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Clarkson was despondent, a friend testifies

July 17, 2007|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

Actress Lana Clarkson told a friend she did not want to live anymore just days before she died from a gunshot wound at music producer Phil Spector's mansion in Alhambra, the friend testified Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Punkin Laughlin, who called Clarkson her best friend, testified that Clarkson drank, used drugs and was depressed about her faltering acting career before her death.

She said Clarkson, who had supported herself acting in commercials and low-budget films, felt "humiliated" by working at the House of Blues as a hostess after acting work dried up.

Clarkson's frustration erupted at a party about a week before her death, Laughlin said. When film director Michael Bay, whom Clarkson had once worked with on a car commercial, did not recognize her, Clarkson broke down in tears, Laughlin said.

Soon after, Laughlin recalled Clarkson telling her in a phone conversation, "I don't want to live anymore. I don't want to live in this town. I want to end it."

Clarkson was shot through the mouth in the foyer of Spector's home Feb. 3, 2003. Spector, the legendary music producer for the Beatles, the Righteous Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner, has pleaded not guilty to murder and is free on bail.

Spector's attorneys say Clarkson shot herself in despair after going to Spector's home shortly after meeting him at the House of Blues.

Prosecutor Alan Jackson questioned Laughlin's memory and motives. He asked why she did not mention the phone call from Clarkson when she was interviewed by detectives shortly after Clarkson's death.

Laughlin said a friend had cautioned her not to speak about Clarkson without a lawyer present.

Jackson also asked Laughlin whether her testimony was biased because she worked as a promoter for a nightclub partly owned by a close friend of Spector.

Laughlin denied any bias, saying she knew little about the relationship between Spector and David Kessel, an investor in the Backstage Cafe.

Laughlin said under questioning by Jackson that she had spoken to a writer about collaborating on a book that would detail her relationship with Clarkson. She also acknowledged that she had contacted a publicist after Clarkson's death.

When Jackson asked if she had sought financial gain from her connection to Clarkson, Laughlin said she had not, adding, "You're kidding, right?"

Laughlin, responding to questions by Spector attorney Roger J. Rosen, said she contacted a publicist for help because she anticipated being deluged by reporters after Clarkson's death. The book project, she said, had not progressed beyond discussions with the writer.

Laughlin's ability to remember events also was scrutinized. An earlier witness, Jennifer Hayes, a mutual friend of Laughlin and Clarkson, said last week that Laughlin had a poor memory and relied on Clarkson to help her.

Laughlin explained that Hayes' remark reflected "a joke" among friends. "It's not that I don't have a memory," Laughlin said, but more a statement about Clarkson's reliability. "Lana, she's an Aries, and if you know anyone who's an Aries, you know they're right about everything."

Jackson asked Laughlin whether she decided to testify about what she said Clarkson told her in the phone conversation to help the defense because it made her feel important.

"You've gotta be friggin' kidding me," she answered.

Laughlin's testimony is scheduled to resume today.

peter.hong@latimes.com

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