Monday, December 21, 2009

City Commission/CRA Meeting 12/21/2009

I attended the City Commission/CRA meeting today at City Hall along with David Ballard. The upshot of the meeting is that following the CRA presentation and citizen comments, the CRA did not receive approval to go design phase of Plaza redevelopment.

The CRA had made no alterations to the proposal it submitted to DRAB last week. In the presentation, the CRA did make repeat acknowledgment of the importance of music to the success of the Plaza, although these statements were qualified to reflect CRA belief that music/arts should not drive the Plaza design. Rather, the Plaza should be functional across other uses, on a 16-hour-per-day basis. These uses included, but were not limited to: urban market, pedestrian thoroughfare, and gathering place.

A closer look at the CRA proposal shows that with the proposed design, the CRA feels that their redesigned Plaza will be a place of congregation for UF students (who will gather prior to going to the clubs), dinner/theatre patrons (who will gather prior to attending Hipp shows and eating at restaurants, and an after-work or weekend meeting place for neighborhood residents.

I noted once again that the portion of the CRA proposal that showed desirable parks in other cities also contained a photo of ballet dancers on the existing Plaza stage. Other Plaza photos were supplied to show the Plaza as completely vacant; these seemed chosen specifically to portray the Plaza as a dark and deserted place.

It is the CRA's contention that the Plaza "functions as a separate place," not one that is integrated into the greater whole of downtown Gainesville. The Free Fridays concerts and the farmers' market were spoken of as "positives," but the space was called "negative...the rest of the time." Not taken into account were the multiple citizen-produced events that take place during the year.

A major comparison has been made to Bryant Park in New York City. In making this analogy, which was based on relationship of park to large public building (i. e. Bryant Park to the New York Public Library and Bo Diddley Plaza to the admin. building), there was no mention of the large numbers of homeless who gather in Bryant Park.

CRA feels that Bo Diddley Plaza "does not contribute to downtown (and is a) non-descript, ancillary feature."

The CRA goal is to reposition the Plaza as a "site of great concerts and an urban market." Again, more mention was made of the concert series in this meeting than was made in last week's DRAB session. The CRA stated that the Plaza is above all a "vacant, neglected space" with "infrequent" concerts," and that the ultimate goal should be to "prioritize daily activity."

The issue of visbility from University Avenue through to the Hampton Inn was again stressed. This would involve demolishing the existing stage. The CRA said that although one did not need a degree or particular background in urban redevelopment, that urban designers had been consulted about their proposal and that the urban designers had specifically mentioned the lack of visibility with the current stage in place.

The CRA ended by saying that they would like to move forward into design, although they would not go into design detail at today's meeting.


Member Lowe suggested that money be spent on more event programming and also to bring in more vendors. Member Lowe commented upon the acoustic value of the existing stage and its other functions. The CRA countered that there were at present no specific design suggestions, and Member Lowe's comments ended with reiterating that there should be more of an investment in activities.

Member Donovan stated that the Plaza had been a three-year concern of his and spoke of the "dirty language and behavior around the 'shelter' (his term for the Plaza)"; the bandshell/stage was "irritating to walk by."

Member Donovan stressed that the biggest obstacles in the existing design were the bandshell and the bathrooms. He cited the bandshell/stage as the reason people did not use the Plaza as a thoroughfare: "You wonder when the lions will be released." Member Donovan is in favor of demolishing the bandshell/stage and suggested relocatin the performance area to the raised area where the homeless currently congregate towards the back of the Plaza. Further, he proposed an activities director for the Plaza.

Mayor Hanrahan mentioned the "large number of e-mails from the music community" and acknowledged that the Plaza functions well for special events and that the number of attendees at these events has grown. She asked how much of the problem was structural and how much of it was a set of circumstances. When asked by Mayor Hanrahan if there were to be no permanent bandshell, the CRA replied "I'm not sure what you mean." CRA used Mayor Hanrahan's question to return to the issue of "flexibility for everyday use."

During Mayor Hanrahan's comments, the concerns of the "music community" were brought up, and it was stressed that the "music community" was not the entire community, and although that community's input was important, it was not reflective of the city as a whole. (Note: I am not a member of the music community and neither is the Civic Media Center, which was also represented. It was my feeling that too much stress was put on the feelings of the music community, which did not take into account the reactions of the 18,000 people who came to a Free Fridays concert this past season.)

Anthony Lyons of the CRA spoke next. Although he said he "loves concerts," he called the Plaza a "dead space" and was the second CRA member to remark that he didn't know what Mayor Hanrahan meant in her question about a permanent bandshell.

Member Mastrodicasa asked Mr. Lyons what feedback he had received on the proposal when it was submitted to DRAB last week. Mr. Lyons said DRAB had been "appreciative" of his direction and that there was not a "negative." Based on last week's DRAB meeting, DRAB suggested a proposal that was inclusive of performing arts.

Member Mastrodicasa supports events and mentioned that UF had invested in creating a better bandshell space on the UF campus. She asked if it were possible to update present bandshell and stated that she was in favor of asking for public input.

Member Henry spoke next. He mentioned the problem with the current programming, which is geared towards the evenings, and asked to add daytime programming along with food vendors. He stated that the "dip" in the amphitheatre was not "people-inviting."

Commissioner Hawkins closed out this section of the meeting by reiterating the "visual obstacles" that caused for a new design. He stated that, at minimum, the new design must incorporate a permanent top (roof) for the performance area and that permanent electrical outlets must be installed (at present there are neither of these items in the design). Commissioner Hawkins asked Mr. Lyons to obtain citizen input and acknowledged Mr. Lyon's prior statement about obtaining business input. He asked for a follow-up presentation with a minimum of three options, but possibly five to seven, that would differ on the basis of context areas. Commissioner Hawkins felt the bandshell should be oriented away from downtown and that a gazebo in the southeast corner might be a solution, utilizing "temporary acoustic background."

David Ballard of Cultural Affairs spoke about maintaining the functionality of the present bandshell and offered a counterproposal of a music park. Mr. Ballard reported 18,000 concert attendees in the 2009 season and presented survey results that indicated the percentage of people who frequented downtown businesses before or after a concert.

Bob McPeek, Cathy DeWitt, and Joe from Civic Media also spoke.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

CRA Meeting Agenda, 12/21/2009

Meeting Agenda
December 21, 2009
3:00 PM
City Hall
200 East University Avenue
Gainesville, Florida 32601
City Hall Auditorium
Community Redevelopment Agency
Thomas Hawkins (Chair)
Lauren Poe (Vice-Chair)
Jack Donovan (Member)
Pegeen Hanrahan (Member)
Scherwin Henry (Member)
Craig Lowe (Member)
Jeanna Mastrodicasa (Member)
Persons with disabilities who require assistance to participate in this meeting are
requested to notify the Office of Equal Opportunity at 334-5051 or call the TDD phone
line at 334-2069 at least 48 hours in advance.
Community Redevelopment Agency Meeting Agenda December 21, 2009

090640. Downtown Community Plaza (B)
The Lunch box Café is moving forward. The lease is being routed for execution,
construction plans are complete and the contractor has applied for the building
permit. The CRA is pursing an expedited building permit for this project, and
assuming the application is processed in a timely manner, site mobilization and
construction will begin in late December. This construction schedule will allow
for project completion in late February, with a Grand Opening soon to follow.
The CRA is also considering the Plaza as a whole. Through a series of
discussions, stakeholders have identified elements of the Plaza which contribute
both positively and negatively to function of the space. With the help of design
professionals, the CRA is using this information to explore new possibilities for
the site and its relationship to the adjacent downtown area. Two design teams
have provided suggestions for the Plaza. Both the Plaza and these concepts are
being evaluated by a third party reviewer with expertise in urban design. Staff
will provide a presentation detailing the findings, and will summarize the
challenges and opportunities of the Plaza, including the significance of the role
that a public plaza plays in a downtown and how it both influences and is
influenced by the surrounding context. The presentation will also analyze the
challenges and opportunities associated with reconfiguring the Plaza, and
identify specific issues that will impact the future design, and provide imagery
to help explain the issue.
$138,587.18 is budgeted in General Government account 332-M660-5190. The
CRA is authorized to utilize these funds for Bethel and Plaza improvements.
Fiscal Note:
1) Hear presentation from Staff; 2) Provide input as

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Fellow Artists,

Many of you have questions about CRA-proposed changes to the Gainesville Bo Diddley Community Plaza. The Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) has just revealed a conceptual drawing for the Plaza that would eliminate the current stage and bandshell (including the bathrooms) as well as flatten the audience area levels and raise the whole Plaza to street level. For concerts and other performances they propose to “integrate platform for temporary bandstand into design of the park”. We believe that this will be detrimental to the City’s “Free Fridays,” the Farmers' Market and to other concerts/events as well as the many wonderful citizen-produced events. The "Plaza footprint," i. e. the lawn space for audience seating, would be greatly reduced. It seems to be CRA’s opinion that the primary purpose of the Plaza should be changed from a performing arts facility to a retail “urban market” (their term). Please spread the word and let your opinions be heard by City government. This is just in its initial stages and your input can have an effect in shaping this project!

Below is contact info for our City Commission. You may also visit the City Commision Web page at:

On their webpage you can get direct email addresses for the Mayor and Commissioners by clicking on their pictures.

Below is general info for contacting the Commission as a body.

City Hall. Address:
200 E. University Ave.
Gainesville, FL


Mail Box:
PO Box 490, Station 19

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Of Dead Presidents, Popes, and Pop Stars

This Friday, the body of Michael Jackson will be on public display at Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County, California. Gary, Indiana, would like the body, or would like to be next in line to receive the body. Gary Mayor Rudy Clay thinks the corpse would be a great addition to a mass public memorial to be held on July 10th at the U. S. Steel Yard that is home to the Gary Southshore Railcats.

Gary, one of the most tragically blighted urban areas in the U. S., is Jackson's hometown. Mayor Clay said that he "believed the body would lie in state here." He sounds quite optimistic about Jackson's final tour, yet one wonders if Mayor Clay realizes that Jackson cannot technically lie in state unless Barack Obama designates (strictly, a Capitol Rotunda viewing), because he is not the current President nor was he the former President. But this is a petty semantic quibble and, obviously, the term is elastic when a popular figure of Jackson's fame is the body in question.

Popes lie in state in the Vatican.

Jackson will also not lie in honor, a designation reserved for non-Presidents who are distinguished Americans, unless Congress deems it so. Lying in honor is also conducted at the Rotunda. Rosa Parks lay in honor, as did two Capitol police officers who were killed in the line of duty in 1998.

Jackson can, theoretically, lie in repose, "repose" meaning "death." Anyone dead can and does, although the term as used in the United States is often interchangeable with lying in state.

This is very confusing.

Ronald Reagan made a final lap around the U. S. upon his death, appearing both in California and in Washington. Ronald Reagan, however, wasn't drawn as a cartoon character.

There is a Disney-esque, freak-show vibe surrounding the planned viewings. Jackson in a glass coffin, the glass Prince of American Pop, broken into a million tiny pieces by opiates, an asshole of a father, allegations of molestation, and a secretive, self-protective lifestyle now said to have involved a fake relationship with a chimpanzee. His death has the feeling of a dream sequence done up in gaudy Technicolor: Here lies Tinkerbell.

If we clap long and loud enough, will he awake?

Jackson still had millions of fans, as evinced worldwide by the innumerable makeshift memorials, tear-streaked faces, and panicked "tweets." These were the people--or some of them--who would have clapped for Jackson as, at age 50, he threw himself back onto the concert stage. He would have whipped his 112 pounds around like a dervish, frantically summoning the Big Eighties all over again, that nightmare time of intensely synthesized pop and bad fashion circumstance.

We weren't ever going to get to know Michael Jackson. The man was a recluse, and, in death, has reclaimed the public stage on which he had shortly intended to perform. The fans get their closure even if the performer is inanimate; denied the right to see him sing "Beat It" live, they get to see his body dead.

This type of memorial is in a class of its own, and even more so when you consider that Mayor Clay is jockeying for the remains as if they were something that belonged, de facto, to the City of Gary. It has all the makings of a spectacle (or, more crudely, a clusterfuck) and you can bet that should the spectacle get to Gary that it will be seen as something by which the city is glorified; you can almost feel Mayor Clay at work, writing his tribute speech. Gary also wants the body under home turf and has politely argued for its local burial. There, finally, is the reinvigoration of a tourist attraction.

Think about it: Perhaps a theme park could spring up around the gravesite. This is only fitting, since Jackson kitted out his Neverland as an eternal playground. In the center, the body molding à la Lenin. A formal, although whimsical, mausoleum to be etched with bluebirds and happy lyrics from "I Won't Grow Up." Around this edifice, a 24-hour detachment guards against grave robbers (mandatory villains). A whopping 500 acres (bigger than Disneyland!) provide the lucky visitor all manner of attractions and 60 thrill rides. All major international cuisines and crafts are represented at various colorful pavilions. There is a magnificent light show--wait for it--preceded by a montage that projects images of the American flag, Coca-Cola, Kentucky Grilled Chicken and Jackson as Cinderella, the local ragamuffin who made good, very good.

So it isn't the most innovative theme park around. It doesn't have to be. It's in Gary.

It's a sponsor's dream come true. Any suspicion that Jackson might have been guilty of pedophilia will be forgotten when there are millions to be made on branding. Who is going to opt out of that?

There is ample parking for all.

What a happy and unexpected ending. Northwestern Indiana has been hit hard by the economic fallout. Furnaces have been shut down at the steel mills and men who once worked as engineers are now shift janitors. The auto industry is in deep doo-dah, not zippity. All of these good, solid citizens will now have jobs and they won't have to wait for Barack Obama to get them jobs riveting bridges or fiddling about with windmills.

Welcome to Michael-Land!

God Bless the USA!

Monday, June 29, 2009

We'll Always Have Paris, Or Will We?

Yesterday's most popular (that is, most e-mailed) article in The New York Times travel section was one entitled "Frugal Paris." The City of Light and all things chicer than thou beat out articles about Puerto Rico and gangster hideouts in Wisconsin, as well it should. The "Frugal Paris" article, by Matt Gross, is lyrical in tone, speaking of a "ruffled, fractal edge of the trees in full green bloom" and "low pale buildings with their amber lights just turned on."

And this is just in the first paragraph. Paris does that to people. Writers are especially susceptible. Countless bad novels have been set there, as have unwise and sudden romances. The article goes on to explore the writer's desire to seek out nostalgie de la boue, which is described as a keen appreciation for the gutter (NB: Read The Maids, mes amis). The writer argues that Paris, with its boulevards and monoliths and haute couture, is misperceived as being too expensive. The reader with an appreciation for France's second-greatest export--fine fragrance--would disagree. I, for one, would be unable to board the plane home without having purchased a bell jar of Muscs Koublaï Khän, that infamous scent of riding hard across the Mongolian steppes on a very sweaty horse.

What makes the American lust after Paris, and what separates Paris from Grand Rapids or anywhere else in America? On our own domestic front we have cherry blossoms on the Mall, rogueish graffiti in Brooklyn, and the La Brea Tar Pits, not to mention Death Valley, the Idaho Panhandle, and Mt. Rushmore. The French have rien on the windswept desolation of Little Big Horn Battlefield, so why isn't the sad vista of Custer's Last Stand inspiring the next generation of postmodern novelists?

The answer is romance. America is not romantic (Canada is even less so). It's too practical throughout most of its mass and it is home to too many silly, albeit useful, inventions that are hawked on the Home Shopping Network. The French, on the other hand, imbue their butter keepers with elegance. They aren't concerned with popping massive numbers of corn kernels in a dry, fat-free environment. Who are we kidding? We're starving. No wonder articles like Gross's are so appealing.

There are many permutations of romance possible in Paris, outside of the sexual. Indeed, most of the romance is sensuous and may involve large numbers of pistachio macaroons or the criminal act of eating, without fear of penalty, real heavy cream without FDA intervention. Horse meat? It is better than you think, a real historical chomp, and it is low in fat.

For the creative--the painter and the poet--the opportunity to reculer pour mieux sauter must seem inescapably alluring. Not being of Paris is experiencing a setback in one's lifestyle, so what better place to learn to work harder and better?

So evocative of missed romance is Paris that the reader is tempted to breach it in August. That the whole of the city pretty much shuts down during that doggy month isn't mentioned. There could be soggy sexual skirmishes à l'apres-midi for those of us evincing a persistent American bravery. And don't forget that being drunk in Paris is far more fun than being drunk in Bayonne.

Most everything is better in Paris, and the French know it. That is why they sneer at us over our shoulders. We do not know how to live and when we do live we live in denial and self-abnegation. Big business would shudder to a stop should Americans adopt any French (or European) habit of lingering over coffee and small gossip. That this might contribute to a betterment of American health seems not to have crossed our minds as we race through our days, constipated with rising interest rates and choking on the bile of the impossible health-care system.

A short list of things that are better in Paris, or at least with a French accent:



--Dirty words

--Body odor



--Pig trotters


--Political wives

--Extramarital sex

Our longing for Paris is a case of melancholy for places that we have never been. In a strange psychological quirk, humans develop mysterious funks for bridges, illuminations, apartments, and trains, none of which most of us will see. This explains the sudden and deep pangs felt upon seeing a neighbor's pictures of impenetrable lines of German tourists in front of the Louvre or stumbling upon a photo of a pissoir taken by an anonymous stranger and shared with the world via Flickr. This then creates an unhappy envy, but guess what? Garlic breath really does smell better in the Bois de Boulogne.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Goodbye, All-American Girl

Two months after America celebrated its bicentennial, a new television show debuted on ABC. America would soon celebrate this show as "Jiggle TV," a form of entertainment not marked by its theatrical assets. The show was Charlie's Angels, a female detective series that made actress Farrah Fawcett into a seventies supernova.

Fawcett wasn't unknown to America when Charlie's Angels debuted. By the time the first episode aired, Fawcett-Majors' (still married to the actor Lee Majors) iconic poster, showing off her teeth, hair, and erect nipple had become one of the 1970s bestselling pop culture items.

Some say the 1980s marked the end of America as we knew it, but the truth is that the end of the 1970s--the Super Seventies--was the real terminus. The 1970s were a silly era, full of junk food and just plain junk and the last of the great Detroit muscle cars. It was an era of cheap and cheerful invention, not just limited to the hairstyle that Fawcett popularized and which was erroneously adopted by thousands, including some men in rock bands best forgotten. The 1970s gave us Pop (and Pet) Rocks and The Midnight Special, Ron Popeil and Deney Terio. Worse yet, we lived happily with a narrow worldview in the age that was the beginning of our international undoing.

Television was responsible for a lot of the tossaway inanity, and yet opposites existed peaceably: For every clever Carol Burnett Show there was a brainless Dukes of Hazzard. In hindsight, a viewer's options were severely limited. You had your three majors, PBS, and a couple fuzzy UHFs that refused to be tuned by the rabbit ears. Despite this lack of 24-hour, complex programming (and porn), people watched TV more then than they do today. The reason for this, of course, is the personal computer, which at the end of the 20th century turned into a warm and welcoming personal burrow. In the 1970s, you either watched TV with the family or you shut yourself in your room with Led Zeppelin III and a Thai stick.

Those of us with less sappy mindsets will recall the 1970s as a time of embarrassment and polyester.

Fawcett was the ultimate All-American blonde and she began her career advertising those products so iconic they were almost patriotic: Ultra-Brite, Wella Balsam, and Noxzema. Take a look at Fawcett lathering up Joe Namath's face in the shaving-cream commercial. Broadway Joe's shit-eating grin and sloping, dopey eyes make him look as if he'd have been right at home as a Sweathog in Welcome Back, Kotter, giving Vinnie Barbarino a run for his money in the doofus department. Fawcett had that effect on men general; it's a safe bet that most of those 12 million posters were sold to satisfy the urgent libidos and prurient minds of young male America.

Females were not immune either, hair type be damned. Within weeks of the poster's appearance, hairstylists had learned not to attempt to dissuade those patrons who were either too old or whose hair was too straight for Fawcett's leonine style. Open any yearbook of the Class of '76 and you will see the Farrah Do, as it was known, on most of the student council, with the exception of the sour-looking girl whose favorite pastime was breeding beef cattle. That girl had a sensible Dorothy Hamill haircut, the Dorothy Hamill being the decade's second most popular coiffure. The Hamill was functional, though, and there may have been grounds to claim that the Hamill was born of a fervent need to unsex. Hamill you could take home to meet Mother, yet the similarly sporty Fawcett was priapic fantasy.

Guided by super-manager Jay Bernstein and superstar husband Lee Majors, Fawcett filmed one year of Charlie's Angels and then quit. Angels had no redemptive qualities or serious ethical questions to tackle (at the time, this was strictly the purview of dull old PBS) and Fawcett romped through it unruffled. She then lagged as a movie star and had a small and surprising success in the off-Broadway play Extremities. She appeared with her hair straightened, which in Fawcett's case looked like the mark of an emerging serious actress. Fawcett was a slight woman who, though at least partially responsible for the "Jiggle TV" term, was seriously out-jiggled by another Bernstein client, Suzanne Somers. Nothing again would resonate with the public the way the poster and the series had; had Fawcett replaced Streep in Kramer vs. Kramer we'd never have forgiven her for betraying her earlier, sexier self, born of Texas but decisively a product of California.

The truth about Fawcett was that she and the Super Seventies had a happy and serendipitous alliance. Had she been born a quarter-century earlier and hit Hollywood during the era of Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth, we might never have made her acquaintance. Fawcett looked like the Seventies, perhaps more so than the Seventies looked like Fawcett; she had that slim body type and that breezy, unfettered optimism that went along with the feeling that we were in our greatest era of achievement yet. We had, after all, the Chop-O-Matic. How wrong that was. Our corn-fed youth became sick and fat on sugar and grew bigger, taller, and indolent; we hurried to buy the first of the Japanese cars and crowed about their superior mileage, snickering at our Ford LTD-driving neighbor. Technology changed things, and suddenly we became sluggish and stupid, the international laggarts. Our entertainments changed and we popularized plastic breasts to the point that someone like Fawcett, who relied upon God-given sex appeal alone, would have been shown the gate (or at least the door of the top plastic surgeon in town).

We owe Fawcett a debt of thanks for her beautiful impact on that last naive and foolish era. We'd grow hipper and we'd mature out of that goofy phase where Fawcett's blonde waves were like that native waving wheat, golden in the sunset, on our domestically televised plains. We made Friends, and even in their own hysteria these friends were not like Fawcett at all. Somehow, we'd lost what made stars special in the first place, that remove between them out there in the Hollywood galaxy and us here at home in our suburban Barcaloungers. We had become one and from there on in only our salaries were different. We sucked on the same straws, ate the same French fries. This was the new nation, the one in which the pauper dines with the king and goes home ruing the hell out of genetics. In 1976, we thanked our lucky stars that strokes of good genetic fortune created Fawcett and led her onto the intimacies of our small screens. Wasn't it a great time to be an American television viewer? Wasn't it a great and mindless time overall? Have a nice day, have a Billy beer, tie a yellow ribbon, goodbye American woman, goodbye All-American girl.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Phil Spector: Da Doo Gun Gun

Chances are that Phil Spector will die in prison. Last week, a judge sentenced Spector to life imprisonment for the 2003 murder of Lana Clarkson; Spector will not be eligible for parole until 2028, the year he turns 88.

Spector wore a sober shag wig to his sentencing. The hairpiece made Spector look like a fossilized Mod from Swinging London '67 and not as if a lofty intolerance for style caused him to exert undue influence over electromagnetic currents.

As a record producer, Spector shone early and then faded into the 1980s. His major achievement in the past decade was in being dumped by England's Starsailor. Back in the mid-nineties, something went awry with Celine Dion. Those fruitless projects spanned seven years of his career. Then, a jury says he put a gun into Lana Clarkson's mouth, pulled the trigger, and wrote the coda for his both his career and for his life as he knew it. It's hard to say what life Spector knew; he holed up in his Pyrenees Castle and, by a good number of accounts, menaced people.

The circumstances of Clarkson's death are odd; she was found slumped in a chair in the foyer of Spector's home, spine either fully or partially severed, with a purse hanging from her shoulder. Spector claimed this was an "accidental suicide," shortly after he said that he thought he shot her. Oops! Another mysterious accident for the tabloids, kiddies, right up there with the death of Paul Bern, the suicide of Thelma Todd, and other sordid Hollywood classics. The Black Dahlia. Of most recent vintage, Bonnie Lee Bakeley springs to mind.

Spector had an assortment of guns worthy of the Forge of Vulcan. He was a recluse who raved about his home in a Batman costume. During his trial, a few women swore under oath that he had terrorized them with his weapons; one, who had been assaulted after a party, went back the following week for another party before deciding never to be alone with Phil Spector again. A stripper testified she'd been forced to fellate him at gunpoint and Spector's third defense attorney strongly suggested that Lana Clarkson had been going down on the gun when she accidentally pulled the trigger.

What a wild night! You hear kinky stories from Hollywood, but this one has the added thrill of lethality. In this scenario, the dame misjudges what will turn Phil on and blows herself into oblivion instead. Indignant, Phil calls her a "piece of shit" on an audiotape that later becomes part of the defense.

It's one hell of a story.

Clarkson had the better narrative, though, because of its dull arc of endeavor. She lived the fundamental lie about Hollywood: If anyone "makes it," so can you. Why can't that anyone be you? Can anyone truly say what separates diamonds from roughage? Whereas Bonnie Lee Bakeley was a grifter looking to fleece entertainment has-beens, Clarkson simply wanted to be a star in the land of black holes. Friends testified that she had been very recently depressed; she saw herself as a Monroe Moderne and then had failed to achieve much more along those lines than sharing a hair color and dying a puzzling death. Clarkson knew she had washed up and struggled against it. Someone said Clarkson was "humiliated" by taking the hostessing job at the House of Blues. Meantime, all around are greater successes; they peer down from billboards and win awards and buy big houses that are threatened by fires in Malibu Canyon.

It was a titanic struggle. A career that consisted mostly of fitful casting in B-grade sci-fi movies was set against a desire to perform exquisitely broad comedy, as shown in her latest project Lana Unleashed, a reel she hoped would break the restraint that was keeping her from reaching stardom. What else could it be but lack of notice, of apathy? Lana Unleashed sounded more like a porno flick than it did a serious marketing tool, but perhaps in the twisted provocation of the title lay reason to at least take a peek.

With a voiceover looming, Clarkson hadn't quite disappeared into the hole, but she had begun to hang above it by a thread. The gravitational pull was strong, hence the hostessing job. She was making a major effort to keep up without understanding the basic Hollywood rule of thumb, which more or less requires applying a multiplier of 1.5 to any age over 30. By that measure, Clarkson was 60 years old and soon to approach the employability of Nick Nolte. Still, Clarkson had more success in Hollywood than most, even if by Hollywood standards she was no sensation and would, outside of death, never be. She fell early and hard into Amazon roles, a special typecasting reserved for tall women who look as if they could kick the shit out both men and scary alien monsters. Another highlight of her career was a sequel to 9 1/2 Weeks cleverly titled Another Nine & a Half Weeks (in France, the rather more romantic Love in Paris). In this, she was billed as "Woman at Fashion Show." Clarkson's type of actress is generally offered Bitchslappin' Babes II before The English Patient winds up on her doorstep.

This is where Spector came in. The culimination of their meeting resulted in a lot of speculation: Just what was Clarkson doing going over to Spector's home in the middle of the night? She hadn't any idea who he was when she barred him from entering the VIP party at the House of Blues and then there she was in his limo, heading out to Alhambra. Hollywood is nothing but a web of chance associations, old-boy networks, and inflicted karma. Spector/Clarkson fell into the first category, that of the random run-in with the famous. It happens all the time and most people live to tell about it and to post documentary evidence of it all over cyberspace, sometimes unflatteringly. Maybe Clarkson thought Spector was a lucky break, or maybe Spector was so physically exciting that Clarkson couldn't resist his overtures. Marilyn Monroe had her own diminutive champion in Johnny Hyde. Hollywood places such merit on the physically beautiful that it is sometimes hard to see value in difference; Spector may have been a champion Lothario with alluring and chivalrous entreaties, or he may just have been Hollywood lumpen with a deadly misogynistic streak. It doesn't really matter. Whatever happened, Spector looked attractive enough that Clarkson went home with him.

He had on one of his better wigs.

These tales are rarely uplifting. The horror isn't blunted because it happened in the Hollywood you aren't supposed to see. Hang on a minute. We will see it on cable television. Somewhere, someone is optioning a script. HBO will make a movie out of this. It's better than the Bonnie Lee Bakeley story, because the victim was sexy, attractive, and the only bang in the house that night was the gunshot.