Thursday, September 15, 2011

Claudine Longet: A Real Renaissance Woman

Hey, do you know Claudine Longet? No? Well, here she is.

Oh no! She was hiding behind a tree and you surprised her maybe! But now that you can see Claudine, isn’t she pretty? And the thing is she also has a pretty voice. Yes, this pretty French lady has a pretty voice that she made with her pretty face, and she used that pretty voice to sing pretty songs about the prettier things in life, including but not limited to the different colors that love can be.

Longet got attention for more than her voice, however. For example, she married the noted (but less pretty) singer Andy Williams. And she happened to be friends with Robert F. Kennedy. But the thing that really sets her apart from other singers of her era, French or otherwise, would have to be her fatally shooting Olympic ski champion Vladmir “Spider” Sabich in 1976. She claimed the gun fired accidentally. Prosecutors said otherwise, but she ultimately was sentenced to only 30 days jail time. And, according to Wikipedia, a subsequent civil suit filed by Sabich’s family was resolved out of court, with the peculiar provision that she never tell or write about what actually happened.

And that’s all interesting, sure, but the real capper for me is this bit, also from Wikipedia: A Racquel Welch-hosted episode from the first season of Saturday Night Live made fun of the incident with a sketch titled “The Claudine Longet Invitational,” which played gunshot sounds over stock footage of skiers wiping out. Bad taste, sure, but funny nonetheless. Shortly after, Longet’s attorney demanded that the show cease such mockeries, and Lorne Michaels himself apologized on the following episode. However, the strange part is that cease-and-desist letter notwithstanding, the sketch is still viewable — on Netflix or on Hulu Plus. I actually just watched it, and while I can’t embed Hulu Plus videos, I can at least offer you this:

You get the idea.

It’s an interesting measure of how much SNL’s edge has been nerfed since the show began. In 1976, SNL ran a sketch that just about everyone would admit is offensive, and while it offered an on-air apology for doing so, the sketch didn’t get excised from reruns. More recently, however, Abby Elliott’s impression of Brittany Murphy on “Weekend Update” — as borderline unemployable, dazed and under the incorrect impression that she’s hosting (“Ladies and gentleman, Sum 41 is here!”) — got yanked from reruns, Hulu, iTunes and anywhere else NBC can find it, even though it aired 15 days before Murphy died. No apology, and presumably no request on the part of Murphy’s family for one. Yet this is the only trace of it that I could find, and it’s only the first few seconds:

I remember the sketch. It was less than respectful toward Murphy, who did actually host SNL in 2002, during the peak of her career. (The musical guest, by the way, was Nelly.) But that’s SNL’s job, making fun of people, and the sketch didn’t overstep a line. Yet it’s gone forever, apparently, and “The Claudine Longet Invitational” is still around.

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