Clarkson was born in Long Beach, California to Donna and James M. Clarkson, and was raised in the hills of Sonoma County, California. She has a brother, Jessee J. Clarkson, and a sister Fawn. While living in Northern California, she attended Cloverdale High School and also Pacific Union College Preparatory School. During the Christmas season of 1978 and after her father’s death, Clarkson’s family moved back to Southern California and settled in the Los Angeles region of San Fernando Valley. After Clarkson’s family moved back to Los Angeles County, she pursued a career in entertainment industry as a performer and fashion model. In the early 1980s, Clarkson landed bit parts in film and television. In 1982, she made her screen debut as a minor character in director Amy Heckerling’s coming-of-age comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, based on the Cameron Crowe book. She played the wife of science teacher Mr. Vargas (Vincent Schiavelli). The film was her first speaking role. In 1983, she also peeks into the frame in Scarface behind Michelle Pfeiffer dancing on the floor of the Phoenix Hill Tavern.
Clarkson’s best known films may be her work with Roger Corman, appearing first in his fantasy film Deathstalker, as a female warrior and love interest to the title character played by Richard Hill. Corman oriented his films towards young male viewers, using a mix of action and female nudity. Clarkson’s work in Deathstalker led to her being offered the title role in Corman’s next film, Barbarian Queen, a role Corman referred to as “the original Xena” because of the parallel in featuring a strong female leading character in an action-oriented sword-swinging role. The film gained cult status, in part due to an infamous scene where Clarkson is bound topless to a torture rack, interrogated, and raped. In 1987, Clarkson appeared in the John Landis spoof Amazon Women on the Moon. Following that, Clarkson starred in Roger Corman’s Barbarian Queen sequel, Barbarian Queen II: The Empress Strikes Back, though the plots and characters bore no resemblance to the other film. Filmed in Mexico, the movie featured mud-wrestling Amazon women, magic sceptres, and (in homage to its predecessor) Clarkson’s character stripped naked and stretched on a torture rack, moaning and convulsing in agony as she is slowly tortured to death by a sadistic villain. Clarkson received star billing in the film which went directly to video. Although sales of the video were low, Corman did manage to turn a profit. In 1990, she starred as a supporting character in the period horror film Haunting of Morella as the evil attendant to a young woman played by model/actress Nicole Eggert. In the film, Clarkson played a dominating lesbian character who tries to resurrect the spirit of a witch burned at the stake during the Salem witch trials.
Clarkson’s work in the B movie sci-fi genre inspired a cult following, making her a favorite at comic book conventions, where she made some promotional appearances signing autographs for her fans. She appeared in numerous other B movies as well as a range of television spots and appearing in commercials for Mercedes-Benz, Kmart, Nike, Mattel and Anheuser-Busch. Her television appearances include parts on Night Court, Silk Stalkings, Riptide, Three’s Company, Knight Rider and Wings, and a guest appearance as a villain on the television adaptation of Roger Corman’s film Black Scorpion in what would be her final role. Clarkson traveled around the United States and Europe while working on fashion photo shoots. Other projects took her to Japan, Greece, Argentina, Italy, Switzerland, France, Jamaica, and Mexico. In the 1980s she volunteered weekly at the AIDS charity Project Angel Food which delivers food for those in Los Angeles disabled by HIV or AIDS, at a time when the disease was greatly feared by the general public. Clarkson’s career began to stall as she approached her thirties. No longer able to earn a living as an actress, Clarkson sought alternate routes of income, including operating her own website on which she sold autographed DVDs of her films and communicated directly with her fans on her own message board. Although she made a living by playing busty, lusty women, Clarkson’s fondest desire was to be cast as a comic actress or perform as a comedian. Her publicist friend Edward Lozzi told Vanity Fair writer Dominic Dunne that Clarkson had been working on a stand-up comedy act that he had witnessed. In 2001, while living in Venice, California, for the last several years, Clarkson developed, wrote, produced, and directed a showcase reel titled Lana Unleashed. She took a part-time side job in early January 2003 at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, California to make ends meet.
On February 3, 2003, Clarkson was found dead in the mansion belonging to music producer Phil Spector. In the early hours of that morning, she met Spector while working at the House of Blues. Both left the House of Blues later in Spector’s limousine and drove to his mansion. Spector and Clarkson went inside while his driver waited outside in the car. About an hour later, the driver heard a gunshot before Spector exited his house through the back door with a gun. He was quoted as saying, according to affidavits, “I think I just shot her.” Spector later changed his story to claim that Clarkson’s death was an “accidental suicide” and that she “kissed the gun”. Spector was tried for the murder of Clarkson four years later in 2007. On September 26, 2007, the case was declared a mistrial because the jury was hung ten to two for conviction. He was tried again for second-degree murder on October 20, 2008. On April 13, 2009, the jury found Spector guilty of murdering Clarkson. Spector was sentenced on May 29, 2009 to 19 years to life in state prison.
- April, 05, 1962
- Long Beach, California
- February, 03, 2003
- Long Beach, California
Cause of Death
- gunshot wounds
- Hollywood Forever Cemetery
- Hollywood, Los Angeles, California