Saturday, December 05, 2020

Weekend Post

 This was my favorite cheesy Christmas special growing up.  I wrote about it in my memoir, THE ME GENERATION...BY ME (the PERFECT holiday gift available in Kindle, paperback, and audiobook formats.  Hint hint.) 

I still can’t fathom why anyone watched the ANDY WILLIAMS variety show on NBC if they didn’t own a color TV. It was so wholesome your teeth ached. Whatever “edge” the show had was provided by the Osmond Family. But it was in color and production numbers always featured grinning All-American yahoos in brightly colored sweaters holding brightly colored balloons. Not having a color TV and not being gay I never watched THE ANDY WILLIAMS SHOW… except…

During their Christmas special.

It was the one time of year Andy had his beautiful family on the show and this became a 60s American tradition. Mom and dad and the Williams kinder would sing Carols, exchange presents, and their message of love and holiday good cheer would absolutely entrance you. That’s not why I watched it, of course. I wanted to screw Andy’s wife.

Claudine Longet (Mrs. Williams) was a willowy brunette with exquisite doe eyes and luscious lips. Laura Petrie but French. She was also a successful recording artist but believe me, if she looked like Charles De Gaulle she couldn’t give away one record. But I found her incredibly sexy, even when she was singing Silent Night in front of a crucifix. She and Andy would divorce in the 70s and two years later she shot her boyfriend, Olympic skier Spider Sabich to death. I still wanted to screw her, but not as much.

So as enjoyable as those holiday shows were in the mid 60s, watching them now on PBS they take on a whole new level of absurdity. Two of their kids are named Noelle and Christian. How much more seriously can you take Christmas? And yet, twelve years later, there’s mom in a different winter wonderland with a loaded revolver. She was ultimately convicted on a lesser charge and married her defense attorney.

I’ll be on parole for Christmas.

30 comments :

Lemuel said...

How about those King Family Singers specials? Yeesh.

Mr. Delight said...

A summer-job memory is Andy’s middle-of-the-night stagger to his room at a Hilton after a belt or 25; literally bouncing off the hallway walls. First and only time time I saw an in-person demonstration of that phrase.

The man wouldn’t have known Claudine from Claude Rains that night. It was a pitiable sight to see especially given his public packaging, and was quite saddening.

They soon divorced, not a shocker if that night wasn't an aberration in his habits.

Markus said...

And of course she also played the feebly-voiced singer-starlet love interest of Hrundi Bakshi (Peter Sellers, birdie num num) in "The Party" as I was reminded of just yesterday (funny coincidence).

Ray said...

Anyone who thinks SNL is mean and edgy today should check the early seasons- the unedited versions, not what Hulu deigns to show. One that they actually had to do an on-air apology for the Claudine Longet Invitational Ski Tournament, in which all the entrants were "accidentally shot by Claudine Longet."

James Van Hise said...

I looked her up and was surprised to see that Claudine Longet is still alive! She's 79.

Mike Barer said...

I was nuts about Claudine and didn't think they would break up. I was also naïve enough to believe her story about shooting Spider.

Michael said...

I recently watched a HOGANS HEROES episode and there was an attractive French woman who helped Hogan. When I looked up who played her was surprised to learn it was Claudine Longet.

D. Crockett said...

What, no love for the Bear?

Unknown said...

I once watched the Andy Williams Christmas Special with Williams's girlfriend at the time, a lovely young woman who was a personal friend of my landlady's daughter. Claudine was on the show with Andy with all their kids, because it was Christmas. Debbie, I think the girlfriend's name was Debbie, sat in the floor in front of the TV and moaned, "Oh, Howard," each time Williams kissed or embraced Claudine. (William's first name is Howard.) "He's only doing that because the producers asked him to," she explained.

Anonymous said...

In his book "Son Of Sabitch" Claudine's son says of his mother, "because she grew up in France she never really understood the legal concept of self-defense."

Pat Reeder said...

Claudine is one of our Hollywood Hi-Fi all-stars. She put out a shocking number of albums and singles: https://www.discogs.com/artist/260322-Claudine-Longet

I use the word "shocking" because you'd be shocked that she had a record contract if you ever heard one of them. God only knows how that happened: https://youtu.be/LF7vjPosQF0

-3- said...

We had black & white, but we watched for Andy Williams singing. Mom was a huge fan, and her Xmas albums were all Andy Williams.
There really was never a question if we were going to watch them or not.

Mibbitmaker said...

I, also, immediately thought of the SNL sketch when Claudine Longet was brought up. Not only does that reflect on the edginess of original SNL, but also the fact that it was written by the master of dark comedy Michael O'Donoghue. The apology, but not the sketch itself, was in the SNL script book that came out in 1978. (I also checked the Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad book, Saturday Night, to be sure it was indeed his sketch)

E. Yarber said...

Andy was still at it in the late 80s. I barely remember a special with Kim Fields, Tina Yothers, Topo Gigio and Special Guest Star Pope John Paul II.

The opening number had Andy wandering by the Fountain of Trevi in a tux warbling something like "And we may even hope/That we can meet the Pope!"

Colin Stratton said...

You slut! So you are to blame for "Charlie's Angels", "Three's Company", and "The Dukes of Hazzard"!

Troy McClure said...

Yo Ken. George Wendt was on Stars in the House last night to talk about doing your virtual play On the Farce Day of Christmas. You've kept that close to your chest! Looking forward to it.

Anonymous said...


@Pat Reeder. See (heard) what you mean...

Mark said...

Thanks to MeTV and its imitators, I've seen Claudine Longet in Hogan's Heroes, the Rat Patrol, and the Bold Ones. In a remarkable coincidence she always played someone suspected of a crime. In the first 2 it was collaborating with the Nazis. In the third (and this is the kicker), the plot revolved around whether she or her husband (the wonderful Charles Aidman) had killed her lover.

Maurice M. said...

"Not having a color TV and not being gay I never watched THE ANDY WILLIAMS SHOW…"

Ken, why would you possibly think being "gay" would affect wanting to watch something as dully white bread as the Andy Williams show?

Mitch said...

My aunt, a harpsichordist, was a featured musician on that show. In one episode, she was given a solo number. You're right about people watching the program because it was in color. My aunt's gown that evening was a bright turquoise stunner, and that's all I remember about her spot. But the show had at least one other redeeming factor: Mason Williams wrote for it.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

NBC brought back Williams on a weekly basis in a "mod," slightly edgy variety hour on Saturday nights in 1969. Most of Williams's musical numbers were from the Top 40 adult contemporary charts--not much Mancini/Mercer here--and there was an emphasis on comedy.

The revival ran two years and was produced by Chris Bearde and Allan Blye, who went on to do "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour" for CBS in 1971.

Betty said...

@Mitch, "The Mason Williams Reading Matter" has been one of my favorite books since it came out 50 years ago!

J Lee said...

Before "Hogan's Heroes", Longet was paired with Tim Conway in two "McHale's Navy" episodes in 1963, and then again in the movie Universal made the following year, so she did have a little flair for comedy while also being eye candy for mid-1960s TV viewers. (The second episode ended with Claudine leaning on a gun while standing on board PT 73 and looking at Joe Flynn on the dock, but the show lasted for another three seasons, so nothing happened.)

Gary said...

Interesting that Andy Williams started in an act with his older brothers, then went solo to far greater success. History repeated itself with Andy's frequent guests the Osmond Brothers, when brother Donny went on his own.

sanford said...

Gary, I think the same would apply to Michael Jackson. Of course Janet and Latoya were popular but no where near Michael.

Philly Cinephile said...

I find Claudine endlessly fascinating. Her persona was that of an ethereal, breathy, wispy mademoiselle, but in reality she had a notoriously bad temper. A friend of Sabich told the story of talking to Spider in a bar when suddenly a glass whizzed past their heads and smashed into the wall. Without missing a beat, Spider said, "I think Claudine wants to leave."

On the day of the murder, she was spotted by several people, driving around Aspen in a rage looking for Spider, ultimately plowing down the security gate to her housing development.

The Aspen police botched the handling of the case to such a degree that all of the ballistics evidence was thrown out, even though the evidence revealed that the gun had jammed when Claudine tried to fire it and that she pulled the trigger several times before it finally went off. (The Aspen police arrested Ted Bundy at one point and he managed to escape from them...)

Claudine worked with a fashion consultant to come up with, in her words, "court clothes" that would downplay her glamour. Hence the Peter Pan collars that she wore on the stand.

When she was sentenced to 30 days in jail, the judge allowed her to take a previously-scheduled trip to Mexico before serving her sentence. There wasn't a women's prison in Aspen, so they converted an office in the courthouse into a makeshift prison cell, painted to her specifications.

The Sabich family filed a civil suit against her. One of the conditions of the settlement is that she can never speak or write about the incident in public.

She once recorded a Christmas song called "I Don't Intend to Spend Christmas Without You". At the time, I'm sure it was considered charming, but post-Sabich, it's positively chilling.

She still lives in Aspen. I imagine her as a Garbo figure, venturing into town, and tales of Claudine spottings being shared by locals and tourists.

Kendall Rivers said...

My Christmas go tos have always been and will always be Rankin\Bass and more recently the last few years It's a Wonderful Life. FQ: You made a great point once about the doubt of any Oral history being made about The Middle. Have you ever considered conducting one yourself? You being a fan, having ties with Patricia Heaton, Deann Heline and Eileen Heisler etc. Might be worth thinking about.

Rich Shealer said...

@D. Crockett my mother watched Andy Williams in the 60's. I've always hated music in my shows when I was a kid. I still fast forward through most of SNL's musical guests. So in general I wasn't interested in the AWS.

The one thing I sort of remember about the Andy Williams's show and what immediately popped into my head was the bear. But I couldn't tell you anything about it.

Mike Doran said...

Since Someone Asked:

Andy Williams's Bear was Janos Prohaska, inside a bear costume of his own creation.
Mr. Prohaska's family business was the creation of costumes - gorillas, bears, other such creatures - for movies and TV.
Among his better-remembered creatures were in service of Star Trek, Outer Limits, and other SF series of that era; Janos and his son Robert would create something otherworldly and outrageous, then offer it to producers like Gene Roddenberry to be "anything you'd like".
The script would then be tailored to fit the Prohaska creature, and another show would be off and running ...
Janos Prohaska and his son Robert were killed in a plane crash while on location for Primal Man, a semi-documentary in which they were playing prehistoric primates in costumes of their own making.

Dave H said...

I remember seeing Claudine in The Party with Peter Sellers and thinking she was the prettiest woman I had ever seen. Then I read up on her and what happened. I think she ended up marrying the lawyer who defended her. Interesting. Lol Speaking of The Party how do you think this movie would go over today?? I would have thought Hollywood would have done a updated version of it over the years. I have not seen it on TV in years.