Eddie Fisher, one of Hollywood’s original bad boys, died on Wednesday at the age of 82. Fisher, as well known for his string of top 40 hits as he was for a scandalous personal life that included struggles with addiction and multiple marriages to Hollywood starlets like Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds, died in Berkley, California, due to complications from recent hip surgery, according to a statement released by his family.
“He was loved and will be missed by his four children: Carrie, Todd, Joely, and Tricia Leigh as well as his six grandchildren,” read the statement, according to Reuters. “He was an extraordinary talent and a true mensch [’decent person’ in Yiddish].”
The fourth of seven children born to Russian-born Jewish immigrant parents in Philadelphia on August 10, 1928, Fisher began his singing career as a child, singing in local amateur contests and radio shows. He eventually dropped out of high school in his senior year to pursue a musical career and was discovered in the late 1940s. After a stint in the Army, he embarked on a multi-faceted career that included two television series, a string of hit singles and bookings in popular nightclubs.
A teen idol at a time when the first seeds of rock and roll were being sown, Fisher was a middle-of-the-road singer whose popularity was so great that Coca-Cola signed him to a then-princely $1 million contract to be its spokesperson and headline his first TV series, “Coke Time With Eddie Fisher.”
When rock finally broke through and the more dangerous and alluring Elvis Presley eclipsed Fisher on the charts, Fisher’s musical career fizzled. He began a string of notorious celebrity marriages (and divorces) as he struggled with addictions to cocaine, methamphetamine and prescription drugs. In his autobiography “Been There, Done That,” he admitted that his romantic entanglements would probably overshadow his artistic legacy: “It isn’t the music that people remember most about me. It’s the women,” he wrote.
His first marriage was to movie star Debbie Reynolds, with whom he had two children. One was Carrie Fisher, the noted author and movie star who portrayed Princess Leia in the original “Star Wars” films. That marriage fell apart in 1958, when Fisher set off one of the most notorious celebrity scandals of the era by starting an affair with screen queen Elizabeth Taylor while trying to console her about the death of her husband, and Fisher’s good friend, movie producer Mike Todd. The scandal cost Fisher his second TV series, “The Eddie Fisher Show,” and essentially sank his career. But it made Taylor an international sex symbol and superstar.
Fisher married Taylor in 1959 and they co-starred in the movie “Butterfield 8,” but when rumors emerged that Taylor was having an affair with “Cleopatra” co-star Richard Burton, Fisher was on the outs. Taylor dumped him and married Burton in 1964. Next up for Fisher was actress Connie Stevens; their two-year marriage ended in divorce and produced two more children. One was actress Joely Fisher, best known for her TV roles on the shows “Ellen” and “’Til Death.”
Over the years he was romantically entangled with a number of other starlets, including Marlene Dietrich, Dinah Shore, Angie Dickinson and Kim Novak. He also married two more times, to Terry Richard (which lasted one year) and to Betty Lin, who he stayed with from 1993 until her death in 2001.