Spector's wife opens the doors of bizarre house where starlet was murdered
By Caroline Graham
10th September 2009
The crimson-red carpet in the foyer, once stained with his victim's
blood, has been ripped up and replaced with cream limestone tiles
the epitome, you might think, of sophisticated home styling.
But pass through the hallway and enter the mock castle's 35 rooms and
Phil Spector's presence is everywhere.
The baronial furniture, suits of armour, the collection of lizards
these are pure Spector.
Lining the walls are platinum discs from hits such as You've Lost
That Lovin' Feelin' and River Deep, Mountain High.
John Lennon's favourite battered Gibson guitar rests against a chair
in the games room, alongside a handwritten note from Yoko Ono
thanking Spector for his friendship.
Even Spector's half-used bottle of medicated dandruff shampoo remains
on the bathroom shelf.
It is four months since the 'wall of sound' record producer swapped
this £5.6million mansion for a cramped cell in California's Corcoran
State Prison after being sentenced to life, with a minimum of 19
years, for the murder of cocktail waitress and aspiring actress Lana
Clarkson in this very house.
Now, thanks to his young wife Rachelle, I am getting an exclusive, if
somewhat eerie, four-hour tour of what she describes as 'my husband's
Never before has a journalist been invited into the secret world of
Spector. But Rachelle is a woman with a mission to tell the world
of her husband's innocence.
'I want people to see how quietly we live. People refer to this place
as a castle but it's Phillip's home and quite modest by rock and roll
standards. I want to humanise him,' she says.
'I believe he is innocent and will fight for ever to clear his name.
'His prints were not on the gun, there was no gun residue on his
hands, he had only one tiny fleck of blood on his shirt and he was
wearing white. There was no way he could have done it.
'We have already launched the appeal into his conviction. I have been
told that, statistically, very few murder cases are overturned on
appeal but I have to keep my faith in the justice system. I won't
rest until my husband comes home to this house, where he belongs.'
It is unlikely 69-year-old Spector will ever see the castle again.
Perched on a hillside in the Los Angeles suburb of Alhambra, this was
Spector's refuge as he built one of world's most impressive music
catalogues, including The Beatles' Let It Be album, John Lennon's
Imagine and The Righteous Brothers' Unchained Melody.
As his success grew, so did the baroque ostentation of the castle,
built in 1925 and, in true Hollywood style, based on a real castle in
It sprouted chandeliers from France, along with a warehouseful of
antiques, including a 30ft dining table so intimidating that Spector
was driven to eat in the kitchen.
This was the place he returned to every night during two murder
trials for the 2003 killing of Lana Clarkson, whom he had picked up
during a drunken night on the town.
She was found slumped in a chair by the massive arched wooden front
doors just hours later, her brains blown out with a Colt.45.
Spector claimed Lana accidentally committed suicide. But prosecutors
said that he shot her during a drunken row after she refused his
demands for sex.
A string of women testified that Spector had threatened them at gunpoint, too.
While his first trial in 2007 was inconclusive the jury was hung
he was not so lucky the second time round.
On April 13, Spector was led from court in handcuffs to spend the
rest of his days behind bars.
He is appealing against his conviction on the grounds that the court
should not have allowed testimony about the alleged gunpoint threats.
Rachelle married Spector, 40 years her senior, in September 2006. The
29-year-old blonde has been termed his 'trial wife' by many an
unkind hint that their liaison was designed to make Spector look less
eccentric to the jury.
But despite his conviction, she has not, as the sceptics might have
expected, abandoned him. She says it is her '100 per cent belief in
my husband's innocence' that has persuaded her to speak in public.
Dressed in a smart black trouser suit and lace silk cream top,
Rachelle seems curiously unfazed by the events of the past four years
and the conversation moves effortlessly from Lana Clarkson's violent
death to home decoration.
Casually pointing to the foyer, where the body was found, she says:
'I ripped up the carpet. It was red and had stains I couldn't get
out. I'm doing up the castle. Phillip hadn't done much to this place
for years. I'm giving it a more feminine feel.'
The oak-panelled living room is being remodelled. She says a lot of
the antique furniture is not to her taste and she has been selling it.
Go down three steps and you enter a secluded drinking den, now
covered in dust, where music legends such as BB King and Quincy Jones
once joined Spector for drinks.
The deep-red walls are covered in pictures: Spector with Tina Turner,
George Harrison, the Rolling Stones, the Ronettes his first wife
Ronnie was the group's lead singer Leonard Cohen and The Righteous Brothers.
There are images of his five children, including twins Nicole and
Phillip Jr, born in 1982. Phillip died of leukaemia, aged ten.
Down the hall is Spector's Iguana Room, which contains a large
aquarium with three iguanas Godzilla, Laurel and Hardy.
'He'd sit in here for hours and just watch them,' his wife says. 'I
still feed them but they are not my favourite animals'.
Rachelle, the eldest of two girls born to a waitress in small-town
Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, was just two when her parents divorced.
Her father died when she was 15. She admits to 'striving to better myself'.
When she was 20, she arrived in Los Angeles with less than £100 in
her pocket and dreams of fame and stardom.
It is a story familiar to thousands of young women in Hollywood,
including Lana Clarkson.
Like Rachelle, she was a stunning blonde who starred in B-movies
until Spector walked into the House Of Blues where she was a hostess
and left a $450 tip on a $13 drinks bill. She then agreed to go home with him.
Rachelle met her husband in a similar way, just weeks after Lana's
murder in 2003.
A budding actress who had posed for Playboy and was an extra in the
first Pirates Of The Caribbean film, she was working in a fast-food
restaurant and sleeping on the floor at friends' houses to stretch
her meagre wages.
She met Spector in Dan Tana's, a legendary Italian bar in West
Hollywood favoured by stars such as Mick Jagger and Jack Nicholson.
'When Phillip came in, I didn't know who he was,' she says. 'I hadn't
seen the news about the incident. But as I got to know him, I knew he
could never have done what they said he did. We got together and he
was charged with murder a month after we met. He said he was innocent
and I believed him.'
Within weeks, she had moved in and they married in September 2006,
shortly before the start of his first murder trial.
Photographs of their wedding day are scattered throughout the house
a radiant Rachelle in her designer wedding gown, her happy groom by her side.
The biggest collection sits on top of a bureau that, according to
court records, is where Spector kept the gun that killed Lana Clarkson.
According to his first wife Ronnie, Spector is 'a psychopathic
monster'. Rachelle, though, sees only good.
'People think of Phillip as somehow weird but he is the sweetest man
in the world,' she smiles. 'I did everything for him. I would pick
out his clothes for the trial, style his hairpieces and I am his most
loyal supporter. He knows I am behind him 100 per cent.
'We had a normal marriage in every sense. The Phillip I know is the
man who wakes up with his head smooshed on the pillow in the morning.
I don't recognise the demon portrayed in court.
'With me, he never raised his voice above a whisper. He was always a
perfect gentleman. To me, Phillip is cute and kind. He's childlike.'
Twisting a massive nine-carat diamond engagement ring, she adds: 'And
very generous. He couldn't hurt anyone.'
Referring to the mugshot of her husband taken shortly after his
conviction, she says: 'The cruellest thing of all was that picture of
Phillip without his wig. They stripped him of his freedom and then
they stripped him of his dignity.'
Running a perfectly manicured finger through her blonde hair, she
continues: 'I know people question my motives in marrying Phillip and
they call me a gold-digger. Well, let them. He and I know the truth.'
She visits her husband in prison every weekend, driving the 180 miles
to Corcoran Prison in a new Lexus SUV with the numberplate I PHIL.
She carries a bright pink BlackBerry along with her normal mobile
phone, to which only Spector has the number.
He is allowed a 15-minute phone call every day: 'He usually tries to
ring about 9.15am but today he's due to call at 1pm,' she explains.
'He's not allowed to speak to the Press at the moment because he's
appealing against his sentence. But I wish you could talk to him
because you'd realise what a sweetie he is. He's in a bad way. He's
not a well man.
'I did everything for him. He's never had to do anything for himself
and now he's in prison. He has gone from this house to a 5ft by 9ft cell.
'When I visit him, we have to sit across a plastic table and we are
allowed one kiss and one hug. Because he's a convicted murderer,
conjugal visits are out.
'There are 200 inmates in the same facility but he only leaves his
cell to go for kosher meals. He hates the prison food. It's slop. The
food is bad for his cholesterol. I always made him tasty, healthy food.
'He's terrified. He's in there with rapists and nasty murderers and
What does she make of the fact that a jury of 12 convicted her
husband of a nasty murder, too? 'They didn't hear all the facts,' she says.
The victim, she believes, was so obsessed with being famous that she
committed suicide in his foyer to gain lasting notoriety.
One thing conspicuously missing from the house is music. There is
nothing on view but an old cassette machine and a DVD player.
'Phillip and I don't like the same music. He always listened to
classical stuff or his Sixties music, while I prefer Lady Gaga,'
'We never really listened to music together. Mostly, we would watch
movies. He loves old film noir and he liked some TV. Prime Suspect
and Law And Order were his favourite shows.'
It is not an irony that seems to register with Rachelle and she keeps
She claims the mansion is mortgaged to the hilt. Certainly, the
driveway is covered in weeds and the creaking metal gate swings from
only one hinge as it opens.
She estimates Spector spent at least £2million on his legal costs and
says she now survives on fast food while she tries to sort out his estate.
Lana Clarkson's family have filed a wrongful death suit against
Spector which is likely to cost him his music catalogue and any
possessions he has left such as the castle.
But Rachelle remains sanguine: 'I'm not even 30. I am young. This is
a stage in my life but that's not to say I don't love Phillip. I do.
But I know I could start all over again.
'At the moment, I want to get my own music career off the ground.'
She plays a couple of tracks of songs her husband wrote, produced and
engineered for her. They are surprisingly good and catchy: 'See, he's
not lost his touch, has he?' she asks.
'The sad thing about Phillip is that he has this amazing legacy and
that legacy will be forever tarnished by what has happened.'
She sits back in her chair. On that, at least, we can all agree.