Is the Standard of Celebrity Justice Slipping Because a Music Biz Legends Lives Up To Rock’s Raucous Rep?

By Moses Avalon

Whether or not the killing of actress Lana Clarkson was an accident and by whose hand is what the trial of Phil Spector is hoping to prove. Hanging in the balance is the freedom of one rock’s most influential contributors. Did he get a fair trial?

I’ve been watching the trail on Court TV closely and even went on their show in June to talk about Phil’s behavior in the context of the music business. In addition to the “Wall of Sound” Spector has a long history of gun-wielding as a producing technique: Dee Dee Ramone, John Lennon, and Stevie Wonder to name only three of many. If it’s very easy to assume that the Clarkson incident was a foreseeable tragedy, how then does a guy this crazy end up being a success in a respected industry like ours? Why didn’t somebody try to stop him years ago? Let’s look at some history.

Iving Azoff, mega-manger for the Eagles purchased a chain saw while on tour with the group and sawed down the walls between two hotel rooms to make one master suite. The band loved it so Irving carried the saw for the rest of the tour. Former CBS Records Executive, Walter Yetnikoff, was famous for his screaming staff meetings and would allegedly roam the halls in a manic firing rage. I could go on and on. So, is it a surprise that amegalomaniac like Spector is part of this tapestry? Even embraced by it? No. So, here’s my concern: in addition to Phil’s lunacy is the rock world on trial as well?

Some of readers who don’t get out much might not be familiar with the expression, “DWB.” Which means Driving While Black. At the risk of being pedantic, it refers to the assertion that a black person is far more likely to be pulled over for a minor infraction as a white person. The principal is well demonstrated in the court system with one exception: if you’re in the entertainment business. How many DWIs and statutory rape charges get dismissed if you have a hit movie or score the winning play? Winona, Kobe, Blake, Gibson even talent free Paris Hilton ignores court orders and gets a slap on the wrist after only one sexy hamburger commercial.

And then there’s Phil of the music world.

Phil’s trial will add an interesting proverb to the celebrity justice philosophy: you can get away with murder if your famous, unless you’re in the music business.

While movie stars get low bail and do press tours after their miracle acquittals, ask yourself how many platinum artists go directly to jail after a romp with an under-aged groupie with fake ID taped to their tier boob; or after slugging it out with their coked up girlfriend? Is it so hard for defense attorneys–even high priced ones—to manufacture “reasonable doubt” for people in the world of rock?

Are we DWMB? Driving While in the Music Business?

Now, to be sure, Phil got his money’s worth from his lawyers. Despite the fact he’s probably guilty as heck they even had me thinking Phil might walk. I watched them raise serious doubts as to the veracity and accuracy of the prosecution’s lead witness, reveal bias in the state’s forensic expert, and show evidence that Clarkson was depressed in the months before her death. Plus the gun-power residue test goes in favor of Phil not holding the gun when it was fired. This is more reasonable doubt then we had in the OJ or Blake trials.

None of it mattered. Every time the Defense made a convincing point, the Court TV camera would cut to Phil, sitting there, hands shaking, doe-eyed, with that preposterous blond wig, looking like a cross between Dr. Zaius from Planet of the Apes and Kato Kaelin after a harsh bender; his history and the history of the music business written all over his face; and in my head I could hear the public’s collective un-conscious voice, “Those damn music biz folk, with their loud music, drugs and attitude.”

Defense lawyers often hope for “jury nullification.” This is when a jury will ignore the law and find for their client because of a wired fact pattern. But here I believe the prosecution was banking on pre-conceived public perception.

There are many facts that pointed to Phil’s hand on the gun and many that raise questionable doubt to it as well. Soon that answer will be academic. The interesting issue for me is a bit broader: did Phil get the same standard of celebrity justice as movie stars and models or did he become the revenge case against the obnoxious neighbor who has parties till six in the morning on a workday, while buying the cops off with back stage passes?

Humm. I better make nice with my neighbors.


Moses Avalon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.