The small role of Mrs. Vargas, the wife of the school teacher in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), was filled by newcomer Lana Clarkson. She would go on to star in a few B-movies, among them Barbarian Queen in 1985, and guest star on several TV sit-coms. From all accounts she was an intelligent and understanding actress who went out of her way to treat fans with kindness and consideration. Every week she would volunteer to help ‘Project Angel Food’ deliver food to AIDS and HIV victims in Los Angeles. Her beauty saw her appear in numerous TV ads for Mercedes-Benz, Nike, Playtex and many others.
Then, in February 2003, her body was discovered at the home of record producer Phil Spector, the man who created the so-called ‘Wall of Sound’ for a number of pop singles during the 1960s, among them the Righteous Brothers hit ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ and the Ike and Tina Turner classic ‘River Deep – Mountain High’.
He had picked up the 40 year-old actress from a nightclub the previous evening. She was found next morning, shot to death in the foyer of his Alhambra home. Spector’s chauffeur testified that his employer emerged from his door at about 5 am that morning with blood on his hands and carrying a gun. ‘I think I killed somebody’, he said. Later, Spector’s attorney would refute this, but other evidence left little doubt that he had pulled the trigger.
Seven months later he was indicted for murder but later released on $1,000,000 bail. Four years farther down the track in April 2007 he was at last ordered to stand trial, the prosecution accusing the aging producer of placing a gun in his victim’s mouth and pulling the trigger. In September the first Spector trial was judged to be a mistrial when the jury could not resolve a 10-2 deadlock in favour of conviction. The second trial began in October 2008 with the prosecution repeating its earlier portrayal of the defendant as a man who repeatedly threatened women and pointed guns at them. Five women gave evidence of being so threatened by him going as far back as 1971. The defence lamely contended that Miss Clarkson had taken her own life, but the jury was unmoved. In 2009, the 70 year-old former record producer was sentenced to 19 years to life for second degree murder.