Barring a medical miracle, Dominick Dunne figures his days of covering celebrity trials will end in Las Vegas with O.J. Simpson.
The last chapter could come this week: During an interview over dinner Friday, Dunne, 82, said he's returning home to undergo stem cell treatment in hopes that he can win his battle with bladder cancer.
Depending on how he feels -- "I felt great after the first (treatment)" -- a frail Dunne said he may make it back to the Regional Justice Center, where Simpson's armed robbery and kidnapping trial may last about a month.
"The word around the courthouse is that Judge (Jackie) Glass has an Oct. 20 cruise," said Dunne, who has been covering trials of the fallen famous for Vanity Fair since 1982 when his daughter was strangled by an ex-boyfriend.
The cancer diagnosis depressed him, and his son and doctor pleaded with him not to make the trip to Las Vegas and risk putting more stress on his health.
Asked why he would jeopardize his recovery, he leaned forward at the table at Wynne's Alex restaurant and said, "I'm a fighter. It's important for me to do this."
No one should question his grit, not after he won the Bronze Star for saving a comrade's life at the Battle of the Bulge in a frozen Belgium forest in 1944.
"He's obviously thriving," said his longtime friend, Associated Press special correspondent Linda Deutsch. They have been covering trials together since the 1980s.
"He looks better," Deutsch said. "Being in the middle of the action is what he does. Observing, writing, the socializing. He just loves it. It's what he lives for."
VALDEZ, ROSELLI PROMOTED
More moves at KLAS-TV, Channel 8, after last week's reorganization that claimed 17 jobs, including four in the newsroom.
Effective Monday, Denise Valdez will move from morning anchor to the afternoon anchor team. Valdez, who joined KLAS 21/2 years ago after stints in San Antonio, Dallas and Los Angeles, will co-anchor the noon and 4:30 p.m. newscasts.
Dayna Roselli, who anchors the traffic segments in the morning, will be filling in as co-anchor with Dave McCann until Valdez's replacement is selected.
General manager Emily Neilson said Valdez is an "experienced journalist who has made a big impact in our community in a short amount of time."
During an interview, Valdez, who won an Emmy at KLAS for reports on education, said she was thrilled to be joining the team of Dave Courvoisier, Paula Francis and Gary Waddell.
She volunteered that she wanted to address a 1996 Los Angeles Times report that resurfaced in this column when she arrived in Las Vegas.
She was mentioned in the Times article about a trend among newscasters who changed from Anglo to ethnic names to take advantage of affirmative action rules designed to benefit minorities.
Valdez, who has a Swiss father and a Hispanic mother, said she went with the traditional hyphenated parental names very briefly when she started her TV career 16 years ago.
"A news director said, 'This is too complicated,' so I went with my mother's," she said, adding that she's equally proud of both names.
She was misquoted in the article, she said. Another factor in the decision to shorten her given name was "just to have a personal life," she said.
THE SCENE AND HEARD
Former Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and DJ AM, critically injured in a plane crash in South Carolina on Friday, performed together in Las Vegas on a number of nightclub stages, including LAX (Luxor) and Pure (Caesars Palace).
Simpson, with lawyers and friends, at The Scintas' show at the Las Vegas Hilton on Friday. The friendship goes back to his NFL days with the Buffalo Bills. Earlier, Simpson was seen at McCarran International Airport, where he was waiting for actor Samuel L. Jackson ... Former "View" co-host Star Jones, sitting on her new beau's lap at The Bank (Bellagio) on Friday.
THE PUNCH LINE
"Barack Obama said again today that he wants to raise taxes on the rich -- that's provided by November anyone is still rich." -- Jay Leno