Edie Adams

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Edie Adams
Adams in 1958
Edith Elizabeth Enke

(1927-04-16)April 16, 1927
DiedOctober 15, 2008(2008-10-15) (aged 81)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills
Other namesEdythe Adams
Edith Adams
Edith Candoli
EducationJuilliard School (BM)
Columbia University (BA)
Actors Studio
  • Comedian
  • actress
  • singer
  • businesswoman
Years active1951–2004
Political partyDemocrat[1]
(m. 1954; died 1962)
Martin Mills
(m. 1964; div. 1971)
(m. 1972; div. 1988)

Edie Adams (born Edith Elizabeth Enke;[2] April 16, 1927 – October 15, 2008)[3] was an American comedian, actress, singer and businesswoman. She earned the Tony Award and was nominated for an Emmy Award.

Adams was well known for her impersonations of sexy stars on stage and television, especially Marilyn Monroe.[4][5][6] She was the frequent television partner of Ernie Kovacs, her husband. Adams founded two beauty businesses: Edie Adams Cosmetics and Edie Adams Cut 'n' Curl.

Early life[edit]

Adams was born in Kingston, Pennsylvania,[2] the only daughter of Sheldon Alonzo Enke and Ada Dorothy (née Adams), whom she described as "two conservative native Pennsylvanians".[7] She had an elder brother, Sheldon Adams Enke. The family moved to nearby areas such as Shavertown and Trucksville and spent a year in New York City before settling in Tenafly, New Jersey, where she attended Tenafly High School.[8] Ada Enke, who had a "trained dramatic soprano voice,"[9] taught her daughter singing and piano; mother and daughter were members of the Grove City Presbyterian church choir.[10] Adams's grandmother, a seamstress, taught her how to sew. She made her own clothing beginning in the sixth grade and Adams would later have her own designer line of clothing, called Bonham, Inc.[11]

After high school, she wanted to pursue a career as a vocalist, but was unsure whether she would make the cut after music school auditions. She knew that her costuming skills were at a level to constitute a fallback, with Traphagen School of Fashion as her "safe school" during the college application process.[12] In the event, she succeeded in getting into Juilliard, where she earned a vocal degree from Juilliard and then took a "fifth year" and graduated from Columbia School of Drama. She also later studied at the Actors Studio in New York.[10] While at Juilliard she was, by her own account, one of the first women to be interviewed for the Kinsey Report on female sexuality.[13] While still at Juilliard, she taught part-time at the Barbizon School of Modeling[14] and gave assemblies at New Jersey high schools, intended to recruit female students for various colleges and commercial schools. The assemblies had been conceived more as lectures, but once she discovered that her pay would be mainly commissions for interest generated, she turned them much more into performances.[15]

Although she studied and sang serious music at Juilliard, summer jobs (including performing in a production of The Pirates of Penzance) and her New York social life introduced her to lighter, more popular performance styles, as well as to New York's café society and the Brill Building crowd.[16] One of her vocal teachers, Dusolina Giannini gave her some half-encouraging, half-discouraging advice: to abandon her hopes of being an opera singer and "go straight into musical comedy."[17] After turning down an offer from Richard Rodgers to be an understudy in the road company of South Pacific.[18] She also turned down a 5-year contract from MGM that would have groomed her toward becoming a movie actress, but would not have promised her any specific film work.[19]

She knew that with her Juilliard education she could fall back to being a music teacher, but was still determined to try to break into show business.[20] She began going to every audition (not only as a singer, but for legitimate theater) and entering every vocal contest she could find.[21] She passed an audition to go on the road with Vaughn Monroe, but her father put his foot down about her traveling with a big band.[20] In 1949–50, she appeared in the early live television show Bonnie Maid's Versatile Varieties as one of the original "Bonnie Maids" doing live commercials for the sponsor.[citation needed] According to her memoir, she did a three-week stint in Montreal and Toronto singing with a trio led by Artie Arturo.[22]

Kovacs as "Leena, Queen of the Jungle" with Adams in 1956[23]
With Ernie Kovacs in Take a Good Look, 1960

In 1950, she won the "Miss U.S. Television" beauty contest,[24] which led to an appearance with Milton Berle on his television show.[2] Her earliest television work billed her as Edith Adams.[25] One of her early appearances was on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. She was seen by the producer of the Ernie Kovacs show Three to Get Ready (in Philadelphia), who invited her to audition. Adams had very little experience with popular music and could perform only three songs. She later stated: "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.[26][27][28] Adams had never seen the program she was hired for. When he saw his daughter on the show, Adams's father was upset to find her role involved trying to avoid pies in the face.[29] In one of his last interviews, Kovacs 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.'"[30]


Adams and Kovacs, 1956

Adams began working regularly on television with Kovacs and talk show pioneer Jack Paar.[31] After a courtship that included mariachi bands and an unexpected diamond engagement ring, Adams and Kovacs eloped; they were married on September 12, 1954, in Mexico City.[32][33][34][35] Adams was initially uncertain about marrying Kovacs. She went on a six-week European cruise, hoping to come to a decision. After three days away and many long-distance phone calls, Adams returned home with an answer: yes.[35][36] It was Kovacs's second marriage and lasted until his death in a car accident on January 13, 1962.

Adams and Kovacs received Emmy nominations for best performances in a comedy series in 1957.[26] In 1960, she and Kovacs played themselves in The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour final television special on CBS, during which she performed the send-off song "That's All".[2][37] Adams made four appearances on What's My Line? (once as "Edith Adams (Mrs. Ernie Kovacs)" while her husband was on the panel; once together with Kovacs; twice alone as Edie Adams).

Adams as Daisy Mae in Li'l Abner, 1956

Adams starred on Broadway in Wonderful Town (1953) opposite Rosalind Russell[31] (winning the Theatre World Award), and as Daisy Mae in Li'l Abner (1956),[5][38][39] winning the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She played the Fairy Godmother in Rodgers and Hammerstein's original Cinderella broadcast in 1957.[40] Adams was to play Daisy Mae in the film version of Li'l Abner but was unable due to the late arrival of her daughter, Mia Susan Kovacs.[4]

After Kovacs's death, his network, ABC, gave Adams a chance with her own show, Here's Edie, which received five Emmy nominations but lasted one season, in 1963.[26] Kovacs was a noted cigar smoker, and Adams did a long-running series of TV commercials for Muriel Cigars.[41] She remained the pitch-lady for Muriel well after Kovacs's death, intoning in a Mae West style and sexy outfit, "Why don't you pick one up and smoke it sometime?"[2] Another commercial for Muriel Cigars, which cost 10 cents, showed Adams singing, "Hey, big spender, spend a little dime with me" (based on the song "Big Spender" from the musical Sweet Charity). Adams's cigar commercials made her one of the top three most-recognizable television celebrities.[42] In subsequent years, Adams made sporadic television appearances, including on Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, McMillan & Wife, Murder, She Wrote and Designing Women.[2]

Adams played supporting roles in several films in the 1960s, including the embittered secretary of two-timing Fred MacMurray in the Oscar-winning film The Apartment (1960). She was the wife of a presidential candidate (played by Cliff Robertson) in The Best Man (1964) and was reunited with Robertson for the comedy The Honey Pot (1967). In 2003, as one of the surviving headliners from the all-star comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), she joined actors Marvin Kaplan and Sid Caesar at a 40th anniversary celebration of the film. She was also a successful nightclub headliner.[43]

Shortly after her husband's death, Adams won a "nasty custody battle" with Kovacs's ex-wife over Edie's stepdaughters. His ex-wife had previously kidnapped the girls during a visit years before; because Kovacs was their legal guardian, he and Edie had worked tirelessly to locate his daughters and bring them home.[44][45]

Another court battle began for Adams in the same year, this time with her mother-in-law, who refused to believe there were more debts than assets in her son's estate. Mary Kovacs accused her daughter-in-law of mismanaging the estate and petitioned for custody of her granddaughters.[46][47] The dispute lasted for years, with Adams remaining the administrator of her husband's estate and guardian of the three girls.[48][49][50] She worked for years to pay her late husband's tax debt to the IRS.[43][50][51] 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." She spent the next year working practically non-stop.[26]

Starting over[edit]

Adams in a Muriel Cigars commercial, 1965–1966

Adams started her own businesses, Edie Adams Cosmetics, which sold door-to-door, and Edie Adams Cut 'n' Curl beauty salons, which she began in 1967.[52][53][54] She once owned a 160-acre (65 ha) California almond farm and was the spokeswoman for Sun Giant nuts.[55] Because of her 20 years of commercials for Muriel Cigars (retiring in 1976)[56][57] and her successful business ventures, Adams went from being mired in debt after Kovacs's fatal accident in 1962 to being a millionaire in 1989.[58]

Personal life[edit]

After Kovacs's death, Adams was married two more times. In 1964, she married photographer Martin Mills. In 1972, she married trumpeter Pete Candoli, with whom she appeared in a touring production of the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes. In addition to raising stepdaughters Bette and Kippie from her marriage to Kovacs, Adams gave birth to daughter Mia Susan Kovacs (killed in an automobile accident in 1982) and son Joshua Mills.[2][59][60]

Although Adams identified as a Democrat,[1] she campaigned for Republican Dwight Eisenhower's re-election during the 1956 presidential election,.[61] as well as for other liberal Republicans such as Jacob Javits and later Nelson Rockefeller.[1]

Adams was an early advocate of civil rights, frequently lending her support to the movement at celebrity events [62] and on her own television show during the early sixties. She insisted that her duet with Sammy Davis Jr. on her variety show Here's Edie be staged so that they were seated next to each other – as equals. Prior to that, entertainers of different races and sexes were unable to perform next to one another, so that one had to be in front of or behind the other.


Adams' grave, Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills

Adams died in Los Angeles, California, on October 15, 2008, at age 81, from cancer and pneumonia.[2] She was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, alongside her first husband Ernie and between her daughter, Mia, and her stepdaughter, Kippie.[63] After her death an article in The New York Times said that her work "both embodied and winked at the stereotypes of fetching chanteuse and sexpot blonde".[2]

Kovacs' legacy[edit]

Adams archived her husband's television work, which she described during a 1999 videotaped interview with the Archive of American Television.[64] 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 said 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.[65]

Upon discovering that her husband's work was disappearing through being discarded and re-use of the tapes, Adams initially used the proceeds of his insurance policy and her own earnings to purchase the rights to as much footage as possible.[51][66]

Since 2008, Edie Adams' son Joshua Mills has run Ediad Productions, Inc., which controls the rights to all the Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams TV shows and recordings.[67][68][69] Ben Model is the archivist for the Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams television collections.[70]

In 2015, the Library of Congress acquired a collection of more than 1,200 kinescopes, videotapes and home movies featuring Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams, from Joshua Mills, Edie Adams' son and the president of Ediad Productions.[71][72][73]


Year Title Role Notes
1956 Showdown at Ulcer Gulch cameo
1960 The Apartment Miss Olsen
1961 Lover Come Back Rebel Davis
1963 Call Me Bwana Frederica
Under the Yum Yum Tree Dr. Irene Wilson
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Monica Crump
Love with the Proper Stranger Barbie
1964 The Best Man Mabel Cantwell
1966 Made in Paris Irene Chase
The Oscar Trina Yale
1967 The Honey Pot Merle McGill
1978 Up in Smoke Mrs. Tempest Stoner
1979 Racquet Leslie Sargent
1980 The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood Rita Beater
1982 Boxoffice Carolyn
2003 Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There Herself


Year Title Role Notes
1951–1952 Three to Get Ready [28]
1951 Ernie in Kovacsland Herself - Vocalist a summer replacement show
1952 Kovacs On the Corner Herself - Edythe Adams[74][28] WPTZ, Philadelphia,[74] 11:00 am until 11:30 on NBC-TV, canceled after three months[28]
1952–1956 The Ernie Kovacs Show Herself Unknown episodes
1955 Appointment with Adventure
1956 The Guy Lombardo Show
1957 Cinderella Fairy Godmother
1958 The Garry Moore Show[75]
The Gisele MacKenzie Show Herself
The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom Herself
The Dinah Shore Chevy Show Herself[76]
1959-premiere The Art Carney Show[77]
1960 The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour Herself, along with husband Ernie Kovacs, as the Ricardos' neighbors Episode: "Lucy Meets the Mustache"
1960–1961 Take a Good Look panelist Unknown episodes
1961 The Spiral Staircase[78] Blanche
1963–1964 Here's Edie Herself - Host / Vocalist Unknown episodes
1968 The Lucy Show Nanette Johnson Episode: "Mooney's Other Wife"
1970 Don Adams Special: Hooray for Hollywood Herself
1971 Love, American Style Mrs. Winslow Episode: "Love and the Hotel Caper"
1972 McMillan & Wife Louise Montgomery Episode: "Blues for Sally M."
1972 Evil Roy Slade Flossie
1975 Joe Forrester Episode: "The Return of Joe Forrester"
1976 The Practice Carlotta Episode "Carlotta"
1976 Harry O Kate Roberti Episode: "Past Imperfect"
1976 The Blue Knight Torchy Episode: "A Slower Beat"
1978 Superdome Joyce
The Eddie Capra Mysteries Claudia Carroll Episode "How Do I Kill Thee?"
1979 The Seekers Flora Cato Miniseries based on the novel by John Jakes
Fast Friends Connie Burton
Kate Loves a Mystery[79]
1980 Make Me an Offer Francine Sherman
Portrait of an Escort Mrs. Kennedy
A Cry for Love Tessie
Bosom Buddies Darlene Pilot only
1981 CBS Children's Mystery Theatre Madame Zenia Episode: "The Haunting of Harrington House"
1981 Fantasy Island Liz Fuller Episode: "The Man from Yesterday/World's Most Desirable Woman"
1981 Vega$ Angela Episode: "Sourdough Suite"
1982 As the World Turns Roseanne Unknown episodes
1983 Shooting Stars Hazel
1984 Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter Mae West
Murder, She Wrote Kaye Sheppard Episode: "Capitol Offense"
1985 Trapper John, M.D. Edie Marks Episode: "The Muddle of the Knight"
1987 Adventures Beyond Belief Flo
1989 Jake Spanner, Private Eye Senior Club Member
1989-1990 It's Garry Shandling's Show Clair King 2 episodes
1990 Designing Women Edie Episode: "La Place sans Souci"
1992 Kids Incorporated Ms. Cooper Episode: "The Show"
1993 Tales of the City Ruby Miller TV miniseries
2004 Great Performances: Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'Cinderella' Fairy Godmother / Herself TV series


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  57. ^ Kleinschmidt, Janice (November 30, 2009). "Forever Young: Susan Anton comes home for Christmas to perform with The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies". Arts & Entertainment. Palm Springs Life. Retrieved January 9, 2019. Then Edie Adams retired from her role as the Muriel Cigar Girl.
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  • Adams, Edie; Windeler, Robert (1990). Sing a Pretty Song... New York: William Morrow and Co. ISBN 0688073417.

External links[edit]