for giving Natalie a voice. A voice that rings with absolute truth. We who love the lady are indebted to you.
When I turned the last page of this book I felt compelled to talk with the author, so I sent her an email from her blog page to tell her (having spent time on boats myself) that I FELT the sea breeze, I HEARD the water splashing against the hull, I SAW the ocean and the beach. I WAS THERE! I was also there for the fight. I sensed Davern's panic, I heard the thumps and hoped for Natalie's safety, even though I already knew the sad outcome. I question a few things in spite of Rulli's vivid and thorough explanations, though. I don't believe Walken slept through such an episode. There's NO WAY he didn't hear something. Maybe that explains his conflicting accounts through the years. I also don't believe that Wagner called out to Natalie that he would help her when she was in the water crying to be saved. It doesn't make sense. But, I suppose one can answer only what's available to answer, as this author did superbly! This book is riveting to say the least. It's certainly chronic subject matter. I've read a lot of books and I like true stories but I haven't read one like this in ages. I highly recommend it, but put on a sweater because you will feel the chilliness of that night. And expect to smell the salt air from your living room sofa. This book puts you in that world, in that moment. One last thought: there isn't a drop of doubt in my being that this case wasn't tampered with in some form or another. There's NO WAY such a scenario could pass as an accident if honest, conscientious officials had been on the case. John Doe would've been hauled away!
I enjoyed this book start to finish. The author took the time to fact find and make sure that all her t's were crossed and i's were dotted. The way the book was written gave you bits and pieces of the story in the first half of the book and then in the second half of the book gave you the full story. I loved this book and will be telling everyone I know to buy it. I will never look at the people involved in this the same way again. Natalie deserves justice.
GNGS is simply an excellent book. It offers a priceless insight into the life and tragic death of Natalie Wood, which is exactly what sets GNGS apart from all of the previous biographical works on Natalie Wood. GNGS is clear, detailed, and well written. As a reader of this book you will feel as though Rulli and Davern have taken you back in time to the weekend of November 28-29, 1981. Required reading for all.
This book is a benchmark in truth and perseverance for "a nobody" as Marti Rulli has called herself. She certainly isn't "a nobody" anymore. The is next to impossible to put down once you start it. Quick, concise and ringing with honesty. It is a must read!
When we read we tend to believe every word. That's how the brain scientifically works. Later, we make logical decisions. I believe this book. Davern's passing of a polygraph speaks volumes, but this book reaches out to a reader's heart, too. It stays with you. This legendary actress becomes so much more. The way Natalie lived her life is heartrending. She sought true love, cherished being a mother, while still chasing her love of acting. In 1981, in the company of award winning actors for Brainstorm, and with her stage debut in Anastasia just around the corner, she's at the acme of life. Happiness. Career. Love. Motherhood. Good company. It's all finally one big ball of a lifelong pursuit come true. She can bear life's small interferences. No life is perfect, but Natalie's is as close as you can get to having it all. Then, kaboom, there's a wine bottle crashing down in front of her, causing her the ultimate shock and embarrassment. That bottle crashed into more than a table. It shattered her attainment.her complete world. Can she easily forgive this over-the-top assault? No. And no one knows that better than the person who crashed that wine bottle on the tabletop. She will be dead within hours. That's all I have to say about Robert Wagner. If you don't feel the sheer pain of this story you may be a tad less than human. This book is remarkably pure. Previous Natalie books don't offer the emotion, passion, and innocence that resonates here. We have the captain. His mistakes are the kind regular people make. His confusion is understandable, thus acceptable. Seems he's still shadowed by Wagner, a dark area even Rulli can't erase, despite her valid attempt. Her pushing, her prodding, and her exasperation mustn't be misunderstood. She wasn't digging for gold, she was digging for truth. Even she believes Dennis will take some things to his grave with him. When Marti realizes her quest for truth extends Dennis' reluctance, she seeks truth elsewhere, with people who can and do provide answers. You feel that Marti felt Natalie, as evidenced in Marti's panic attacks over Natalie's fate and drowning. I believe that's why this author explains how one drowns .such a painful death. It takes a lot longer to drown than one might imagine. Marti puts us in the water with Natalie. Marti got into the water dressed like Natalie and proves to us Natalie didn't sink. Natalie had stayed above the surface and recognized everything coming her way .or not coming her way. Help. There would be none for Natalie. This is unbearable to think about. We learn that Natalie's bruises didn't come from trying to hoist herself into a dinghy. Marti insists upon Dennis' polygraph test, and you can sense her relief when he passed. After all, she believed her friend long before the testing. Was her shred of doubt hanging by a shred that day? I would think so. Yes, I feel this book's pureness, not only from the glimpse of the authors given, but through its style. Marti's attempt to bring back one of the most fascinating actresses of all time in this book, succeeds. Marti delivers. Now, I feel as if I know Natalie the woman, not only Natalie the screen star. What a combination type book this is. I see the many categories it fits: biography; a tad autobiography; true crime; Hollywood entertainment; memoir; mystery. How does a first time author pull this off? I don't care how many years it took. I'm glad it's here.
I was always a fan of Robert Wagner's until I read his book. Too much outing and sex-capades with people no longer alive to dispute it. Too many stories that just don't add up. Now this book comes along and I can understand why Wagner wrote his book. Damage control for what was to come. What a book! I could not put it down once I started it. Wagner needs to come forward and make a statement. This case needs to be reopened and I think the authors just might have the runaway, sleeper hit of the year.
I finished this book in one sitting. I' ve sat here for 20 minutes and I can not put into words my feelings when I finished the last sentence. Marti Rulli, a first time author has blown the lid off of this twenty seven year old mystery and it isn't a mystery any more! Astounding book! Just astounding!
Rulli's meticulous research and thought provoking narrative is a must read for anyone who has always had that lingering doubt about what really happened on that cold November night back in 1981 on the Catalina waters. Rulli spares no one in her quest for the truth and in this reader's opinion, she hits a grand slam! It is a must read not only for fans of Hollywood history but it should be mandatory reading for law enforcement too. It shows what can happen when even the most rigid law agents have stardust sprinkled in their eyes.
This compelling account in Goodbye Natalie Goodbye Splendour finally gives Natalie Wood a voice from the grave. I was in tears and I was angry, but I was also moved in a way that no book has moved me in a long time. This book rings of truth and leaves no question unanswered. We lost a Hollywood icon far too prematurely and this case screams out to be reopened. Author Marti Rulli with the Splendour Captain Dennis Davern cannot continue to be taken lightly. Davern's lie detector test is chilling to read. What Rulli proves is astounding and will make you want to pound the walls and stomp your feet, and that is no exaggeration. How could we have been fed such lies for so many years? How could this truth that these two have been trying to tell for ages have been ignored? The reader is taken from the very first report of Natalie's death through step-by-step lies and fabrications and it is explained how and why each scenario was created. By the end of this book, all the lies are put to bed, put to sleep forever. These lies should never have followed Natalie. You will never wonder about this mystery again because a grandmother from New Jersey obviously knew how to work a case better than the police or the medical staff that were supposed to be responsible to answer for this shocking death. Believe me, your mouth will drop, your eyes will fill, and you might even scream our for justice! A must read! Thanksgiving will always make you want to pause a moment for Natalie after this read. May she now rest in peace. True crime at its best as a mystery is solved! Now a professional investigation should follow!
"Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour" is more a book about one woman's obsession about getting this story to print and help her friend (the skipper of the yacht) rid himself of his demons caused by Natalie Wood's death than it is a story of Natalie Wood's life and death. Not that there is anything wrong about that. When skipper, Dennis Davern told his friend Marti Rulli what happened that night, it took 28 years to finally get it in print and published. It is an intriguing story of the possibilities of what happened that night and the fear that faced Davern if he told the public of what he saw. I got immersed in the book, but didn't feel like I got anything from their account of the events leading to and after Wood's death.
I believe that Dennis Davern would be better off in a personal sense had he never breathed a word of what he experience the night Ms. Wood died. That he gave we curious babyboomers the truth, at his own risk, is one of the bravest things I can imagine. This story is told with heart. Even if you question Davern, there's no questioning the genuine effort of Ms. Rulli. I've read Davern's accounts since he started giving a few interviews in the early 80's. I was afraid for him. I still am. I saw the Inside Edition feature on this book, and Davern looked as serious as a heart attack. He also looked braver with age. This page-turner book left me feeling the way Lana Wood said she felt: angry and saddened. I don't blame Dennis Davern one bit. The blame is obvious. People who blame the messenger in this fascinating case study are only killing Natalie Wood all over again. Let her have her voice! We will only get it through one person: the only witness left who is willing to talk, and to back it up with a polygraph test. What more could the public who has always wondered about this case want?
I hope this book gets lots of attention because it deserves it. I hope every newspaper in the country covers this story, because this isn't just a book, it's newsworthy, and it's evidence! I think the police should reopen this case immediately. Everyday that goes by is another day that someone who should be hauled in and asked a lot of questions gets to hide at home, like he did right after Natalie's body was found. The authorities could hire a helicopter to get Wagner away from the bad scene, so why don't they hire a helicopter to haul him in for questioning. They could pick up Walken on the way. What is it going to take for the authorities to take action? This case is an atrocity. This book could be handed over to the authorities and 95% of their work is done just by reading it! A first time author did the job authorities and the coroner couldn't or wouldn't. I'm angry after reading this book, but not at the authors. I'm mad at the justice system. Celebrity is not above the law. There's nothing in the news on whether or not the authorities are paying any attention to this book. It's time for justice for Natalie. The public court isn't enough. If this case doesn't belong in a real courtroom, we should open up the jail cells and let everyone loose! I suggest to everyone reading this book to contact authorities and tell them 28 years is far too long but it's never too late.
I ordered Goodbye Natalie Goodbye Splendour in May of this year, and anxiously waited to see if it would disappoint me like the other Natalie books did. While reading, I surprisingly laughed a few times, as I never expected to do with a book I presumed would deal primarily with Natalie Wood's death. The smiles were appropriate because it's clear that Davern had a wonderful run of employment and friendship with the Wagner family. I'm glad those memories were shared, too. This story covered all bases. I appreciated that. But I cried, too, much more than I laughed. I can honestly say that no other book in my lifetime has ever given me the physical reaction I experienced while reading this one. I was literally shaking at certain points. I was breathless. Yet, there was no overwriting that caused these physical reactions. There was no fictional type drama presented. To the contrary, so much could have been over-dramatized, but the story absolutely stayed on course. This is the first review I've ever written. No other book has ever had this kind of impact on me to bring me to review it. Cookie-cutter books, especially out of Hollywood, are becoming a bore. But, not this one, and I care about Natalie Wood too much to not comment. This story rang so true, my ears are still buzzing. I am ASTOUNDED. I am SHOCKED. I am ENTHRALLED. AND I AM MAD. They figured out Michael Jackson's death within weeks..why did it take three decades and a "nobody" as Rulli calls herself, to figure out Natalie's? Why? Why? Why? I think Dennis Davern has been terribly misunderstood, and his friend Rulli has done a compelling job on every aspect of clearing that up, but she doesn't sugarcoat him, either. She also explains all of the details about the investigation in a comprehensive way. She actually got into the water wearing a down jacket to prove that it doesn't weigh you down. How could an investigator and medical team not know this? She backed up her friend's story and presents the facts clearly and concisely. I doubt the die-hard Wagner fans will warm up to this fascinating account, but make no mistake about it: this IS a fascinating book. That the authorities patronized Rulli is astounding and she still has kind words for them! Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, you've been creamed! You, too, Coroner! I give this book 5 stars PLUS! I hope to see that other readers do the same across the board. If there are people who give it any less, I would figure it's only because the truth hurts. This book is an ABSOLUTE MUST READ. Decide for yourself! And, for those who may say that a mystery still exists after this book, you are reaching! There's not a drop of mystery left in my mind about how and why Natalie left our world prematurely. It is terribly sad to hear or learn some things in life, but this is a story that absolutely needed to be told. One more thing I want to say: I received my book early today, and stayed up until very late to finish it. I will read it again, but for the first run-through, I could not put it down even though my eyes were stinging. Biography readers, mystery readers, true crime, etc., if you miss this one, you're missing what I will label in my first review, the best non-fiction book I've read in a long, long time. Tony
I love when a book comes along that contains the power to change Hollywood history. This is such a book. A silver-spoon spoiled brat with father-issues sees the Tinseltown heavyweights emerge over a hill on a golf course he caddies, and decides he wants to be in that "club" but the thing is, he doesn't quite qualify. His talent is what we see in his first solo feature, VALIANT, and never gets much better than that. But he marries a woman who IS in the big leagues. Natalie Wood. She's in the process of breaking completely free of her stage mother, a Russian descendant who believed a gypsy who told her that her second daughter would know worldwide fame, while warning to also beware of dark water. The two shall marry. Wannabe and classic. Any guy, actor, baker, attorney, Indian chief, who gets to marry the ultimate Hollywood legend and beauty (trust me folks, she'll surpass them all as decades turn to centuries) is IN. And he knows it. But things turn real when his career falters and hers blossoms. New leading men who CAN act get leading lady Natalie Wood. Wagner doesn't want to be Mr. Natalie Wood. When she stars with Warren Beatty, Wagner grabs a gun and waits outside Beatty's house. Wagner and Wood divorce. They marry others and have daughters with their new spouses, but the new marriages fail, and at low points of their self-esteems, Wagner and Wood find each other again and marry for a second shot at domestic happiness. They have a daughter together. Their happy family is a worldwide example of the modern day family unit. This only happens in the movies, right? Truth IS stranger than fiction. This is the good part of this real-life script. They purchase a big yacht and it becomes their getaway. They hire a common-hand Captain who maintains the yacht and is always there to take them away from the industry stresses (usually to Catalina Island a mere 20 miles away), but life is wonderful all over again. Enter the new script. Baggage from marriage #1 starts to show up. While they are the toast of Hollywood, Natalie takes motherhood seriously and tends to her children with love. She pleases RJ with her domesticity and RJ gets the TV job of a lifetime. He's popular. His ego swells. Seems more people know his name than Natalie's but in he knows it will last only as long as the current ratings and that Natalie's Miracle on 34th Street and West Side Story are for the ages. But he'll lap it up while it lasts. Natalie starts to revamp her career. She stars in some movies and some TV specials but only the leading men RJ likes and approves of get to come aboard Splendour (Olivier, Connery, George Segal) and actors like William Devane don't. RJ goes ape in a hotel room one night over Davane, and almost ends up plunging many stories to the city street. How dare Natalie star with such an acclaimed actor? Then, how dare she want to fly to North Carolina to star in a new sci-fi with the hottest rising actor in New York and Hollywood, Oscar winner, Christopher Walken? (I'll get you my pretty). Horror script time. Close your eyes and put your hands over your ears. No one wants to see or hear about this real-time tragedy. But it's time we do. And here it is in this book. If I could give this book a 1000 stars, I would. Reopen this case. This book belongs in every detective class across the nation, as it not only swells with truth and honesty, it changes history.
If you want the facts about the death of Natalie Wood, Goodbye Natalie Goodbye Splendour is the place to find them. This book is utterly amazing. I found a petition to reopen the Wood case at author Marti Rulli's blog (easily Googled)... and I signed it. Apparently, another reader created the official petition and I thank him. This book is not 28 years too late. It struggled its way to us, and we must regard it. I will campaign for Natalie Wood after this book and you will likely want to, also, after reading this book. It's how decent people will feel after this book's final line. This book might compel you to action, too. It's not only about how Ms. Wood died, it's also about injustice every American endures when prominent cases are shuffled like a new deck of poker cards so you never know what hand (story) you'll get next. This is THEE story, documented, fact-checked, polygraphed, and told by an eyewitness to the events leading to Natalie becoming missing from a safe and secure yacht she thought was her escape from the busy Hollywood life. Her pleasure yacht became a house of horrors the night of November 28, 1981. Her husband became a man she realized she never knew. As a fellow reader, as a fellow citizen, I implore you read this compelling work to decide for yourself, and if you want to get on the REAL "gravy train" that train is justice for victim Natalie Wood and every citizen who deserves the law to be served. In this case, it wasn't. Find that petition. Read this book of justice. I strongly recommend it.
Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour, from the title to the final, is a stream of insight and quality. I've read the previous Wood biographies and no one has told the histories of Natalie and RJ with such comprehensive readability! Do we really need all that excess found in other books about who was standing where when Natalie sneezed? No! And Rulli doesn't bother us with it. She gave us all we need to know in one chapter about Wood/Wagner careers, and then Davern's anecdotes show us the rest: the real people behind the glitz. Rulli starts us off with the search then quickly moves to a list of scenarios and sensationalism surrounding Wood's death and implements plain common sense to put rumor in its place: Wagner and Powers killed their respective mates so they could be together? Blather, Rulli tells us. Then Rulli proceeds with nothing but net! The entire tragic weekend is then experienced. You will think and feel like you were there! You will be in RJ's bedroom with Davern, as Wagner's attorney tries to settle them into procedure. You will see Lana standing behind the bar, too choked to speak. You will hear and feel Natalie's mother spit her venom at Davern. Rulli humbly credits all of her help. The "sock girl" who she barely knew. Her friend who chastised her, yet propelled her into action. "Mama Moon" who cared about Natalie's fans. It is precious the way she befriended Lallier over "ducks" but the revelation is heartrending as well as mind-blowing. The Wood historian who keeps Natalie's memory alive. Credits abound! As for Rulli and Taylor's involvement.it is immaculate. There are no conspiracies here. Rulli respects her friend Davern beyond all reason...she stood by him for the sake of friendship. Endearing and moving. Rulli and Davern are a combination like you've never read before! As for Davern's friendship with his employer, Natalie, it is believable beyond all doubt. With his every move, Davern helps us to understand a lot about Natalie Wood you've never read before. This book is a must read. I am so fortunate to have had a preview read. I can't wait to see the candid photos to come! And, if you have questions after reading this book, I promise they will be dear. T. A. Gabriel
We nevervget to know how Natalie WOod ended on the water and the writer and the captian of the splendour look as if the are obssesed over Natalie Wood in a way that is kind of weird and scary sometimes. A book full of confusion, obsession, lies and only they know what else.
I have been waiting and waiting for the media accolades to come in for Goodbye Natalie Goodbye Splendour, because without a doubt this is one of the most important books of the year, if not thee most important. It is well-written, well-presented, and it offers something of value far beyond solving the mystery of a legendary actress's untimely death. This book does not deserve the few biased, near-sighted reviews that pop up. Goodbye Natalie is beyond 5-star quality for many reasons, but mostly for its efforts and its purpose. This author does the job of those who are obligated to have given us this kind of information long ago. If I were given an opportunity to meet one author, I would choose the woman who wrote this book. I would like to shake her hand for having the fortitude to accomplish what she has accomplished. I work with battered women, and I am telling you that Natalie Wood was a battered woman. Maybe Nov. 28, 1981 was the first, maybe not, but she was battered, make no mistake about it. There is no doubt in my mind and I praise Marti Rulli for her expert diagnosis and her expert ability to keep me glued for a straight 17 hours of reading. Part Four broke my heart, the most riveting ending to a book imaginable. The entire book was like watching a movie in my mind. I could not put this book down, and every newspaper in the land should be headlining this story. Don't ignore this one. It deserves so much more attention than it has been getting and there's only one reason for that. Celebrity!
No other book has given me what I was looking for on this subject.
Read excerpts: EXCELLENT!
I always thought Wagner was guilty. Just a feeling and obviously this proves he was.