At the time, Adams was known not only for being an accomplished singer and Broadway star, but an actress in such classic films as The Apartment and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. However, it was her marriage and long working relationship with the late comedic television visionary Ernie Kovacs that prepared her for the daunting challenge of producing and starring in her very own television series. In fact, it was Kovacs’s death in December, 1962 in a tragic car accident that was the initial impetus for the show itself.
Faced with Kovacs’s years of unpaid back taxes, Adams went back to work, and if the DVD set is any indication, in a very big way. If you’re still not convinced, look no further than the set’s roster of classic musical and comedy guests: Duke Ellington, Bob Hope, Bobby Darin, Peter Falk, Soupy Sales, Count Basie, Sammy Davis Jr., Spike Jones, and Johnny Mathis.
Josh Mills, Adams’s son and producer of the box set, recently spoke with Starburst to discuss the project and his mother’s work.
Starburst: Can you talk about the genesis of this project?
Josh Mills: Absolutely, you know it’s almost a situation where the time chose me more than I chose it. You know I’m very aware that, sadly, the DVD market is having a rough time and… I really felt we were sort of under the gun in a sense that who knows in five years if there would even be a DVD market. I really wanted a physical product that I could one day show my daughter… this is what Grandma Edie used to do.
Now these haven’t been seen since their first broadcast, correct?
Correct. In fact now we’ve just sent out some promos and people have some things. But, prior to that there was very little on YouTube. I mean there was almost no information on the show except for one website I found on the internet. So, it was almost a lost show to some degree, and because my mom and her production company “Ediad Productions”, which now I run, produced it and owned it, it was basically all in our vaults and nobody had anything. So it was great to finally be able to get it out.
How do you feel the program was unique? It does feel very much like a time capsule.
Absolutely, in the last episode they are making a parody of the “Beatles” which is called the “Roaches”. So, it’s clearly just right after the Ed Sullivan appearance. So, it’s very much pre-rock and roll in a lot of ways. It’s different in that sense. This has got a classic era that just doesn’t exist. She really kind of took the philosophy of ‘if I’m going to have this popular American television show in 1962 I’m going to try to make some high art’…She has some classical music on there, there’s some opera, there’s choral groups. Aside from wanting to have an entertaining show, she really wanted to show people that there was more out there than just popular music.
What do you feel are some of the set’s musical highlights?
You know it’s funny, when I was younger my mom would show me VHS tapes of some of these shows, and I was more into punk rock and rock and roll. I was sort of like Duke Ellington whatever, Count Basie whatever. But, now that I’m older it totally trips me out that my mom is singing with Duke Ellington. I just can’t even conceive of that. Who has that?
But, the Sammy Davis Jr. one is great because it’s like… let him do whatever he wants to do. He’ll do a dance number, he’ll do some impressions, he was up for anything! So it’s pretty cool.
For all the Ernie Kovacs fans out there, what can we expect from him in the set’s special features?
They are basically Ernie’s introductions from my mom doing some numbers on his show. So you get to see Ernie actually introducing my mom, and my mom singing. So, Ernie’s on the set as much as we can get him on there!
Without your mother’s work in television preservation we wouldn’t have much footage of Ernie Kovacs to begin with. Could you speak a bit about your mom’s efforts in that area?
In putting together the Ernie DVD sets and now my mom’s set, I’m actually talking to a lot of people who are into film and television preservation, and they’re kind of talking about my mom as the patron saint of film preservation. Shortly after Ernie died, she got a call from one of his technical people that he used to work with who said that the networks were just basically taking the shows and taking the masters and using them for PSAs, or weather reports, or the news, or something like that. They didn’t want to pay the bills to actually store old tapes…
So, she went to her lawyer and essentially said “Go to all the networks, everyone that he was on… just buy it… anything that says Kovacs I’ll buy it.” People would ask her why did she did it, and she would say because “I just knew Ernie was doing something special, and I just didn’t want to see it go away forever.”
As the years went on, how did your mother look back at this time in her life?
I think in many ways it was definitely her crowning achievement. She got a chance to show people what she could do. I really feel like this was my mom’s moment to shine, and she was really proud of everything she was able to accomplish. So, I think it would be if not at the very top, 1A and 1B for sure.
Here's Edie: The Edie Adams Television Collection is out now to purchase exclusively on the Edie Adams website.