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Postscript: With a Bullet

Two years after writing about Phil Spector and the murder of Lana Clarkson for this magazine, Joe Domanick answers our questions about the trial that gripped the city

In court testimony, we heard several reports about Spector’s proclivity for brandishing guns at women. When you were reporting on Spector, what seemed like the most consistent observation people close to him would make about the man?
That Phil was crazy. The old adage is "mentally unstable"—Phil was literally chemically unstable, a self-described “manic-depressive and psychotic,” “unable,” for years, as he put it, “to function as a regular part of society.” He suffered from chronic insomnia and from “devils inside that fight me,” and grew up dominated by his overweening mother and sister, who smothered him with love while treating him like a pet poodle on a very short leash. Consequently, what would set him off was some serious drinking followed by any hint of rejection by a woman he was even remotely attracted to. If rape is a form of domination and humiliation more than a sexual act, then mental rape was what Phil was engaged in when he reached for a gun and terrorized women who had often inadvertently offended him.

Spector developed a reputation for being obsessed with guns. Was that a trait that developed later in his life or was it there back when he was in his prime as well?
Even back in the luminous years of big-time success he allegedly pulled guns in the recording studio on Stevie Wonder, Dee Dee Ramone, and Leonard Cohen, and fired a round into the air while producing John Lennon. Then there were seven to eight different women whom he threatened with guns. 

How old was Spector when his father killed himself?
Eight years old. He committed suicide by running a hose attached to the tailpipe of his car, closing the windows, and breathing in the fumes.

Wasn’t Spector’s sister hospitalized for mental illness?
Yes, she was. These things sometimes run in the family. So much of character and behavior is biochemical. 

Lana Clarkson was killed six years ago. Why did it take so long to resolve the case?
For Phil Spector, even more than for most of us, doing time was inconceivable. He’d been living the life of a rich, spoiled, domineering, and uncompromising man-child since his early twenties—allowing nobody, as they say, to tell him shit. Hence, he absolutely refused to enter into a plea deal if prison time was involved. And who could blame him? When you’re in your mid-to-late sixties, you don’t have six or seven years left to spend in prison. The guy was not, after all, a young Christian Brando. The D.A., meanwhile, knew that the crime, and the public, demanded that he do some time, but also feared that exactly what happened would happen: Phil would get the best defense money could buy and get an acquittal (Remember O.J.? Remember Robert Blake?), or get the next best thing, a hung jury or two. The second time around, the jury forewoman actually cried at the press conference following the guilty verdict of a guy who caused an innocent woman to die by sticking a loaded gun in her mouth. That’s what a rich celebrity defense can do with an L.A. jury.

Photo-illustrations by Sean McCabe

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