Spector's Night: a Quiet Meal, a $500 Tip

Times Staff Writers

In the hours before he allegedly killed a woman in his hilltop mansion, record producer Phil Spector visited a music club, had a post-midnight snack and left a $500 tip on a $55 tab -- none of which seems to have been particularly out of the ordinary, according to those who saw him.

"He is always very generous with the help," said Dan Tana, whose West Hollywood restaurant has long been a popular hangout for celebrities. Tana said Spector turned up between 12:30 and 1 a.m. Monday, had a quiet meal with another woman and left at 2 a.m. after shelling out the over-the-top gratuity.

Three hours later, police say, actress Lana Clarkson was fatally shot in the face in the foyer of Spector's faux castle in Alhambra. The producer, known for a string of 1960s pop hits that included "Be My Baby" and "Da Doo Ron Ron," was arrested on suspicion of murder and is expected to be formally charged Friday or early next week.

The 1926 mansion, known as the "Pyrenes Castle," was turned back over to Spector late Tuesday after an intensive investigation by Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators, Sheriff's Capt. Frank Merriman said Wednesday. Detectives retrieved a handgun believed to have been the murder weapon, and gathered other evidence. But they still have not fully accounted for the sequence of events leading up to the shooting, Merriman said.

Spector is known to have visited the House of Blues, the Sunset Strip club where Clarkson worked as a hostess. Employees saw her leave with him in his chauffeur-driven black Mercedes S430 when her shift ended about 2:30 a.m. But it is not clear whether Spector had been at the club earlier in the evening, when three metal bands were playing.

Before picking up Clarkson, Spector had been at Dan Tana's with the other woman, identified as a waitress at a Beverly Hills restaurant.

"They arrived together, and it looked like a date," said another customer, talent manager Martin DeLuca. "They were talking and laughing. It was a very quiet dinner. There was no arguing."

Spector and the woman shared salads and drank cocktails, and the woman pulled out a folder, which she showed the producer, DeLuca said.

Tana said Spector is a regular at the restaurant, and requested his usual spot, table No. 4, which is farthest from the entrance. The couple were in good spirits and "well-behaved," he said.

Among the mysteries still facing investigators are when Spector met Clarkson; what he was doing before his visit to Dan Tana's; and what occurred between 2:30 a.m., when he left the House of Blues with Clarkson, and about 5 a.m., when she was shot.

Spector was freed Monday evening on $1 million bail. His whereabouts since then have not been disclosed. His attorney, Robert Shapiro, best known as a member of O.J. Simpson's defense team, did not return repeated telephone messages seeking comment. An assistant said Shapiro would not discuss the case publicly for the time being.

Los Angeles County coroner's officials said an autopsy on the 40-year-old actress had been conducted, but they declined to state the findings. Craig Harvey, a coroner's spokesman, said the office was conducting further tests.

Alhambra police officers found Clarkson's body on the floor of Spector's foyer after being alerted to the shooting by the producer's driver, who was outside. Spector, according to investigators, was standing in the foyer when officers arrived.

Spector resisted arrest, forcing the officers to use a nonlethal weapon to restrain him, a law enforcement source said. He was taken to the hospital later that day.

Investigators say Clarkson and Spector were alone in the house at the time of the fatal shooting.

Sheriff Lee Baca said his investigators are conducting a thorough investigation, with another celebrity murder case in the back of their minds. In the O.J. Simpson case, he said, "We all learned ... just how important the chain of evidence and gathering of evidence can be."

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