Actress Lana Clarkson had hit bottom financially, professionally and personally in the weeks before she died of a gunshot fired into her mouth, a friend testified Wednesday in Phil Spector’s murder trial.
“She was crying her eyes out,” said Jennifer Hayes-Riedl, a tall blond woman with looks reminiscent of Clarkson, who was called by the defense to support its theory that Clarkson shot herself in Spector’s mansion Feb. 3, 2003.
The witness said that during their eight-year friendship she had never seen the 40-year-old Clarkson so defeated. She said the last straw was Clarkson’s decision to take a $9-an-hour job as a hostess at the House of Blues, a job she found humiliating.
One day, she said, Clarkson came to her house to borrow clothes to wear on the job and began to sob.
“She was out of her mind depressed,” said Hayes-Riedl. “She was crying as if she’d had it. Those were her exact words. ... She said, ‘I’ve had it. I’m exhausted, I’m tired, I can’t believe I’m doing this job for nine dollars an hour. I can’t believe I’m borrowing clothes from my friends to work at a nine-dollar-an-hour job pulling out chairs for people I used to beat out for jobs. It’s horrible.”’
Spector, 67, who rose to fame in the 1960s with a recording technique known as the “Wall of Sound,” is accused of killing Clarkson after she came back to his mansion after work at the nightclub. The defense claims the actress killed herself.
Clarkson reportedly had experience with guns
Hayes-Riedl’s testimony under questioning by defense attorney Roger Rosen was a centerpiece of Spector’s case, suggesting why Clarkson might have accepted the opportunity to go home from with Spector and why she might have run out of hope and pulled the trigger.
She also told the jury that Clarkson knew how to handle guns.
“She worked on some movies where she had to use weapons and I know she had weapons training,” Hayes-Riedl said. “I’m sure she used to go shooting at the Beverly Hills Gun Club.”
And toward the end of her life, she said, Clarkson was taking prescription painkillers with alcohol, mainly tequila and champagne.
Hayes-Riedl said that when they first met in the early 1990s, Clarkson’s fame from the 1985 cult movie “Barbarian Queen” had passed. But she was pursuing her career and managed to do a number of commercials.
But Hayes-Riedl said she saw Clarkson’s normally cheerful personality deteriorate into depression after a number of setbacks, including an accident on Christmas 2000 when she broke both wrists; financial difficulties that made it difficult to pay the rent; and a breakup with a man she thought was “the one.”
She was also brusquely rejected by an entertainment agency when she tried to sell a comedy video she had made.
“She wanted to be famous more than anything,” said Hayes-Riedl. “That was her thing. She always talked about it. ... Lana really thought she was going to get that job. She never gave up hope that it was going to happen.”
But as Clarkson turned 40, she said, prospects narrowed. “Getting old was not something she was excited about,” Hayes-Riedl said.
‘Her smile could light up a room’
When prosecutor Pat Dixon asked if it was true Clarkson never gave up hope, Hayes-Riedl said, “I totally disagree with you.... She had a game face and she thought she could get parts. But she was very, very depressed.”
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to hear an appeal by one of Spector’s former attorneys who was found in contempt for refusing to tell the jury about a possible piece of evidence allegedly withheld by a defense expert.
The decision opened the door for attorney Sara Caplan to be jailed if she continues to refuse. Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler ordered her to appear in his courtroom Thursday.
Her story about the possible evidence emerged unexpectedly in hearings outside the jury’s presence. She said she saw famous forensic expert Henry Lee pick up a small white object the size of a fingernail at the scene and put it in a vial. Autopsy pictures of Clarkson show a small piece of acrylic fingernail missing from her right thumb.
Lee flew to China on a business trip Tuesday and told The Associated Press it was now unlikely he would testify in the trial.
“The bottom line is I did not take a fingernail,” Lee said in a phone interview Tuesday. “But they made it a smoke screen. A little thing became a big thing. What for?”