Saturday, March 24, 2007

Lana Clarkson

Guest poster Brad Slaight is a respected Hollywood director, writer, actor, comic and producer. I also think of him as a good friend.

Here is his loving tribute to a friend and fellow actor.

It has been four years since Lana Clarkson died. The media circus is pitching a tent for yet another three-ring celebrity trial here in Hollywood. I think the evidence, Phil Spector’s ever changing psychotic hair and the fact that he told police that he shot her, should be enough to convict. Let’s hope the twelve jurors will not go the way of the jurors in the OJ, MJ, and RB trials. Let’s hope this time they get it right.

The millions of spectators who get caught up in the frenzy of this latest trial will only know Lana Clarkson as a blonde actress who was murdered. But to the many people that had the privilege of knowing her on a personal level, she was so much more. A multi-talented artist, gifted comedian, free spirit and caring friend, this B movie queen was definitely an A+ person.

I first met Lana at the L.A. Cabaret Comedy Club in Encino (now a Bagel Nosh, which I predict will be the fate of most comedy clubs in the future). My first impression of her was the same as most people who met this tornado of talent for the first time, “Wow!” She was six foot tall, blonde, charismatic and Cover Girl gorgeous. Lana was looking for someone to help her with new material for her standup act and the club’s manager introduced her to me.

The first writing session took place in Brentwood at an upscale condo that belonged to a friend she was house sitting for. Our thirty minute meeting turned into several hours. Never before had I worked with someone who was so prepared and had such a clear vision of what she wanted to do. Lana was, in a word, professional. By the end of the session I felt that we had known each other for a lifetime. Over the next few years we would meet from time to time to work on our acts, discuss new project ideas, or just hang out.

I know many actors in this town but Lana was one of the few I’ve ever met who could truly be called a 'working actor.' She was always working on some project – stage plays, commercials, television and movie roles. At one point I hooked her up with my commercial agency “The Flytrap” (great boutique agency, terrible name, now out of business) and she quickly started booking more commercial work than I did.

Lana also had quite a fan base from her Roger Corman days where she starred in many movies, including the title role in Barbarian Queen and Barbarian Queen II. Those movies earned her the title of ‘B Movie Queen’ which she used to great effect in her standup act. I used to joke with Lana that she was entering the ‘Jessica period’ in her Hollywood career. That period for an actress was when they hit Jessica Lange’s age they didn’t work again until they looked like Jessica Tandy. Lana knew the clock was ticking and the days of playing young and sexy were ending. However in Lana’s case it wasn’t an end, it was a transition. She truly was much more than just a proverbial pretty face. Lana had talent plus.

The picture you see above was the cover art from one of the last projects that Lana worked on. I remember going over to her new digs in Venice, a picture postcard cottage on the banks of the canals off the Pacific Ocean and listening as she excitedly told me about her latest idea. It was a mostly one woman show, on film, featuring characters and sketches. It would showcase her considerable talents as a comedic actress and she would play a variety of original characters. Lana had written the script and asked me to help punch it up but there wasn’t much punching to do as the writing was clever and resounded with a unique voice. She wanted the cover art to lampoon her B Movie Queen past and look like a movie poster. I pitched several titles: Lana Unplugged, Lana Unbound and finally Lana Unleashed. On the last one she lit up like a Klieg light at a movie premiere. With a funny Scottish brogue she shouted, loud enough to get the ducks in the canal quacking, “Brrrrradley, that’s it…that’s what I’m doing…unleashing myself!” After that, the Too Tall, Too Talented, Too Bad! followed and the cover was born.

When she sent me the finished product I was amazed at how good it was. I was even more impressed that she wrote it, directed it, produced it and starred in it. If she were alive today I have no doubt that she would be working more than ever in an industry she loved so much.

Something that will be at the forefront of the trial is that, allegedly, Phil Spector told Alhambra police that fateful night that "I didn't mean to shoot her. It was an accident. I have an explanation for this." Later, in an e-mail to friends, he called her death an "accidental suicide" - whatever the hell that oxymoron means. I'd bet the farm that if you asked anyone who ever really knew Lana, they would tell you that the charge of her committing suicide is simply ridiculous.

I'm not going to watch the circus of a trial. Instead, I'm going to watch the film she worked so hard on and remember the talented, funny and generous Lana Clarkson.

Those who would like to know more about Lana Clarkson can go to her family maintained website.

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  1. What a beautiful tribute. Thanks for helping us know more about who Lana Clarkson was, besides how the media portrays her.
    Phil Spector seems like a real freak.

  2. Anonymous8:21 PM

    Loved the tribute. It was well written and heartfelt. Ms. Clarkson was lucky to have a friend like you. Thanks for the insights.

    I love your cable TV show.

  3. Anonymous5:35 PM

    This is really touching. I had heard so little about her. She was incredibly beautiful, and he's likely guilty. (And in the photos I've seen of him recently, he's more freaky looking than ever.) I hope her family gets the justice they deserve.

  4. Anonymous6:38 PM

    I didn't know Lana but I feel now that I do. Thanks for posting this. You're right the media will make a circus out of this because they always do. Maybe this time justice will prevail. But it's still going to be a circus.

  5. Anonymous9:28 AM

    Like Mr. Slaight, I also knew Lana. She was always available to join in another project you might be working on, bringing her lovely presence and wit to anything you could throw at her. I was producing a play at the close of the 1990's and my lead actress decided she didn't want to act anymore. Lana stepped up and was ready to take over IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RUN. The amount of rehearsal time needed prevented us from continuing the run, but I wish I'd had the chance to work with her once again. She and I appeared on television together on two occasions, and whenever she was performing, either in a play or on a comedy stage, I would go see her. Likewise, she would join me and my friends in return.
    Phil Spector's defense will argue that she was the victim of an "accidental suicide." With sincere respect to the families of Freddie Prinze, 30's crooner Russ Columbo and others who fell into the accidental self-shooting category, to me, an "accidental suicide" is when you misdial Pizza Man and thirty minutes later, Dr. Kevorkian shows up at your door. In other words, I'm not buying the defense's story and hopefully, neither will the jury.

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