Pale, gaunt, his hands trembling, Phil Spector sits silently in a Los Angeles courtroom, a shrunken shadow of the man who revolutionized pop music 40 years ago.
On trial for the murder of a woman he barely knew, Spector stares ahead, sometimes shaking his blond page-boy mop in despair, as the eccentricities once associated with musical genius become the prosecution backdrop to a heinous crime.
With a three-month trial ahead of him, and the possibility of life imprisonment if convicted, Spector, 67, looks barely able to stay the course.
“He looks terrible. I am very concerned about his appearance. He is shaking a lot. He may be a very sick man,” said Stan Ross, the co-founder of Hollywood’s famed Gold Star Recording Studios where Spector created his innovative 1960s ”Wall of Sound” technique.
“I don’t like seeing him in this predicament. I don’t think he can handle three months,” Ross, who has known Spector for 50 years, told Reuters.
Celebrated by the music industry as one of the greatest artists of all time for producing classics such as The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin”’ and The Beatles’ “Let It Be” album, the reclusive Spector remains an enigma to the general public.
Spector, who told British reporter Mick Brown in 2002 that he had a bipolar personality and was manic depressive, denies shooting dead B-movie actress Lana Clarkson, 40, in the hall of his mock castle in February 2003.
“Spector looks pretty frail, but on the other hand he looks pretty weird,” said Stan Goldman, criminal law professor at Loyola Law School.
“He looks like someone who’s walked out of Penny Lane. He is wearing these 3-inch Cuban heels, the long overcoat jackets with the very brightly colored shirt. He looks like someone the Beatles might have talked to in the 1970s,” said Goldman.
Spector’s lawyers plan to use his frailty to bolster their argument that he did not pull the trigger on the gun that killed Clarkson.
Lawyer Linda Kenney Baden told jurors last week that Spector’s shaking hands were a side effect of medication he takes, and noted that he was only 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighed a mere 130 pounds.
Long cry from Spector's glory daysThe trial, which resumes on Monday, is a far cry from the heady 1960s when Ross recalls a serious but insecure Spector at the start of his career in Gold Star Recording Studios.
“They say genius runs strangely. He was a methodical person who had a fixation on creating sounds that he wanted and I, as the technician, was able to come up with those sounds.
“It was revolutionary because he used a big orchestra with rock and roll guitars. He used not just one piano player but three, not two guitars but four. That was what made his sound different -- it was big,” Ross said.
Ross last saw Spector about two years before his arrest, at the annual parties Spector threw for friends in Los Angeles.
“He is not a sinister person. He does not have murder in his heart. He loved everybody he worked with. They were the only friends and family he knew.
“He is talented. But when God gives someone talent sometimes he takes something away,” Ross said.