When I was a kid living on the backblocks of Sydney I use to love to sneak in at night and catch a very sexy young Connie Stevens playing Cricket Blake in Hawaiian Eye. It was a hugely popular show in our household and I could see one of the reasons why my dad was so enamoured of all that sand and surf. It wasn’t until much later on that I associated the singer on the radio as the same great gal. But, of course that was merely a fabulous little bonus to add to my childhood crush. However, while I was busy gawking at an old TV set, far, far away in tinsel town the fabulous Connie Stevens was leading an exciting life as an actor, singer and stage performer.
Although Brooklyn born (speaking Italian until age 5) and of Anglo/Italian/Mohican jazz playing parents, Peter Ingolia and Eleanor McGinley, Connie was raised by her grandparents. Connie’s musical career began in Catholic boarding schools, and after finishing school she formed a succession of bands including The Three Dubs (age 16), The Foremost & The Letterman. At the same time she was also busy trying to break into films as an extra after settling into Hollywood. It would be comedian Jerry Lewis who finally got Connie her big break in his 58 film, Rock-a-Bye-Baby, which led Warner Bros asking her to star as Cricket Blake in the long running hit series, Hawaiian Eye (1959-63) And she broke many a boy’s heart with that role!!!
During this period she recorded her 1961 mega-hit song Sixteen Reasons. And with 77 Sunset Strip actor Ed Byrnes, she recorded the catchingly titled duet, Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb). The voluptuous Connie was at this stage married to actor James Stacy, best known for his role in Lancer. Later she would marry crooner Eddie Fisher with whom she had two daughters, Joely & Tricia, as well as being stepmother to Carrie Fisher during that short time. Both daughters would also become successful actors.
Since 1969, Connie has remained happily single while raising her daughters and pursuing her various careers. Connie has also proven to be just as adept as a business woman as she is a singer and actor. When faced with financial crises in the early 90s Connie promptly built herself a new empire based on successfully linking her cosmetic products with infomercials, which were then still in their infancy. Within a very short time, but with an enormous amount of hard work and acumen Connie transformed herself into a self-made tycoon. Yet another jewel in a glowing crown.
In the area of autograph collecting Connie has always been a wonderful signer for her fans across the globe. Perhaps this can be traced back to her childhood when Connie herself was the president of the late Gary Gray’s Fanclub in the 40s when Gary was one of the top child actors in Hollywood. Who would think the little girl from Brooklyn would appear with Gary ten year later in the film, The Party Crashers. In 2001, they also attended the Lone Pine California Film Festival which was one of Gary’s last public appearances before he lost his long battle with cancer in April 2006.
Oh, and did I happen to mention that Connie has sung for four Presidents, performed with Bob Hope on his USO tours, won a Theatre World award for Star-Spangled Girl, headlined her own shows in Las Vegas for some fifteen years, was named Queen of Brooklyn in 1987, has stars on both the Star Walk in Palm Springs as well as at 6249 Hollywood Boulevard, has made over 75 TV appearances, recorded a Christmas album with her daughters, directed and written a documentary, A Healing: Woman of Vietnam, performed at the Academy Awards three times; not to mention her fine work with Windfeather, a project she built from scratch, and which has created 83 scholarship places for Indigenous American youth as well as supplying extra goods for numerous reservations and summer camps for many of the children who have never ventured away from these reservations during their young lives. She has also won many major humanity awards with her two favourites being from Shriners Hospital and Cedar Sinai Medical Centre.
Of course this barely touches upon the many fine works Connie undertakes with various charities and community awareness programmes. Her work also covers diverse areas such as helping disabled children and programmes to reduce the tragedies caused by drink drivers. The fabulous thing about Connie Stevens is that she doesn’t just give of her wealth, but rolls up her sleeves and gives of her time and boundless energy whether it is in Korea, New York or Iran. Recently turned 67, and looking as stunning as ever, you get the feeling that we have much more to see of Connie Stevens.
And I feel rather fortunate that Connie recently spared me some of her precious time to share a few words about her brilliant career. If you want to learn more about this wonderful lady then you should pop along to http://www.foreverspring.com and check out her official website.
“I'd like to be a lion... they are very family-oriented.
Unfortunately, too many wild animals are afraid of what man can do to them."
David: G'day Miss Connie. Could you tell us a little about the music influencing your life when you started out as a singer in the 50s? And what tune remains your all time favourite?
Connie: One of my all time favourites is Days of Wine & Roses by Henry Mancini. I love all music and have favorites in each genre.
David: Do you recall when you signed your very first autograph and how you felt at the time?
Connie: No, I really cannot remember the very first one…
David: Your first big break as an actor came with Jerry Lewis and I wondered whether you had a funny story you could recall from working with this great comedian?
Connie: Jerry gave away 23 new cars to crew and staff. I think they were Oldsmobiles…
David: What is the strangest or most amazing moment you ever encountered while working on a film or TV set?
Connie: I got up off of a chaise lounge to go do a scene and a big super trooper fell on the chair a few minutes later…
David: You are an extremely popular signer amongst fans world wide, but have you ever encountered any problems with autograph hunters or perhaps unscrupulous dealers forging your signature? How did you handle these problems?
Connie: Well, you know I've never encountered any problems with autograph hunters…
David: Have you attended many movie or memorabilia shows, and if so what are some of your favourites?
Connie: No, I haven’t…
David: Do you collect autographs or memorabilia and if so what are some of your favourite treasures?
Connie: I've collected checks signed by Ava Gardner and John Lennon as well as football jerseys from Joe Montana and Steve Young
David: What particular question are you still waiting someone to ask you?
Connie: Where would you like us to mail you the 1 billion dollar check…!!!!
David: If any famous person from history could sign a photo for you, who would you ask and what would you have them say in their dedication?
Connie: Mother Theresa – “Be a good girl …. !!!!”
David: During your life you have suffered both highs and lows and always fought back, and I wondered whether there is a particular story or moment in your life which best sums up Connie Stevens, the person?
Connie: I'd have to say that one should always be both grateful and gracious in life…
David: Thank you Miss Connie for your time sharing these memories with us…
VISIT CONNIE HERE:
Interview article (c) David Priol 2005
Photos copyrighted to their various owners.
Courtesy of the
Connie lost the Brooklyn accent many years ago.
A Republican who appeared at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.
Successful cosmetics businesswoman.
Directed her first documentary in 1997
Mother of actress Tricia Leigh Fisher, who appeared with her in
"Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis"
She started her singing career with a group called The Three Debs.
Half-sister of John Megna
Mother of actress Joely Fisher.
Mother-in-law of Christopher Duddy.
Had a top-ten hit record in 1961 with "Sixteen Reasons."
As a child in New York, she was President of the Gary Gray (1936-2006) Fan Club.
Years later, she and Gary Gray worked together in "The Party Crashers" (1958). They most recently appeared together at the 2001 Lone Pine California Film Festival.
Measurements: 37-20-36 (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine)
Named "Queen of Brooklyn" at the Welcome Back to Brooklyn Festival in 1987
Has a grandson Holdon. The son of her daughter Tricia Leigh Fisher.
Former stepmother of Carrie Fisher & Todd Fisher (II) .
Former stepmother of Carrie Fisher, and Todd Fisher.