- Phil Spector was a legendary music producer. He was part of the world where rock and roll was king. Spector lived in a castle yet he didn’t like to live alone. It made him feel important to always have a presence with him. He himself was a kind of mini emperor – he had the power to make or break new talent. However even the most powerful and wealthy among us aren’t immune to violence and evil. A shooting death occurred at his home and, believing he was above the law, Spector was confident he could prove his innocence.
Spector grew up in the Bronx. His family moved to Los Angeles four years after his father, ironically, committed suicide. Spector’s mother and sister were described as “a little nuts. Phil was the small child. He didn’t have a loving, nurturing caring environment.” At 18 Spector cut a hit single named To Know Him is to Love Him, a title taken from his father’s tombstone’s epitaph, with his band The Teddy Bears. Suffering from severe stage fright, Spector focused on music production. He made his first million before the age of 21. Over 3 years he was the producer behind 20 hits. He was also the creative director, writing or choosing the material, supervising the arrangements, conducting the vocalists. He helped pave the way for various music genres, with numerous artists later citing his work as a major influence.Spector married a biracial female singer named Ronnie, whose real name was Veronica Bennet. She was his second wife and the marriage lasted for 6 years. During that time the couple adopted three children. On September 1, 2006, Spector married his third wife, Rachelle Short
“He became one of the biggest producer’s in the world because those records were all going to number one…. I don’t know if he had any [true friends].” When his wife’s band, the Ronnettes, arrived in England Spector decided to speak in a high-pitched voice. Ronnie stated “we were so embarrassed. That told me something was wrong right then.” A Ronettes single, “You Came, You Saw, You Conquered” flopped, but Spector returned to the Hot 100 with “Black Pearl”, by Sonny Charles. Spector was asked by Lennon and George Harrison to take on the task of turning the Beatles’ abandoned Get Back recording sessions into an album. He used many of his production techniques, making changes to the arrangements and sound of some songs. The resulting album, Let It Be, was a massive commercial success and topped the US and UK charts.
As the 1970s progressed, Spector became increasingly reclusive. The most probable and significant reason for his withdrawal, as revealed by biographer Dave Thompson, was that in 1974 he was seriously injured when he was thrown through the windshield of his car in a crash in Hollywood. According to a contemporary report published in the New Musical Express. Spector was almost killed, and it was only because a police officer detected a pulse that Spector was not declared dead at the scene. His head injuries were the reason that Spector began his habit of wearing outlandish wigs in later year. Most definitely the head injuries could have had an impact on his bizarre behaviour and inclinations toward drug and alcohol abuse in subsequent years.
In December 2007, Spector attended the funeral of Ike Turner, whose former wife, Tina Turner, he previously produced in 1966. While delivering a eulogy, Spector lashed out at Tina and stated that “Ike made Tina the jewel she was. When I went to see Ike play at the Cinegrill in the 90s…there were at least five Tina Turners on the stage performing that night, any one of them could have been Tina Turner.” Oh. Nasty. But let’s not forget the man had been thrown through a windshield before this eulogy. We have to keep that in mind. I’m no neurologist by any means but if this isn’t evidence of a certain amount of brain damage, what is?
Around that time, Spector’s success began to fade. He kept Ronnie a virtual prisoner in his mansion and his marriage became violent and he intimidated people with guns. Spector was known to play dangerously with guns, threatening to kill people for no reason. By the 1990s, Spector’s fame had faded and he lived almost as a recluse in his 33-room mansion that he dubbed “the castle,” located outside of Los Angeles in a shoddy suburb. A night owl, Spector was a middle-aged, decidedly homely man who liked to party at all hours. He picked up attractive women at various bars and drove them from watering hole to watering hole to party. In spite of his homely appearance Spector was a guy who liked “to see and be seen.” One night, after five hours of partying and drinking, Spector brought a date to the House of Blues. Soon he would abandon her for another woman, a move that probably saved the scorned woman’s life.
At the front door of the House was a gorgeous blonde named Lana Clarkson. Although she was 40 years old, she was a tall, 6-foot stunning model. Clarkson caught Spector’s eye. Spector was wearing one of his notorious bushy wigs and Clarkson informed him he couldn’t enter into the VIP room of the bar. When she was informed that he was a man, she apologized profusely and made sure he got plenty of VIP attention. At the end of the night Spector returned the attention ad insisted that she accompany him to his castle. In case you’re wondering why Spector would be seen in a fright wig his actual hairstyle is depicted in his mug shot on the right. In Spector’s case it would seem that even a fright wig is better than no hair at all.
By 5:00 a.m. Adriano, Spector’s driver, called police to report a murder at Spector’s home. Lana Clarkson had been shot in the mouth and was dead. Police arrested a stunned, drunk and belligerent Spector. Upon searching the castle they found 10 firearms. Clarkson’s blood was found on the stairway bannister and one of Spector’s coats. No one’s fingerprints were found on the gun lying at her feet. At the police station, Spector denied that he had shot Clarkson: “Absolute fucking nonsense. She was a piece of shit and I don’t know what her fucking problem was. She certainly had no right to come to my fucking castle…blow her fucking head open…and say that I murdered her. What the fuck is wrong with you people?” Spector insisted Clarkson committed suicide. In spite of his feeble attempt at his own defense, Spector’s bail was set at 1 million dollars.
Spector was livid at being treated like a common criminal. He contacted his assistant, Michelle Blaine, who arrived, bailed him out and checked him in at the 5-star Bel Air Hotel. They hid out in the hotel for one week while “the house was being wrangled by the Sheriff’s department and…I got stuck again as being the babysitter. That was pretty frightening because he was in a state of mind that was not well at all.” When Blaine questioned her bos he stated, “I don’t know. It was an accident.”
Eventually Spector returned to his castle and lived there for several months. He insulted Clarkson in interviews and kissed the gun that was found near her body. Although she wasn’t a household name the gorgeous Clarkson had small and lead roles in mostly B films, and some A-list features, including The James Dean Story, Amazon Women on the Moon, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Blind Date and Hollywood Vice. However as Clarkson aged her career stalled. In Christmas 2001 Clarkson broke both of her wrists and required multiple surgeries. The procedures prevented her from appearing in films for over one year, leading to some depression.
In 2003 Clarkson’s death was ruled a homicide. Spector was baffled when a number of celebrities he knew didn’t contact him and refused to return his calls. He believed the press wouldn’t “listen to me“, his way of stating he wanted the media to declare his innocence. Wanting to remain out of the public eye, Spector had Blaine make a website where he posted a bizarre video of him trumpeting his innocence in a series of rants. Wearing a Hawaiian shirt and one of his fright wigs, he declared, “what her motive was for taking her own life I don’t know and I really don’t care….In two years nobody has come to my defense. I’ve lost my reputation, lost all my friends…nobody asked for my autograph for the right reasons, everybody stares at me.”
No Celebrity Gets Convicted in Los Angeles
The Prosecutor and his team were concerned about the privileged advantage Spector had over the jury, simply due to his fame and wealth. Clearly, the LAPD had encountered celebrities heretofore this crime who had literally gotten away with murder or a lesser crime based on their identity. Hmm. Should we take a closer look at the O.J. Simpson case one day?
However the trial was permitted to be televised (is that fair?) and the first jury who heard his story had to declare a mistrial. Myself, based on the possible brain injuries he may have suffered from the car accident I would suggest this may have been a reasonable response. Maybe. However long before the car accident Spector’s behaviour was established by witnesses as weird and his personality as narcissistic. Well, if we examine the narcissism, if you were the top musician producer in America and bands like The Beatles used your professional judgement to produce an album that went to number 1, wouldn’t you feel a little entitled? Just saying.\
The retrial of Spector for murder in the second degree began on October 20, 2008, with Judge Fidler presiding; this time it was not televised. The case went to the jury on March 26, 2009, and nineteen days later, on April 13, the jury returned a guilty verdict Additionally, he was found guilty of using a firearm in the commission of a crime, which added four years to the sentence. Oops.
Although Spector is now behind bars and probably will be until the day he dies, he was the inspiration for a number of Hollywood films including:
Phantom of the Paradise with Paul Williams.
Grace of My Heart – the character Joel Milner
Love and Mercy – his character is portrayed by Jonathan Slavin.
A shame his legacy is also interwoven with the murder of a beautiful, unsuspecting woman named Lana Clarkson.