Yesterday in Los Angeles, Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler ruled that prosecutors can introduce evidence in Phil Spector’s upcoming murder trial suggesting a long “history of threatening women” before he was charged with killing actress Lana Clarkson in his Alhambra home over two years ago.
Deputy District Attorney Doug Sortino argued that Spector, 64, used guns to threaten or intimidate people in “an ongoing course of conduct that happens again and again and again,” and the judge concluded that allowing the evidence was “a dangerous path to go down” but that four incidents that allegedly occurred between 1988 and 1995 were sufficiently suggestive to be allowed.
In grand jury testimony last year, Melissa Grovesnor claimed she was visiting Spector one evening in 1991, but when she told him she wanted to return to her hotel room, she said Spector pointed a gun at her head, yelled and swore and forced her to spend the night in a chair.
The three other incidents involve Stephanie Jennings (photographer, said Spector confronted her in a hotel room in 1995, then returned with a gun and sat in a chair in front of the door), Dianne Ogden (dated Spector, became a personal assistant in 1988, said Spector pointed a handgun at her when she went back home with him after a dinner date, chased her with an assault rifle after a dinner party a few weeks later), and Dorothy Melvin (romantically involved with Spector around 1990 – she woke at his home to find him pointing a handgun at her new car, then pointed the weapon at her, accused her of “snooping and stealing” and told her to leave).
The Dark Spector
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 in the foyer of Spector’s Alhambra mansion.
Spector told Esquire magazine last June that Clarkson 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.
Spector’s childhood was 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” (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.
In the ’04 Esquire interview, his first 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.”
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.”
Lana Clarkson and the events of February 3, 2003
Lana Clarkson, 40, 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.
“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,” her neighbor Paul Pietrewicz told AP. “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.
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.
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 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 website 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, ’03 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.