Thursday, February 5, 2015



2013 mugshot, California State of Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Legendary record producer and arranger Phil Spector is 75 years old and a far cry from the flamboyant, larger-than-life persona with which he carried himself since he produced his first hit at the age of 17.

He is currently doing 19 years-life in a California state prison for the murder of D-list House of Blues hostess and aspiring superstar, the leggy blond Lana Clarkson, "star" of several B-list movies and small roles, who died of an inflicted gunshot wound to the face in Spector's Alhambra, CA castle in 2003. The gist of the case was whether or not Clarkson committed suicide, shot herself accidentally while intoxicated, or if Spector had shot her dead.

Phil Spector has both the past of a musical genius and that of a cold-blooded killer. He has the reputation of being the creator of what's called "The Wall of Sound," a largely orchestral undertone with echoed vocals to the pop songs he wrote and produced. His studio techniques turned ordinary tracks into the extraordinary. Most recently, a song he produced, The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," was named the single with the most airplay in the 20th Century. Not only did he amplify the careers of the girl groups in the early to mid-60's; he also produced The Beatles' "Let It Be," John Lennon's "Imagine" album, "The Concert for Bangladesh," and George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" LP. He also produced a record for The Ramones. After winning several professional "legend" accolades in the 1990's, he seemingly disappeared into his Alhambra, CA castle and made few public appearances formally, other than to see and be seen at Hollywood hot spots. Clearly, he did not want to be forgotten.

While several women came forth to the grand jury claiming Spector had brandished a weapon in front of them and had a history of violence and abuse, none of them had filed a police report against Spector, including his ex-wife, Ronnie Spector, or his children (adopted or biological). Spector went so far as to film himself in a short video clip offering a check for $100,000 to anyone who was willing to take a polygraph test regarding his history of violence. Nobody took Spector up on his offer.

Now, if I were an aspiring singer, or an aspiring anything (Oh, Hi, Stephen Colbert!) and lived in L.A., I would make sure I put myself smack dab in the middle of Phil Spector's wigged face. That was Clarkson's idea, as was the motive, in my opinion, of Rachelle Short. Short had moved from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles to further her singing career. Short is an attractive, youthful, blond Barbie-doll type. Well, just like every other woman in Los Angeles.

The first trial of Spector for murdering Clarkson resulted in a hung jury. Due to a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo I don't fully understand, essentially the judge in the original trial, while attempting to "clarify" some blood splatters on Spector's clothing the night of the murder/accident to a witness, effectively made himself a witness in the second murder trial. This was the first time such a circumstance had occurred in California, and there was no prior precedence with which to refute the judge's little boo boo. Naturally, the prosecution used the judge's influence to corroborate their case against Spector the second time around. Physical evidence was muddied and unclear. Testimony on either side was confounding. After deliberation, however, Spector was found guilty of second-degree murder.

Honestly, I don't know how I feel about the whole trial and conviction. Phil Spector is and always has been ONE. STRANGE. DUDE. Then again, a lot of geniuses are. I'd never make it on the jury because I'm too biased towards his musical talent versus his accused violent predatory reputation. I sympathize with the loss within the Clarkson family, though I don't know what the real story is, chiefly because I'm not sure Phil Spector even knows what really went down.

In an interview conducted in 2013 on Katie Couric's show, Rachelle, who met Spector while she was in her 20's, claims to have had no idea who Spector was when they met. I'm sorry, but I'm calling bullshit on that. I knew what the "Wall of Sound" was and who the Ronettes were, and his production value on Harrison's and Lennon's work when I was around 14 years old, because it was fascinating to anyone interested in musicology. My theory is that if one wants to make it in the music business as a legitimate singer/artist in Hollywood, YOU BLOODY WELL KNOW WHO IS PHIL SPECTOR. Her claim is as difficult to believe as that of Heather Mills, Paul McCartney's one-legged, landmine- dodging second wife, who insisted she had never heard of The Beatles.

Let's suspend our disbelief for just a second and assume Rachelle Short was as dingy as she has made herself out to be:

Rachelle: "Who's that guy that everyone is gathering around and buying drinks for?"
Random Person: "That's Phil Spector!"
Rachelle: "Who is Phil Spector?"
Random Person: "Only the most successful, influential, legendary pop producer who ever came out of the the record business."
Rachelle: "Oh, okay! I'm clueless and have never heard of him before!"
Random Person: "You should go introduce yourself to him."
Rachelle: "Oh, okay!"
Random Person: "He might be able to help you get a deal..."
[Rachelle hikes up her skirt, tousles her hair sexily and toodles over with a drink and a huge smile.]

Short became the assistant to Spector's assistant (that's a lot of assistants...I'll apply to be the assistant to the assistant who tailors Stephen Colbert's suit jackets, even though I can't thread a needle...essentially the same principle with Rachelle) after meeting him in a restaurant where she was a waitress (shock!), "fell in love" with him, and the two were married, after "dating" for 3 years, in the same Alhambra castle where the murder/accident took place, in 2006. That, in and of itself, is creepy. Her claim was that they chose to marry in the same property where they were trying to "build a life together," regardless if a heinous act/accident occurred in the castle. (Yes, he constantly refers to it as a castle, probably rightfully so, because the guy has like a zillion dollars. But seriously, people, DO something about that maroon carpeting. It's hideous.)  Soon thereafter, Rachelle (while Spector was on trial, which Rachelle claimed she only found out after a Google search on Phil) was granted full control over Spector's business affairs. Zing!

I would've taken the $100k and I don't even know the guy! After all, he never came after ME with a gun!

Rachelle, in the Couric interview, says that she got a pilot's license in order to quicken the 3.5 hour drive from the castle to the correctional facility, where she says she would go every Sunday to spend 5-6 hours with Spector and said he's the warmest, kindest, most gentle, funniest, wittiest man on earth. As of 2014, Spector was no longer in the general population of the prison and certainly, if I were him, I would have spent gobs of dinero on finding fellow inmates to protect me. As of the last news reports, he was being indefinitely held in the prison's hospital ward due to the fact that it's suspected he has Parkinson's Disease, and at present, cannot speak due to polyps on his vocal chords. His health seems to be rapidly deteriorating in prison and he won't be eligible for parole until he is 88 years old. I'd bet $100,000 he won't make it that long.

Rachelle, meanwhile, isn't exactly succeeding at her musical career without the external production assistance of her husband. She told Couric she firmly stands by him, and had for the last 10 years. While Couric purported that Mrs. Spector had been labeled a "gold digger" (shock!), the missus insists she could have bailed years ago (at the time of the interview, she was approximately 33 years old) but, instead, chose to stand by Spector throughout the trial and the aftermath. That said, it is difficult for me to *not* speculate that there is something in what HAD to be a pre-nuptial agreement which pledges that Rachelle would need to remain married to Spector for a certain number of years in order to maintain her status as his business manager or to be entitled to a portion of his estate should he pass away in prison or otherwise. Come on. In order for me to collect a portion of my ex-husband's Social Security when we're old, I had to have been married to him for at least 10 years. (We scraped by. We were married for 11 years.) 

Out of morbid curiosity and my bullshit radar, I chose to follow Rachelle on social media. Oh, she has a pilot's license. And a nice, big plane. (Which I'm sure she paid for out of her own pocket, mmm hmmm.) I cannot re-post any of her photographs with said plane or the exotic places where she has traveled, because she copyrighted all of them. (Or rather, her attorney told her to.) Here's my beef: after scrolling through her Instagram, I find it incredibly hard to believe that she makes it back to the Cali correctional facility every Sunday to visit her OLD man after shooting pictures of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or meeting Barry Gordy in London, who we can only assume she's never heard of either.

From her comments, she's having a REALLY great time enjoying her life and freedom, while Spector rots in prison. She prides herself on expensive hobbies and baubles, but none of the Instagram comments ask "How's Phil?" or "Have you seen him recently?" I'm sure if I inquired about the status of their relationship, I'd get reported on the site for abusive comments and blocked from her account. Point being, Mrs. Spector (the 4th or 5th) would be back to waitressing if it not for "sticking by her innocent husband and fighting tirelessly on an appeal for his murder conviction." 

I will say, however, that I do not trust Rachelle Spector as far as I can throw her. While Phil might definitely harbor the gentle, loving nature she says he has, my guess is that there are 100 musicians with whom he worked over the years who would have a different characterization of the man. "No one knows him like I do," Rachelle says. Sweetheart, no.

(And for the record, no, I did not see the Al Pacino cable film loosely based on the case.)

As counselors, it is not our job to judge an offender's guilt or innocence. If Spector committed this crime, the most I would be able to do is empathize with him (especially if his health is rapidly failing) and try to understand the motive behind it and perhaps what led up to his penchant for violence and weaponry far back into his youth. To find out if he, himself, was abused before he even realized it. He may have harbored fright and anger for years of an unknown origin without extensive psychotherapy. Or maybe he's just a psychopath with a lot of musical talent. I don't know. Above all else, he is a human being, and I believe there is good in all of us somewhere deep down.

Rachelle Spector, ok, she is a gold digger.

Yet, as he pays for this crime in a prison, my personal choice is to respect and remember the good work that he DID do. The ingenious methodology and follow-through he perfected to make golden pop and rock music. Definitely one-of-a-kind.

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