Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star

Episode 58 – Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star

The fifty sixth episode of Columbo was titled Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star and was the final episode of the show’s short tenth season. Blackmail once again proves unwise as a peerless defence lawyer murders his rock star lover. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at a tricky case with some unusual clues.



Hugh Creighton (Dabney Coleman) is A Big Deal, or so he believes. Unbeaten as a trial lawyer and in a relationship with former rock star Marcy Edwards (Cheryl Paris), he has few worries. That changes when he learns of Marcy’s ongoing affair with her former bandmate Neddy Malcolm (Julian Stone). No matter; for a man like Coleman, the simple task of murdering Edwards and implicating Malcolm should be largely straightforward and so he does kill her.


Complications for Creighton include his colleague Trish Fairbanks (Shera Danese), who unwittingly assists him in faking an alibi before taking advantage of her leverage to secure a partnership and engagement to Creighton and Columbo’s successful apprehension of Malcolm, with assistance from Sgt. Hubach (Sondra Currie) and Little Richard (himself). Creighton’s gardener (Tad Horino) also supplies vital evidence.


Producer Alan Levi directs the second of his three episodes, working with William Read Woodfield‘s final script (following Columbo Goes to the Guillotine and Columbo Cries Wolf).


If you have thoughts on any aspect of Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star, please share them below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.


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Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star was released in 1991. It is 98 minutes long and originally aired on the ABC network. This episode is not available on Netflix, but can be found on the Season 10 or complete collection DVD box sets from Universal.


The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast team develops, produces and promotes The Columbo Podcast.

  • Largo

    Shera Danese in her most demanding role! 😉

    • I still can’t see the eyeholes!

      • Largo

        Exactly — and we’ll just have to chalk this one up as yet another sneaky director’s trick played upon the unsuspecting viewing audience. Please join in and repeat after me: “It’s a cheat!” That blasted Alan Levi!

        • Indeed!

          • Well, it doesn’t look particularly like a photograph taped over someone’s face, but it definitely doesn’t look like an actual face, either. I’d have been shocked if Columbo hadn’t noticed something was up with it. Even if the shadow under the nose clue was a little weak, Hugh’s photo does look markedly different from the other drivers’ photos we saw.

    • Ian Baxter

      This mask reminds me of Mr Pangbourne (the air crash investigator in Swan Song)

  • kolybry

    Really disliked this one. That Noir-scene in the detectives office together with his ridiculous outfit (fedora) was completely out of place. The killer was dumb as a bag of bricks and the victim was a comical uber-bitch out of the imagination of a bitter, jilted man. Together with his greedy, blackmailing assistant it felt like the author had a grudge against someone…

    The clues were allright i guess, allthough purely based on the sloppiness and ineptitude of the killer. Why would he change the ashes in the tray? How does he not know about or see the nicotine marks on the cigarette buds? Why did he leave the gardeners jeep at the wrong place (wtf)? Why would he walk through the raked garden and not even attempt a passable cover up?

    The only thing I liked was the detective helping out Columbo. I liked all the scenes they had together and would not mind seeing her more.

    • Largo

      I concur. The great Dabney Coleman deserved far, far better from the Columbo producers. Dabney is so good at what he does — perfectly portraying self-entitled jerks in an immensely entertaining way — that even this rather tepid Columbo episode is made a bit brighter by his mere presence in it. Be seeing you!

    • My wife and I had the same thought about the truck. I think the only reason he could have for leaving the truck next to his car is because the plot needed him to.

      Also liked the scenes with Columbo and the sergeant. Haven’t we seen her recently…?

      • Yup, it’s Sondra Currie, who was in Murder in Malibu as the producer’s wife.

        • Largo

          You mean THE Sondra Currie — as in the star of Policewomen (1974)? 🙂

          • Hah. Not one I’ve seen. My first thought was “wait, wasn’t Police Woman a blond”? Realized I was thinking of Angie Dickinson….

        • Ah. Right.

        • Right. That’s the ticket.

  • Roberto

    I have not yet listened to the Podcast but just wanted to post my overall impressions of the episode/movie first. Wow. Wow. Wow. I think I’d call it so bad that it’s good. It is camp. It is farce. Send in the Clowns.

    It can be a fun watch if you don’t take it too seriously (it surely doesn’t) and don’t think too much about the plot, the forced clues, the constant bungling (and I don’t mean Columbo), the strange gotcha, etc. Just sit back and (try to) enjoy it.

    • CarlosMu

      that’s my general attitude toward the later Columbos. Sit back an enjoy whatever random stuff they put in there, in this case Little Richard, Johnny Fewhairs, etc.

      I haven’t listened either, I’m curious whether they will comment on Neddy Malcom’s accent. It can’t be real, can it?

  • Ian Baxter

    Enjoyed the podcast… but totally unconvinced by the mask wearing and car parking clues; which is a shame because when Dabney Coleman gets on his arrogant high horse he really does makes a good Columbo adversary. I’m also left flummoxed by the Shera Danese character… the killer just asks her to drive though a speed camera to create an alibi? Then is surprised he gets blackmailed? Too many weak plot lines and clues. Such a shame.

    There is no way I’m going to recreate of the car parking theory, diagram or video… but I like to think the first draft script had Coleman park under a tree with a sick pigeon in it… at the gotcha moment Columbo produces the guilty pigeon after identification through DNA… however, in the end they went with the berries 😉

  • Just got through the episode but won’t get to the podcast until this weekend sometime. Looking forward to it–We’re sure to enjoy it more than we enjoyed the episode. Not that the episode was terrible, thought it was on the very low end of par. Or maybe the very upper end of below par. But the podcast never fails to please, regardless of the quality of the Columbo episode it’s looking at. 🙂

  • Roberto

    After listening to the podcast, I must express my deepest admiration for Gerry and Iain for soldiering on in the midst of the ABC series. Well, maybe not my deepest admiration, how about my deep admiration?

    Many of the ABC offerings are but wispy remembrances of what Columbo was in his salad days on the NBC Mystery Movie.

    “Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star” has all the makings of a complete disaster. Dabney Coleman, however much you like him as an actor, is nobody’s image of a Columbo killer like Jack Cassidy or Robert Culp. The late-1980’s/early-1990’s panache seems out of place on a Columbo fare looking back on it 25 years later (though it probably looked out of place at the time too).

    However, this episode/movie was actually fun to watch if you are in the mood for that sort of thing. Even Shera Danese had her moments. As I said in my earlier pre-podcast-listening post, the weak plot, bungling, forced clues, and ridiculous gotcha make this substandard in the grand scheme of things, but putting all that aside, it was fun to see what they made of it.

    I just imagine in an upcoming ABC Columbo movie we will see (spoiler alert for Iain) Jack Klugman as the murderer with guest stars Charo and Cher. Makes as much sense as what we see here.

    • Still haven’t listened to the podcast this week, but you sum up my feelings for this Columbo episode perfectly, Roberto. Well said.

  • Ian Baxter

    Am I understanding right, from the show note on Danese, that she sang the songs heard in the show?

  • Finished the podcast tonight. Fantastic as usual, with more than one laugh out loud moment for the missus and me.

    Our take on Hugh parking the truck two blocks from where he took it is that it was just poor writing. Or maybe it was explained in an earlier draft of the script, in which case it would be good writing that someone else mucked with.

    The missus and I thought it could easily have been explained with a ten second scene where Hugh drives the truck back to the driveway he got it from, but while still down the block a ways, sees the gardener and a couple of cops standing in the driveway. He sees the gardener gesturing to the cops, indicating where he left the truck and that it is now missing. Hugh turns around or takes a side street to get out of there and then leaves the truck behind his own car as we see in the episode.

    Problem solved. 🙂

    Oh, and you mentioned, Gerry and Iain, that it was a little ridiculous that Hugh would assume the gardener’s keys would be in the truck. But the story did make a point of Hugh looking into the truck’s cab the day before, when he was checking the gardener’s schedule, and seeing the keys hanging in the ignition. Still chancy to assume they’d be there the next day, though.


  • Stu Levine

    Re: Vintage Champagne. Most Champagne is released as N.V. (Non-Vintage,) and is therefore a mix of several years. So, whilst it’s true that ‘vintage champagne’ is not per se indication of quality you can pick a known good vintage (say, 2004) and you will be assured of the quality. Genrally vintage champagne costs more tha NV, but is not true in all cases (e.g. Dom Perignon NV, is more expensive than Veuve Cliquot 2004) An analogy would be blended whisky vs. single malt, If someone showed Columbo a drinks cabinet full of various single malts he would be justified in remarking about the fact that they are all single malts, because they are in general more expensive than blends (though there are exceptions for example, Johnnie Walker Blue is more expensive than 12 year old Macallan.)

  • I’m about half way through this one so far. I have to say that the lovemaking scenes were utterly ridiculous and very of their time, I guess. I loved the interplay between Columbo and the cleaning lady – really made me laugh out loud.

  • Tim S. Turner

    This is a difficult one to appraise. Coleman is great, but the pacing is terrible. And the solution with the Coleman mask is idiotic. In the past, Columbo played fair with how he came to his conclusions, but this time we get this bizarre revelation that Shera Denise wore a Coleman mask (?!?) to reinforce his alibi. This makes zero sense, especially since earlier in the episode, it’s clear that she knows nothing about the murder. If that’s so, then why would she agree to drive around wearing his mask? Huh?

  • Ed

    Why did the woman wear a mask when she didnt know she had to prove he was somewhere else??

    • I suspect she was asked to do it and told it was a test of the speeding camera system that might help future clients.