Eddie and Liz

Yesterday my friend Nick Tosches (author of, among many other things, "Dino", the best book ever about show-biz) e-mailed me the following fact about this coming Friday.

"Eighty-seven years ago this coming Friday, on August 10, 1920, Mamie Smith stood before the microphone at the Okeh recording studio in New York City and sang real loud:

I’m gonna do like a Chinaman,
Go out and get some hop;
Get myself a gun
And shoot myself a cop."

Thanks, Nick. By the way, Nick appears in "Tis Autumn: The Search For Jackie Paris" reading from Norman Bogner's "The Madonna Complex." If for no other reason, one should see my movie for Nick's priceless rendering of an orgy scene, 60's style, where two women discuss how Jackie Paris' voice enters them and "has carnal knowlege" of them. But I digress...)

August 10 is important, music-wise, for also being the birthdate of Eddie Fisher, Elizabeth Taylor's fourth ex-husband, Debbie Reynolds first ex-husband and Carrie Fisher's future ex-father. This guy was once so well-known, so popular and so--ubiquitous, that it seems strange (and sad) to have to add that he's still alive and, as far as I can tell, almost completely forgotten. I can't say that I think a great deal of him as a singer--a pleasant tenor with an inoffensive personality is about as far as I can go. But he had a hell of a lot of hit records--something that the great Jackie Paris never acheived--and married a troika of interesting chicks. (Debbie Reynolds, Liz Taylor and Connie Stevens, in that order.) According to his Wikipedia entry:

"A pre-Rock and Roll vocalist, Fisher's strong and melodious tenor made him a teen idol and one of the most popular singers of the 1950s. He had seventeen songs in the Top 10 on the music charts between 1950 and 1956 and thirty-five in the Top 40. In 1956, Fisher costarred with then-wife Debbie Reynolds in the musical comedy Bundle of Joy. He played a serious role in the 1960 drama BUtterfield 8 with then-wife Elizabeth Taylor. His best friend was showman and producer Mike Todd, who died in a plane crash in 1958. Fisher's affair and subsequent marriage to Todd's famous widow caused a show business scandal because he and his first wife, also famous, had a very public divorce."

I don't know if anyone cares, but it always moves me when show-biz leaves somebody special behind. That's the story of Jackie Paris (much admired, much respected, completely blown-off). The story of Eddie Fisher is, it seems to me, the same but the opposite. Not a lot of respect but success, money, dames...and then nothing. Even his first two-ex wives, who once fought over his bones, were reconciled in a made-for-TV movie a few years ago (can't remember the title) and made jokes about how much they disliked him. Jesus. What an end.

So wherever you are, Eddie, happy 80th birthday. I hope the ride was good and the landing soft. And, truth be told, Jackie Paris probably would have exchanged all of his peers respect for a little of your success...not to mention a rumpus with Liz/Connie/Debbie and whomever else. The below clip is from Eddie's 1950's Coke Time series and is brought to you by Friscolobo, who seems to have some serious tentacles in the Eddie Fisher collector industry. The song is "Prisoner Of Love", first performed by Russ Columbo, later by Bing Crosby and still later by Perry Como.