As It Happens

Sexy, fun, and 'a little wild': Ronnie Spector remembered by a fellow '60s icon

“I think Ronnie would be 100 years old, still doing ‘Be My Baby’ on stage if she could,” said La La Brooks, former lead singer of the Crystals. “That’s how much she loved the fans."

La La Brooks, of the Crystals, and Spector, of the Ronettes, were teens when they met

Members of the Ronettes, from left, Ronnie Spector, Nedra Talley and Estelle Bennett, in 1964. The group was known for their powerful voices and sexy look. (Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Story Transcript

La La Brooks was just 14 years old when she first got to know her friend Ronnie Spector. 

The pair were lead singers of two of the biggest girl groups of the 1960s — the Crystals and the Ronettes — and frequently shared the stage. 

"Our dressing rooms were always across from each other. I could hear Ronnie getting ready to go on stage, with a little short dress, very sexy, and she'd call 'La La! Come on!'" Brooks told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Spector, who sang hits like Be My Baby and Baby I Love You, and served as an influence to generations of musicians, died on Wednesday at age 78. 

Friends and icons of 1960s music, La La Brooks, left, is pictured with Ronnie Spector, right. Spector died Wednesday at age 78. ((Submitted by La La Brooks) )

Releasing her last album in 2016, Spector delighted in performing, Brooks said. 

"I think Ronnie would be 100 years old, still doing 'Be My Baby' on stage if she could," she said. 

"That's how much she loved the fans, and that's how much she loved the stage." 

Brooks also bore witness to a difficult chapter in Spector's life — her 1968 marriage to music producer Phil Spector, who also produced the Crystals. 

In her 1990 autobiography Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness, Spector recounted the abuse she suffered, saying that her then-husband kept her locked in their Beverly Hills mansion. 

La La Brooks, far right, singing with The Crystals in the 1960s. As a teenager, Brooks sang hits like Then He Kissed Me and Da Doo Ron Ron for the group. (Submitted by La La Brooks)

"[Spector] would tell me some of the things that were sad, but what could you do?" said Brooks of that period.

Brooks also remembers running into Spector's sister and former Ronettes bandmate, Estelle, who would "have a sadness about her" over the group's breakup following Spector's marriage. 

In 1974, the pair divorced and "she finally got away," Brooks continued. Phil Spector, who was sent to prison in 2009 for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, died in 2021.

The two friends then found themselves reunited back on stage again. 

"I did a television show with her; I did Lincoln Centre with her. I did so many things with Ronnie after," said Brooks. 

Brooks says she and Spector both looked up to musicians like Frankie Lymon and Little Anthony the Imperials in the 50s and 60s. 'They had a sound that women like us wanted to copy,' she said. (Submitted by La La Brooks)

Along with her talent, Brooks says she'll remember her friend for her confidence, her style and her energy — which ran "a little wild." 

"I'll remember memories of her smile, her little twist on stage, the way she would walk downstairs and didn't care if the guys looked up her skirt, because that was Ronnie," she said with a laugh. 

"She was a beautiful person, inside and out." 

Written by Kate McGillivray. Story produced by Chris Trowbridge.