Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Blood in the Chalet

One of my favorite movies is The Party.

It's a 1968 hilarious showcase of Hollywood glamour and wacky shenanigans.

The film revolves around a bumbling, yet lovable, struggling Indian actor who is accidentally invited to a ritzy movie studio honcho's sophisticated party.

The love interest in the film always takes my breath away every time I watch it. Her name is Claudine Longet.

The daintily beautiful French pop star plays an up-and-coming actress in the comedy. She's divine.

But her life has been anything but.

This is her story.

When she was 18-years-old, the Paris-born Claudine was a sexy, but soft-spoken, showgirl struggling to make ends meet in Las Vegas. One day, her car had broken down on the side of the road, and she stood there helplessly, unsure about what to do. A fancy car pulled over, and out stepped Andy Williams, one of the biggest pop stars in the world. The 32-year-old heartthrob was so enamoured with the exquisite French beauty, he asked her out on the spot. They married a year later.

For the next decade, their life was a dazzling Hollywood fairytale. They jet-setted around the world, drinking champagne at extravagant parties with their closest friends, such as Barbra Streisand and the Kennedys.

They lounged by their crystal blue pool at their Palm Beach home.

They rocked the red carpet at movie premieres.

Claudine's career was skyrocketing, with television appearances, hit singles, and film offers.

Andy's career was also at an all-time high, with a new televised variety show, top billing at Cesar's Palace in Las Vegas, and radio hits.

During the 1960s, they had three children who they absolutely adored.

But by the late 1960s, their perfect world started to unravel.

Their best friend, Robert Kennedy, was assassinated on the very day they were supposed to spend the evening with him.

Soon, the tabloids started blasting rumors that the handsome Andy was having a sizzling affair with Robert's widow, Ethel Kennedy.

Along with their tragic loss and facing such a humiliating scandal, the couple realized, after 14 years of marriage, they were no longer in love. Andy no longer felt fireworks every time he looked in his beautiful wife's eyes. Claudine admitted she couldn't stand the sight of him. They divorced so amicably, they decided to use the same lawyer.

After the divorce, Claudine met and fell in love with an Olympic medalist and skier, "Spider" Vladimir Peter Sabich Jr. She and her three children quickly moved into his Aspen home, which was a jolt of reality for the swinging ladies' man.

His friends noticed that he was becoming increasingly unhappy with the relationship. They noticed Claudine was clingy and jealous. Spider told them he wanted to break up with Claudine, but she refused to let it happen.

On a fateful afternoon in 1976, Claudine was sitting in their spacious chalet, waiting for her kids to come home from school. But Spider came home first. He decided to shower and get ready for a party the two were attending that night.

Claudine walked into the bathroom, as he was disrobing, and with a pistol, shot him. His blood drowned the bathroom floor. He died in her arms on the way to the emergency room.

Andy rushed to Aspen to comfort his ex-wife, and it turned out, she needed it. Desperately. Although she told police that the shooting was a complete accident (Spider had been teaching her how to use the gun, she claimed) the city of Aspen had a different opinion.

People in the ritzy Colorado town practically spit on her in the streets and deemed her a murderess.

She was charged with reckless manslaughter.

Her murder trial became one of the most sensationalized events of the 1970s. It was the first crime to make the cover of People magazine. The Rolling Stones even recorded a song about Claudine.

And although the world delighted in branding the European glamourpuss "guilty" she had the staunch support of her ex-husband Andy, who fervently believed she was telling the truth. He even said so on stand, much to the astonishment of the courtroom.

In Claudine's favor, the trial ended up being botched. Dim-witted policemen mishandled evidence, making the most damning clues inadmissible in court. Among the mishandled evidence included a blood test proving Claudine had been under the influence of cocaine during the shooting and her diary, which documented her troubled relationship with the famous athlete.

With those two pieces of circumstantiial evidence thrown out, the prosecuting attorney didn't stand a chance of hanging her for murder. Claudine was merely found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and issued to spend 30 days in county jail. Spider's family was disgusted with the verdict.

As if that wasn't enough, Claudine shocked the world even further by jumping into a steamy affair with her married defense attorney, Ron Austin. The two wed in 1985 and still reside in Aspen today.

Despite her tarnished reputation, Claudine is considered a musical legend. Her catchy pop songs and heart wrenching ballads are still popular today. More and more young people are buying her albums.

And then there are people who continue to fall in love with Claudine the minute she smiles on film with shy uncertainty, gazing up with her big doe eyes, and it's easy to understand why Andy Williams came to a screeching halt that sunny afternoon on the Las Vegas strip.

What do you think of Claudine?


love jenny xoxo said...

wow crazy!!! never knew any of this!

{love jenny xoxo}

sherene said...

I think she's dangerous and a very manipulative woman, just saying..

Olga Zgonnik said...

wow this is so interesting, thanks for this post and your blog :)

newest follower on GFC, hope you can follow back :)

Kim (A Very Sweet Blog) said...

oh wow jen! what a crazy situation! it's hard to say... there was no prior history of abuse or violence! no problems with Andy or the 3rd husband. my gut however tells me she wasn't playing with the gun. all I can say is GOD knows! hahaha great post girl!

Bunny Moreno said...

I knew of this story (of course) and my husband and I are big fans of Peter Sellers so we saw "The Party". BUT I cannot stand her acting or her singing voice and have no clue why people consider her a talented artist. I believe she murdered him and I am appalled that Andy stood by her side. I think he did so for his children. She is a piece of work and I do believe in Karma. She got away with murder but one day she will pay. xox

Couture Carrie said...

Whoa... Amazing bio.
You tell these stories like no one else can!


Jade said...

I LOVE your posts like these! It's like some handpicked interesting Wikipedia page. This is kind of stuff I love to read, especially when it involves murder like this or some tragic death!! Am I odd? Nah.

Jade x

Mouthwash said...

Oooh she does sound sweet and innocent, doesn't she? Tricky tricky.

So hard to say...I wonder if they'll ever publish her journal. I bet it'd make for a very interesting read.

sergio castaño peña said...

wow, what an amazing purposes!
simply loving them. i hope youll like my blog as i love your ones!

definitely keep like this, and i hope we could follow each other to stay in touch!
wish you the best!!

Panty Buns said...

I'm not sure quite what to think. I doubt anyone other than Claudine herself, if anyone, could be certain of what really happened. Anyone who is intimately familiar with prosecutors' offices knows that their allegations are often untrue. Unfortunately it's frequent that only jurors themselves tend to look for truth. Certainly Andy Williams testifying on her behalf so assuredly to me suggests that she was not a dangerous psycho. zI think we're missing information. That said I still would think thrice before dating her.

David Macaulay said...

oh my lord - how come the champagne and the glamor always seems to end in hearbreak and violence? - well written as always Jen.

Imogen said...

What a story. It was so interesting to read. That just goes to show how drasticaly life can change. I was also amazed at how she met her husband, how a random meeting like that led to so many years together.


Such a beautifully dramatic tale, from the moment they met to the tragic deaths. I had no idea of the full story ... my, my she was something else!

Audrey Allure said...

Wow, that's crazy! What an interesting recap.

ravenlocks said...

It does sound a little fishy on her side. She must've done it after a jealous fit of rage.
She was a beautiful woman, though. Or I should say...she was a very attractive woman. Beautiful women don't murder.

And as love love the way you write :)



Dawn (Sassy) said...

Dang! That's something! I never knew this!

Thanks for sharing.


The Dainty Dolls House said...

Marvellous...loved it! Didn't know any of it, super post doll...hope you are doing well x

Cedric Viard said...

She is the best singer I have ever heard in my life. She is also a good actress. I would like to contact her if I can. Apparently she lives in Aspen. I am also very sad as we have no news from her since the seventies. She is 73 today. Claudine I love U !!!! You said in your song ain't no mountain high enough "si tu es triste, appelle moi, de loin, je suis prête à tout pour t'aider..". Today I am a little bit sad and I would like to talk to you Claudine. "J'aime le vent dans mes cheveux, et la mer dans mes yeux..." Je te veux à mes côtés et je ne partirais pas...

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