The Untold Truth Of Claudine Longet

Claudine Longet saw mountains of media attention during the 1960s and 1970s — though perhaps not the kind she would've desired. She was born in Paris, France in 1942 to an x-ray manufacturer and a doctor, per GQ. Her own career path was a little more flamboyant. At the age of 17, she began dancing at the Parisian cabaret club Folies Bergère, per Biography. According to GQ, a club owner named Lou Walters saw Longet dancing on French TV, and invited her to Las Vegas to become a showgirl.

After marrying a very famous singer, Longet ended up with a ritzy showbiz career that spanned several industries. She pursued a career in acting, appearing on network dramas, variety specials, and even in Blake Edwards' 1968 comedy movie "The Party," alongside Peter Sellers, per Biography. Longet also enjoyed a successful — albeit short-lived — singing career from 1967 to 1972.

Longet's life and legacy shifted in the mid-1970s when she got in trouble with the law for a serious crime (more on that later). During the trial, she began a relationship with her lawyer, who left his family to move in with her before she served her jail time, per GQ. She has not publicly spoken out about the trial since; in fact, following her sentence, she disappeared from the limelight and into the mountains of Colorado. Here's more about the mysterious former French star.

Claudine Longet met crooner Andy Williams when she was a Las Vegas showgirl

Claudine Longet married "Moon River" crooner Andy Williams in December 1961 — the same year the movie adaptation of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" came out and popularized his signature tune.

When Longet and Williams met, she was a teenage Las Vegas showgirl. According to GQ, there have been conflicting reports about their first meeting, including one involving Williams coming to Longet's rescue in a limo after her car broke down on the Las Vegas strip and another in which Williams claimed to remember seeing Longet roller-skating near Paris' Louvre Museum a decade prior. But it has been most widely reported that the pair met while Longet was dancing at the Tropicana casino in 1960.

"Unlike most girls, who liked to unwind after the midnight show," Longet once said (via GQ), "I went straight back to my apartment, to wake up in good shape to go skiing. I fell in love with Andy through sport."

The couple went on to have three children in the '60s, but their marriage had reportedly fallen apart by the end of the decade, per Aspen Times, and they separated shortly thereafter. Longet moved to Aspen, Colorado, in the early '70s, and her divorce from Williams was finalized in 1975. Still, the two remained close friends until his death in 2012.

"They had a great relationship," their son, Bobby, said (via GQ). "[As a child] I said, 'Boy, I'm glad my parents aren't divorced.' And they were."

Trumpeter Herb Alpert helped kickstart her career

Claudine Longet's guest appearances on her husband's "The Andy Williams Show" launched both her acting and singing careers. During an appearance on the NBC drama "Run for Your Life," Longet was tasked with singing and playing on guitar a bossa nova song called "Meditation." According to Williams' 2009 memoir "Moon River and Me," her performance led to audiences flooding the NBC switchboard with calls inquiring about Longet.

Williams told his friend, Herb Alpert of the very popular brass band Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, about the reaction. "I called him and told him what had happened after the show aired," Williams recalled in his book. "'I'd like to hear that song,' Herb said, so I sent him a tape of the show. He loved Claudine's sound and immediately signed her to his label."

Through Alpert's A&M Records label, Longet released five albums full of what Williams described as "easy-listening songs in that distinctive breath and very sexy accent." Williams then invited Longet onto his label, Barnaby, to release two more albums. Longet's first album, "Claudine," sold over a million copies, and she had four Top-100 hits.

She and Andy Williams named their son after Robert F. Kennedy

Following their 1961 marriage, Claudine Longet and Andy Williams found themselves running with a high-profile, showbiz crowd that included the likes of singer Barbra Streisand, astronaut John Glenn, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, per Daily Mail.

Longet and Williams were among Kennedy's staunchest supporters during his 1968 Democratic presidential campaign — even though Williams was a Republican. The couple even had plans to meet up with the politician the night he was fatally shot, on June 5, 1968, per Variety.

According to The Los Angeles Times, Williams sang "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at Kennedy's funeral, which he called "the hardest thing I ever did." Williams and Longet named their youngest son, Robert, after the late politician the following year.                                                                                                                      

Following Kennedy's death and his divorce from Longet, rumors swirled that Williams was involved with Kennedy's widow, Ethel. He set the record straight on "Larry King Live" in 2000. "We were friends for life, and are very good friends now, yes," the crooner said (via CNN). "I love Bobby and Ethel, and my wife, Claudine, and I were very close with them ... I loved both of them very much."

Even Hunter S. Thompson was outraged at Claudine Longet's murder trial

A year after she moved to Aspen, Colorado, Claudine Longet met skiing champion Vladimir "Spider" Sabich. They fell in love and Longet, along with her three children, soon moved into Sabich's luxury chalet in Starwood, per The New York Times. What ensued was a reportedly tumultuous, four-year relationship that ended with Longet with a gun in her hand and Sabich bleeding to death on the bathroom floor.

On March 21, 1976, Longet fatally shot Sabich with a .22 pistol. The single bullet punctured Sabich's side and severed a major artery, causing him to bleed out by the time help arrived on the scene after a nearby security guard called the police. Longet claimed it was an accidental shooting that occurred while Sabich was showing her how to use the gun, but she was arrested on the scene.

The shooting and arrest led to a trial that local celebrity Hunter S. Thompson, who had run for mayor of Pitkin County six years prior, likened to Aspen "fouling its own nest" (via GQ). The press flooded to Aspen, which created what The New York Times described as "a tiny economic boom in Aspen ... in the midst of the worst ski season in 40 years because of a lack of snow."

The Sabich family and the people of Aspen were left outraged after Longet was convicted of misdemeanor negligent homicide, which required her to serve just 30 days in the county jail on the dates of her choosing, per GQ.

The Rolling Stones wrote a song about her murder trial

In the late 1970s, the Rolling Stones wrote a song about Claudine Longet for their 1978 album "Some Girls," per GQ. The song, titled "Claudine," focuses on Longet fatally shooting Vladimir "Spider" Sabich. "Claudine's back in jail again/She only does it at weekends," the song begins (via Genius), referring to how Longet was given the option to carry out her sentence at a time of her choosing and chose to do so over the course of several weekends.

The song did not make it onto the original release of "Some Girls" for legal reasons. "I wished, and I think all of us did at the time, that that should have been on the original album, but there was some legal difficulties and stuff," Keith Richards told Spinner (via Song Facts). "But otherwise, she was a perfect 'Some Girl.'"

The song did, however, end up on a bonus disc with the 2011 reissue of "Some Girls." "Now only Spider knows for sure/But he ain't talkin' about it anymore," Mick Jagger sings on the track. "There's blood in the chalet/And blood in the snow/Washed her hands of the whole damn show."

She faced a hefty civil lawsuit

Those who stand trial for murder do so facing charges levied by the state. While avoiding a conviction that could have lead to prison time or the death penalty, an acquitted murderer may later face a civil suit from the family of the deceased. Being held liable for the wrongful death of a person is a semantic and legal distinction. It requires a different set of legal proceedings, which can end with a court finding the acquitted murderer technically responsible for the death and on the hook to give the descendants a large payout.

According to GQ, not long after Claudine Longet avoided a prison sentence for the alleged murder of Spider Sabich, the skier's parents filed a civil suit against the singer, seeking $780,000 in compensatory damages (while other sources, such as Entertainment Weekly, peg the amount much higher, at $1.3 million). The civil case never actually reached the inside of a courtroom, with both parties agreeing to a pre-trial settlement. The amount agreed upon was never publicly disclosed, as part of the agreement included Longet swearing to never publicly discuss or write about the case. 

More than four decades since Sabich's death and Longet's acquittal and civil suit settlement, she has remained silent and maintained a very private life. She reportedly once had a memoir planned but ultimately decided against it and may have even burned her journals written during and after her relationship with Sabich.

Claudine Longet married her attorney

In 1977, per Entertainment Weekly, Claudine Longet's legal woes over the death of partner Spider Sabich came to an end, when she was convicted of criminally negligent homicide, paid a $25 fine and spent a month in a county jail. Her eventual freedom was secured by her legal team, led by local attorney Ron Austin. But things quickly went from professional to personal for the lawyer and the accused. 

According to Greg Morrill's "Retro-Ski," Austin married Longet, his former client, in 1985. They're reportedly still married and live in a mountain house in Aspen, Colorado, not far from where Longet's previous partner died. Longet retreated into life as a private figure, not recording any music in more than four decades, while Austin is a slightly more public presence if not a pillar of the local community. He still practices law in Colorado, a named partner in the Aspen-based firm of Austin, Peirce & Smith, which focuses on real estate, business, and administrative law.