May 21, 2007

Chinese Beauties, Scarborough Fair, and Spider Sabich

This little morality tale filled with delicious scandal is slightly convoluted, so bear with me, dahlings.

As I walked up a steep hill in Suzhou gardens last month, I heard a western song. Nearing a private glen, I observed these oriental beauties moving in and out of an artificial fog, or standing in giant lotus blossoms. In the background, I heard Scarborough Fair sung in soft Chinese voices. The scene was surreal, but I was enchanted.

Equally as surreal is this You Tube video of Simon and Garfunkle singing the Scarborough Fair canticle with Andy Williams around 1970 or so. At the time, Andy was married to French chanteuse Claudine Longet. Her tale of crime and woe would put little ol' Paris to shame.

In 1976 Claudine shot her lover, Olympic skier Spider Sabich. Crying pretty tears and retaining an excellent lawyer, she received a shockingly light sentence. Did I tell you that she claimed that the gun went off accidentally? Did I also tell you that Spider was getting ready to meet another woman that evening? Claudine was so devastated at the senseless and absurd loss of a man in his prime that before she served 30 days in jail she went on vacation with her lawyer. He was still married, though he would eventually become her husband.

Our fair Claudine in her prime.
Spider and Claudine in happy days. He built her a $250,000 ski chalet in Aspen, astronomical for those days. In his last year, though, his earnings from skiing and endorsements dried up, and he made only $800.

Andy and Claudine in one of their wholesome family Christmas specials.

You can still purchase Claudine's records, I believe. In this clip, she sings My Favorite Things with her husband in her rather weak but charming white bread French voice. I wonder if she ever covered Scarborough Fair? For more about the scandal, click here. Click here for a Wikipedia article about Spider.

Claudine attended Spider's funeral, much to his family's horror. She is still married to the lawyer, last I read, and still lives in Aspen.

Claudine Longet Fan Club

Saturday Night Live transcript of a sketch entitled: The Claudine Longet Invitational gives one a good insight of how people felt about the scandal at the time.


ArtfulSub said...

Wow. Your mind connects things in a wonderfully non-linear fashion. The clip from the Andy Williams show was awesome. GREAT arrangement and performance.

Pretty sure the gun went off by accident several times, btw.


Linda Merrill said...

Loved the S&G video. One of my favorite songs ever. When all my friends were into the BeeGees or Elton John, I was listening to S&G and hoping for a reunion. Interesting post, as always, I'm impressed with the breadth of your interests. From Jane Austin to Dancing with the Stars!

Anonymous said...

I was living in Aspen at the time and was one of Spider's lovers, so I know for a fact that he was cheating on her. He was probably the most beautiful man I had ever seen then or since. I saw her at at Little Nell's that day tooting up in the bathroom with her friend Candy. Claudine was loaded on cocaine when she shot him, but that is no excuse for murder. My only regret is not going to the police to testify against her--I left Aspen shortly after the murder.