Saturday, April 13, 2024

A Real Reversal of Fortune: Claus von Bulow, Who Tried to Kill His Socialite Wife But Put Her In a Coma, Is Finally Dead at 92


Claus von Bulow is dead. AT LAST.

He was tried and found guilty of trying to kill his wife, socialite Sonny von Bulow, by injecting her with insulin, in 1982. The case became world known and wound up being turned into a movie, Barbet Schroeder’s excellent “Reversal of Fortune” with Jeremy Irons, Ron Silver, and Christine Baranski.

Alan Dershowitz agreed to handle the appeal, and won the case for von Bulow, who’d cheated on his wife and was as guilty as OJ Simpson. But he got off, and went to live in London after settling a $56 million civil suit with his step children.

In an era when there was no internet, and we had just newspapers and magazines to tell us what was going on, Claus von Bulow was the villain of all villains. Sonny von Bulow, his wife, was not widely known before he tried to kill her. But afterwards, she became world famous. Ironically, her first husband was also in a persistent vegetative coma. Eventually, their children put them in the same institution, where they lay side by side until their deaths. Sonny, whose real name was Martha, didn’t die until 2008–a  lasting rebuke to Claus.

Dershowitz became a celebrated defense lawyer because of the trial. He used his Harvard students to help him including Jim Cramer, whom we now know as the guy who shouts about money on TV, and Elliot Spitzer, who eventually became Client 9, the disgraced former governor of New York.

The New York Times obit, written a long time ago by Enid Nemy, is good but not exactly right. von Bulow–whose father was a Nazi collaborator, so he changed his name– was not “celebrated” after his conviction was overturned. He was a pariah, and had to leave New York. He died in London, where he fled to after the trials.

Dershowitz– currently in his own scandals– will be on TV as much as possible bragging about how he got von Bulow freed, much as he did with OJ Simpson later. Don’t believe it. Claus von Bulow was an evil man who wanted his wife’s money. It’s still a great story of the legal system being perverted.

The great Dominick Dunne wrote about Claus and Sonny in the real Vanity Fair, years ago. Here’s a link. Those were the days! Nick will have to get a journalist’s pass into Hell to get Claus’s comments now.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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