Ernie Kovacs

Ernie Kovacs

Trenton, Mercer County, New Jersey, USA
Death 13 Jan 1962 (aged 42)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Remembrance section, Map #A22, Lot 1041, Ground Interment Space 1
Memorial ID 587 · View Source
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Legendary innovative television comedian, the epitaph on his grave marker reads "Nothing in Moderation." He is best remembered for creating many of the camera gags and camera techniques that are common today, influencing and inspiring such later shows as Laugh-In, Saturday Night Live, The Today Show, and television hosts like Johnny Carson and David Letterman. Born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey, Kovacs worked during his teenage years in a drug store. He would later say about his first job, "I didn't like the job much, but the cigars were free." At age 16, he became a singer in a local theater company performing Gilbert and Sullivan operas, his first taste of acting. He first worked for local television station WTTM in Trenton, New Jersey, then moved to television station WPTZ in Philadelphia in 1950. There he created some of his most remembered characters: the lisping Percy Dovetonsils, French storyteller Pierre Ragout, and ace Hollywood reporter Nairobi Trio, and hosting such early programs as "Deadline for Dinner" (a cooking show) and "Three To Get Ready" (an early morning variety show). In every case, Kovacs took over the show and made it truly his, adding in comedy that got him and the show noticed. He pioneered such ideas as blackouts, trick photography (such as rotating the camera to get an unusual angle), on-the-street interviews, and clowning with the camera crews and other backstage crew persons. In 1952, he changed stations, moving to WCBS television in New York City. His cigar was his trademark, and he rarely was without one in his broadcasts. Kovacs first married Bette Wilcox, on August 13, 1945. When the marriage fell apart in 1952, he was awarded full custody of his two children, Bette and Kippie, setting a legal precedent, as the court would normally give the children to the mother. In this case, the court felt that she was mentally unstable, and awarded custody to the father. Bette then kidnapped the two children and ran to Florida; after a long and expensive search, Ernie was reunited with his children three years later, with the help of private detectives and police. Ernie would marry actress Edie Adams on September 12, 1954 in Mexico City, Mexico, and they would have one child, Mia Kovacs. Later, both Mia and Kippie would die in tragic automobile accidents (1982 and 2001, respectively). Kovacs also wrote a novel, "Zoomar" (1956), and wrote for Mad Magazine (1956-1958). Kovacs wrote the introduction to the 1958 collection "Mad For Keeps: A Collection of the Best from Mad Magazine" and was a frequent contributor to the magazine. In 1956 and 1957, he hosted the "Tonight Show," substituting for host Steve Allen. He also moved into movies, appearing usually as a secondary character in such films as "Operation Mad Ball" (1957), "It Happened to Jane" (1959), and "Five Golden Hours" (1961). Kovacs died while driving a new 1962 Corvair Station Wagon, a car later made famous three years later by Ralph Nader in his book, "Unsafe at any Speed." During a rainstorm, he lost control of the car on a curve, and hit a telephone pole. Police found an unlit cigar just out of reach of his arm, and theorized that he lost control while trying to reach for the cigar. When Kovacs died, he owed the US Government several hundred thousand dollars in back taxes (he believed the tax system was unfair, and refused to file his taxes in protest). His widow, Edie Adams, made television commercials and did other work to pay off the back taxes.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 587
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Ernie Kovacs (23 Jan 1919–13 Jan 1962), Find a Grave Memorial no. 587, citing Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .