Unbelievably, I missed the news that legendary producer Phil Spector was found guilty today of murder (technically second-degree homicide) for the shooting death of the actress who played Mr. Vargas the biology teacher’s wife in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
The case had been heard before; back in September 2007, a jury deadlocked 10 to 2 in favor of conviction, and Spector walked away on one million dollars bail. (No word on whether that one mil was delivered in cool cash by a helicopter on the roof at midnight.)
The New York Times:
[Lana Clarkson] was working as a hostess at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip when Mr. Spector visited the nightclub, struck up a conversation and eventually took her out drinking.
They ended up at his Alhambra mansion, known as “the Castle,” but when she spurned his advances and tried to leave he put a gun in her mouth and fired, prosecutors said.
They argued that this fit a long pattern of Mr. Spector’s drinking and threatening women with guns over several years, and they presented testimony from several of them.
Mr. Spector, they said, essentially confessed when he emerged from the home, gun in hand, and told his limousine driver, “I think I killed somebody.” Mr. Spector retreated into the house and in the prosecution’s view, took steps to cover up the crime.
The defense tried to suggest that Clarkson, distraught by her stalled career and shaky finances, comitted suicide. While it seems perfectly reasonable that a washed up B-movie actress might off herself, it seems odd that she’d choose to do so at the home of a batshit crazy, reclusive millionaire with a long history of waving guns in people’s faces. Apparently the jury thought so, too, which brings to end a long run of ridiculous celebrity murder aquittals (re: OJ Simpson and Robert Blake).
I love me some Phil Spector productions — the Ronnettes are one of my all-time favorite girl groups, but I think his contributions to popular music are often exaggerated. There’s a certain magic to his instrumentally overloaded, “in-the-red” sessions — if Spector came onto the scene today, he’d be producing black metal — but I much prefer the detail in the work of his accidental protégé, Brian Wilson, whose own time at the top resulted in far more durable and creative music.
Our friend Arthur reminded us about how, when Brian was in the midst of paranoid delusions, he thought Spector was trying to kill him. Now who’s the crazy one?