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Phil Spector Charged with Murder

All of the delays and maneuvering could only prolong the inevitable: in an indictment unsealed today, Phil Spector was charged with murder in the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson at his home last year:

    Spector, 64, leaned on the arm of his attorney as the indictment in the slaying of 40-year-old Lana Clarkson was read, but showed no emotion. Outside court, he railed at prosecutors, comparing District Attorney Steve Cooley to Adolf Hitler.

    “The actions of the Hitler-like DA and his storm trooper henchmen are reprehensible, unconscionable and despicable,” said Spector, who remains free on $1 million bail.

    He spoke only briefly in court, answering, “Yes, your honor,” to Judge David S. Wesley’s questions. Lesley set Dec. 16 as the earliest possible trial date.

    ….If he had been allowed a preliminary hearing, Spector said, his attorneys would have called to the witness stand three of the foremost forensic scientists and coroners in the world and each would have testified that Clarkson shot herself.

    Prosecutors avoided a preliminary hearing by taking the case directly to a grand jury, which returned the indictments.

    District attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said that was done in part to avoid any further delay in bringing Spector to trial for the Feb. 3, 2003, shooting.

    “It’s been almost two years since Ms. Clarkson was killed in Mr. Spector’s home and it’s time for a trial,” she said. “We believe there is a crime. We charged a crime. And that crime is murder. Nothing is politically motivated in this case.”

    Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. Spector could receive a life sentence with the possibility of parole if convicted. [AP]

Obviously Spector thinks this is about him, but it isn’t, it’s about a young woman, Lana Clarkson, whom he apparently shot to death in the foyer of his Alhambra faux-castle.

Let’s take another look at Clarkson and the events of February 3, 2003:

Lana Clarkson, a moderately successful B movie hottie moving into middle age, had recently begun working at the Sunset Strip House of Blues as a ticket taker and hostess in an effort to get her career back on track. AP writes:

    “She wasn’t thrilled to have people from the industry see her doing that, but she thought it was a good step to get back into the mainstream,” said her neighbor, Paul Pietrewicz. “It wasn’t exactly what she wanted to do, but she thought she could meet the right person.”

Which was apparently not Phil.

    Police think legendary rock producer Phil Spector murdered a B-movie actress in the foyer of his hilltop home just hours after meeting her at the Sunset Strip blues club where she worked as a hostess, sources said on Tuesday.

    Spector, a reclusive eccentric with a fondness for guns, allegedly killed Lana Clarkson with a single shot after they returned to his 33-room mock castle in the Los Angeles suburb of Alhambra from the House of Blues early on Monday morning, sources close to the case told Reuters.

Tall, blonde, beautiful and curvaceous, Clarkson was Hollywood dream material, but it didn’t turn out that way – the best she could do was become “Barbarian Queen”:

    She was discovered by B-movie king Roger Corman and starred in a series of films that made her a semi-cult figure. She played a super-heroine called “Barbarian Queen,” a character Corman said was the model for TV’s “Xena: Warrior Princess.”

    “Lana was a beautiful woman, a wonderful actress, and an adventurous spirit,” Corman said Tuesday in a statement. “Always brave, she performed all of her own stunts, and showed unusual fortitude and athleticism in her horseback riding and fight sequences.”

    Clarkson had her own Web site and a company called Living Doll Productions. She also had appeared in many commercials and often made personal appearances. As “Barbarian Queen,” she appeared at comic book and pop culture conventions.

Even so, she lived in a small house in Venice:

    Three flower bouquets and a burning candle were at the doorstep Tuesday of Clarkson’s modest one-story house along the canals in the Venice area of Los Angeles. Several cactus plants and a statue of an angel decorated the porch.

    “The Clarkson family would like to express their deepest appreciation to Lana’s extended family, friends and fans for the outpouring of love and support that they have shown during this extremely difficult time,” her family said in a statement released Tuesday night.

The full statement, photo galleries, a filmography, bio, and most poignant, photos from her January appearance at the “Vamps/Monsters Among Us Convention,” where she appeared at the Golden Apple Comics booth are all at her website. She is seen brandishing swords and posing with the civilians. There are also photos or her appearance at last year’s Grammys – she won’t make it this year.

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Here is a recreation of the events of that night:

Police are piecing together how a quiet night out led to Lana Clarkson being shot in the face at Phil Spector’s pad at 5AM Monday morning:

    In the hours before he allegedly killed a woman in his hilltop mansion, record producer Phil Spector visited a music club, had a post-midnight snack and left a $500 tip on a $55 tab — none of which seems to have been particularly out of the ordinary, according to those who saw him.

    “He is always very generous with the help,” said Dan Tana, whose West Hollywood restaurant has long been a popular hangout for celebrities. Tana said Spector turned up between 12:30 and 1 a.m. Monday, had a quiet meal with another woman and left at 2 a.m. after shelling out the over-the-top gratuity.

    ….Spector is known to have visited the House of Blues, the Sunset Strip club where Clarkson worked as a hostess. Employees saw her leave with him in his chauffeur-driven black Mercedes S430 when her shift ended about 2:30 a.m. But it is not clear whether Spector had been at the club earlier in the evening, when three metal bands were playing.

    Before picking up Clarkson, Spector had been at Dan Tana’s with the other woman, identified as a waitress at a Beverly Hills restaurant.

    “They arrived together, and it looked like a date,” said another customer, talent manager Martin DeLuca. “They were talking and laughing. It was a very quiet dinner. There was no arguing.”

    Spector and the woman shared salads and drank cocktails, and the woman pulled out a folder, which she showed the producer, DeLuca said.

    Tana said Spector is a regular at the restaurant, and requested his usual spot, table No. 4, which is farthest from the entrance. The couple were in good spirits and “well-behaved,” he said.

    Among the mysteries still facing investigators are when Spector met Clarkson; what he was doing before his visit to Dan Tana’s; and what occurred between 2:30 a.m., when he left the House of Blues with Clarkson, and about 5 a.m., when she was shot. [LA Times]

One mystery is solved, Spector’s driver made the call to police – it appears murder was not something he was willing to look the other way about.

    Alhambra police officers found Clarkson’s body on the floor of Spector’s foyer after being alerted to the shooting by the producer’s driver, who was outside. Spector, according to investigators, was standing in the foyer when officers arrived.

    Spector resisted arrest, forcing the officers to use a nonlethal weapon to restrain him, a law enforcement source said. He was taken to the hospital later that day.

    Investigators say Clarkson and Spector were alone in the house at the time of the fatal shooting.

Hmm, not looking too good for Phil – they were together for about 2 1/2 hours, then she was shot in the foyer: looks like Phil didn’t want her to leave. I wonder how many women are thinking it could have been them.

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I wrote a comparison of the lives and troubles of Michael Jackson and Spector last November – the basics haven’t changed:

Pop music icons Michael Jackson and Phil Spector, their lives in the balance, appeared almost simultaneously last Thursday in separate Southern California courtrooms on shocking, sordid felony charges: child molestation for the 45-year-old Jackson, murder for Spector, 63.

Though the cases are unrelated, they have more in common than just a bizarre coincidence of the calendar. The accusations against each legend stem directly from the trappings of their early fabulous success, and the ability of each to create isolated domains with themselves as absolute rulers.

“Innocent until proven guilty”

Both multi-millionaire recluses have loudly proclaimed their innocence. Jackson, through a new website, has called the accusation he abused a 12-year-old cancer survivor — who appeared hand-in-hand with him in Martin Bashir’s controversial documentary earlier this year — a “big lie,” writing, “Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons. The truth will win this marathon in court.” Jackson is free on a $3 million bond.

The public appears to have made a clean break between Jackson the musical genius who has sold over 165 million albums, and Jackson the man. Although the self-anointed “King of Pop’s” new “Number Ones” collection — with familiar greats like “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Bad,” “Black Or White,” and prophetically titled new single “One More Chance” — topped the UK album chart this week, it is clearly getting harder to rally the troops: turnout for highly publicized “Michael is innocent” events throughout North America and Europe over the weekend numbered in the dozens.

Spector — the boy-genius songwriter and producer who created the fabled “Wall of Sound” in the ’60s working with the Crystals, Darlene Love, the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers — pleaded not guilty to the murder of B-movie star Lana Clarkson, who was shot in the face at close range last February in the foyer of Spector’s Alhambra mansion.

Spector told Esquire magazine in June that Clarkson, 40, had shot herself after “kissing” the gun. Nonetheless, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office ruled that the statuesque blonde, whom Spector met at the House of Blues before taking her to his home, was a victim of homicide. According to police reports on the case, Spector told his chauffeur, “I think I killed somebody,” shortly after Clarkson’s death. He is free on $1 million bail.

What led to this tragic state of affairs for each star?

Fabulous Success

Michael Jackson began performing at the age of four. Though the youngest member of the Jackson Five he became the group’s lead singer, projecting boundless energy and confidence, and (literally) whipped into shape by their stage-father Joe, the little man and his brothers were major stars for Motown by the time Michael was 11. In the early-’70s Michael simultaneously sang with the group and embarked on a successful solo career.

The strangeness that was to become Michael first reared its head in 1978 when he co-starred in “The Wiz” as the Scarecrow, and so enjoyed appearing in costume that he went home at night still in make-up. Perhaps looking at this altered version of himself in the mirror, Jackson envisioned the beginning of a path, a yellow brick road of sorts, that led from handsome young black man to the wan, genderless kabuki we see today.

This transformation was enabled by the unprecedented success of “Off the Wall” (’79), “Thriller” (’82), “Bad” (’87), and “Dangerous” (’92), but by ’93 all of that changeed with the first round of child molestation accusations, which brought no criminal charges but ended with a payment to the alleged victim of between $15 and $20 million.

Spector’s childhood was also riven between tremendous public success and deep personal pain. In 1949, when young Phil was just 8, his father committed suicide. His first hit, “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” came in 1958 as a 17-year-old songwriter and member of the Teddy Bears. The song title came from the inscription on his father’s gravestone.

Driven to create a huge pop sound, Spector piled layer upon mono layer of instruments onto his “Wall of Sound” (using drummer Hal Blaine, guitarists Larry Knechtel and Glen Campbell, bassist Carol Kaye, pianist Leon Russell, saxophonist Steve Douglas, and percussionist Sonny Bono among many others, collectively known as the Wrecking Crew), slaving away in the studio, which soon felt like home to the young impresario.

Among the hits were “Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home),” “Then He Kissed Me,” “Be My Baby,” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” In 1966, Spector’s production of “River Deep, Mountain High” for Ike and Tina Turner was hailed as a masterwork, but when it bombed commercially Spector pulled the plug on his career and brooded in seclusion for four years before returning to produce the Beatles’ “Let It Be” (ironically just re-released as “Let It Be…Naked,” with Spector’s orchestral sweetening removed), George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass,” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Spector again went into seclusion after producing the Ramones classic “End of the Century” in 1979, but not before generating persistent rumors that he pulled a gun on the band in a dispute over the master tapes.

Double-edged Sword

Spector and Jackson have similarly used fabulous wealth and power to create hermetically sealed environments, Spector his dark hilltop castle in Alhambra, Jackson his whimsical, personal theme park “Neverland,” where the distractions and irritations of the world have been largely shut out among the rides, animals, and trappings of perpetual childhood.

These insular worlds can come to seem real to their creators, fostering self-perpetuating delusions that accentuate internal demons in a way that mere mortals, forced to deal with the world on its own terms, can rarely achieve. In isolation, surrounded by paid enablers and toadies, quirks and eccentricities become exaggerated, heightened, and can even be latched onto as defining characteristics. A sense of entitlement and exceptionalism can grow as the ego goes unchecked, and eccentricity can blossom into the sociopathic.

These narcissistic little empires can also breed paranoid “us against them,” “with me or against me” mentalities where normal logic doesn’t apply: Jackson allegedly paid a witch doctor $150,000 in 2000 to put a hex on several Hollywood figures, including Stephen Spielberg because he did not allow him to star as Peter Pan in “Hook.”

Earlier this year, in what was proclaimed his first interview in 25 years, Spector told writer Mick Brown, “I wasn’t well enough to function as a regular part of society, so I didn’t. I was different, so I had to make my own world. And it made life complicated for me, but it made it justifiable. ‘Oh, that’s the reason they hate my … guts. I look strange, I act strange, I make these strange records, so there’s a reason to hate my guts.’ Because I felt hated – even when the music became big, I never felt like I fitted in.”

In a 1983 documentary by Binia Tymieniecka, Spector’s ex-wife Veronica (“Ronnie” of the Ronettes) said of him, “I think Phil was a very normal person at the beginning of his career. But as time went on, they started writing about him being a genius. And he said, ‘Yeah, I am a genius.’ And then they would say, ‘He’s the mad genius.’ And so he became the mad genius.”

Then, the day after Lana Clarkson was shot, Ronnie Spector wrote this, “My heart goes out to the woman and her family … I can only say that when I left in the early ’70s, I knew that if I didn’t leave at that time I was going to die there. I said it in my book over 12 years ago and I still believe it to be true now.”

Innocent until proven guilty, yes, but it appears very possible that the “success” of Michael Jackson and Phil Spector may have unleashed demons that will prove their undoing.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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