Kovacs on the set of his television show, 1956
|Birth name||Ernest Edward Kovacs|
|Born||January 23, 1919|
Trenton, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||January 13, 1962 (aged 42)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)|
|Medium||Newspaper, radio, television, magazine, cinema|
|Genres||Character comedy, surreal comedy, improvisational comedy, prop comedy, spoof, sketch|
Bette Lee Wilcox
(m. 1945; div. 1952)
Ernest Edward Kovacs (January 23, 1919 – January 13, 1962) was an American comedian, actor, and writer.
Kovacs's visually experimental and often spontaneous comedic style influenced numerous television comedy programs for years after his death. Kovacs has been credited as an influence by many individuals and shows, including Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, Saturday Night Live, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Jim Henson, Max Headroom, Chevy Chase, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Pee-wee's Playhouse, The Muppet Show, Dave Garroway, Andy Kaufman, You Can't Do That on Television, Uncle Floyd, among others. Chevy Chase thanked Kovacs during his acceptance speech for his Emmy award for Saturday Night Live.
When working at WABC (AM) as a morning-drive radio announcer and doing a mid-morning television series for NBC, Kovacs claimed to dislike eating breakfast alone while his wife, Edie Adams, was sleeping after her Broadway performances. His solution was to hire a taxi driver to come into their apartment with his own key and make breakfast for them both, then take Kovacs to the WABC studios.
While Kovacs and Adams received Emmy nominations for best performances in a comedy series during 1957, his talent was not recognized formally until after his death. The 1962 Emmy for Outstanding Electronic Camera Work and the Directors' Guild award came a short time after his fatal accident. A quarter century later, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame. Kovacs also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in television. In 1986, the Museum of Broadcasting (later to become the Museum of Television & Radio and now the Paley Center for Media) presented an exhibit of Kovacs's work, called The Vision of Ernie Kovacs. The Pulitzer Prize–winning television critic, William Henry III, wrote for the museum's booklet: "Kovacs was more than another wide-eyed, self-ingratiating clown. He was television's first significant video artist."
Early life and career
Kovacs's father, Andrew John Kovacs, was born in 1890 and emigrated from Tornaújfalu, Hungary, which is now known as Turnianska Nová Ves, Slovakia. Andrew sailed on the S.S. Würzburg via Bremen, arriving at Ellis Island on February 8, 1906, at age 16. He worked as a policeman, restaurateur, and bootlegger, the last so successfully that he moved his wife Mary, son Tom, and half-brother Ernest Edward Kovacs into a 20-room mansion in the better part of Trenton.
Though a poor student, Kovacs was influenced by his Trenton Central High School drama teacher, Harold Van Kirk, and received an acting scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1937 with Van Kirk's help. The end of Prohibition and the onset of the Depression resulted in difficult financial times for the family. When Kovacs began drama school, all he could afford was a fifth-floor walk-up apartment on West 74th Street in New York City. During this time, he watched many "Grade B" movies; admission was only ten cents. Many of these movies influenced his comedy routines later.
A 1938 local newspaper photograph shows Kovacs as a member of the Prospect Players, not yet wearing his trademark mustache. Like any aspiring actor, Kovacs used his class vacation time to pursue roles in summer stock companies. While working in Vermont in 1939, he became so seriously ill with pneumonia and pleurisy that his doctors didn't expect him to survive. During the next year and a half, his comedic talents developed as he entertained both doctors and patients with his antics during stays at several hospitals. While hospitalized, Kovacs developed a lifelong love of classical music by the gift of a radio, which he kept tuned to WQXR. By the time he was released his parents had separated, and Kovacs went back to Trenton, living with his mother in a two-room apartment over a store. He began work as a cigar salesman, which resulted in a lifelong tobacco-smoking habit. 
Kovacs's first paid entertainment work was during 1941 as an announcer for Trenton's radio station WTTM. He spent the next nine years with WTTM, becoming the station's director of special events; in this job he did things like trying to see what it was like to be run over by a train (leaving the tracks at the last minute) and broadcasting from the cockpit of a plane for which he took flying lessons. Kovacs was also involved with local theater; a local newspaper published a photograph of him and the news that he was doing some directing for the Trenton Players Guild in early 1941. The Trentonian, a local weekly newspaper, offered Kovacs a column in June 1945; he named it "Kovacs Unlimited".
Start in television
Arriving at NBC's Philadelphia affiliate, WPTZ, for an audition wearing a barrel and shorts got Kovacs his first television job in January 1950. His first show was Pick Your Ideal, a fashion and promotional program for the Ideal Manufacturing Company. Before long, Kovacs was also the host of Deadline For Dinner and Now You're Cooking, shows featuring advice from local chefs.[a] When Kovacs's guest chef did not arrive in time for the show, he offered a recipe for "Eggs Scavok" (Kovacs spelled backward). Kovacs seasoned the egg dish with ashes from his cigar. The sponsor was a local propane company. Hosting these shows soon resulted in his becoming host of a program named Three to Get Ready, named for WPTZ's channel 3 spot on television dials.
Premiering in November 1950, Three to Get Ready was innovative because it was the first regularly scheduled early morning (7–9am) show in a major television market, predating NBC's Today by more than a year. Prior to this, it had been assumed that few people would watch television at such an early hour. While the show was advertised as early morning news and weather, Kovacs provided this and more in an original manner. When rain was in the weather forecast, Kovacs would get on a ladder and pour water down on the staff member reading the report. Goats were auditioned for a local theater performance and tiny women appeared to walk up his arm. Kovacs also went outside of the studio for some of his skits, running through a downtown Philadelphia restaurant in a gorilla suit in one; in another, he looked into a construction pit, saying it was deep enough to see to China, when a man in Chinese clothing popped up, said a few words in the language, and ran off. Despite its popularity, the weekly prop budget for the show was just $15. Kovacs once asked his viewers to send unwanted items to Channel 3; they filled the station's lobby.
The only character no one ever saw inspired more gifts; he was Howard, the World's Strongest Ant. From the time of his WPTZ debut, Howard received more than 30,000 gifts from Kovacs's viewers, including a mink-lined swimming pool. Kovacs began his Early Eyeball Fraternal & Marching Society (EEFMS) while doing Three to Get Ready. There were membership cards with by-laws and ties; the password was a favorite phrase of Kovacs's: "It's Been Real". Kovacs continued the EEFMS on his morning show when he moved to WCBS in New York in 1952. The success of Three to Get Ready proved that people did indeed watch early-morning television, and it was one of the factors that caused NBC to create The Today Show. WPTZ did not begin broadcasting Today when it premiered on January 14, 1952; network influence caused the station to end Three to Get Ready at the end of March of that year.
During early 1952, Kovacs was also doing a late morning show for WPTZ named Kovacs on the Corner. Kovacs would walk through an imaginary neighborhood, talking with various characters such as Pete the Cop and Luigi the Barber. As with Three to Get Ready, there were some special segments. "Swap Time" was one of them: Viewers could bring their unwanted items to the WPTZ studios to trade them live on the air with Kovacs. The show made its debut on January 4, 1952, with Kovacs losing creative control of the program soon after it was begun. Kovacs on the Corner was short-lived; it ended on March 28, 1952, along with Three to Get Ready. Kovacs then began work for WCBS-TV in New York with a local morning show and a later network one. Both programs were canceled; Kovacs lost the local morning program for the same reason as Three to Get Ready—the broadcasting time was confiscated by the station's network in 1954.
Visual humor and characters
At WPTZ, Kovacs began using the ad-libbed and experimental style that would become his reputation, including video effects, superimpositions, reverse polarities and scanning, and quick blackouts. He was also noted for abstraction and carefully timed non-sequitur gags and for allowing the fourth wall to be breached. Kovacs's cameras commonly showed his viewers' activity beyond the boundaries of the show set—including crew members and outside the studio itself. Kovacs also liked talking to the off-camera crew and even introduced segments from the studio control room. He frequently made use of accidents and happenstance, incorporating the unexpected into his shows. In one of Kovacs's Philadelphia broadcasts, Oscar Liebetrau, an elderly crew member who was known for often sleeping for the duration of the telecast, was introduced to the audience as "Sleeping Schwartz." Kovacs was once knocked unconscious when a pie smashed into his face still had the plate under it.
Kovacs's love of spontaneity extended to his crew, who would occasionally play on-air pranks on him to see how he would react. During one of his NBC shows, Kovacs was appearing as the inept magician Matzoh Heppelwhite. The sketch called for the magician to frequently hit a gong, which was the signal for a sexy female assistant to bring out a bottle and shot glass for a quick snort of alcohol. Stagehands substituted real liquor for the iced tea normally used for the skit. Kovacs realized that he would be called upon to drink a shot of liquor for each successive gong. He pressed on with the sketch and was quite inebriated by the end of the show.
Kovacs helped develop camera tricks still common decades after his death. His character Eugene sat at a table to eat his lunch, but as he removed items one at a time from a lunch box, he watched them inexplicably roll down the table into the lap of a man reading a newspaper at the other end. When Kovacs poured milk from a thermos bottle, the stream flowed in a seemingly unusual direction. Never seen on television before, the secret was using a tilted set in front of a camera tilted at the same angle.
He constantly sought new techniques and used both primitive and improvised ways of creating visual effects that would later be done electronically. One innovative construction involved attaching a kaleidoscope made from a toilet paper roll to a camera lens with cardboard and tape and setting the resulting abstract images to music. Another was a soup can with both ends removed fitted with angled mirrors. Used on a camera and turning it could put Kovacs seemingly on the ceiling. An underwater stunt involved cigar smoker Kovacs sitting in an easy chair, reading his newspaper and somehow smoking a cigar. Removing it from his mouth, Kovacs was able to exhale a puff of white smoke, all while floating underwater. The trick: the "smoke" was a small amount of milk which he filled his mouth with before submerging. Kovacs repeated the effect for a Dutch Masters television commercial on his ABC game show, Take A Good Look.
One of the special effects he employed made it appear as if he was able to look through his assistant, Barbara Loden's, head. The illusion was performed by placing a black patch on Loden's head and standing her against a black background while one studio camera was trained on her. A second one photographed Kovacs, who used the studio monitor to position himself exactly so that his eye would appear to be looking through a hole in her head.
He also developed such routines as an all-gorilla version of Swan Lake, a poker game set to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the skit Silent Show, in which Eugene interacts with the world accompanied solely by music and sound effects, parodies of typical television commercials and movie genres, and various musical segments with everyday items (such as kitchen appliances or office equipment) moving in sync to music. A popular recurring skit was The Nairobi Trio, three derby-hatted apes miming mechanically and rhythmically to the tune of Robert Maxwell's "Solfeggio".
Kovacs used extended sketches and mood pieces or quick blackout gags lasting only seconds. Some could be expensive, such as his famous used car salesman routine with a jalopy and a breakaway floor: it cost $12,000 to produce the six-second gag. He was one of the first television comedians to use odd fake credits and comments between the legitimate credits and, at times, during his routines.
Kovacs reportedly disliked working in front of a live audience, as was the case with the shows he did for NBC during the 1950s. He found the presence of an audience distracting, and those in the seats frequently did not understand some of the more elaborate visual gags and special effects, which could only be appreciated by watching studio monitors instead of the stage.
Like many comedians of the era, Kovacs created a rotation of recurring roles. In addition to the silent "Eugene," his most familiar characters were the fey, lisping poet Percy Dovetonsils, and the heavily accented German radio announcer, Wolfgang von Sauerbraten. Mr. Question Man, who answered viewer queries, was a satire on the long-run (1937–56) radio series, The Answer Man. Others included horror show host Auntie Gruesome, bumbling magician Matzoh Heppelwhite, Frenchman Pierre Ragout, and Miklos Molnar, the sardonic Hungarian host of a cooking show. The Miklos character wasn't always confined to a kitchen; Kovacs performed a parody of The Howdy Doody Show with "Buffalo Miklos" as the host. Poet Percy Dovetonsils can be found playing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata on a disappearing piano and as a "Master Detective" on the "Private Eye-Private Eye" presentation of the US Steel Hour on CBS March 8, 1961. On the same show, the Nairobi Trio abandons their instruments for a safe cracking job; still with a background of "Solfeggio" but speaking, two of the three appear in an "Outer Space" sketch. Kovacs became a regular on NBC Radio's program Monitor beginning during late 1958, often using his Mr.Question Man character in his radio monologues.
Kovacs never hesitated to lampoon those considered institutions of radio and television. In April 1954, he started the late-night talk show, The Ernie Kovacs Show, on DuMont Television Network's New York flagship station, WABD. Stage, screen, and radio notables were often guests. Archie Bleyer, head of Cadence Records, came to chat one evening. Bleyer had been the long-time orchestra director for Arthur Godfrey's radio and television shows. He had been dismissed by Godfrey the year before along at the same time as fellow cast member, singer Julius La Rosa. In La Rosa's case, he hired a manager, defying an unwritten Godfrey policy. With Bleyer, Godfrey was angered when he found Bleyer's record company Cadence Records had produced spoken word material by Don McNeill, host of ABC's Don McNeill's Breakfast Club, which Godfrey considered competition to his show. Bleyer and Kovacs were shown in split screen, with Kovacs wearing a red wig, headphones, and playing a ukulele in a Godfrey imitation, while talking with his guest.
Kovacs's television programs included Three to Get Ready (an early morning program seen on Philadelphia's WPTZ from 1950 through 1952), It's Time for Ernie (1951, his first network series), Ernie in Kovacsland, (a summer replacement show for Kukla, Fran and Ollie, 1951), The Ernie Kovacs Show (1952–56 on various networks), a twice-a-week job filling in for Steve Allen as host of The Tonight Show on Mondays and Tuesdays (1956–57), and game shows Gamble on Love, One Minute Please, Time Will Tell (all on DuMont), and Take a Good Look (1959–61). Kovacs was also the host of a program, Silents Please, which showed silent movies on network television, with serious discussion about the movies and their actors.
Kovacs had a brief stint as a celebrity panelist for the television series What's My Line?, but took his responsibilities less than seriously, often eschewing a legitimate question for the sake of a laugh. An example: Industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, the founder of an automobile company, was the program's "mystery guest." Previous questioning had established that the mystery guest's name was synonymous with an automobile brand, Kovacs asked, "Are you – and this is just a wild guess – but are you Abraham Lincoln?"—a reference to the Ford Motor Company's Lincoln brand automobiles. When Kovacs gave an interview admitting that he was absent from the show when he wanted to go out for dinner on a Sunday, his stint on the panel show was ended.
He also did several television specials, including the famous Silent Show (1957), featuring his character, Eugene, the first all-pantomime prime-time network program. After the end of the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis partnership, NBC offered Lewis the opportunity to host his own 90-minute color television special. Lewis opted to use only 60 minutes, leaving the network 30 minutes to fill; no one wanted this time slot, but Kovacs was willing to have it. The program contained no spoken dialogue and contained only sound effects and music. Featuring Kovacs as the mute, Charlie Chaplin-like character "Eugene", the program contained surreal sight gags. Kovacs developed the Eugene character during the autumn of 1956 when hosting the television series The Tonight Show. Expectations were high for the Lewis program, but it was Kovacs's special that received the most attention; Kovacs received his first movie offer, had a cover story in Life magazine, and received the Sylvania Award that year. In 1961, Kovacs and his co-director, Joe Behar, were recipients of the Directors Guild of America Award for a second version of this program broadcast by the American Broadcasting Company network.
A series of monthly half-hour specials for ABC during 1961–62 is often considered his best television work. Produced on videotape using new editing and special effects techniques, it won a 1962 Emmy Award. Kovacs and co-director Behar also won the Directors Guild of America award for an Ernie Kovacs Special based on the earlier silent "Eugene" program. Kovacs's last ABC special was broadcast posthumously, on January 23, 1962.
The Dutch Masters cigar company became well known during the late 1950s and early 1960s for its sponsorship of various television projects of Ernie Kovacs. The company allowed Kovacs total creative control in the creation of their television commercials for his programs and specials. He produced a series of non-speaking television commercials for Dutch Masters during the run of his television series Take A Good Look which was praised by both television critics and viewers.[b]
While praised by critics, Kovacs rarely had a highly rated show. The Museum of Broadcast Communications says, "It is doubtful that Ernie Kovacs would find a place on television today. He was too zany, too unrestrained, too undisciplined. Perhaps Jack Gould of The New York Times said it best for Ernie Kovacs: 'The fun was in trying'."
Other shows had greater success while using elements of Kovacs's style. George Schlatter, producer of the later television series Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, was married to actress Jolene Brand, who had appeared in Kovacs's comic troupes over the years and had been a frequent participant in his pioneering sketches. Laugh-In made frequent use of the quick blackout gags and surreal humor that marked many Kovacs projects. Another link was a young NBC staffer, Bill Wendell, Kovacs's usual announcer and sometimes a sketch participant. From 1980–1995, Wendell was the announcer for David Letterman, whose show and style of humor were greatly influenced by Kovacs.
The Music Man
Kovacs was also known for his eclectic musical taste. His main theme song was named "Oriental Blues" by Jack Newton. The rendition most often heard was a piano-driven trio version, but for his primetime show during 1956, music director Harry Sosnik presented a full-blown big band version. The German song "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer" from The Threepenny Opera (anglicized to "Mack the Knife"), frequently underscored his blackout routines. Songwriter Robert Maxwell's "Solfeggio" became associated with the derby-hatted apes; 'The Nairobi Trio'.
In the 1982 TV special Ernie Kovacs: Television's Original Genius, Edie Adams recalled that when Kovacs first heard the melody, he immediately knew what he wanted to do with it, creating a music-box-like trio that moved in time to the tune. Kovacs was introduced to the song in 1954 by Barry Shear, his director at DuMont Television Network.
Kovacs matched an unusual treatment of "Sentimental Journey", by Mexican bandleader Juan García Esquivel to video of an empty office in which various items (pencil sharpeners, water coolers, wall clocks) come to life in rhythm with the music; it was a variation on several famous animations of a decade earlier. The original three-minute presentation was outlined by Kovacs in a four-page, single-spaced memo to his staff. The perfectionist Kovacs describes in minute detail what had to be done and how to do it. The memo ends with this: "I don't know how the hell you're going to get this done by Sunday – but 'rots of ruck." (signed) "Ernie (with love)". Kovacs also made careful use of the shrill singer Leona Anderson—who had somewhat less than a classical (or even listenable) voice, by some estimations—in comic vignettes.
Kovacs used classical music as background for silent skits or abstract visual routines, including "Concerto for Orchestra", by Béla Bartók; music from the opera "The Love of Three Oranges", by Sergei Prokofiev; the finale of Igor Stravinsky's suite "The Firebird"; and Richard Strauss' "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks" and from George Gershwin, "Rialto Ripples," the theme to his shows, as well as parts of Gershwin's "Concerto in F". He may have been known best for using Joseph Haydn's "String Quartet, Opus 3, Number 5" (the "Serenade," actually composed by Roman Hoffstetter) for a series of 1960–61 commercials he created and videotaped for his sponsor, Dutch Masters.
For the show of May 22, 1959, Kovacs on Music, Kovacs began by saying, "I have never really understood classical music, so I would like to take this opportunity to explain it to others." He presented a gorilla version of Swan Lake which differed from the usual performance only in the persona of the dancers, along with giant paper clips moving to music and other sketches.
He also served as host on a jazz album to benefit the American Cancer Society in 1957, Listening to Jazz with Ernie Kovacs. It was a 15-minute recording featuring some of the celebrities of the art, including pianist Jimmy Yancey and old original New Orleans Jazz Trumpeter Bunk Johnson, soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet, guitarist Django Reinhardt, composer/pianist/bandleader Duke Ellington and longtime Ellington trumpeter Cootie Williams. Both the Library of Congress and the National Library of Canada have copies of this recording in their collections.
Kovacs wrote a novel, Zoomar: A Sophisticated Novel about Love and TV (Doubleday, 1957), based on television pioneer Pat Weaver; it took Kovacs only 13 days to write. The book took its title from the Zoomar brand zoom lenses frequently used on television cameras at the time. In a 1960 interview, Edie Adams related that the novel was written after Kovacs's experiences with network television while he was preparing to broadcast the Silent Show. The 1961 British edition was retitled T.V. Medium Rare by its London-based publisher, Transworld.
While he worked on several other book projects, Kovacs's only other published title was How to Talk at Gin, published posthumously in 1962. He intended part of the book's proceeds to benefit Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. During 1955–58, he wrote for Mad (his favorite humor magazine), including the feature "Strangely Believe It!" (a parody of Ripley's Believe It or Not! that was a regular feature of his television shows) and Gringo, a board game with ridiculously complicated rules that was renamed Droongo for the television show. Kovacs also wrote the introduction to the 1958 collection Mad For Keeps: A Collection of the Best from Mad Magazine.
Television guest star
Kovacs and Edie Adams guest starred on what turned out to be the final episode of The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show, (syndicated as The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour or We Love Lucy) "Lucy Meets the Moustache" which was in rehearsals the week of February 28 and filmed March 3 for an April 1, 1960, network broadcast. "Lucy Meets the Moustache" was the last time Arnaz and Ball worked together and the last time their famous characters appeared in a first-run broadcast. According to Adams, Ball and Arnaz 'avoided contact and barely talked to each other in rehearsals and in-between scenes'. Adams also said that they were not told their episode was the last or that the famous couple were to divorce (Ball entered the uncontested divorce request March 4, 1960).
Kovacs also appeared in roles on other television programs. For General Electric Theater's "I Was a Bloodhound" in 1959, Kovacs played the role of detective Barney Colby, whose extraordinary sense of smell helped him solve many seemingly impossible cases. Colby was hired by a foreign country to recover their symbol of royalty, a baby elephant, who was being held for ransom.
Kovacs found Hollywood success as a character actor, often typecast as a swarthy military officer (almost always a "Captain" of some sort) in such movies as Operation Mad Ball, Wake Me When It's Over, and Our Man in Havana. While working in his first movie role for Operation Mad Ball, Kovacs was filming a wild party scene after midnight; it was decided to use real champagne for realism. After a few hours of work, someone came up to Kovacs and remarked that he had been having quite a good time chasing starlets all night. Kovacs told the stranger to go to hell, since he was following the script; he later learned the stranger was Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures. Kovacs and Cohn later became friends despite the way they had met, with Cohn giving Kovacs roles in Bell, Book and Candle (1958) and It Happened to Jane (1959).
He garnered critical acclaim for movie roles such as the perennially inebriated writer in Bell, Book and Candle and as the cartoonishly evil head of a railroad company (who resembled Orson Welles' title character in Citizen Kane) in It Happened to Jane, where he had his head shaved and his remaining hair dyed grey for the role. In 1960, he played the base commander Charlie Stark in the comedy Wake Me When It's Over and the con man Frankie Cannon trying to steal John Wayne's gold mine in the western comedy, North to Alaska. His own personal favorite was said to have been the offbeat Five Golden Hours (1961), in which he portrayed a larcenous professional mourner who meets his match in a professional widow played by Cyd Charisse. Kovacs's last movie, Sail a Crooked Ship (also 1961), was released one month before his death.
Kovacs and his first wife, Bette Wilcox, were married on August 13, 1945. When the marriage ended, he fought for custody of their children, Elizabeth ("Bette") and Kip Raleigh ("Kippie"). The court awarded Kovacs full custody upon determining that his former wife was mentally unstable. The decision was extremely unusual at the time, setting a legal precedent. Wilcox subsequently kidnapped the children, taking them to Florida. After a long and expensive search, Kovacs regained custody. These events were portrayed in the television movie Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter (1984), which garnered an Emmy Award nomination for its writer, April Smith. Kovacs was portrayed by Jeff Goldblum.
Kovacs's first wife made a legal attempt to gain custody of her two daughters soon after his death. She began August 2, 1962, by claiming $500,000 was her share of Kovacs's estate and charging that her ex-husband had abducted the girls in 1955; Kovacs had been granted legal custody of his daughters in 1952. On August 30, Wilcox filed an affidavit claiming that Kovacs's widow, Edie Adams, the stepmother to the girls, was "unfit" to care for them. Both daughters, Bette and Kippie, testified that they wanted to stay with their stepmother, Edie. Kippie's testimony was very emotional; in it she referred to Edie as "Mommy" and her birth mother as "the other lady." Upon hearing the verdict that the girls would remain in their home, Adams wept, saying, "This is what Ernie would have wanted. Now I can smile." Elizabeth Kovacs's reaction was "I'm so happy I can hardly express myself", after learning she and her sister would not be forced to leave Edie.
Kovacs and Adams met in 1951 when she was hired to work for his WPTZ show, Three to Get Ready. Her appearance on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts caught the eye of Kovacs's producer, and he asked her to audition for the program. A classically trained singer, she was able to perform only three popular songs. Edie said later, "I sang them all during the audition, and if they had asked to hear another, I never would have made it." Quoting Kovacs, "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.'"
After the couple's first date, Kovacs proceeded to buy a Jaguar car, telling Adams he wanted to take her out in style. He was seriously taken with the beautiful and talented young woman, courting her with imagination and flair. Kovacs's attempts to win Adams's affection included hiring a mariachi band to serenade her backstage at the Broadway musical she was performing in and the sudden gift of a diamond engagement ring, telling her to wear it until she made up her mind. Kovacs continued this romantic quest after the show went out of town.
Adams booked a six-week European cruise which she hoped would let her make up her mind whether or not to marry Kovacs. After only three days away and many long-distance telephone calls, she curtailed her trip and returned to say "yes". They eloped and were married on September 12, 1954, in Mexico City. The ceremony was presided over by former New York City mayor William O'Dwyer and was performed in Spanish, which neither Kovacs nor Adams understood; O'Dwyer had to prompt each of them to say "Sí" at the "I do" portion of the vows. Adams, who had a middle-class upbringing, was smitten by Kovacs's quirky ways; the couple remained together until his death. (She later said about Kovacs, "He treated me like a little girl, and I loved it—Women's Lib be damned!")
Adams also aided Kovacs's struggle to reclaim his two older children after the kidnapping by their mother. She also was a regular partner on his television shows. Kovacs usually introduced or addressed her in a businesslike way, as "Edith Adams". Adams was usually willing to do anything he envisioned, whether it was singing seriously, performing impersonations (including a well-regarded impression of Marilyn Monroe), or taking a pie in the face or a pratfall if and when needed. The couple had one daughter, Mia Susan Kovacs, born June 20, 1959.
Kovacs and his family shared a 16-room apartment in Manhattan on Central Park West that seemed perfect until he went to California for his first movie role in Operation Mad Ball. The experience of the totally different, laid-back lifestyle of Hollywood made a big impression on him. He realized he was working too much in New York; in California he would be able to work fewer hours, do just as well or better, and have more time for Edie and his daughters. At the time he was working most of the time and sleeping about two or three hours a night. Kovacs claimed that he realized it was time for a change when he was telling his girls a bedtime story and found himself thinking of using it for a show instead. Kovacs relocated his family there in 1957, after Edie finished work for the Broadway play Li'l Abner.
Kovacs was killed in a car accident in Los Angeles during the early morning hours of January 13, 1962, 10 days shy of his 43rd birthday. Kovacs, who had worked for much of the evening, met his wife Edie Adams at a baby shower given by Billy Wilder for Milton Berle and his wife, who had recently adopted a newborn baby boy. The couple left the party in separate cars. After a lull in a southern California rainstorm, Kovacs lost control of his Chevrolet Corvair station wagon while turning quickly and crashed into a power pole at the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards in Beverly Hills. He was thrown halfway out the passenger side and died almost instantly from chest and head injuries.
A photographer managed to arrive moments later, and images of Kovacs dead appeared in newspapers across the United States. An unlit cigar lay on the pavement, inches from his outstretched arm. Jack Lemmon, who also attended the Berle party, identified Kovacs's body at the morgue because Adams was too distraught to do so.
After attending funerals for Hollywood friends, Kovacs had expressed his wishes to Adams that any funeral services for him be kept simple. In keeping with his request, Adams made arrangements for Presbyterian services at the Beverly Hills Community Presbyterian Church. The active pallbearers were Jack Lemmon, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Billy Wilder, Mervyn LeRoy, and Joe Mikolas. Kovacs's father and brother, Andrew and Tom, respectively, served as honorary pallbearers. The attendees included George Burns, Groucho Marx, Edward G. Robinson, Kirk Douglas, Jack Benny, James Stewart, Charlton Heston, Buster Keaton and Milton Berle. There was no typical Hollywood-type eulogy, but the church's pastor paid tribute to Kovacs, adding that he once summed up his life in two sentences: "I was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1919 to a Hungarian couple. I've been smoking cigars ever since." 
Kovacs is buried in Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles. His epitaph reads "Nothing in moderation—We all loved him." Only one of Kovacs's three children survives: his eldest, Elizabeth, from his first marriage. Kippie, his second daughter, died on July 28, 2001, at the age of 52, after a long illness and a lifetime of poor health.
Kippie and her husband, Bill Lancaster (1947–1997), a screenwriter and the son of actor Burt Lancaster, are the parents of Kovacs's only grandchild. His only child with Edie Adams, Mia (1959–1982), was killed on May 8, 1982, also in an automobile accident.
A frequent critic of the U.S. tax system, Kovacs owed the Internal Revenue Service several hundred thousand dollars in back taxes, due to his simple refusal to pay the bulk of them. Up to 90% of his earnings were garnished as a result. His long battles with the IRS inspired Kovacs to invest his money in a convoluted series of paper corporations in the U.S. and Canada. He would give them bizarre names, such as "The Bazooka Dooka Hicka Hocka Hookah Company". In 1961, Kovacs was served with a $75,000 lien for back taxes; that same day he bought the California Racquet Club with the apparent hope of being able to use it as a tax write-off. The property had mortgages at the time of purchase which were later paid by Edie Adams.
His tax woes also affected Kovacs's career, forcing him to take any offered work to pay his debt. This included the ABC game show Take a Good Look, appearances on variety shows such as NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford, and some of his less memorable movie roles. He also filmed an unaired 1962 pilot episode for a proposed CBS series, Medicine Man (co-starring Buster Keaton, pilot episode titled "A Pony for Chris"). Kovacs's role was that of Dr. P. Crookshank, a traveling medicine salesman in the 1870s selling Mother McGreevy's Wizard Juice, also known as "man's best friend in a bottle". This was abandoned after his death, which occurred the day after filming some scenes for the pilot in Griffith Park. CBS initially intended to broadcast the show as part of a summer replacement program, The Comedy Spot, but decided against it due to problems with Kovacs's estate. The pilot is part of the public collection of the Paley Center for Media.
Some of the issues regarding Kovacs's tax problems were still unresolved years after his death. Kovacs had purchased two insurance policies in 1951; his mother was named as the primary beneficiary of them. The IRS placed a lien against them both for their cash value in 1961. To stop the actions being taken against her, Mary Kovacs had to go to Federal court. The court's early 1966 ruling resolved the issue, with the last sentence of the document reading: "Prima facie, it looks as if, within the limits of discretion permitted the government by the relevant statutes, an injustice is being done Mary Kovacs."
Adams, who married and divorced twice after Kovacs's death, refused help from celebrity friends who planned a benefit for the purpose. Saying "I can take care of my own children", and being determined to accept offers only from those who wanted to hire her for her talents, Adams managed to pay all of Kovacs' debts.[c]
Lost and surviving work
Most of Kovacs's early television work was performed live: few kinescopes have survived. Some videotapes of his ABC specials were preserved; others, such as his quirky game show, Take a Good Look, were available mostly in short segments until recently, with the release of some complete, videotaped episodes. After Kovacs's death, Adams discovered not only that her husband owed ABC a great deal of money, but that some networks were systematically erasing and reusing tapes of Kovacs's shows or disposing of the kinescopes and videotapes in New York Bay. She succeeded in purchasing the rights to surviving footage with the proceeds from Kovacs's insurance policy and her own earnings after Kovacs's IRS debts were paid. In March 1996, Adams detailed her experiences before the National Film Preservation Board.
Adams first used some of the videotapes she had purchased for a 1968 ABC television special, The Comedy of Ernie Kovacs; to produce the show, she hired Kovacs's former producer and editor. The hour-long program was sponsored by Kovacs's former sponsor, Dutch Masters.
Most of Kovacs's salvaged work is available to researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles Library's Department of Special Collections: additional material is available at the Paley Center for Media.
The 1984 television movie Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter helped return Kovacs to the public's attention, though the show emphasized his bid to retrieve his kidnapped children instead of his professional life. Jeff Goldblum portrayed Kovacs, Madolyn Smith portrayed Bette and Melody Anderson portrayed Adams in the movie. Edie Adams appeared in a cameo in this movie, playing Mae West; it was one of the impressions she performed in shows with Kovacs. Telecasts of edited compilations of some of his work by PBS (station WTTW, Chicago) under the title The Best of Ernie Kovacs in 1977, inspired the movie. These broadcasts were made available on VHS and DVD. The DVD set features extras that are not in the VHS set. The series was narrated by Jack Lemmon.
During the early 1990s, The Comedy Channel broadcast a series of Kovacs's shows under the generic title of The Ernie Kovacs Show. The series included both the ABC specials and some of his 1950s shows from NBC. By 2008, there were no broadcast, cable, or satellite channels broadcasting any of Kovacs's television work, other than his panel appearances on What's My Line? on the Game Show Network.
On April 19, 2011, Shout! Factory released The Ernie Kovacs Collection, six DVDs spanning Kovacs's television career. The company's website also offers an extra disc with material from Tonight! and The Ernie Kovacs Show, as well as a rare color kinescope of the complete 30-minute, 1957 NBC color broadcast featuring "Eugene". On October 23, 2012, Shout! Factory released The Ernie Kovacs Collection: Volume 2 on DVD.
In 1961, Kovacs recorded a record album of poetry in the character of Percy Dovetonsils named Percy Dovetonsils Thpeath, but was unable to release it due to contractual obligations with other record companies. After he was given the masters, Kovacs donated them to a Los Angeles area hospital. Adams was able to re-acquire the tapes in 1967, and they remained part of her private collection until her death in 2008. The tapes were labeled as movie material and were thought to be such until further examination proved they were Kovacs as Percy reading his poems with no music background. The album was finally released in 2012.
Kovacs was inducted posthumously into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia's Hall of Fame in 1992.
- Operation Mad Ball (1957) (with Jack Lemmon) as Capt. Paul Lock
- Bell, Book and Candle (1958) (with James Stewart and Jack Lemmon) as Sidney Redlitch
- It Happened to Jane (1959) (with Doris Day and Jack Lemmon) as Harry Foster Malone
- Our Man in Havana (1959) (with Alec Guinness and Noël Coward) as Capt. Segura
- Wake Me When It's Over (1960) (with Dick Shawn) as Capt. Charlie Stark
- Strangers When We Meet (1960) (with Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak) as Roger Altar
- North to Alaska (1960) (with John Wayne) as Frankie Canon
- Pepe (1960) (with Cantinflas) as Immigration Inspector
- Five Golden Hours (1961) (with Cyd Charisse and George Sanders) as Aldo Bondi
- Sail a Crooked Ship (1961, with Robert Wagner) as Bugsy G. Foglemeyer aka The Captain
- Now KYW-TV; though the current NBC affiliate is WCAU-TV
- During 1960, the trade journal Advertising Age termed Kovacs "one of the TV commercial's best public relations experts right now". Shortly before his death, Kovacs was negotiating with Colgate-Palmolive to produce silent commercials for the company's products. After Kovacs's death the trade magazine Printers' Ink wrote that Kovacs's silent Dutch Masters commercials proved that creativity can be compatible with commercialism and that pioneering with regard to sponsorship can pay.
- At the time of his death. Kovacs was an estimated $500,000 in debt.
- O'Connor, John J. (March 8, 1987). "TV View: Ernie Kovacs: A comic to the medium born". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 13, 2008. Retrieved January 7, 2008.
- Chase, Chevy (April 9, 1977). "The Unique Comedy of Ernie Kovacs". TV Guide: 39–40.
- O'Connor, John J. (November 17, 1982). "TV: Why Ernie Kovacs's humor grows with time". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 13, 2008. Retrieved January 7, 2008.
- Visconage, Matt (January 23, 2012). "Conan O'Brien and the Legacy of Ernie Kovacs". Splitsider. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- Willmore, Alison (May 2, 2012). "Take a Look at the Unappreciated Genius of TV Pioneer Ernie Kovacs". Indiewire. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- Walley, David G. (1987). The Ernie Kovacs Phile. New York City: Simon & Schuster, Inc. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-918282-06-4.
- Bren, Frank (October 31, 2011). "Ernie Kovacs: An American Secret". Bright Lights Film Journal. Cathedral City, CA. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
- Hofer, Stephen F.(2006). TV Guide: the official collector's guide, Bangzoom Publishers.
- Kleiner, Dick (January 30, 1954). "The Marquee: About Edith Adams". Gazette and Bulletin. Retrieved July 11, 2010.
- "Sleeps on TV Set". Beaver Valley Times. June 19, 1954. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
- Lyons, Leonard (May 13, 1954). "The Lyons Den". Reading Eagle. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
- Lyons, Leonard (January 20, 1962). "Kovacs Would Wrestle Jaguars But Steered Clear of the Gals". Lawrence Journal-World. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
- "Mayhem in the A. M. – WABC ad for Ernie Kovacs radio show". Broadcasting. May 30, 1955. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved October 28, 2010.
- Mercer, Charles (June 17, 1956). "Ernie Kovacs – Ambitious and Successful". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved October 16, 2010.
- "Tony-Winning Actress Edie Adams Dead at 81". CBS News. October 16, 2008. Retrieved August 16, 2010.
- "Late Ernie Kovacs Is Honored As Best TV Director Of 1961". Courier-Journal. February 12, 1962. p. 18. Retrieved September 25, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Emmy Awards Database-Ernie Kovacs". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- "Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Inductees". Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. 1987. Archived from the original on December 18, 2013. Retrieved July 9, 2010.
- "Hollywood Walk of Fame-Ernie Kovacs". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
- Dudek, Duane (June 16, 1986). "'Vision of Ernie Kovacs' honors first video artist". Milwaukee Journal. Missing or empty
- Adir, Karin, ed. (2001). The Great Clowns of American Television. McFarland & Company. p. 270. ISBN 0-7864-1303-4. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
- Goodman, Mark (May 13, 1990). "Nothing in moderation". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 30, 2013. Retrieved December 10, 2008.
- Ryan, Jack (January 21, 1962). "Ernie Kovacs:Serious-Minded Clown". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
- Kovacs, Edie Adams (July 20, 1958). "Ernie Kovacs-what a husband!". Palm Beach Post. p. 113. Retrieved November 7, 2010 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Discussing Plot and Action". Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser. March 6, 1938. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
- Thomas, Bob (December 18, 1959). "Ernie Kovacs Doing Fine 'Living on Borrowed Time'". Prescott Evening Courier. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
- "Gentle, Quiet Kovacs Killed in Car Crash". Herald-Journal. January 14, 1962. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
- The story of a Hungarian man who influenced American television shows
- "Directs Play". Tom Glover. January 19, 1941. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
- Edelstein, Jeff (May 2, 2010). "Look Who's Talking". The Trentonian. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
- Corliss, Richard (July 7, 2001). "Philly Fifties: TV". Time. Retrieved February 9, 2011.subscription required)
- "NBC Philadelphia".
- "Ernie Kovacs". Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
- Chorba, Frank J. "Ernie Kovacs, U.S. Comedian". The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- WPTZ's Kovacs Reaps Early Scanner Harvest. Billboard. April 7, 1951. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- Kovacs Gets His Own Goat. Billboard. December 1, 1951. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- McMahon, Ed; Fisher, David, eds. (2007). When Television Was Young: The Inside Story with Memories by Legends of the Small Screen. Thomas Nelson. pp. 288. ISBN 978-1-4016-0327-4. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- TV's Tiniest Actress. Mechanix Illustrated. September 1955. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- "Good Ol' Officer Boyle of the EEFMS". The Ernie Kovacs Blog. October 22, 2008. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- Heritage Music & Entertainment Auction #7006. Heritage Auctions, Inc. ISBN 9781599673691. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- Heritage Music & Entertainment Auction #7004. Heritage Auctions, Inc. January 1, 2009. ISBN 9781599673370. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- "WCBS-TV Early Eyeball Fraternal & Marching Society Membership Card". erniekovacs.net. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- WPTZ To Shift Kovacs, Take Garroway TV. Billboard. March 29, 1952. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- Perrigo, Lucia (November 9, 1951). "Garroway-More at Large Than on TV". Kentucky New Era. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
- Kovacs' Time is Pre-Empted. Billboard. January 16, 1954. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
- Weinstein, David, ed. (2006). The Forgotten Network: DuMont and the Birth of American Television. Temple University Press. p. 240. ISBN 1-59213-499-8. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
- Wilson, Earl (February 5, 1970). "Edie to imic Marilyn Again". Florida Today. p. 11A. Retrieved January 8, 2017.(subscription required)
- "Bill Wendell, 75, Television Announcer". Lakeland Ledger. April 16, 1999. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
- "Channel Markers". The Norwalk Hour. February 18, 1961. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- An Electronic Funnyman And His TV Tricks. Life. April 15, 1957. Retrieved October 15, 2010.
- Spigel 2009, p. 190.
- Silverblatt, Art, ed. (2007). Genre Studies in Mass Media: A Handbook. M. E. Sharpe. p. 258. ISBN 978-0-7656-1669-2. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
- Shepherdson, K. J., ed. (2004). Film Theory:Crit Concepts V4. Routledge. p. 440. ISBN 0-415-25975-4. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
- Horton, Andrew, ed. (March 1, 2010). Ernie Kovacs & Early TV Comedy. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292779624. Retrieved September 3, 2013.
- Ernie Kovacs: Television's Original Genius (TV program). JSC Productions. November 17, 1982.
- Greene 2007, pp. 65-66.
- Newcomb, Horace; Dearborn, Fitzroy, eds. (2005). Encyclopedia of Television. Fitzroy Dearborn. p. 2697. ISBN 1-57958-411-X. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
- Danzig, Fred (September 22, 1962). "Ernie Kovacs Back on the Right Track". Beaver Country Times. Retrieved October 25, 2010.
- Crosby, John (January 8, 1953). "Latest TV Star, Kovacs, Needs To Rehearse". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
- Nachman, Gerald (2003). Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s. New York, NY: Pantheon Books. p. 200. ISBN 9780375410307. OCLC 50339527. Retrieved July 11, 2010.
- Castleman, Harry; Podrazik, Walter, eds. (2004). Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television. Syracuse University Press. p. 416. ISBN 0-8156-2988-5. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
- "The Ernie Kovacs Show (NBC)". Paley Center for Media. August 13, 1956. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
- "Video-YouTube-Percy Dovetonsils-Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata". Retrieved July 15, 2010.
- Danzig, Fred (March 9, 1961). "TV private eye took it on the chin Wednesday night". The Bulletin. Retrieved July 15, 2010.
- "Private Eye-Private Eye Stars Kovacs Tonight". Eugene Register-Guard. March 8, 1961. Retrieved July 15, 2010.
- Hart, Dennis, ed. (2002). Monitor: The Last Great Radio Show. iUniverse Inc. p. 254. ISBN 0-595-21395-2. Retrieved July 11, 2010.
- "Audio file-Monitor with Ernie Kovacs". Monitor Beacon. June 6, 1959. Archived from the original on October 10, 2010. Retrieved July 11, 2010.(Windows Media Player)
- Wilson, Earl (November 20, 1958). "Earl Wilson on Broadway". The Miami News. p. 29. Retrieved November 9, 2010 – via Newspapers.com.
- Ackerman, Paul, ed. (June 2, 1951). Time For Ernie. Billboard. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- "Ernie in Kovacsland". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- "Take A Good Look". erniekovacs.info. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
- Crosby, John (April 3, 1961). "Like Old Songs, Silent Movies Are Coming Back". Janesville Daily Gazette. p. 12. Retrieved January 5, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Allen, Steve, ed. (2000). Steve Allen's Private Joke File. Three River Press. p. 432. ISBN 0-609-80672-6. Retrieved July 11, 2010.
- Torre, Marie (June 17, 1958). "What! Wyatt Earp Insecure?". The Miami News. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
- Walley, David G. (1987). The Ernie Kovacs Phile. New York City: Simon & Schuster, Inc. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-918282-06-4.
- Greene 2007, p. 65.
- Model, Ben. "Ernie's Life Magazine cover". Model, Ben. Archived from the original on February 8, 2006.
- "TV Key Previews". St. Joseph News-Press. January 19, 1957. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- Crosby, John (January 24, 1957). "Radio & TV". Sarasota Journal. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
- Greene 2007, p. 66.
- Spigel 2009, pp. 202-203.
- Spigel 2009, p. 205.
- Samuel 2001, p. 173.
- "The Ernie Kovacs Show". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Archived from the original on December 4, 2010. Retrieved September 5, 2010.
- Newton, Jack. Oriental Blues. WorldCat. OCLC 62472943.
- Spigel 2009, p. 196.
- Horton, Andrew, ed. (2010). Ernie Kovacs & Early TV Comedy: Nothing in Moderation. University of Texas. pp. 46–49. ISBN 9780292779624. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
- Greene 2007, p. 64.
- Spigel 2009, p. 194.
- "Leona Anderson". Space Age Pop. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
- Spigel 2009, p. 203.
- Pearson, Howard (May 22, 1959). "Ernie Kovacs Music Show Tops TV Tonight". Deseret News. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
- "Listening to Jazz". Library of Congress. 1957. Retrieved March 21, 2012.
- Ovington, Reg (July 14, 1957). "A TV Workhorse 'Retires' To His Own Green Pasture". Reading Eagle. Retrieved October 15, 2010.
- Dunn, Kristine (July 20, 1959). "Rennick Plans News Specials". The Miami News. p. 24. Retrieved November 12, 2010 – via Newspapers.com.
- Thomas, Bob (February 16, 1960). "Edie Adams Laments Decline of Satire". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
- Kovacs, Ernie, ed. (1961). "T.V. Medium Rare". Corgi Books. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
- Spiro, J.D. (February 8, 1962). "Ernie Kovacs' Last Interview". The Milwaukee Journal.
- Schwartz, Dan (August 12, 2010). "Persistence pays off at the dreaded DMV". BuffaloNews.com. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
- Geissman, Grant, ed. (1995). Collectibly Mad: The Mad and Ec Collectibles Guide. Kitchen Sink Press. p. 320. ISBN 087816202X.
- Kanfer, Stefan, ed. (2004). Ball of fire: the tumultuous life and comic art of Lucille Ball. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 384. ISBN 0-375-72771-X. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
- "I Was a Bloodhound". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- "Ernie Kovacs". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 18, 2010.
- Bacon, James (September 4, 1960). "Ernie Kovacs Expert at Spending Cash". The Oregon Statesman. p. 27. Retrieved January 6, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Kovacs Gets A New (Wide) Part". Ottawa Citizen. October 11, 1958. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
- "Kovacs Enjoys New Anonymity". Miami News. August 8, 1958. p. 12. Retrieved July 10, 2010 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Sail A Crooked Ship". Internet Movie Database. December 1961. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
- "Edie Adams Gets Club Property". Reading Eagle. July 26, 1962. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
- "Grandmother Again Held on Kidnapping". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. January 28, 1954. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
- Farber, Stephen (1984). "Movies-Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter". New York Times. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2010.
- Hastings, Julianne (May 14, 1984). "When the Laughter Stopped". Modesto Bee. Missing or empty
- "Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 18, 2010.
- "April Smith (I) – Awards". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved January 1, 2012.
- "Ernie Kovacs' Widow and Divorced Wife in Custody Battle". St. Joseph News-Press. August 4, 1962. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
- "Ex-Daytonian Files Charges in Child Case". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. September 1, 1962. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
- "She Wants to Stay With Edie". The Palm Beach Post. September 8, 1962. p. 1. Retrieved November 12, 2010 – via Newspapers.com.
- "In a Legal Tug of War". The Telegraph. September 8, 1962. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
- "People in the News". The Miami News. September 9, 1962. p. 11. Retrieved November 12, 2010 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Kovacs Girls Want Edie". Miami News. September 12, 1962. p. 22. Retrieved July 10, 2010 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Edie Adams Wins Custody of Children". The Dispatch. September 15, 1962. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
- Thurber, Jon (October 17, 2008). "Tony award-winning actress, TV star". LA Times. Retrieved August 16, 2010.
- Kilgallen, Dorothy (September 2, 1954). "On Broadway". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
- Wilson, Earl (September 17, 1954). "Nasty Old Civilian Food". Miami News. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
- "Conversations with Joe Mikolas". erniekovacs.info. Archived from the original on March 14, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
- "Littlest Star for the Kovacs". The Miami News. June 29, 1959. Retrieved March 21, 2012.
- Hoffman, Leonard (September 26, 1961). "Something Special About Ernie Kovacs". The Evening Independent. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- "Ernie, Edie Fast Becoming Californians". Times Daily. February 5, 1958. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
- "Comedian Ernie Kovacs Is Killed in Traffic Accident". Victoria Advocate. January 14, 1962. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
- "Show World Mourns Death of Kovacs". Pittsburgh Press. January 14, 1962. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
- Kilgallen, Dorothy (June 4, 1962). "The Voice of Broadway". Kentucky New Era. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- "'The Kovacs Picture' and 'More on the Photo'". Lawrence Journal-World. January 17, 1962. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- "Crash Kills Ernie Kovacs". Los Angeles Times. January 13, 1962. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
- "Hollywood Pays Its Final Respects to Ernie Kovacs". Rome News-Tribune. January 16, 1962. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
- "Simple Rites For Kovacs Late Today". Times Daily. January 15, 1962. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
- "Hollywood Honors Kovacs". The Daily News Texan. January 17, 1962. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- "Star-Studded Assembly Attends Kovacs' Funeral". St. Petersburg Times. January 15, 1962. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
- Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. (2 volume set). McFarland. p. 415. ISBN 978-1-4766-2599-7. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
- Wilson, Earl (February 28, 1968). "It Happened Last Night". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved June 27, 2010.
- "People in the News-Took No Chances". Reading Eagle. December 14, 1965. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- "Crash Kills Daughter of Late Ernie Kovacs". The Pittsburgh Press. May 10, 1982. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- Adams, Edie (March 6, 1996). "Television/Video Preservation Study: Los Angeles Public Hearing" (PDF). National Film Preservation Board. Library of Congress. Retrieved July 10, 2010. (PDF)
- Lyons, Leonard (July 8, 1961). "The Lyons Den". Toledo Blade. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
- Lyons, Leonard (August 6, 1962). "Edie Adams Once Advised Ernie To Forego Deals Until Return". Lawrence Journal-World. Retrieved October 16, 2010.
- Ryan, Jack (November 18, 1962). "A New World for Edie Adams". Gadsden Times. Retrieved October 15, 2010.
- Heritage Auctions #7004. Heritage Auctions. January 1, 2009. ISBN 9781599673370. Retrieved October 25, 2010.
- Du Brow, Rick (July 18, 1962). "'Octavius' Cute to Point of Nausea". Sarasota Journal. Retrieved September 12, 2010.
- "Ernie Kovacs: Medicine Man (Pilot)". Paley Center for Media. 1962. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
- "Medicine Man (Pilot)". Paley Center for Media. 1962. Retrieved July 11, 2010.
- United States Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit (January 7, 1966). "Mary KOVACS, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee". Courts.gov. Archived from the original on July 27, 2011. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
- Roddy, Dennis (August 1, 1998). "Edie Hits a High Note". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
- Thomas, Bob (March 27, 1968). "Edie Adams Arranges Ernie Kovacs' Special". Sumter Daily Item. Retrieved July 16, 2010.
- Bunzel, Peter (April 5, 1963). Edie Wins A Big One. Life. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
- Klemsrud, Judy (April 7, 1968). "Kovacs Cult May Be In Making". Corpus-Christi Caller-Times. p. 81. Retrieved January 5, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Edie Saved Ernie's Tapes". The Independent Record. March 31, 1968. p. 30. Retrieved March 23, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Finding Aid for the Ernie Kovacs Papers". Online Archive of California. Retrieved September 18, 2010.
- "Ernie Kovacs Collection". Paley Center for Media. Retrieved September 18, 2010.
- "Edie Adams Has Part in Kovacs Revival". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. May 14, 1984. Retrieved July 11, 2010.
- Wilson, Earl (November 29, 1957). "Ernie Kovacs Vegas Star". Miami News. p. 17. Retrieved July 11, 2010 – via Newspapers.com.
- Sharbutt, Jay (June 5, 1976). "Old Ernie Kovacs Films Returning". Kentucky New Era. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
- "Ernie Kovacs Collection". Shout Factory. Archived from the original on January 17, 2011. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
- "Kovacs Collection Volume 2 Release". Shout Factory. October 23, 2012. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
- Kovacs, Ernie (2012). "Percy Dovetonsils Thpeakth". Omnivore. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
- Matos, Michaelangelo (April 27, 2012). "The prescient, avant-garde comedy of Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams, recovered classics of early television". Capital New York. Retrieved September 8, 2012.
- "Perthy Dovetonthils Thpeakth". erniekovacs.info. Archived from the original on March 14, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
- "Ernie Kovacs-WPTZ". Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia. 2005. Retrieved July 9, 2010.
- "Hall of Fame". Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia. 1992. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
- Greene, Doyle (2007). Politics and the American Television Comedy: A Critical Survey from I Love Lucy through South Park. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-476-60829-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Samuel, Lawrence R. (2001). Brought to You By Postwar Television Advertising and the American Dream. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-77763-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) via Project MUSE (subscription required)
- Spigel, Lynn (2009). TV by design: modern art and the rise of network television. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-76968-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Adams, Edie (1990). Sing a Pretty Song: The "Offbeat" Life of Edie Adams, Including the Ernie Kovacs Years. William Morrow; ISBN 0-688-07341-7
- Barker, David Brian (1982). "Every Moment's a Gift": Ernie Kovacs in Hollywood, 1957–1962, a Master's Thesis. Available for viewing at the library at the University of Texas at Austin[ISBN missing]
- Rico, Diana (1990). Kovacsland: A Biography of Ernie Kovacs. Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich; ISBN 0-15-147294-7
- Walley, David (1975). Nothing in Moderation. Drake Publishers; ISBN 0-87749-738-9
Reprinted as The Ernie Kovacs Phile by David Walley, Bolder Books, 1978 and Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1987; ISBN 0-918282-06-3
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ernie Kovacs.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Ernie Kovacs|
- The Official Ernie Kovacs Website
- Ernie Kovacs Dot Net: A Tribute To Television's Original Genius
- Talking About Ernie Kovacs at The Interviews: An Oral History of Television
- Kovacsland Online! – the Ernie Kovacs website
- List of Kovacs' 16 articles for MAD magazine