A while back, I wrote an article I called Eddie Fisher And The Ladies, and it included a brief history of some of the crooner’s more memorable relationships. In that article, Eddie’s third wife (after Debbie Reynolds and Liz Taylor) was given only a brief mention, and she deserves a closer look — not because of Eddie but because of her own talents.
Connie Stevens (born Concetta Rosalie Ann Ingolia) came out of Brooklyn’s rich tradition of Italian-American performers, and as part of a family of musicians it’s not surprising that she was singing professionally by her teen years. Starting as part of an all-girl singing group, she soon began performing as a solo and signed a recording contract — and at about the same time found herself beginning an acting career.
She found some success in both career choices, showing up in small parts in a number of movies and TV shows and also issuing her first album, Conchetta, in 1958. It was a mix of traditional standards and a few newer tunes and did well for a debut album, but over the next few years her career really took off.
A number of guest appearances on the TV show 77 Sunset Strip led to her novelty-song hit “Kookie Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb),” performed as a duet with the show’s star, Ed “Kookie” Brynes. (Who was inexplicably a big star at that time.) She also landed a role on another show, Hawaiian Eye, where her portrayal of Cricket established her as a TV star.
Continuing to record, she found hit territory again with “Sixteen Reasons,” but most of her other recordings were just moderately successful. Her only other charted song was “Too Young To Go Steady” in 1960. Unlike the subject of that song, Connie found time for some serious relationships – including a well-publicized romance with Elvis Presley – before marrying actor James Stacy in 1963.
She worked steadily through the 1960’s, joining George Burns in a new TV show, and also appearing in movies opposite such stars as Troy Donahue and Jerry Lewis. However, she wasn’t always happy with how things went — she badly wanted the lead in My Fair Lady, but after passing over Julie Andrews the studio chose Audrey Hepburn.
Connie’s marriage to Stacy ended in 1966 and she soon found herself dating Eddie Fisher, who by then had been divorced from Liz Taylor for several years. They married in 1967 and had two daughters, (actresses Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher) but divorced in 1969, and Connie has never married again.
From the 1970’s to present day, Connie has found a lot of avenues for her creative energies, not only as a steadily working actress with some very notable parts, but also in the musical arena. For a while, she was a semi-regular guest on TV’s popular Dean Martin Show, and made countless appearances on others too.
In later years, she’s become a very successful businesswoman with her own line of cosmetics, and has also become a leader in many charitable causes. Quite a life’s journey for the Brooklyn teenager.