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Connie Stevens Biography

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Birth Name: Connie Stevens
Born: 08/08/1938
Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York, USA

Born Concetta Rosalie Ann Ingoglia in Brooklyn, NY on Aug. 8, 1938, Connie Stevens was the daughter of jazz drummer Peter Ingoglia, who performed under the stage name of Teddy Stevens, and singer Eleanor McGinley. After her parents' divorce, she was raised largely by grandparents or by the staff of various Catholic boarding schools. Blessed with a pleasant singing voice, she was performing professionally at an early age, first with three male vocalists in a group called the Foremost, and later, in an all-girl group called The Three Debs. At 15, she relocated to Los Angeles with her father, where she adopted his surname and worked as an extra and bit player in various teen-oriented films. 1958 proved to be her breakout year, with the release of her debut album, Conchetta, as well as her first major role as Jerry Lewis' love interest in "Rock-A-Bye Baby," a loose remake of "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" (1944). The following year, she was signed to a contract with Warner Bros., who placed her in their new detective series, "Hawaiian Eye."

Cast as Cricket Blake, a singer and amateur photographer who helped series' leads Anthony Eisley and Robert Conrad solve cases on the big island of Honolulu, Stevens quickly rose in popularity among the show's audience of young viewers. A cross-over appearance on ABC's other hip crime show, "77 Sunset Strip" (1958-1963) led to a Top 10 single, "Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb," which featured "Sunset" star Edd Byrnes in his series role as suave beatnik Kookie. It was soon followed by "Sixteen Reasons (Why I Love You)," a Top Five hit that stayed on the Billboard charts for over two months. Bigger roles in feature films were the next step in her natural progression, and in 1961, she starred in two films by Delmer Daves: "Parrish" was a potboiler with Troy Donahue - Stevens' co-star on "Hawaiian Eye" in its final season - as a young man pitted against his stepfather (Karl Malden), an unscrupulous tobacco tycoon, while "Susan Slade" was an outrageous camp fest about an innocent (Stevens) whose unwanted pregnancy leads to a near-Biblical series of tragedies as well as the attention of two competing suitors (Donahue and Bert Convy). When Stevens began dating Elvis Presley offscreen, she essentially assured herself pop culture sainthood.

However, a series of clashes with Warner Bros., including contract disputes regarding "Hawaiian Eye" and a well-publicized outburst over losing the chance to audition for "My Fair Lady" (1962), led to the studio dropping her contract. Stevens was soon adrift in a string of misfires, including the sitcom "Wendy and Me" (ABC, 1964-65), produced by George Burns, who co-starred as her landlord who observes her misadventures through his closed circuit television. Her recording career dried up in the middle of the decade, so she adjusted her focus to stage and screen projects, including a stint on Broadway in 1967's "The Star-Spangled Girl," which earned her a Theatre World Award. She was also a regular performer in Bob Hope's jaunts to Southeast Asia for the USO, which would later influence her documentary, "The Healing" (1997), about Red Cross nurses in Vietnam. After the dissolution of her marriage to actor James Stacy in 1967, she married singer Eddie Fisher, who was coming off the embarrassment of his wife Elizabeth Taylor leaving him for Richard Burton. The Philadelphia-born crooner fathered her daughters, Joely and Tricia Leigh Fisher, both of whom followed in their parents' footsteps as performers. Stevens and Fisher were divorced in 1969, just two years after being married.

Stevens raised both of her daughters as a single mother, which required her to work constantly in order to make ends meet. There was a steady stream of singing jobs, including headlining stints in Las Vegas and guest starring roles on episodic television and in TV features. With her ingénue days long behind her, Stevens began to play more adult, sexually forthright roles, most notably in 1971's cult favorite "The Grissom Gang," as a vampish Depression Era singer, and "Scorchy" (1976), a low-budget crime picture with Stevens as a gun-toting, bed-hopping private eye. She also served as the spokesperson for Ace Hardware in the 1970s, and sang the company's jingle in numerous television commercials.

The 1980s saw Stevens back on screen in several minor features, most notably "Grease 2" (1982) and "Back to the Beach" (1987), both as vixenish older women who served as temptation for the respective, much younger male leads. She experienced greater success with a line of cosmetic products called Forever Spring, which she launched in 1986 and pitched via informercials. She also became a tireless supporter of various charities, including the Windfeather Project, which the part-Mohican Stevens launched to provide scholarships to Native American students. In 1994, she re-launched her recording career with the LP, Tradition: A Family at Christmas, on which she was joined by her daughters. Three years later, she made her directorial debut with the aforementioned "The Healing," on which she also served as writer, editor and cinematographer. The documentary was well received at a variety of film festivals, and earned a Best Film award at the 1998 Santa Clarita International Fest. In her sixth decade, Stevens had finally achieved a degree of respect that had eluded her career for so many years.

Her proficiency as a businesswoman, as well as the longevity of her time in the spotlight, contributed to her 2005 election as secretary-treasurer of the Screen Actors' Guild, the second highest elected position in the governing body. She concluded her tenure with the Guild in 2007, then made her debut as a feature film director with "Saving Grace" (2009), a period drama about a Missouri family whose life was turned upside down by the arrival of a relative (Tatum O'Neal) who was discharged from an asylum.