Thursday, May 28, 2020

Seven Things to Know About Connie Stevens

1. Connie Stevens was married and divorced twice by the age of 31. Her first marriage was to actor James Stacy (from the TV series Lancer) from 1963-66. They met while he was filming the Disney movie Summer Magic in Palm Springs. Following their divorce, Connie wed Eddie Fisher in 1967. His marriage to Elizabeth Taylor had ended three years earlier. Although they divorced in 1969, Connie gave birth to two daughters: Joely and Tricia. In his second autobiographical book, Been There, Done That, Fisher wrote: "Connie Stevens remains the nicest ex-wife."

2. Connie was born Concetta Rosalie Ann Ingoglia in Brooklyn, New York. Her father was a jazz drummer who worked under the name Teddy Stevens. Connie adapted "Stevens" as her last name when she became interested in acting and singing. As a teenager, she sang in a quartet called The Fourmost (not to be confused the later British band). That group also included Tony Butala, who would later become a founding member of The Lettermen.

3. After several minor roles in films and TV shows, Connie Stevens landed the part of Cricket Blake on the Warner Bros. television series Hawaiian Eye. The bubbly Cricket was a photographer who helped out private eyes played by Anthony Eisley and Robert Conrad. Cricket also performed at a hotel's shell bar, which gave Stevens plenty of opportunities to sing on the show.

4. In 1959, Connie performed the song "Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)" with Edd Byrnes, who starred as Kookie on 77 Sunset Strip, another Warner Bros. detective show. The novelty song is mostly spoken, but it hit an impressive No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. A year later, Connie Stevens had a #3 hit with the song Sixteen Reasons. It was her only other Top 40 record, although she continued to record for many years.

Troy Donahue and Connie.
5. Concurrent with starring in Hawaiian Eye, Warner Bros. also cast Connie Stevens in movies targeted at young adult audiences. She had a supporting role as one of Troy Donahue's three loves in Parrish (1961), which made a nice profit at the box office. She was teamed with Troy again that same year as the title character in Susan Slade. In 1963, she made a third film with Donahue, the teen comedy Palm Springs Weekend--though her love interest was Ty Hardin and Troy was paired with Stefanie Powers.

6. When Hawaiian Eye was canceled, Connie Stevens starred in the TV sitcom Wendy and Me, in which she and Ron Harper played a young couple living in an apartment building owned by George Burns. In our interview with Ron Harper, he spoke fondly of working with Connie, but was frustrated with Burns' lengthy monologues which opened every episode. The series lasted one season.

7. When her film and TV career slowed down in the 1960s, she began appearing regularly in Las Vegas nightclubs--something that would continue for many years. In her autobiography Growing Up Fisher, daughter Joely Fisher wrote of her mother's Vegas act: "She was ahead of her time in her eclectic choices, which were sometimes met with criticism, because everyone wanted to hear 'Sixteen Reasons' ...It wasn't always what the audience thought they wanted but she wooed them, won them over with her set list, her sensibility, her sexual, sensual performance. It was electric."

8 comments:

  1. Imagine that! You can be "nice" while managing your own career choices and talent.

    I enjoy those Warner Bros. series from that era. At least, what I remember and what I have been able to see today.

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  2. Thanks for mentioning "Hawaiian Eye." I know Conrad had everyone's attention, but I watched for Stevens and Poncie Ponce. Leon Lontoc was also in the show and went on to become Gene Barry's butler in "Burke's Law." That's a movie connection question if ever there was one.

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    1. Likely you've already run something on the WB stable of shows from the '50s-'60s and I've missed it, but I'd be interested in hearing your take on them. I can still remember most.

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    2. I did a two-part post on those show a few years ago: https://www.classicfilmtvcafe.com/2011/06/warner-bros-classic-tv-detectives-were.html

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    3. Thanks. Between all those WB detectives and cowboys, it was a full life back then.

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  3. Sometimes a song just doesn't click when it's first released. The production is just missing something no matter how well the artist sings it. But, boy does she sing it well!

    https://youtu.be/uTokIbPQyB0

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  4. Thanks Rick for the interesting Connie Stevens & link to read Ron Harper interview. I enjoyed the two fer!I watched Ms. Stevens in many TV projects in the 1970's. With Ron Harper I watched all 14 episodes of "Planet of the Apes" very repetitive indeed. But I think Friday night 8:00-9:00 time slot hurt too. Not
    sure what else was playing.

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  5. Not everyone can have such a lengthy career on screen AND on stage. I admire her longevity.

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