LOS ANGELES – Phil Spector, the legendary record producer and a diminutive oddity in stacked heels, stared blankly into space as a jury of his peers announced that they simply could not agree on a verdict.
Spector's eyes looked like wide, glassy orbs — you got the feeling he didn't know where he was. Defense attorney Linda Kenney-Baden held on to Spector's slight 5'5" frame as each individual juror confessed ... they were at an impasse.
The judge's normally commanding presence was now tempered by a measured and solemn voice. The cover-boy face of prosecutor Alan Jackson was flush with disappointment. The jurors' body language screamed fatigue.
But soon after Judge Larry Paul Fidler (Bruce Willis should play him in a movie) declared a mistrial, the 67-year-old Spector and his wife Rachelle, a singer and trombone player 40 years his junior, danced with glee in the driveway of Spector's medieval castle.
Such was the ending to a five-month trial that spawned 74 witnesses, more than 500 exhibits and 44 hours of deliberation over 12 days. And dare we mention that it's yet another celebrity case without a victory for the Los Angeles County District Attorney.
First, a brief tutorial. On Feb. 3, 2003, Spector, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame icon allegedly in a state of inebriation, showed up at L.A.'s House of Blues and convinced the gorgeous VIP hostess Lana Clarkson to come home with him.
The towering, blond, 40-year-old beauty who had reached cult-classic film recognition as "The Barbarian Queen" had fallen on hard times and was reduced to escorting "Hollywood Somebodies" to their seats for $10 an hour. (When Clarkson was first introduced to Spector that evening, she thought the famed producer was a woman because of his tiny stature and strangely styled coif. )
Later, at Spector's estate, Clarkson died of a gunshot wound through the mouth. Prosecutors say Spector, who had a long history of pulling guns on women, caused Clarkson's death. Defense attorneys argue she committed suicide.
Now, back to the present. The daily cluster of trial journalists leaped with anticipation when the jury buzzed twice late Wednesday morning. The "double buzz" was an indication that they had something to say to the court. Most of the veteran trial reporters had a strong instinct that the nine-man, three-woman panel was hung in spite of the fact that they had clearly become friends through the course of the trial.
Each day we would catch a quick glimpse of the group as they marched into the jury room to begin deliberations. They often brought boxes of pastries and decanters of coffee to share as they pored over the mounds of evidence. They often left at the end of the day smiling and laughing.
The jurors were a profoundly eclectic mix that included a woman married to a convicted murderer. She stated on the jury questionnaire that "justice was done" in the O.J. Simpson murder case.
There was a former Broadway actor, a producer for the television news magazine "Dateline NBC" and a civil engineer who filled up at least 15 spiral notebooks during the presentation of the case (he was also the youngest member of the jury and the jury foreperson).
In spite of the camaraderie, jurors told Judge Fidler that they were hopelessly deadlocked. Their final vote: 10-2 for conviction. District Attorney Steve Cooley vows to retry Spector.
The trial was fascinating, but the characters involved and the circumstances outside the presence of the jury were downright surreal. The Napoleonic Spector fired three famous lawyers before it was all over, including Robert Shapiro of O.J. fame, Leslie Abramson of the Menendez brothers case and Bruce Cutler of John Gotti notoriety.
At one point during the trial, Spector did an interview with a British journalist, conveying his dislike for the jury and the judge. Jurors never caught wind of the article, but His Honor was livid.
Toward the end of the case, there was a nasty Web site posting calling for the death of the "evil judge." Fingers pointed to Spector's often feisty wife, who denied any such connection to the threat (the sheriff's department is investigating).
Rachelle Short has only been married to Spector for one year, and it is reportedly a union of mutual benefit. Spector wanted to appear "normal" to the jury and Short wants a career in music.
At the courthouse, they seem joined at the hip and often dressed alike. The day the mistrial was announced, they both wore chic pinstriped suits. Him in black. Her in white. In spite of the alleged "arrangement," the two seem to have a genuine bond.
If the details surrounding Lana's death weren't sordid enough, then came Babydol Gibson — marching into court with plunging neckline and micro-mini. She's a Hustler magazine level of "attractive." Gibson is a self-professed and convicted madam who tried to sleaze up the proceedings by implying Lana was one of her escorts.
True or not, Judge Fidler essentially told Gibson to take a hike. He wouldn't allow the jury to hear any of it.
Court-watchers holding their collective breath for a real celeb got their wish the day famed director Michael Bay took the stand in August. Bay, who directed blockbusters like "Pearl Harbor" and "Transformers," had cast Clarkson 10 years ago in a car commercial. The defense tried to prove that Bay snubbed Clarkson at a party shortly before her death — contributing to Lana's state of depression. Bay testified that he didn't even see her at the party.
Spector's long-suffering children (with former wife Ronnie of the famed girl group The Ronettes) made appearances in the courtroom. When Spector was first charged with murder, two of the couple's adopted sons, Gary and Donte, recounted painful memories to the media of being locked in their rooms. One son said that when he and his brother were young, they were forced to watch and participate in bizarre sex acts with his father and others.
It must have been a bittersweet show of support, as the sons sat stoically in court on the "defendant's" side of the courtroom.
Then there was Spector himself — iconic and eccentric, and known for creating music's masterful "Wall of Sound" and producing world-famous artists like Cher, The Beatles, Ike and Tina Turner, The Ramones and Celine Dion.
If you believe in the concept that artistic genius is born out of emotional and psychological pain, Spector may be the poster child.
At nine, his father Benjamin committed suicide. His tombstone read "To Know Him Is to Love Him." Those exact words became the title of one of Spector's greatest hits.
Spector biographers say his mother Bertha tormented young Phil by blaming him for Benjamin's suicide. Spector was also ridiculed and bullied by classmates because of his strange looks and small stature.
As court-watchers passed the time waiting for the jury, many wondered aloud if Benjamin Spector's suicide instilled a sense of abandonment in Spector ... which could explain the countless allegations that he brandished or fired weapons when people wished to leave his home or studio.
If Bertha Spector really was a sadistic mother, could that explain a comment Spector was once overheard spouting at a party -- that all women should be shot in the head?
Could it have been Spector's childhood torture that prompted such musical masterpieces as "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by the Righteous Brothers? BMI says the song is the most played in the history of radio in the United States.
"Be My Baby" by The Ronettes and "River Deep-Mountain High" by Ike and Tina Turner are two more that stand the test of time. Rolling Stone magazine voted Spector the 63rd Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Artist of all time.
For all the fame and glory, Spector seems like a shell of a person now, with a frail body, trembling hands and a vacuous stare.
And to borrow from the title of a Beatles song that Spector produced, he is far from the end of "a long and winding road." Lana's mother Donna has a huge civil suit in the works against Spector, and lawyers in the criminal case will be back in court next Wednesday to discuss a retrial.
It's estimated Spector shelled out $3-5 million for his current high-profile defense team. Word around the courthouse is that the Spector team won't be making a return engagement -- not because Spector doesn't have the money, but because he is a difficult client. I spoke to a member of the defense who denies that Spector is disliked by his lawyers.
Despite what seems like dismal future, it's clear that at least for now the music has not died for Phil Spector. He is now free to dance with his wife in the driveway of his castle.