Published May 16, 2003
It seems like all quiet on the front for eccentric record producer Phil Spector in the matter of Lana Clarkson's murder. But things aren't always what they seem.
Clarkson, 41, was found murdered in Spector's Alhambra, Calif., mansion back on Feb. 3. Spector, known for waving guns around, was subsequently released on $1 million bail. But since then, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department has remained mum on the case. A planned arraignment for March 3 was skipped, and now August 1 has been set has the due date.
In the interim, Spector has journeyed to New York and dined with friends. He also issued an e-mail to friends declaring himself cleared by the police -- an utter hallucination. His side -- defense attorney Robert Shapiro and matrimonial lawyer Marvin Mitchelson, who are close friends as well -- maintains that Spector will be found innocent, that somehow Clarkson died in his home of her own accord. Stories circulated to the press have appeared to make Clarkson, a widely liked woman regarded as generous and plucky by her friends, as a call girl, a Hollywood floozy, and worse. None of them have panned out. One story, which claimed Clarkson shot herself, was also dismissed.
But wait: I am told that Clarkson's family is not amused by recent claims against Lana's character, and will be responding shortly. Like Ronald Goldman (search) and Nicole Brown's (search) families nine years ago, the Clarksons await Los Angeles's peculiar form of justice, which usually includes celebrity suspects doing talk shows while crimes against "civilians" go unsolved or unpunished. And even though the Clarksons wait so far, according to my sources, neither the police nor prosecutors have told them about anything about the case's status or progress. It sounds like we may be ready for a new version of the "Dancing Ito's."
The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department did return calls.
She only has to point to the letters now on Wheel of Fortune -- no more turning the suckers -- but Vanna White is still missing a noun: boyfriend.
She's in New York this week hanging out with Kathy Hilton, the dishy mom of the twitty Nikki and Paris we are forced to read so much about. Two nights ago, Vanna was complaining that she wasn't meeting any men. Then, voila! the two pals were invited to an odd little lunch at Le Cirque.
The lunch, the fourth of its kind, is put together by PR maven Peggy Siegal to promote Jim Cramer and Larry Kudlow's show on CNBC. Siegal invites all sorts of hot shots in journalism and business -- tastemakers -- and they come chow down on Sirio Maccione's delicious vitals and exchange thoughts on various important subjects.
At yesterday's lunch, there was Vanna, who's also in town to present a film of great moments in game show history at the Daytime Emmy awards tonight. She's a hot 46 years old, has two kids and was married to some designer whose clothes you can't really buy in a normal store. They're divorced. Vanna's longest relationship is with Pat Sajak. So there.
"Vanna's looking for men," came the report, and she had a lot to choose from, although none of them were really famous in the way Vanna or Pat is. Sitting at our table was John Huey, the editorial director of Time and a frequent character in The New York Post media column. Jonathan Alter was there, from Newsweek, and so too was Katrina vanden Heuvel, who edits The Nation.
I did feel a little like a Fox (capital F) in the henhouse since Kudlow & Cramer is on another cable network. The pair spoke after lunch, although not much of what they said made much sense to me. I'm not sure if they thought the war was or was not motivated by oil interests. I did find out that John Huey is a John Hiatt fan, which is very hip. Now I want to read Time.
As for Vanna: her kids, she insists, don't care about her on Wheel of Fortune. "I made an infomercial and then suddenly they were like, 'Mom, you're on TV!'" Vanna said. And if you're worried that she might not be on the Wheel much longer, take heart. White has just signed a new five-year contract.
Yes, music makes strange collaborators sometimes. After all, Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach made an album together. Now Burt's ex-wife has found her own Elvis.
Carole Bayer Sager -- the lyricist who has collaborated on hits like "Theme from Arthur," "Nobody Does it Better" and 'That's What Friends Are For' -- is writing songs with Donald Fagen of Steely Dan fame.
It takes a minute to absorb. But it's true. Carole -- who was often mistaken for Joan Collins by paparazzi at The Matrix Reloaded premiere in New York -- told me herself. The story goes that she and Carly Simon have been working together on some new songs for Carly's next album. Simon, of course, had a big hit with "Nobody Does it Better," which Sager wrote with Marvin Hamlisch.
"Carly said, 'You should meet my friend Libby. She's married to Donald Fagen.'" Libby is Libby Titus, who has children with Levon Helm of The Band. A few phone calls later, Carole was reeling in the years, helping Fagen write lyrics for a solo album. That album will follow the new Steely Dan record, called Everything Must Go, which comes out on June 10.
Bayer Sager should prove an interesting collaborator for Fagen, whose solo albums contain obscure, impenetrable science fiction lyrics with meanings that seem hidden and often are -- to him. As a devout fan, I can only say: bring it on!
Meanwhile, you can see a couple of cool short films Fagen and Walter Becker have put together to promote Everything Must Go at www.steelydan.com.
I thought I'd do an item about Andy and Larry Wachowski, the Chicago brothers who wrote and directed The Matrix movies. Only one problem: They don't give interviews. Ever since their breakthrough script, for the movie Bound in 1996, they've gone under the radar.
Do they have families? I am told they are each married. They have at least one sister, whose first initial is J. She worked in some capacity on Bound.
They have parents, for whom -- legend persists -- they built a house. The Wachowski's did not graduate from college. Instead they went to work writing for comic books. "When you read the script for Bound, you knew they could direct," says Stuart Boros, who produced the movie.
What are they like? "Andy is more shy than Larry," said Boros. They have been compared to the Coen Brothers, and to Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan.
"I've never seen them disagree," added Boros. "They're down to earth. They have unbelievable photographic memories too."
On set, the pair is "demanding, but in a good sense," he said. "They're not outgoing. And they don't care about the publicity. It's all about the work."
Before their produced film, the Wachowski's had at least two other projects, one called Carnivore and another, Plastic Man.
Maybe you've heard about the big uproar over the 27-year-old New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, who, it turns out, was making up all the stuff in his stories. When the Times discovered how much damage he'd done, they iced him and ran mea culpas in the paper. Two days ago the whole staff had to meet in a gigantic movie theatre on West 44th Street to be reassured the place isn't going to hell in a handbasket.
Blair, meantime, is said to be courting $1 million offers for his memoirs. Later this year, another faker, Stephen Glass, will be the subject of a feature film. What's going on? I mean, personally I don't have the imagination to make up the stuff in this column.
The problem is youth: the people in charge covet it from their staffs, and the young people use their ignorance as a weapon of sorts. No one knows anything, and everyone is proud of it. The other day, in the Post, Keith Kelly got a great quote from the new editor of GQ about his new 27-year-old hire, Brian Raftery, a correspondent for Entertainment Weekly. "He's a pop culture vulture," said GQ editor Jim Nelson. "I think he's seen every movie made since 1986."
I shouldn't ruin this with a comment, but really? All the way back to 1986? Now that's something I know I couldn't have made up.
I just wanted to make note of a couple of famous faces who've checked out recently. Robert Stack was 84 and probably best known to the current TV audience as host of Unsolved Mysteries. But Stack had a four star career in Hollywood, from The Untouchables to Airplane. He will be missed.
And June Carter Cash, the wife of Johnny Cash, died yesterday at 73. She and her family group, the Carter Family, invented the country music sound and lifestyle. Another legend goes, a little too soon ...