I don’t know about the rest of you suave men of the world, but as many babes as I’ve picked up and taken back to my faux-mini-chateau in Elysian Park for a few post-Viper Room snorts, some Miles on the MP-3 player, and maybe a screening of Bowfinger, it’s never once occurred to me to stick a Colt Cobra in their mouths and sever their spinal cords. Too bad Lana Clarkson didn’t meet me that night in 2003, instead of Phil Spector.
I know Lana Clarkson. No, I don’t mean that I knew the Lana Clarkson who died in Spector’s “castle” in Alhambra. But anyone who’s spent five minutes working in Hollywood has met hundreds of Lana Clarksons — once-beautiful women, now handsome, or less, with a past that never quite lived up to expectations and a future that held no expectations at all. When your career highlight comes at age 18 with a bit part in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and now, 22 years later, you’re struggling to make the rent… Only a few win the movie-star lottery; the rest drift away, fade out, or end up like the Black Dahlia.
The Dahlia was famously raven-tressed, but usually it’s blondes Hollywood’s hell on. First O. J. nearly saws poor Nicole Simpson’s head off, then Robert Blake tells his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakely, that he’s conveniently forgotten his gun in a booth at Vitello’s in the Valley and — whoops! — two fewer blondes in L.A., and zero convictions.
Now it’s little Phil’s turn to skate, at least temporarily. An LA jury has, of course, been unable to come to a guilty verdict beyond a reasonable doubt and so the “music legend” who ruined the Beatles’ last album with his dumb “wall of sound” will likely have to stand trial again for Ms. Clarkson’s murder. By a vote of ten to two — for a while, the count was seven to five — the jury deadlocked (the foreman was apparently one of the holdouts), with the pair on the short end still convinced that Lana, whose last job was that of hostess at the House of Blues on the Strip, somehow decided to a) go home with this munchkin, b) have some sort of interaction with him that left his DNA on her breast and c) then shoot herself.
OK, maybe that scenario does make some small sense. If you came west with beauty and a body and a head full of dreams, and wound up kneeling in front of a washed-up has-been like Phil Spector, you might think of ending it all, too.
But this is Hollywood, not a James M. Cain novel, and so you wouldn’t. You’d do what everybody else in this town does, no matter how humiliated and desperate: you’d throw up, wash your mouth out with soap, get up the next morning and lunge for the brass ring once more. Only a few end up like Peg Entwistle, the blue-eyed blonde who came all the way from Wales to Los Angeles, only to throw herself off the letter “H” of the Hollywood sign in 1932, when it still read: “Hollywoodland” and was lit by 4,000 ironic light bulbs.
One of the issues at Spector’s trial was whether someone’s “celebrity” status and beaucoup de dollars automatically protect miscreants from their just desserts. If you ask me, Phil Spector is defining “celebrity” way down, but you’d think, after the Juice and Baretta, that question has pretty much been answered in the affirmative. Because, after all, how could a thinking Angeleno possibly convict Spector on the basis of this flimsy evidence:
‐ It was Spector’s house. It was Spector’s gun. Her blood was on and in his clothes.
‐ His chauffeur testified that, while waiting outside he heard what sounded like a shot, after which Spector emerged from the house and said, “I think I killed somebody.”
‐ Five women testified that Spector had threatened them with firearms when they tried to leave his home or hotel rooms, in incidents stretching back many years.
But the defense — whose ranks at one point included Bruce Cutler, John Gotti’s lawyer; the Menendez Bros. attorney, Leslie Abramson; and Camp O. J. vet Robert Shapiro — somehow managed to get just enough pigs airborne that it seemed perfectly reasonable for some on the jury to assume that Ms. Clarkson hatched the suicide plot and tried to pin it on Spector. After all, the Dream Team convinced the O. J. jury that blood could magically float through the air from a lab test tube and onto Simpson’s socks.
In the old days — before it was “hump day” — Wednesday was “anything can happen day.” In the criminal-justice system in southern California, every day is Wednesday.
This is Hollywood, after all: a town where half the population seems to be illegal immigrants and yet the median price of a house is nearly half a million dollars; a town that hates war, unless it’s happening on a studio sound stage; a town that makes a fetish of celebrating diversity yet lives in the most segregated neighborhoods this side of Bull Connor’s Selma, Alabama. Miracles happen here every day.
And if they need a little help… if they require more than the willing suspension of disbelief… if we’ve convinced America that people can fall from third-floors windows and get up and walk away… can take bullet wounds to the body and keep on fighting… can fly through the air, bounce off walls, get hit by cars, roll over the hood and keep on going… well, that‘s the name of our game, isn‘t it?
Too bad Lana Clarkson forgot the first rule of Hollywood: Life isn’t a movie.
– David Kahane is a nom de cyber for a writer in Hollywood. “David Kahane” is borrowed from a screenwriter character in The Player.