Quite beside her considerable professional talents, Edie Adams expressed an inner vulnerability that complimented a glittering personality. The blending of these qualities had, no doubt, contributed to her success as an entertainer. Audiences like nothing quite so much as to know that the stars they admire are, after all, human beings.
Edie was an acknowledged all-around entertainer. She moved with confidence from light comedy, to slapstick, to drama in movies, on television and on the legitimate stage. She even fulfilled a life-long ambition and made her opera debut singing the lead role in Offenbach’s “La Pericole” with the Seattle Opera Company.
Upon the death of her husband, comedian Ernie Kovacs, Edie collected, acquired, preserved and jealously guarded video tapes and kinescopes of the shows he created and in which they both appeared more than fifty years ago. Edie devoted many years of her life to planning the return of these shows to the air and home video. More than 150 half-hours of these shows are available for licensing to broadcast and cable networks.
THE archive represents the largest collection assemblage of vintage television programs of historical importance, created by one artist, that are available today to the television audience. Most of these shows have not been seen since they first aired during the 1950’s. She chronicled her life with Kovacs in a book titled “Sing a Pretty Song” published by Morrow & Co.
Ediad Productions, Inc., the production company she founded and which is still in existence today, also owns the music-variety television series which Edie hosted on ABC in 1961-2 and for which she received four Emmy nominations. Guest artists included Andre Previn, Louis Armstrong, Bob Hope, Duke Ellington, Stan Getz, Sammy Davis, Jr., among many others.
“Thinking back on my childhood,” she once said, “it seems that music is the one thing that brings everything together. My happiest recollections are of times spent singing. I sang in just about every school and church choir there was.”
Edie Adams was born in Kingston, PA on April 16, where she lived until she was six. Her family moved to Grove City, PA, New York City and Tenafly, NJ, where she completed high school.
When the time for her first major decision came, she had to choose between going to Juilliard School of Music, a long cherished hope, or attending the Traphagen School of Fashion Design to fulfill an equally strong ambition. A toss of the coin influenced her choice to go to Juilliard. “I might have been competition for Hattie Carnegie,” she said years later.
Five years at Juilliard implanted in Edie a strong love for everything good in music. The prejudices that people have toward serious music had a distinct influence on her career. When she left Juilliard, her intention had been to become a music teacher, which her parents wanted. One of her first attempts at a career was to try out as a contestant on Arthur Godfrey’s “Talent Scouts,” an enormously popular television at that time. She had selected a song learned at Juilliard.
The show’s musical director, Archie Blyer, took one look at her and advised that she sing a pop song instead. Just as Blyer had predicted, she lost the contest, but received job offers from nightclubs in and out of New York. She accepted one from a club in Toronto, Canada, and her professional career was launched.
It was obvious to Edie that success in opera came only to the very few. “So many really good singers I knew were relegated to singing in the chorus at Radio City Music Hall,” she said. “Frankly, it was discouraging.”
It was then that Edie took to entering and winning contests of all kinds. Two of the titles she won were Miss New York Television and Miss U.S. Television. The prizes included personal appearances all over the country, including one with Milton Berle who was “Mr. Television. “I was permitted to sing so long as I wore a bathing suit,” she recalled.
All this activity led to an engagement in Philadelphia and television appearances with Ernie Kovacs, whom she later married. They went to appear together on CBS, NBC and the Dumont Network.
Edie’s talents as a singer and comedienne created increasing comment in the media. As a result, George Abbott, the legendary Broadway director, producer and playwright, auditioned her for a Broadway production of “Wonderful Town.” She won out over some 300 competitors and laded the role of Eileen for which she received rave reviews and two Donaldson Awards.
The Broadway show firmly established Edie as a name performer and she was in great demand for appearances in nightclubs and on television. She also became a regular on Ernie Kovac’s CBS-TV show until she was signed to star in her second Broadway show as Daisy Mae in the musical version of Al Capp’s “Li’l Abner.” She received the coveted Tony Award for her performance. While appearing in the hit musical at night, Edie spent her days studying with Lee Strassberg at the Actor’s Studio and taking lessons in dress design at the Traphagen School of Fashion Design.
She regularly returned to the stage. She appeared in a road company of “Nunsense” and in a female version of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple.” She also headlined in the Los Angeles production of “Nightclub Confidential” and in “The Merry Widow” with the Long Beach Light Opera Company. Other plays and musicals in which she has appeared include “Sweet Bird of Youth,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Mame,” “Hello Dolly,” “I Do, I Do,” “Can, Can,” “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and “Little Me.” She has also performed leading roles in such operas as “Cosi Fan Tuti” and “La Pericole.”
Edie took roles in a long list of feature films, including “The Apartment” with Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred McMurray; “Lover Come Back” with Doris Day and Rock Hudson; “Anyone for Venice…?,” “The Oscar,” “Made in Paris,” “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “The Best Man,” “Love With the Proper Stranger,” “Under the Yum, Yum Tree” and Call Me Bwana” with Bob Hope.
She starred in her own television series on ABC, for which she received four Emmy nominations. Perhaps she was best known for her knowing winks and playful demeanor in a series of commercials she appeared in for Muriel Cigars from the 1950’s thru the 1970’s. In addition to motion pictures and television shows, Edie headlined at major nightclubs in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Lake Tahoe. Her record albums were released on the MGM, Columbia and Decca record labels, with the most recent release being a CD on the Varese/Saraband Records label.
Edie Adams passed away on October 16, 2008.