Phil Spector, the influential but erratic rock 'n' roll producer best known for his layered "Wall of Sound" recording technique, was arrested on suspicion of murder early Monday after an actress was found shot to death at his hilltop mansion in Alhambra.
Police said they were called to the gated estate about 5 a.m. by a limousine driver who reported hearing shots fired after he dropped off the couple in Spector's Mercedes-Benz.
Officers arrived to find the body of a woman identified as Lana Clarkson, 40, of Los Angeles, an actress who attracted a cult following from her roles in films by director Roger Corman, and has appeared widely in TV programs and commercials. Her body was sprawled in the marble foyer, Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators said.
FOR THE RECORD:
This article, published Feb. 4, 2003, misidentified a source of information. The article said that Bob Merlis, a music publicist, told The Times about Spector's ex-wife and her employment status. That information in fact came from a different music industry source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. —
Alhambra police immediately arrested Spector, 62, the soundboard genius behind such hits as "Be My Baby" and "You Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." He was released late Monday on $1-million bail, accompanied by his defense attorney, Robert Shapiro.
Sheriff's investigators would not describe the relationship between Clarkson and Spector. Sources said they had met the night before.
Investigators said Clarkson and Spector were the only people in the house at the time of the shooting, although other people may have been on the wooded estate, which towers improbably over a middle-class neighborhood of single-story homes.
Legendary in the music industry for his work in the 1960s and '70s with such varied artists as the Beatles, the Righteous Brothers and the Ronettes, Spector built a reputation by the 1980s as a recluse, chased behind mansion walls by personal demons, haunted by drinking and reckless behavior. Friends said they thought he had put that behind him in recent years, and expressed bewilderment at the charges.
"None of this equates," said guitarist Dave Kessel, one of Spector's closest friends. "He has been in great spirits and great shape, and feeling so good about everything. This doesn't fit into what I know about him and where he is."
Lt. Daniel Rosenberg, the sheriff's homicide detective in charge of the investigation, said investigators recovered a gun that was believed to be the murder weapon.
Although Rosenberg would not say how many times the gun was fired, one neighbor, who declined to identify herself, said she heard three or four shots.
Asked if Spector had admitted committing the crime, Rosenberg said, "No. There has not been a confession by Mr. Spector."
A large team of investigators, led by six sheriff's detectives, pored over the estate throughout the day Monday, paying special attention to the foyer, where the shooting is believed to have occurred, and the driveway, where the newly purchased black Mercedes-Benz sat facing the front gate, its driver's-side door agape.
Spector purchased the Alhambra chateau -- built with 33 rooms in 1926 by a Basque rancher and dubbed the Pyrenees Castle -- for $1.1 million in 1998. Spector commented later in Esquire magazine that he had bought "a beautiful and enchanting castle in a hick town where there is no place to go that you shouldn't go."
That derisive tone was repaid in kind Monday by some neighbors, who said their only contact with Spector was the occasional glimpse of him speeding by in a luxury car. "I just saw him driving by waving, the feudal lord to the serfs," said Lynn Browers, who lives on a street behind the Spector estate.
But Spector's move to Alhambra also appeared to reflect his desire to stay out of trouble after his wild years, when he was dogged by accusations of domestic abuse and public drunken rages.
The Ramones accused him in 1980 of brandishing a gun in the studio; singer Leonard Cohen called him a madman out of control three years earlier.
In an interview with The Times in 1991, Spector fretted that his reputation as a recluse and tales of his drinking and violence would taint his legacy, and he compared himself to a late friend, troubled comedian Lenny Bruce. "I started asking myself, 'Do they remember Lenny Bruce as the philosophical genius and great comic mind -- or do they remember him as some sick, stupid morphine addict?' "
Phil Spector Arrested in Woman's Killing
The record producer is taken into custody after actress' body is found in his Alhambra mansion.
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