LOS ANGELES – Actress Lana Clarkson chased Hollywood fame but found only rejection in her later years, a playwright who hired and fired her just before her death testified in Phil Spector's murder trial.
"Lana's career was everything to her," said John Barons. "Fame was the same thing. That was her goal."
Barons, who cast her as Marilyn Monroe in a play but dumped her before it opened, said he felt Clarkson was a competent actress but that her focus was not on the craft of acting.
"Her main motivation was to be known," Barons testified Tuesday. "It's not like she wanted to be in Dostoyevsky and that she wanted to do Shakespeare ... or even Tennessee Williams. The passion was more to be a famous actress," he said.
Barons agreed with defense attorney Roger Rosen that Clarkson was "not the brilliant actor."
He was called by defense attorneys for Spector, who is accused of shooting Clarkson to death on Feb. 3, 2003. Spector, 67, rose to fame in the 1960s with a recording technique known as the "Wall of Sound."
Barons, who cast Clarkson in his play, "Brentwood Blondes," told a typical Hollywood tale of actors in conflict with writers, directors and each other on a project that would not pay anyone much. He said Clarkson would have received $5 a performance but would have earned credits toward her Actors Equity card, which would have opened doors for her.
Everyone involved, he suggested, was looking for the big break.
The playwright said he had his own ulterior motives when he hired Clarkson — to draw attention to his play through her friendship with B-movie producer Roger Corman, who had cast her as the star of the 1980s cult movie "Barbarian Queen." He said he hoped Corman would come to see the play.
Barons said both he and Clarkson had turned 40 when they met. He had been diagnosed with AIDS and they had long talks about career possibilities for people their age.
"We talked about making it in Hollywood and what it took," he recalled. "She said if you don't make it by 40 in this business, you may as well give up."
He said she joked that "If you turn 40 in this town and haven't made it, you might as well find a bridge."
Clarkson was 40 when she died in the foyer of the music producer's home from a shot fired into her mouth. The defense contends she pulled the trigger on the gun that killed her. They sought to paint a picture of a woman at the end of her rope because of career setbacks.
Barons said he found it difficult to work with Clarkson because she made demands for costumes he could not afford and at one point told the cast that she and Barons had rewritten the play.
When Clarkson auditioned, Barons said, she showed up in period clothing and makeup. "I was impressed with that." He said she idolized Monroe and was excited to be playing her. But when she was told she was fired, he said she took it calmly and was gracious about it.
In the aftermath of Clarkson's death, he said, he left Hollywood and spent a year trying to sort out his reactions.
"I felt really bad. I wondered what would have happened if she stayed with the play," Barons said. "Maybe none of us would have been here."