Edie Adams (April 16, 1927 – October 15, 2008) was an American singer, Broadway, television and film actress and comedienne. Adams, a Tony Award winner, "both embodied and winked at the stereotypes of fetching chanteuse and sexpot blonde."
Adams was born as Edith Elizabeth Enke in Kingston, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey.
She earned a vocal degree from the Juilliard School of Music, and then graduated from Columbia School of Drama. In 1950, she won the "Miss U.S. Television" beauty contest, which led to an appearance with Milton Berle on his television show. Her earliest television work billed her as Edith Adams. One of Edie's early television appearances was on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. She was seen by the producer of the Kovacs show "Kovacs on the Corner" (then still in Philadelphia), who invited her to audition. Edie, who was well-trained in classical music, had very little experience with popular music and could perform only three songs. She said later, "I sang them all during the audition, and if they had asked to hear another, I never would have made it." She became part of the show in July 1951. In one of the last interviews of his life, husband Ernie looked back on the early days, saying, "I wish I could say I was the big shot that hired her, but it was my show in name only--the producer had all the say. Later on I did have something to say and I said it, 'Let's get married."
Adams began working regularly on television with comedian Ernie Kovacs and talk show pioneer Jack Paar. Kovacs was a noted cigar smoker, and Adams did a long-running series of TV commercials for Muriel Cigars. She remained the pitch-lady for Muriel well after Kovacs' death, intoning in a Mae West style and sexy outfit, "Why don't you pick one up and smoke it sometime?" Another commercial for Muriel cigars, which cost ten cents, showed Adams singing, "Hey, big spender, spend a little dime with me" (based on the song, "Hey Big Spender" from the musical Sweet Charity.)
The husband-wife team of Adams and Kovacs received Emmy nominations for best performances in a comedy series in 1957. In 1960, she and husband Ernie portrayed themselves as the guest stars in the final Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz "Lucy/Ricky Ricardo" coupling hour-long TV special on the Columbia Broadcasting System network. After Kovacs' death, his network, ABC, gave Adams a chance with her own show, Here's Edie, which received five Emmy nominations but nevertheless was on for only one season, 1963. In subsequent years, Adams made sporadic television appearances, including on Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, and Designing Women.
Adams starred on Broadway in Wonderful Town (1953) opposite Rosalind Russell (winning the Theatre World Award), and as Daisy Mae in Li'l Abner (1956), winning the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She played the Fairy Godmother in Rodgers and Hammerstein's original 1957 Cinderella broadcast.
Adams played supporting roles in several films in the 1960s, including the bitter secretary of two-timing Fred MacMurray in the Oscar-winning film The Apartment (1960) and the wife of presidential candidate Cliff Robertson in 1964's The Best Man. In 2003, as one of the surviving headliners from the all-star comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, she joined actors Marvin Kaplan and Sid Caesar at a 40th anniversary celebration of the movie. She was also a favorite nightclub headliner.
After a courtship that included mariachi bands and an unexpected diamond engagement ring, Adams and Ernie Kovacs eloped; they were married on September 12, 1954, in Mexico City. Initially, Edie wasn't certain about marrying Kovacs. She went on a six week European cruise, hoping to come to a decision. After just a few days away and many long distance phone calls, Adams returned home with an answer-it was "yes." It was Kovacs' second marriage, and a union that lasted until his death in a car accident on January 13, 1962, after which she won a "nasty custody battle" over her stepdaughters, Kip Raleigh "Kippie" Kovacs (1949–2001) (married Bill Lancaster, (1947–1997) son of Burt Lancaster) and Elizabeth ("Bette").
Kovacs' ex-wife had previously kidnapped the girls during a visit; Adams and Kovacs worked tirelessly to locate his daughters and return them to their father's custody. The 1984 film, Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter, (in which Adams plays Mae West), deals with the real-life drama. She also worked for years to pay off Kovacs' massive back-taxes debt to the IRS. The couple's celebrity friends planned a TV special benefit for Edie and her family, but she declined, saying, "I can take care of my own children." Adams spent the next year working practically non-stop.
Adams had two later marriages, briefly to photographer Martin Mills and then to trumpeter Pete Candoli, with whom she appeared in a touring production of the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes. She gave birth to two children: a daughter, Mia Susan Kovacs, who was born in 1959 and killed in an automobile accident in 1982, and a son, Joshua Mills.
Edie Adams died in Los Angeles, California at age 81. According to her son, the causes were cancer and pneumonia. Edie is buried in Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery between her daughter, Mia, and her stepdaughter, Kippie.
Archving Kovacs' work
She is also known for her work in archiving her husband's television work. She later testified on the status of the archive of the short lived DuMont Television Network, where both she and husband Kovacs worked during the early 1950s. Adams claimed that so little value was given to the film archive that the entire collection was loaded into three trucks and dumped into Upper New York Bay. Upon discovering that her husband's work was disappearing through being discarded and re-use of the tapes, Edie Adams initially used the proceeds of his insurance policy to purchase the rights to as much footage as possible. She also used her own earnings for this purpose.