Edie Adams 1927-2008

It was a bittersweet moment when I read yesterday of the passing of singer/actress/Muriel cigar spokeswoman Edie Adams at the age of 81.  Even though I never met the lady (and she was that), I always found her admirable (even envied her somewhat) and I felt genuine sorrow for the world who has lost one of the most beautiful voices attached to one of the most beautiful women who ever lived.  If you haven’t been fortunate enough to hear this jewel sing one of the most romantic songs ever written, feast your eyes and ears upon this:

Still, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of relief amid the sadness.  Behind that demure smile and soft voice was a lifetime of tragedy.  Edie married the love of her life, the innovative and well ahead of his time comedian Ernie Kovacs in 1954 and bore him a daughter, Mia, in 1959.  Even though Edie had graduated from Julliard and aspired to become an opera singer, she got her break with Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (a 1950’s era American Idol).  That’s where she was noticed by Kovacs, who invited her to audition for his own show.  The rest, as they say, is history as far as their relationship is involved.  Although their marriage was happy, it was not without more than its share of problems–most having to do with the impulsive, albeit brilliant Kovacs.

When Kovacs died in early 1962 in a one-car crash in the wee hours of a Los Angeles morning, he left Edie with over $500,000 in debts (mostly from gambling and impulse buying), and ugly legal imbroglios with his first wife (over the custody of their two daughters) and the IRS.

A pantheon of Hollywood stars, including Frank Sinatra, Jack Lemmon, Dean Martin, and Milton Berle (from whose house Kovacs was returning when his car–for reasons that were never conclusively determined–crashed) immediately organized a TV special to raise money to settle Kovacs’ debts and provide for his daughters.  Edie said “No, I can take care of my own children.”

And she did–doing unceasing show business work for over a year, and appearing sporadically after that.  Groucho Marx, in introducing Adams during a Las Vegas gig, summed it up beautifully:  “There are some things Edie won’t do, but nothing she can’t do.”

Wherever and however she could, she paid tribute to Kovacs.  She happily pitched Muriel cigars in remembrance of Ernie’s signature stogie (even though during his lifetime, he pitched rival Dutch Masters cigars).  She not only repaid Ernie’s debts, she won the bitter custody suit for Ernie’s daughters from a previous marriage, and spent the rest of her life buying the rights to the numerous TV shows and specials Ernie created over the years.  Because Kovacs was so far ahead of his time, his series were many, but short-lived.  Still, once Edie had  collected Ernie’s shows, she repackaged them for rebroadcast and for home enjoyment so that future generations could experience the comic genius that was Ernie Kovacs.

Sadly, Edie’s life after Ernie was not idyllic.  She married twice more, but never for long.  Her daughter Mia, like her father, died tragically in an automobile accident in 1982.  Edie is survived only by her son from her second marriage, her younger stepdaughter by her marriage to Ernie Kovacs, and one grandchild, the child of Ernie’s oldest daughter (who died of chronic ill health in 2001).  Still, she always carried herself with charm and with grace, and with beauty that not only dwelt on the outside,  but radiated from within.  Rest in peace, Edie, reunited with the love of your life and your daughter.  You think they have gorilla masks in heaven?

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