Born in Long Beach, California to Donna and James M. Clarkson, Lana Clarkson was raised in the hills of Napa Valley, California. She had a brother, Jesse 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 down in the Los Angeles region of San Fernando Valley. Right after Clarksons's family moved back to Los Angeles County, Lana 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 striking cameo character in director Amy Heckerlings coming-of-age comedy based on the Cameron Crowe book, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, as 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 the floor of the Babylon Club.
Clarkson's best known films may be her work with Roger Corman, appearing first in his fantasy film Deathstalker, as a female warrior/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 by an evil king.
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 (like its predecessor) a lengthy scene where Clarkson is tortured topless on a stretching rack by an evil king. 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.
During her career, Clarkson traveled around the United States and Europe while working on high fashion photo shoots. Other projects took her to Japan, Greece, Argentina, Italy, Switzerland, France, Jamaica and Mexico.
In 1980's 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.
As she approached her thirties, Clarkson's career began to stall. 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, Lana's fondest desire was to be cast as a comic actress.
Lana Clarkson's Apartment on the Venice Canals
In 2001, while living on the canals in Venice, California for the last several years, Clarkson developed, wrote, produced, and directed a showcase reel entitled Lana Unleashed. To make ends meet, she took a side part-time job in early January 2003 at the House of Blues, in West Hollywood, California.
The House of Blues on Sunset Blvd.
Phil Spector's Castle of Blood
On April 13, 2009, after two trials, Phil Spector was convicted of second degree murder, in relation to Clarkson's death, at Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles, California. Spector was sentenced to 19 years to life (15 years for second degree murder plus 4 years for the use of a firearm in the commission of a crime) on May 29, 2009 making him eligible for parole in 2028.
Clarkson's private funeral service was held on February 19, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. Her remains had been cremated and interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, in the Columbarium Rotunda attached to the Chapel in Hollywood. On February 23, 2003, her family and friends attended a memorial in her honor which was held at Henry Fonda Music Box Theatre in Hollywood, California.