Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fame's Footnotes

Birthday thoughts, today, for two very different ladies, united only by the chance of their sharing the date - and the thoroughgoing way that, despite lashings of fame once upon a time, they have disappeared from the headlines and public consciousness alike. It's truly out of sight, out of mind for a lethal songbird and The Last of the Poor Little Rich Girls.

Murder first...

In 1976, Claudine Longet was just another middlingly successful, slightly faded pop star (had there been a Branson, she wouldn't merited her own theatre), recently divorced from her longtime, bigger-name husband Andy Williams. She had had a brief vogue in the mid-sixties for her wispy, charmingly accented renditions of middle-of-the-road pop favorites; you can, if care to, get a sense of her to my ears pallid oeuvre here. She returned to the front pages for all the wrong reasons when her boyfriend (and it was a scandal in itself, even in 1976, that a divorcée would have a boyfriend), a pro skier, wound up shot. She was convicted, if only of criminal negligence, and there was much agitation that her sentence was a mere 30 days.

That much I remembered. What I either never knew or had forgotten was that she ended up marrying her defense lawyer (after his own divorce), and as part of the settlement of a civil action that followed the first trial, agreed to stay mum for the rest of her life.

And so she's done. It's odd to think that she's still around, 70 today, apparently living quietly in Aspen, Colorado. You would have thought she'd had enough of skiing...

We see our second birthday girl, right, here in the first flush of her involuntary fame. Athina Onassis had the mixed luck to be born into almost inconceivable amounts of money, courtesy of an equally inconceivably dysfunctional family. Everything about her mother Christina's life made the papers, from her miserable love life to her miserable self-image to her miserable four divorces. The public seemed to take a kind of solace in knowing that all that cash couldn't make Christina happy, or pretty, or anything, apparently, but miserable. Athina was only three when the whole sorry spectacle came to an end, and her childhood was marked by a drumbeat of press looking to turn her into the living immolation her mother had become.

And here's the suprising thing: despite a spate of articles now and again when something caught an editor's eye (Athina taking her father's surname; various legal wranglings over her various inheritances; her supposedly mixed feelings about her Greek heritage), Athina seems to have let fame pass her by. Today she's 27, an equestrienne married to an equally horse-mad Brazilian, and seemingly living the life of a (comparatively) ordinary low-profile jet-setter.

One funny thing does unite these two: in true tabloid fashion, let's call it The Curse of the Kennedys.

Athina, of course, is Jackie O's step-granddaughter, and it was that connection that really fueled all the coverage of her mother's horrid life. Claudine, it seems, before she entered the limbo-land of the Hollywood ex-wife, had traveled in good circles: She and Andy were at the Ambassador Hotel, waiting to go out later, while their pal Bobby Kennedy gave the speech that was so decidedly interrupted by Mr. Sirhan Sirhan.

One wonders what each would make of the other, were they to meet blowing out their birthday candles...


  1. Claudine still hosts the "Claudine Longet Invitational" where none of racers seem to make it to the finish line because they accidentally get shot by Claudine Longet!

    I recall that she served the 30 days at her own leisure and on weekends only.

  2. Sounds more like the "Curse of Andy Williams" to me... Jx

  3. I will never forget Claudine singing "Love is Blue" on an Andy Williams show. I thought she was so pretty and alluring. Of course, I was eight years old and still seeking role models.

  4. thom: we, who search for role models,
    find you pretty and alluring.

  5. Right back atcha, Miss Desmond!

  6. Perhaps they could do a picture together. "The Gamine with a Gun meets Gorgon"

    It's just a working title.

  7. @Thom: You are so beautiful to meeeeeeeeeee.

  8. I will never fully get over the blissfully awful, deliciously hilarious skewering poor Christina received in Jackie: An American Life at the Belasco Theatre in 1997. Life was far too cruel to this poor little rich girl.