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Director denies snubbing actress

Times Staff Writer

Filmmaker Michael Bay on Monday denied snubbing Lana Clarkson at a Hollywood party weeks before her death -- an incident the defense has suggested wounded the pride of the statuesque, blond actress so deeply, it helped push her to suicide.

Bay’s testimony came as Phil Spector’s murder trial headed into the final lap with the prosecution presenting its last three rebuttal witnesses. The stage was set for a trip Thursday to Spector’s Alhambra mansion, where jurors will get a chance to view the scene of Clarkson’s Feb. 3, 2003, shooting death.

As it has on many days since the trial began April 25, testimony centered on Clarkson’s career and her state of mind in the days before she accompanied Spector -- the legendary producer of music for the Beatles, Righteous Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner -- home from the House of Blues.

Spector’s lawyers say that Clarkson, facing a fading career and financial troubles, killed herself. Spector’s chauffeur testified that after the gunshot, the producer appeared holding a handgun and said, “I think I killed somebody.”

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Bay was called to rebut testimony from defense witness Punkin Pie Laughlin, a nightclub promoter and friend of Clarkson’s, who told the jury last month that the 40-year-old cult actress was so fragile she broke into tears when the director did not recognize her at the party.

Bay said he had cast Clarkson for a commercial he made for Mercedes-Benz nearly 10 years ago. She auditioned many times, and Bay said he saw her at parties “over the years.” He said she was one of the few actresses who would send him presents at Christmas.

“You would recognize Lana because she was funny, she was vivacious,” Bay said. “She was hard to miss.”

Bay said it would have been “a huge event” if he had seen Clarkson so close to her death, and he would have remembered it.

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“She was funny, she was saucy, she had no qualms coming right up to someone,” Bay testified. He said if he had snubbed her at the party, she probably would have slapped him on the face.

Bay, who directed “Armageddon” and “Pearl Harbor,” appeared cool and collected as he fended off a flurry of questions from Bradley Brunon, one of Spector’s attorneys. When Bay could not provide the date of the party, Brunon walked the director through a set of alternative days of the month. Bay said he found it difficult to respond.

“You could try answering the question,” Brunon said.

Under questioning by prosecutor Alan Jackson, Bay was adamant that his memory was accurate. “I did not have contact with Lana,” he said. “She did not have contact with me.”

john.spano@latimes.com


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