Monday, 19 March 2007

The rock icon and the B-movie star

As I have never felt the need—or the inclination—to follow closely the careers of 1960s record producers, it is not surprising that I had not heard of a man called Phil Spector until I saw a whole page devoted to him in the Guardian last Saturday. It was reported that he murdered a “blond, leggy Californian” called Lana Clarkson in 2003 by blowing off her jaw with a 36-calibre Colt, which he then put under her left leg. Or didn’t, as the case may be, or rather, as the jury will decide: next week he is to go on trial in Los Angeles for the alleged crime. He asserts that it was an “accidental suicide”.

We are told that for his court appearances he has prepared Cuban-heeled boots, a blond Afro hairstyle, tinted glasses, frock coats and jewel-encrusted brooches, and that he has a reputation as an “eccentric, unpredictable control freak, as likely to scream profanities at the person nearest to him as to pull a gun on them”, and to wear different guns to match his outfits.

Nothing surprising there then, just an everyday story of Hollywood folk. I would have turned the page without pausing had the article not featured a photo of Phil looking exactly like my great-aunt Emily (apart, of course, from the black shirt and chalk-striped suit; Phil’s, I mean). This caught my attention and I read the whole piece carefully to see if he was like her in other ways: I came to the conclusion that he was not; well, not really.

Then I saw that the unfortunate Lana was described as “a 40-year-old actor and waitress”. The actor/actress thing is all sorted out nowadays, but waiter/waitress? Why be inconsistent within a single sentence? I suppose if they had written “actor and waiter” the first reaction would have been to think that Lana is a funny name for a man, until you read on and found that she had been a sex-bomb wife in an 80s movie, which had confirmed her position as a Hollywood bimbo.

Before any of my feminist friends add reproachful comments to this post, I should say that none of these words are mine; I am merely quoting the Guardian, well known for its generally contemptuous attitude towards women and the rabid misogyny of its writers.

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