A security guard for Joan Rivers testified Monday in Phil Spector’s murder retrial that the music producer was ejected from two of the star’s Christmas parties for brandishing a gun and declaring that all women should be shot.
Rivers’ manager, who dated Spector in the 1990s, also took the witness stand and told of being threatened by him with a gun.
Vincent Tannazzo, a retired New York City police detective who now occasionally works for Rivers, testified that Spector turned toward a woman leaving a party and said, “I ought to put a bullet in her head right now.”
He also said Spector was “ranting” and used an obscenity to describe women.
“He kept saying (the obscenity) over and over again,” Tannazzo testified. “He was out of control. He was just yelling over and over again.”
Spector is being retried on charges of murdering 40-year-old actress Lana Clarkson, who was shot through the mouth in Spector’s mansion in 2003. The jury in Spector’s first trial deadlocked last year on a 10-2 vote with the majority favoring conviction on second-degree murder.
Tannazzo testified Spector repeatedly used the word at two holiday parties a year apart and that Spector said, “They all deserve a bullet in their heads.” He said he didn’t know whether Rivers was notified of the incidents but her manager Dorothy Melvin, who was dating Spector, asked Tannazzo to eject Spector from one Christmas party.
Tannazzo described a star-studded party in which every guest was famous and he knew he had to handle problems discreetly.
“What was your concern with Mr. Spector?” Deputy District Attorney Truc Do asked.
“Just getting him the hell out of there,” Tannazzo said.
Had it not been for Spector’s fame, Tannazzo said, he might not have remembered the incident at all.
“It wasn’t just the average person saying it,” he testified. “It was Phil Spector saying it. I knew who he was. I was familiar with his work. I couldn’t believe it, but those were the words coming out of his mouth.”
Defense attorney Doron Weinberg attacked Tannazzo’s account, saying Tannazzo changed the dates he had given for the incidents when he testified at Spector’s trial last year.
Tannazzo said he couldn’t remember what years that the parties occurred. He said he worked for Rivers for seven or eight years and still does occasional work for the TV personality.
Melvin, one of five women set to testify about Spector’s past, repeated a harrowing story she told last year of Spector threatening her with guns at his Pasadena home in 1993. She said they had been dating on and off when he invited her to visit.
“He was playing the piano. He showed me some of his memorabilia, notably John Lennon’s guitar,” she recalled. “I had a very nice time.”
But she said he began drinking, then disappeared for a time and she fell asleep. When she awoke, she said, he was outside pointing a gun at her car and when she protested, he smacked her in the face with the gun, refused to return her purse and she fled in her car with him chasing her down the driveway with a shotgun.
Melvin said she called police for help getting her purse back because “I had my passport, Joan Rivers’ passport and a couple of thousand dollars in cash.”
She said Spector charmed the policemen with “rock ’n’ roll stories” and insisted he didn’t have the purse. After a sergeant arrived, she said, Spector was briefly handcuffed and police found her purse in the house. But she never pressed charges.
“He’s Phil Spector, music legend, and I’m Joan Rivers’ manager. I really don’t like publicity and there would have been publicity because of Joan Rivers’ name,” she said.
Do tried to get her to corroborate Tannazzo’s testimony about the Christmas parties but was stopped by defense objections of unfair surprise because Melvin had not testified about that in the first trial. The judge ordered a hearing on the issue for Tuesday morning.
For the second time during the retrial, Weinberg called for a mistrial, saying that the prosecution’s focus on incidents in Spector’s past had turned the trial into a character assassination rather than an examination of the facts.
He said Spector should not be judged on five incidents occurring over more than 30 years.
But Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler said he was allowing the women’s testimony “for a very limited purpose,” which he would explain to jurors later.