"We're not expecting rainbow-colored skies...."
It was perhaps the most sensational celebrity trial of the '70s.
She was the wispy, sexy French sex kitten; a successful singer and actress who had captured the hearts of Americans after marrying crooner Andy Williams. Their annual Williams Family Christmas specials were always among NBC's most popular shows. He was the young, handsome Olympic and professional skiing sensation; a babe magnet who enjoyed living the good life.
The marriage to Andy Williams fell apart and they divorced in 1975. Sometime later, Claudine Longet met and fell in love with Spider Sabich. They lived together in bliss among the other celebrities in Aspen, Colorado. They seemed to be the perfect couple. But on March 21, 1976, something went horribly wrong when Longet shot and killed Sabich in the bathroom of their Aspen home.
She said it was a tragic accident. The gun went off as he was showing her how to use it. Apparently the jury believed her, because they acquitted her of felony manslaughter charges, finding her guilty of only a misdemeanor criminal negligence charge. She paid a small fine and served 30 days in the hootch.
The trial result didn't sit well with a lot of folks. Forensic results had shown that Savich was bending over and facing away from her when he was shot. He was also at least 6 feet away from the gun. This seemed to contradict her story. Add to that the fact that her sensational diary was not allowed into evidence because the police had obtained it without a warrant; a diary which would have painted a picture of a relationship on the rocks, not the loving relationship described at the trial.
After the criminal trial, she was sued civilly by the Sabich family. The case was settled out of court, with Longet paying a large amount of money to Spider's family.
Claudine Longet never performed again after the trial. Today she lives quietly in Aspen with husband Ron Austin, who had been her attorney at the Trial of the Decade.
(The video above is Claudine Longet singing "Nothing to Lose" from Peter Seller's 1968 film, The Party.)
Waxing Nostalgic Over Classic TV