Connie Stevens

Connie Stevens (born Concetta Rosalie Ann Ingoglia; August 8, 1938) is an American actress, director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, editor and singer. Born in Brooklyn, New York City to musician parents, Stevens was raised there until age 12, when she was sent to live with family friends in rural Missouri after she witnessed a murder in the city. In 1953, at age 15, Stevens relocated with her father to Los Angeles, California.

Connie Stevens
Connie Stevens early 1960s press still.jpg
Stevens in the 1960s
Born
Concetta Rosalie Ann Ingoglia

(1938-08-08) August 8, 1938 (age 82)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation
  • Actress
  • director
  • screenwriter
  • producer
  • cinematographer
  • editor
  • singer
Years active1957–present
Spouse(s)
(m. 1963; div. 1966)

(m. 1967; div. 1969)
ChildrenJoely Fisher
Tricia Leigh Fisher
RelativesJohn Megna (half-brother)

She began her career in 1957, making her feature film debut in Young and Dangerous, before releasing her debut album, Concetta, the following year. She subsequently had a supporting role in the musical comedy Rock-A-Bye Baby (1958) opposite Jerry Lewis, followed by the drama film The Party Crashers (also 1958) opposite Frances Farmer.

Stevens gained widespread recognition for her portrayal of "Cricket" Blake on the network television series Hawaiian Eye, beginning in 1959. She garnered concurrent musical success when her single "Sixteen Reasons" became a radio hit, peaking at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the UK Singles Chart in 1960. Stevens continued to appear in film and television throughout the 1970s and 1980s, as well as performing as a musical nightclub act.[1]

Stevens' later film roles include in the comedy Tapeheads (1988) and the drama Love Is All There Is (1996). In 2009, Stevens made her directorial debut with the feature film Saving Grace B. Jones, which she also wrote and produced, based partly on elements of her own childhood.

Early lifeEdit

Stevens was born Concetta Rosalie Ann Ingoglia in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, the daughter of musician Peter Ingoglia (known as Teddy Stevens) and singer Eleanor McGinley. Stevens is of Italian, Irish, German-Jewish and Polish-Jewish descent.[2] She adopted her father's stage name of Stevens as her own. Her parents divorced and she lived with her grandparents and attended Catholic boarding schools.[2] Actor John Megna was her half-brother.

At the age of 12, she witnessed a murder while waiting at a bus stop in Brooklyn.[3] The event traumatized Stevens, and she was sent to live with family friends in Boonville, Missouri.[4]

Coming from a musical family, Stevens joined the singing group called The Fourmost[5] with Tony Butala, who went on to fame as founder of The Lettermen. Stevens moved to Los Angeles with her father in 1953.

When she was 16, she replaced the alto in a singing group, The Three Debs.[5] She enrolled at The Georgia Massey Professional School in the San Fernando Valley, sang professionally, and appeared in local repertory theater.[citation needed]

CareerEdit

Early filmsEdit

Her first notable film role was in Young and Dangerous (1957) with Mark Damon, a low budget teen movie. She also was in Eighteen and Anxious (1957); an episode of The Bob Cummings Show ("Bob Goes Hillbilly"); and the movie Dragstrip Riot (1958).

Stevens' big break came when Jerry Lewis saw her in the latter and recommended her for Rock-A-Bye Baby (1958) as the young girl who loves Lewis, made at Paramount.[6][7] In December 1957 she signed a seven-year contract with Paramount starting at $600 a week going up to $1,500 a week.[8]

Stevens made another film with Damon, The Party Crashers (1958), also at Paramount. Paramount dropped her.

Warner Bros. and Hawaiian EyeEdit

In May 1959, she signed a seven-year contract with Warner Bros. starting at $300 per week.[9] Like many Warners contract players, Stevens was kept busy guest-starring on their regular TV shows such as The Ann Sothern Show, Maverick, Tenderfoot, 77 Sunset Strip and Cheyenne.

Stardom came when she was cast as Cricket Blake in the popular television detective series Hawaiian Eye from 1959 to 1963,[10] a role that made her famous; her principal costar was Robert Conrad.

First televised on December 23, 1960, she appeared (uncredited) in "The Dresden Doll", Episode 15 of Season 3 of 77 Sunset Strip as her character from Hawaiian Eye, Cricket Blake.[11]

In a televised interview on August 26, 2003, on CNN's Larry King Live, Stevens recounted that while on the set of Hawaiian Eye she was told she had a telephone call from Elvis Presley. "She didn't believe it, but in fact it was Elvis, who invited her to a party and said that he would come to her house and pick her up personally"; they subsequently dated.[12]

 
Stevens and James Garner from a 1959 episode of Maverick

Music careerEdit

Stevens' first album was titled Concetta (1958). She had minor single hits with the standards "Blame It on My Youth" (music by Oscar Levant and lyrics by Edward Heyman), "Looking for a Boy" (music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin), and "Spring Is Here" (music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Lorenz Hart).[citation needed]

She appeared opposite James Garner in a comedy episode of the TV Western series Maverick entitled "Two Tickets to Ten Strike," and after making several appearances on the Warner Bros. hit TV series 77 Sunset Strip, she recorded the hit novelty song "Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)" (1959), a duet with one of the stars of the program, Edd Byrnes,[2] that reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. She and Byrnes also appeared together on ABC's The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom.[citation needed]

She had hit singles as a solo artist with "Sixteen Reasons" (1960), her biggest hit, reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, (#9 in the UK) and a minor #71 hit "Too Young to Go Steady" (1960) (music by Jimmy McHugh and lyrics by Harold Adamson). Other single releases were "Apollo",[13]"Why'd You Wanna Make Me Cry?", "Something Beautiful," "Mr. Songwriter," "Now That You've Gone,"[citation needed] and "Keep Growing Strong" (which was remade by the Stylistics under the title "Betcha by Golly, Wow").[14]

Film stardom and theatreEdit

Stevens' popularity on the small screen and as a recording star encouraged Warners to try her in films. She starred in three films for the studio, all opposite Troy Donahue: Parrish (1961), as a rural girl; Susan Slade (1962), playing the title role, an unwed mother; and Palm Springs Weekend (1963), a teen romantic comedy.[15] In 1962 Warners suspended her briefly for refusing to go on a publicity tour.[16] She performed in Wizard of Oz on stage in Kansas.[17]

When Hawaiian Eye ended Stevens guest-starred on Temple Houston and The Red Skelton Show. She played the lead in the horror film Two on a Guillotine (1965), for Warners.

Stevens later starred as Wendy Conway in the television sitcom Wendy and Me (1964–1965) with George Burns, who also produced the show with Warners and played an older man who watched Wendy's exploits upstairs on the TV in his apartment.[2] She had a percentage of the show, and had three and a half years left on her contract with Warners. She said "I've done the teenage epics... and want to move up into something like Virginia Woolf or Any Wednesday. I want to be a big star but do I have to throw tantrums and behave badly to get there? Can't I just be talented and work hard and be happily married?"[18]

Stevens had the juvenile lead in Never Too Late (1965), released by Warners. She signed a new contract with Warners to make one film a year for six years.

She reprised her stage performance of Wizard of Oz at Carousel Theatre, California, then followed it with Any Wednesday, at Melodyland, Anaheim California. Stevens was reunited with Lewis in Way... Way Out (1966).[19][20]

Broadway and nightclubsEdit

Stevens in 1968 starred in the Broadway production of Neil Simon's The Star-Spangled Girl with Anthony Perkins and Richard Benjamin.[21][22] While she continued to appear in television series such as ABC Stage 67, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, and Love, American Style, Stevens enjoyed performing live, so in 1968 she also began appearing regularly in nightclubs in Las Vegas, where her shows were well received by both audiences and entertainment critics.[23][24]

TV moviesEdit

Stevens had a small role in a TV movie The Littlest Angel (1969). She made Mister Jerico (1970) for British TV and had a supporting role in The Grissom Gang (1971).

Stevens starred in the TV movies Call Her Mom (1972), Playmates (1972), Every Man Needs One (1972), and The Sex Symbol (1974).[25]

She turned down the Valerie Perrine role in Lenny because of its nudity.[24]

She had the lead in a feature Scorchy (1976).[26]

In the 1970s, Stevens started singing the Ace Is the Place theme song on Ace Hardware TV commercials in Southern California, and was a guest on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast a few times.

In the spring of 1977, Stevens appeared in a first-season episode of The Muppet Show.

1980sEdit

She was in Love's Savage Fury (1979), Murder Can Hurt You! (1980), Scruples (1980), Aloha Paradise, Side Show (1981), Harry's Battles (1981), and Grease 2 (1982).

Stevens guest starred on Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Hotel, Detective in the House, Murder, She Wrote and Tales from the Darkside.

She had supporting roles in Rowdies (1986), Back to the Beach (1987), Tapeheads (1988), and Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis (1988).

She also was seen numerous times on the Bob Hope USO specials, including his Christmas Show from the Persian Gulf (1988).

In 1988, Stevens said "I still want to make movies with Marlon Brando. But first I've got to get hot. That's what I'm trying to do - get hot. I'm still waiting for the big role. I haven't peaked yet."[24]

She elaborated:

I'm a big star all over the world except in Hollywood. I play (nightclubs in) Japan and Hong Kong every Christmas and New Year's... I don't have a hit TV show, I don't have a hit record, I don't have a hit movie, but I created something that people still love. I invented Cricket. There was barely a part written for me. Half the time, I said whatever I wanted. I was everybody's daughter. I was every boy's fantasy girlfriend. Girls wanted to be like me. That good feeling still exists. That's why I'm a big business, with 17 people working for me. I may not be the richest woman in the world, but I do okay. But Hollywood is a different story... There's something wrong when an actress can come off a 'Dynasty' or a 'Falcon Crest' and get a production deal (to star in a mini-series or TV movie) and I can't.[24]

Stevens had a regular role on the sitcom Starting from Scratch (1988). She said at the time, "TV is not my favorite medium; the work is hard, you don't have any life, and I feel like I've already been a champion in it, but the economics of the business is you need momentum to get hot. I'm using this to get me into movies."[24] The show only lasted one season.

1990s onwardsEdit

Stevens later appearances include Ellen, Love Is All There Is, Baywatch, Clueless, James Dean: Race with Destiny (1997), Returning Mickey Stern, Titus, Wild Card, 8 Simple Rules, Fat Actress, The Wedding Album.

In 1997, Stevens wrote, edited, and directed a documentary entitled A Healing, about Red Cross nurses who served during the Vietnam War.[20] The following year it won the title of Best Film at the Santa Clarita International Film Festival. She also co-wrote and directed the thriller Saving Grace B. Jones (2009); it was shot in Boonville and is based on true events that Steven's witnessed there, as a child.[27]

She also was in Double Duty (2009), Just Before I Go (2014), and Search Engines (2016), co-starring daughter Joely Fisher.

Other projectsEdit

In 1969, Stevens toured with the Bob Hope USO tour to Guam and Southeast Asia.[28]

In 1987, she, Barbara Eden and Lee Greenwood toured with Bob Hope on his USO tour to the Persian Gulf. Among her charitable works, she founded the Windfeather project to award scholarships to Native Americans,[2] and supports CancerGroup.com. In 1991 Stevens received the Lady of Humanities Award from Shriners Hospital and the Humanitarian of the Year Award by the Sons of Italy in Washington, D.C.[29]

Stevens developed her own cosmetic skin care product line, Forever Spring,[2][30][31] and in the 1990s opened the Connie Stevens Garden Sanctuary Day Spa in Los Angeles.[citation needed]

In 1994, accompanied by her two daughters, she issued her first recording in several years, Tradition: A Family at Christmas,[2]

She made nightclub appearances and headlined in major Las Vegas showrooms.[20]

Awards and recognitionEdit

Stevens has a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in Palm Springs, California,[32][33] a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6249 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California, and a star on the Italian Walk of Fame in Toronto, Ontario.[34]

On September 23, 2005, Stevens was elected secretary-treasurer of the Screen Actors Guild, the union's second-highest elected position. She succeeded James Cromwell, who did not seek re-election.[35]

On June 29, 2013, the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution's President General, Merry Ann Wright, presented Stevens with the Founder's Medal for Patriotism, for her 40+ years of work with the USO.[36]

Personal lifeEdit

 
Stevens at the SAG Foundation Awards, 2007

Stevens dated actor Glenn Ford in the early 1960s. [37]

Stevens was married twice during her twenties: her first husband was actor James Stacy from 1963 until their 1966 divorce, and her second husband was singer Eddie Fisher from 1967 until their 1969 divorce.[2] She is the mother of actresses Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher.[38]

Stevens has contributed thousands of dollars over the years to the Republican Party, including donations to the Republican Congressional Committee and to both of Arizona Senator John McCain's runs for president (2000 and 2008).[39]

DiscographyEdit

FilmographyEdit

FilmsEdit

Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1957 Young and Dangerous Candy
1957 Eighteen and Anxious
1958 Dragstrip Riot Marge
1958 Rock-A-Bye Baby Sandra Naples
1958 The Party Crashers Barbara Nickerson
1961 Parrish Lucy
1962 Susan Slade Susan Slade
1963 Palm Springs Weekend Gayle Lewis / Jane Hoover
1965 Two on a Guillotine Melinda Duquesne / Cassie Duquesne
1965 Never Too Late Kate Clinton
1966 Way...Way Out Eileen Forbes
1971 The Last Generation
1971 The Grissom Gang Anna Borg
1976 Scorchy Jackie Parker
1978 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Herself Cameo
1982 Grease 2 Miss Mason
1987 Back to the Beach Connie
1988 Tapeheads June Tager
1996 Love Is All There Is Miss Deluca
1997 James Dean: Race with Destiny Jane Deacy
2002 Returning Mickey Stern Eloise Vanderwild
2009 Saving Grace B. Jones Narrator (voice) Also director, writer, and producer
2009 Double Duty Irma
2014 Just Before I Go Nancy
2016 Search Engines Geena
2019 By the Rivers of Babylon Meredith

TelevisionEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Weatherford, Mike (July 15, 2011). "Connie Stevens a blast from past". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on October 14, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Biography, tcm.com; accessed April 3, 2017.
  3. ^ King, Susan (March 26, 2011). "A new direction for Connie Stevens". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 13, 2020.
  4. ^ "Behind the camera, Connie Stevens, upbeat blond singer-actress of the '50s and '60s, drew upon dark memories 50 years buried to create "Saving Grace B. Jones,"screening Saturday". The Philadelphia Inquirer. March 26, 2009. Archived from the original on May 14, 2015. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
  5. ^ a b King, Susan."A new direction for Connie Stevens", Los Angeles Times, March 26, 2011.
  6. ^ "'Rock-a-Bye-Baby' Cast", tcm.com; accessed July 2, 2011.
  7. ^ THE TV SCENE: When Connie Stevens Is on Screen, Things Happen CONNIE STEVENS Smith, Cecil. Los Angeles Times 7 Feb 1960: J2.
  8. ^ COLUMBIA WANTS DORIS DAY IN FILM: Offers Role in 'Wreck of the Old 97'--Peter Finch to Co-Star in 'Nun's Story" Diane Varsi Hospitalized By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to The New York Times.. New York Times 24 Dec 1957: 11.
  9. ^ Singer Connie Stevens' New Contract Approved: Agreement With Warner Bros. to Range From $300 to $1250 a Week in Seven Years Los Angeles Times 6 May 1959: B1.
  10. ^ "'Hawaiian Eye' Listing" Fiftiesweb.com, accessed July 2, 2011
  11. ^ ""77 Sunset Strip" The Dresden Doll (TV Episode 1960)". IMDb.com. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  12. ^ Interview with Connie Stevens" elvis.com.au, March 10, 2006, accessed July 2, 2011.
  13. ^ "Connie Stevens : Apollo/Why Do I Cry for Joey?". 45cat. Warner Brothers Records. 1959.
  14. ^ Pollock, Bruce (September 10, 2018). America's Songs III: Rock!: Rock! (Paperback ed.). Routledge. ISBN 9781138638143.
  15. ^ FOCUS ON A CONNECTICUT 'PARRISH' By EUGENE ARCHER. New York Times 5 June 1960: X5.
  16. ^ Connie Stevens Suspended; Quits Tour Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 10 Oct 1962: b12.
  17. ^ Love Healed All Wounds for Scrappy Connie Stevens Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 5 Jan 1964: A4.
  18. ^ An Eager Connie Stevens Casts an Eye on the Big Star Category Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 10 Jan 1965: B6.
  19. ^ Connie Stevens Starts Over With Straight Stage Career Scott, John L. Los Angeles Times 7 Jan 1966: c11.
  20. ^ a b c "Connie Stevens Biography" filmreference.com, accessed July 2, 2011
  21. ^ Simon, Neil."Script, 'Star Spangled Girl'" The Star-Spangled Girl, Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1967, ISBN 0-8222-1073-8, p. 3
  22. ^ "Connie Stevens Gets 'Star Spangled'", The Washington Post and Times Herald, September 7, 1966, p. B6.
  23. ^ Scott, John L. (1968). "Connie Stevens at the Flamingo", Los Angeles Times, August 2, 1968, p. G12.
  24. ^ a b c d e Lavin, Cheryl (August 5, 1988). "Stevens Is 'Starting From Scratch'". Chicago Tribune.
  25. ^ TV Film to Star Connie Stevens Los Angeles Times 7 Jan 1972: g16.
  26. ^ Connie Stevens Stars in 'Scorchy' Los Angeles Times 14 Jan 1977: f14.
  27. ^ Heavin, Janese (November 22, 2009). "Film about Boonville shows there". Columbia Daily Tribune. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
  28. ^ "Military-Intelligence - Bob Hope Christmas Show 1969". Military-intelligence.wikispaces.com. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  29. ^ "About Connie Stevens". Forever Spring. Archived from the original on August 9, 2010. Retrieved July 16, 2010.
  30. ^ Connie Stevens: A lifetime of entertainment achievement: Connie Stevens reflects ahead of Moraga visit Contra Costa Times 8 Nov 2012: A.6.
  31. ^ Dream scenes; Filmmaker taps her summer of '51. Sposito, Sean. Columbia Daily Tribune8 Sep 2007: n/a.
  32. ^ Mitchell, Marilyn (May 20, 1994)."Connie Stevens The poster girl for multi-tasking", Desertentertainer.com; accessed July 2, 2011.
  33. ^ "Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated\accessdate=2017-04-03" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 13, 2012.
  34. ^ Yuen, Jenny (September 5, 2011). "Italian Walk of Fame honours stars | Toronto & GTA". Toronto Sun. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  35. ^ "Screen Actors Guild Announces Results Of National Board Elections" sag.org (Press Release), September 23, 2005, accessed July 2, 2011
  36. ^ Hunt, Lee (June 29, 2013). "Daughters Of The American Revolution Convene In Washington DC". courant.com.
  37. ^ Ford, Peter. Glenn Ford: A Life (Wisconsin Film Studies). Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011. p.204-205 ISBN 978-0-29928-154-0
  38. ^ Biography rottentomatoes.com
  39. ^ "Connie Stevens's Federal Campaign Contribution Report". Federal Election Commission. July 12, 2010. Archived from the original on December 31, 2009.

External linksEdit