Clarkson wanted fame, Spector witness says
EmptyThe ambition-driven life of actress Lana Clarkson, who chased Hollywood fame and found only rejection in her later years, was described in Phil Spector's murder trial Tuesday by a playwright who hired and fired her just before her death.
"Lana's career was everything to her," said John Barons. "Fame was the same thing. That was her goal."
Barons, who cast her as Marilyn Monroe in a play but dumped her before it opened, said he felt Clarkson was a competent actress but that her focus was not on the craft of acting.
"Her main motivation was to be known," Barons said. "It's not like she wanted to be in Dostoyevsky and that she wanted to do Shakespeare ... or even Tennessee Williams. The passion was more to be a famous actress," he said.
"You've actually described her talent in the past, haven't you?" asked defense attorney Roger Rosen.
"In different ways," Barons said.
"And without being negative in any way you've described her talent in the past as being not really a great talent. She was not the brilliant actor, isn't that true?" Rosen said.
"I have said that," Barons replied.
Barons was called by defense attorneys for Spector, who is accused of shooting Clarkson, 40, to death on Feb. 3, 2003.
Barons, who cast Clarkson in his play, "Brentwood Blondes," told a typical Hollywood tale of actors in conflict with writers, directors and each other on a project which would not pay anyone very much. He said Clarkson would have received $5 a performance but would have earned credits toward her Actors Equity card which would have opened doors for her.
Everyone involved, he suggested, was looking for the big break.
The playwright said he had his own ulterior motives when he hired Clarkson -- to draw attention to his play through her friendship with B-movie producer Roger Corman, who had cast her as the star of the 1980s cult movie "Barbarian Queen." He said he hoped Corman would come to see the play.
"So the real reason you cast her was you were hoping Roger Corman would help your career?" asked Deputy District Attorney Pat Dixon.
"It's Hollywood," Barons said with a sheepish smile. Members of the jury laughed.
"You feel a little guilty about that, correct?" Rosen later asked him.
"I feel a little shallow because of it, yes," Barons said.
He said both he and Clarkson had turned 40 when they met. He had been diagnosed with full-blown AIDS and they had long talks about career possibilities for people their age.
"We talked about making it in Hollywood and what it took," he recalled. "She said if you don't make it by 40 in this business, you may as well give up."
He said she joked that, "If you turn 40 in this town and haven't made it, you might as well find a bridge."
Clarkson died in the foyer of the music producer's home from a shot fired into her mouth. The defense contends she pulled the trigger on the gun that killed her. They sought to paint a picture of a woman at the end of her rope because of career setbacks.
"Brentwood Blondes" opened without her a week after her death. She had been fired by Barons, who found it difficult to work with her. He said she made demands for costumes he could not afford and at one point told the cast that she and Barons had rewritten the play.
"This caused an uproar because they thought they would have to relearn their lines," he said. And the director of the play quit at one point because he didn't approve of casting Clarkson in the role.
The play was a fantasy which envisioned an afterlife in which Monroe, actress Sharon Tate and a Nicole Brown Simpson were talking about dying at the hands of others, though Monroe's real death is a probable suicide. Dixon asked Barons who the play suggests killed Monroe. "Joseph Kennedy Sr.," Barons said.
When Clarkson auditioned, Barons said, she showed up in period clothing and makeup. "I was impressed with that." He said she idolized Monroe and was excited to be playing her. But when she was told she was fired, he said she took it calmly and was gracious about it.
In the aftermath of Clarkson's death, he said, he left Hollywood and spent a year trying to sort out his reactions.
"I felt really bad. I wondered what would have happened if she stayed with the play," Barons said. "Maybe none of us would have been here."
Later, he said, he rewrote the play to include a fourth "Brentwood Blonde," Lana Clarkson.
"She told me more than once that I would write a play for her," he said sadly.
Asked if the fictional Lana Clarkson says in the play that she was killed by a famous man, Barons said, "No, because I don't know what happened." He gazed across the courtroom at Spector and said, "I don't know what happened and neither does he."
After Barons' testimony, the defense was forced to juggle its witness list. They planned to call Raul Julia Levy, the son of actor Raul Julia, who was said to be a former boyfriend of Clarkson. But prosecution arguments for time to investigate the witness' background led Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler to meet privately with prosecutors and then to delay the testimony.
He would not reveal what the prosecution told him but said to defense attorneys: "The defense could do something that will irreparably damage your case and I think you're not aware of it." He gave prosecutors until Wednesday to present whatever they find.
The defense then called David Schapiro, a TV writer who befriended Clarkson and exchanged e-mails with her. He said in the time he knew her she never got a paying role as an actress. Her e-mails to him showed desperation over money problems and said she might "tidy" her affairs and "chuck" it all. He said he thought she was being "overly dramatic."