Monday, May 31, 2010

Phil Spector

Phil Spector graduated from Fairfax High School in Los Angeles in 1957. In Mark Ribowski's biography, He's a Rebel, the future "First Tycoon of Teen" is described as a "splendid student" who used his love of the guitar to "consolidate his intellectual and artistic impulses." Spector's high school sweetheart, Donna Kass, is quoted in Ribowski's book as saying that Spector was "...the town crier in high school, he danced, he was the cheerleader--but there was a genius about him that went beyond all that." Kass's mother thought her daughter's boyfriend was "vile looking," "crazy" and that "someday he would wind up committing suicide." Ribowski writes that, like Mrs. Kass, most neighborhood parents thought Spector was "weird,"  too.

He was a member of Fairfax High's music club, the Barons, but in the spring of 1957 he won the school's talent show contest with a solo performance of Rock Island Line. Shortly thereafter Spector and his friend Michael Lieb performed a winning rendition of In the Still of the Night on a local TV channel's (KTLA) late night music competition show, Rocket to Stardom. After graduation, but before he recorded his first hit single, Spector attended Los Angeles City College. He would practice his music at home and obsessively watch American Bandstand every afternoon. According to Ribowski, Spector would even transcribe the dialogue from the Dick Clark-hosted teen dance show onto his stenotype machine.

Decades after his chart-topping heyday, the music auteur's psychotic love affair with firearms caught up with him. On February 3, 2003, after a night of heavy drinking, he killed aspiring actress Lana Clarkson in his Alhambra, California mansion with a snub-nosed Colt Cobra revolver. Spector's sleazy defense in the matter--alleging that Clarkson had suddenly decided to commit suicide in his presence--was rejected by jurors in his second trial (jurors in the first trial deadlocked). He was convicted of second degree murder in 2009 and sentenced to nineteen years to life. He is currently serving his time at Corcoran State Prison with, among others, fellow Beatles fan, Charles Manson.

In addition to his music and the Clarkson murder, Phil Spector is known for his wigs - many of which he modeled during his trials. He also achieved something of a feat by scaring the Ramones with his bizarre behavior during the production of their 1980 "End of the Century" album. Spector's last credited music project was his fourth wife's CD, "Out of My Chelle" released in 2010.

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