Page last updated at 09:35 GMT, Tuesday, 14 April 2009 10:35 UK

Lana Clarkson: B-movie actress

Actress Lana Clarkson was found shot dead at the home of record producer Phil Spector in 2003.

Spector was charged with murdering the 40-year-old and, despite a 2007 mistrial, has been found guilty of her murder.

Lana Clarkson
Lana Clarkson wanted to be a famous actress, the trial heard

Born in 1962 in California, Lana Clarkson set her heart on making it in the tough world of Hollywood, with a dream of following in the footsteps of her idol Marilyn Monroe.

She carved out a career with small roles in American TV hits including The A-Team, Knight Rider and Who's The Boss in the 1970s and 1980s.

Her big screen debut came in Amy Heckerling's 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which starred Sean Penn and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

But it was her association with legendary low-budget movie mogul Roger Corman that really put her on the B-movie map.

She described learning about the movie world under Corman as the "boot camp" of film-making.

Clarkson in 1987 film Amazon Women on the Moon
Clarkson appeared in 1987 film Amazon Women on the Moon

Clarkson's first starring role was in the cult sci-fi movie Barbarian Queen, produced by Corman.

The 1985 film, set during the days of the Roman Empire, saw Clarkson play one of three women who survive an attack on their village and decide to exact revenge.

She reprised her role in the 1989 sequel Barbarian Queen II: The Empress Strikes Back.

Clarkson's other film roles included the spoof Amazon Women on the Moon and fantasy Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II.

In 2000, she starred as Detective Jan Cooper in Richard Gabai's Vice Girls.

She played one of a trio of sexy vice squad cops who went undercover, wearing very little, to capture a killer.

"Her main motivation was to be known," according to playwright John Barons, who hired and fired Lana Clarkson shortly before her death.

"It's not like she wanted to be in Dostoyevsky and that she wanted to do Shakespeare. The passion was more to be a famous actress."

The court watching video footage of Lana Clarkson
The court was shown video footage of Lana Clarkson

But from the early 1990s onwards, her career consisted of small roles in a handful of films and occasional TV parts.

She kept the money coming in by appearing in numerous advertising campaigns, including slots for Nike, Mercedes and US retail chain Kmart.

Clarkson was also a regular volunteer at the Aids charity Project Angel Food, which delivers food to those disabled by HIV and Aids.

But she was down on her luck when she met Phil Spector while working as a hostess at the House of Blues club on Sunset Boulevard.

"I can't believe I'm borrowing clothes from my friends to work at a $9-an-hour job pulling out chairs for people I used to beat out for jobs," she told her friend Jennifer Hayes-Riedl. "It's horrible."

Ms Hayes-Riedl told the court during the first murder trial: "Her smile could light up a room."

But underneath, she "just crumbled", she said. "She was this sad, pathetic person who didn't have hope at all."

'End of my tether'

Both trials included time spent arguing over whether Clarkson really had given up on life, and could have been capable of suicide.

She sent letters to friends and a doctor in the months leading up to her death including the phrases "I'm at the end of my rope here" and "I was at the end of my tether".

She also wrote at one point: "This has been definitely the most difficult year of my life. My finances are a shambles and I am on the verge of losing everything."

But her mother told the court that her daughter had bought seven pairs of shoes for a new job just hours before she was shot.

She also identified a series of photos the actress had taken to seek work about a month before her death.

And in an e-mail sent the day before she died, Clarkson agreed to attend a birthday party for a friend's husband later that month. "Can't wait! Hugs & kisses, Lana," she wrote.



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