Los Angeles, CA Comic Ernie Kovacs Dies In Auto Crash, Jan 1962
ERNIE KOVACS DIES IN CRASH.
CIGAR-PUFFING COMIC DEAD.
Los Angeles (AP) -- ERNIE KOVACS, cigar-chomping comedian who rose to fame in five brief years, was killed early today when his station wagon skidded on wet pavement and smashed into a utility pole.
The 42-year-old KOVACS, reportedly on his way home alone from a party in honor of MRS. MILTON BERLE, was thrown from his car, police said.
The smashup occurred shortly before 2 a.m. on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles.
Associates said KOVACS had spent the evening at the home of director BILLY WILDER, his closest Hollywood friend.
He was the husband of actress EDIE ADAMS, with whom he lived in a 17-room Coldwater Canyon home filled with collections of armor, antique lamps, first editions, carvings and statuary.
They said KOVACS and his blond singing star wife both had attended the party, a baby shower for BERLE'S wife. MISS ADAMS had left the party in her own car shortly before KOVACS.
The WILDERS heard about the crash on the radio shortly after the comedian had left their home and they rushed to his house to tell MISS ADAMS. She collapsed on hearing the news and was placed under a doctor's care, informed sources said.
MISS ADAMS had gone ahead to the party, friends said, because ERNIE had to work late. He joined her there. When they left, he followed her in his car, but she was not aware of his accident and went on home.
Others at the party were the DEAN MARTINS, LUCILLE BALL and her new husband, GARY MORTON, entertainer YVES MONTAND and a score of other filmland people.
Scarcely known in most places a few years ago, KOVACS had won fame on television and in movies with his zany antics such as curling his lip over his moustache and staring squarely into the camera, giving a surprising Cyclops-like effect.
The Coroner's Office said the actor suffered extensive head injuries.
KOVACS' first movie was "Operation Mad Ball" in 1957. He played a stuffy superior officer who vied with costar JACK LEMMON for the affections of nurse KATHRYN GRANT.
The role pegged him and producers cast him as a captain many times thereafter. His latest was as captain in "Sail a Crooked Ship."
KOVACS, the son of a Hungarian tavern owner at Trenton, N.J., had sung in stock companies in the East and played bit parts before taking part in a talent audition on Broadway. He hit the proverbial jackpot. Offers poured in. And, unpredictably, in the midst of the furor he went to work in a drugstore.
Before making the bigtime nationally he had made a hit in the East with his ERNIE KOVACS TV show. His sponsors let him do pretty much as he pleased. His final TV special was done without words.
"There's too much talk on TV," he said.
In his early TV days, in the early fifties, he established such notable institutions as "The Early Eyeball Fraternal Marching Society." He was a columnist for the Trentonian at Trenton, N.J., from 1945 to 1950, and at various times did stints at radio disc jockeying, running a TV cooking show, and managing his own stock company.
Among his movies were "Bell, Book and Candle," "It Happened to Jane," "Our Man in Havana" and "Cry For Happy."
Reno Evening Gazette Nevada 1962-01-13