If you need an idea of how Eddie Fisher saw himself, just take a look at the first page of his autobiography, where he wrote, “When I was a small child—I couldn’t have been more than three or four years old—I opened my mouth and this beautiful sound came out.” Even as a kid, Fisher knew he had one destiny, and one destiny only: To become a star. Unfortunately, tragedy, scandal, and heartbreak marked his road to fame.
1. He Grew Up Poor
Born on August 10, 1928, in Philadelphia, Fisher was the fourth child out of a whopping total of seven children. His mom and dad were your typical Jewish immigrants from the era. When they arrived in America, they eked out a living where they could, but with so many mouths to feed, this was a tall order. Fisher spent most of his childhood being dirt poor—until fate granted his family wealth in a horribly twisted way.
2. He Had His First Brush With Wealth
In 1934, his father almost lost his life in a terrible car accident when his vehicle collided with a truck. Although he was badly hurt, he survived and collected $5,000 in insurance, an absolute fortune for Fisher and his family. His father used the money to open up Fisher’s Delicatessen, where Fisher happily stocked the shelves and cleaned the store. This bit of happiness didn’t last long.
3. They Lost It All
With no idea how to run a business, the family squandered away all their insurance money in about a year. To survive, Fisher and his brother peddled (sometimes rotten) produce door-to-door. Fisher was so skinny from malnutrition that people sometimes gave him extra food, along with paying for his produce! Fisher and his family lived in squalor, and if it wasn’t for Fisher’s one talent, he might’ve never raised himself out of poverty.
4. He Was A Child Star
Even as a kid, it quickly became apparent that Fisher had an amazing singing talent, and that became his family’s means of survival. At just 12 years old, Fisher made his radio debut on WFIL, a Philadelphia radio station, and brought home a cool $25 per week—not too shabby for a kid! At WFIL, Fisher began learning what it meant to be an entertainer, all through one particular man.
5. He Found A Second Father
That man’s name was Skipper Dawes. He originally got Fisher into WFIL and began teaching Fisher the ins-and-outs of show biz. His gentle guidance meshed well with Fisher, who tended to rebel if anyone pushed him too hard. When Fisher eventually dropped out of high school, it was Dawes who continued his education.
Eventually, Dawes became something of a father figure to Fisher. Sadly, a devastating event soon destroyed this father-son relationship.
6. His Father Figure Failed Him
After four years of Fisher and Dawes working together, the ABC radio network offered Dawes his own radio show. An excited Fisher looked forward to working with Dawes on his new show, but this was not to be. In an incredibly unfair and cruel twist, it turned out the program director was anti-Semitic, so Dawes ended up hiring someone else instead.
Incredibly frustrated, Fisher began looking elsewhere for work, but this turned out to be a terrible idea.
7. He Got His Big Break
In 1946, Fisher hit what he thought was the jackpot. A man named Buddy Morrow heard Fisher’s singing voice and hired him to join his band. The band, named the Buddy Morrow Orchestra, opened at the Blue Room in New York City. Fisher immediately packed a single bag and, with the well-wishes of his mom and siblings ringing in his ears, set off to the Big Apple. This was his chance to become a singing sensation.
He lasted less than three days.
8. His First Performances Were Disasters
You see, Fisher never received formal musical schooling in his youth. Sure, Dawes taught him the very basics, but he never learned to read sheet music or how to keep time with a band. Singing with a band was something completely new to him, and it showed in his abysmal performances. After three days, Morrow sent Fisher packing. This wasn’t the end, though.
A bandleader named Charlie Ventura quickly picked him up and Fisher began singing in earnest. Ironically, Fisher ended up hating every minute of his new singing career.
9. He Wanted Fame
Eddie Fisher found his new job absolutely, mind-numbingly tedious. As a band singer, Fisher was only one small part of a group of musical talents, and frankly, he just knew he was star material. Being in a band, having to play nice, not being the center of attention—nah, that wasn’t Fisher’s style. After four weeks, Fisher was more than ready to leave, and he got his chance in the form of a man named Manny Mangel.
10. He Came Out On Top
Mangel was the club steward for the legendary night club, Copacabana, and offered to get Fisher an audition for a singing role for the nightclub’s show. Fisher immediately accepted. At the audition, Fisher went up against a whopping 200 other singers for the same role. Despite the overwhelming odds, Fisher came out on top, and the club owner offered a staggering amount of money for him to do the show.
Unfortunately, Fisher was a bit too young, so he worked a short stint at the Grossinger’s Catskill Hotel under a man named Milton Blackstone until he hit 18, before returning to the Copacabana. And even then, the Copacabana turned out to be nothing like what he expected.
11. He Sang In Questionable Performances
In hindsight, Fisher realized that the Copacabana job was “terrible.” He “wore a bolero jacket and pink scarf and sang silly love songs…as the chorus girls did their dance in revealing costumes.” Yeah, it wasn’t exactly a step up from his time with Morrow’s band, but young, naive Fisher was just happy to be singing at such a well-known establishment. This was his life for a few years, until he got his first real taste of stardom.
12. He Performed For Superstars
A couple of years into Fisher’s job at Copacabana, he experienced one of the most electrifying nights of his life. In the audience of the Copacabana that night were several famous celebrities, including Jackie Gleason, Vic Damone, and even Frank Sinatra. The Copacabana dancers—who, by now, treated Fisher like a younger brother—pushed him onto the stage for an impromptu performance in front of these famous celebs.
After a moment of surprise, Fisher turned to his audience, opened his mouth, and sang.
13. He Stunned His Audience
It’s not an exaggeration to say that his voice absolutely stunned every single member of the audience. After a moment of silence, everybody in the crowd leapt to their feet and cheered for Fisher—Sinatra even pretended to swoon over him! After Fisher got off the stage to thunderous applause, he was so incredibly happy that he burst into tears along with the rest of the Copacabana dancers.
Unfortunately, Fisher had a terrible habit of letting fame get to his head, and this time was no exception.
14. He Turned Down Stardom (And Regretted It)
Eddie Fisher was immediately offered gigs left and right, but he turned them all down. He staunchly (and a bit naively) believed that his talent was all that he needed. Unsurprisingly, it turned out that someone with a beautiful voice but not an ounce of charm or experience didn’t get very far, and it didn’t take long for Fisher to regret turning down all those job offers.
After two years of little to no work, Fisher changed his tune (pun intended), but the jobs he managed to snag were too little, too late. With no money left, he went back home to Philadelphia, where he faced the shame of failure.
15. He Was Prideful
Back home, his mom encouraged him to reach out to Milton Blackstone, the man who originally took him in for his short stint at the Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel. Blackstone promised to help Fisher out if he ever found himself in a bind—he just needed to swallow his pride and make the call. Reluctantly, Fisher rang up Blackstone, who immediately offered him his old job at the Grossinger’s Catskill Hotel.
Fisher took him up on his offer with a total of zero enthusiasm. What Fisher didn’t know was that his life was about to change forever.
16. He Got His Charm
Slowly, his job at Grossinger’s changed Fisher for the better. Surrounded by the supportive staff members at Grossinger’s, Fisher began to feel more comfortable on-stage. He started to joke around during his act, building up a sense of charm and charisma to match with his amazing voice. Fisher developed a life-long fondness for Grossinger’s, and no wonder—Grossinger’s ended up shaping the entire future of his career.
17. A Star Rejected Him…
In 1949, Grossinger’s booked singing sensation Eddie Cantor to perform a show. Although Cantor’s career was starting to slide, he still had the ability to make or break someone’s career. Knowing this, Blackstone insisted that Cantor listen in on Fisher’s rehearsal, much to Fisher’s surprise. During rehearsals, Fisher noted that Cantor “was polite, but he certainly didn’t seem to be impressed by me.”
As it turned out, Fisher was in for a huge surprise.
18. …But It Was All An Act
That evening, as Fisher finished his second song to thunderous applause, Cantor came swooping onto the stage from the wings. He announced to the eager audience that “I think [Fisher] is destined to be the most important singer of popular songs in America.” The sudden 180 stunned Fisher, but he couldn’t have asked for a better endorsement.
Cantor then took Fisher along with him on a nationwide tour that marked the beginning of a new life.
19. He Impressed The Big Wigs
During the tour, Cantor brought Fisher to the executives at a record label, RCA Victor. RCA originally wanted just Cantor, but he convinced them to listen to Fisher’s singing. Fisher sang for them right then and there, and didn’t even make it halfway through the song before they shoved a recording contract into his hands. For Fisher, it was the start of something huge—he just needed help from the one person who refused to help him.
20. His Career Began
Many, many people wanted to manage talented little Fisher, but he only wanted one person to be his manager: Milton Blackstone. After a ton of begging, Blackstone finally folded and agreed to help Fisher one day a week, quickly getting him onto the popular television show The Texaco Star Theater by June 1950. There, Fisher’s voice caught the attention of reviewers nationwide, who began closely following his career.
When Fisher shortly got a chance to perform at the famed club The Riviera, these same reviewers took a special interest in him. Fisher knew that he needed to impress them, and what they wrote about him would make or break his career.
21. He Became A Superstar
Fisher absolutely knocked his performance at The Riviera out of the park. The audience there literally wouldn’t let him leave the stage. He sang until the orchestra ran out of sheet music, and then, in a total power move, continued to sing without the orchestra backing him up. The critics raved about him, further boosting his fame and star power. Within weeks after this one performance, everything about Fisher’s life changed.
22. He Was A Teen Idol
It’s hard to really capture just how completely bonkers people went over Eddie Fisher. In the 1950s, he dominated the music charts. Movie executives begged him to do screen tests. He had an actual street named after him. Fangirls came out to see him in the thousands, screaming for him so loudly that they actually drowned out his singing.
Fisher loved every single minute of the fame and money it brought him. And, as usual, it completely went to his head.
23. He Tried To Solve Problems With Money
While Fisher reveled in his newfound fame, his family life fell apart in the background. His mom and dad had an extremely unhappy marriage, and now that Fisher had a successful career, his mom finally decided to leave for good. Fisher didn’t take this well, and in a desperate attempt to keep them together, began throwing money at the problem. He bought them a house to live in together, a car, a weekly allowance—but it wasn’t enough. Fisher’s money couldn’t keep his parents together, and his mom left for good when Fisher turned 33.
After seeing his dad’s heartbreaking reaction to his mom’s departure, Fisher promised himself that he would never, ever repeat the same mistakes. Spoiler alert: He totally repeated the same mistakes.
24. He Got Sick—And It Changed His Life
As Fisher’s fame grew and his fans got crazier, he found himself straining his voice more and more to be heard. Eventually, he lost his voice altogether. It wasn’t a huge deal—a bit of rest and a bit of water should’ve done the trick—but he had shows to do and he wanted a faster way to deal with it. After asking around, someone introduced him to a sketchy “doctor” named Max Jacobson.
This man quickly took Fisher down a dark path.
25. He Became An Addict
Jacobson gave Fisher two shots, and he immediately recovered. What Fisher didn’t know was that the shots were a mixture of vitamins, calcium, and speed, a highly addictive substance. What he did know was that the shots, whatever they were, made him feel good and let him sing nonstop. On that day—April 17, 1953—Fisher unknowingly became an addict. This twist of fate changed his entire life.
26. His Love Affairs Were Wild
It didn’t take long after that first shot for Fisher to start chasing other ways to get high, and for him, that meant women, and tons of them. He always carefully avoided fans—that was an easy way to ruin your career—but other stars? Perfectly fair game. And as an attractive, young, talented, and rich singer, he didn’t have to try very hard to get famous women running to him either.
After a string of non-committal flings, Fisher finally fell in love—but it wasn’t the kind of romance he imagined.
27. His First Real Love Was Staged
In June 1954, Fisher met Debbie Reynolds. Well, “met” isn’t really the right word—MGM Studio more or less choreographed the entire meeting. You see, they wanted Fisher to date one of their stars—any of their stars—because his love affairs generated publicity. Luckily for MGM, it was love at first sight for Fisher. He loved her sweetness and innocence, and thought she “was the kind of old-fashioned girl with whom I might find happiness.” Things for the new couple quickly escalated.
28. Their Love Made Them Money
Fisher saw Reynolds every night and showered her with expensive gifts. He gave her flowers, jewelry, a dog, and even—just because he could—a soda dispensing machine. The newspapers fawned over their love story, speculating wildly about their engagement plans. In a creepy twist, the corporations they worked for—MGM Studio and Coca-Cola—encouraged their relationship, and used their romance to sell their products.
At the end of the day, corporations made their relationship happen, so it shouldn’t be surprising that cracks began to show.
29. Their Love Life Was Love-less
Fisher and Reynolds really didn’t have much in common, aside from the fact that they both loved the media attention their relationship received. In private, their bedroom situation was about as frosty and barren as Antarctica. Fisher recalled their first time together, saying, “There was no tenderness, no shared excitement or joy. Just a great feeling of relief that we’d finally gotten that over with.” Yikes!
Somehow, none of these red flags were enough to stop Fisher, and he soon made the worst mistake of his life.
30. Their Marriage Was A Bad Idea
Almost everyone agreed that a marriage between Fisher and Reynolds was a bad idea. Blackstone told him not to marry her. Prince Philip—Queen Elizabeth II’s husband himself—told Fisher after a command performance to not marry Reynolds. A close friend of Fisher’s tried to convince him to run away on his wedding day. In the end, nothing could stop him, and the two wed in 1955.
The marriage went about as well as a trainwreck.
31. Everything Fell Apart
Despite having two children together—Carrie (AKA Princess Leia) and Todd—Fisher and Reynolds fought constantly. It didn’t help that the companies the two worked for constantly exploited their relationship to make money. In January 1956, RKO Radio Pictures convinced them to star in a musical called Bundle of Joy together.
The studio hoped that the strength of their real-life relationship would carry the movie, even if it was badly made. Unsurprisingly, the movie flopped, and it became all too much for Fisher.
32. His Craziest Love Story Began
A few short years into their marriage, Fisher and Reynolds informally agreed to divorce, and Fisher began looking elsewhere for love. Eventually, his eyes wandered over to the beautiful and famous actress, Elizabeth Taylor, who happened to be Reynolds’ best friend (awkward). To make things even more awkward, his best friend, Mike Todd, was already married to Taylor.
Fisher did eventually get a chance at Taylor, but only because of a terrible tragedy.
33. They Bonded Over Tragedy
On March 22, 1958, a devastating plane crash ended Todd’s life. The news of his best friend’s passing devastated Fisher and Taylor. The two grew close during their period of mourning and eventually fell in love. Unfortunately, this put Fisher in the middle of a dangerous game. The world still saw Fisher and Reynolds as “America’s Sweethearts,” and there was no way he could divorce Reynolds to marry his best friend’s widow without destroying his career.
They eventually spent some time in New York, secretly carrying out their passionate affair under everyone’s noses, until it all came crashing down.
34. The Paparazzi Destroyed It All
Eventually, a photographer from Life magazine snapped a photo of the couple together in New York, and the media went completely insane. They camped out on Fisher’s front lawn, desperate to see how Reynolds would react when he got home. When Fisher got home and told her he was leaving, Reynolds went out of her mind with anger—but not because of Fisher’s infidelity.
She screamed at him for putting their image and careers in jeopardy, for not thinking of how this could utterly destroy them. And it turned out that she was right.
35. He Threw It All Away For Love
Reynolds spent the next few months doing damage control for her image—something that Fisher, sadly, neglected to do. The media painted him as an unfaithful husband and disloyal friend. He and Taylor received mountains of hate mail. Producers and corporate sponsors dropped Fisher like hot coal. But that didn’t matter to Fisher.
As soon as his divorce from Fisher finalized in 1959, he immediately married Taylor that same year. Little did Fisher know he would pay a heavy price for his whirlwind romance.
36. His New Wife Was Crazy
It quickly became clear that Taylor was the very definition of “crazy.” Between her heavy use of pills, drinking, and the pressures of fame, Taylor was a mental and physical mess. Fisher spent much of his time making sure that Taylor didn’t do anything stupid or dangerous, when he wasn’t working for the few studios that kept him employed.
For a couple of years, Fisher happily went along with this, but it certainly didn’t do his career any good.
37. His Career Disappeared
Fisher’s career slowly fell by the wayside, both because he spent so much time consumed by his relationship with Taylor and because the scandal completely overshadowed his career. He made a small comeback in 1959 singing at the Desert Inn at Las Vegas and even co-starred with his wife in the movie Butterfield 8 in 1960, but these small successes didn’t go anywhere.
As his career petered out, his relationship with Taylor soon followed suit.
38. Scandal Destroyed Their Relationship
Taylor’s drinking was on a whole other level. Fisher spent an average of $450 on booze alone per week, sometimes even spending as much as a liver-destroying $700. Fisher even caught her secretly drinking on the set of her movie, Cleopatra. Her heavy drinking, along with her eventual affair with co-star Richard Burton, destroyed their relationship.
He left her, but that wasn’t the end of things for Fisher—the stress of it all took him down a path of self-destruction.
39. He Went Down A Terrible Path
Eddie Fisher barely ate, drank, or slept after leaving Taylor. Exhausted and depressed, Fisher needed help, but it came to him in the twisted forms of Blackstone and Jacobson. Blackstone convinced Fisher to pretend to stay with Taylor for the sake of publicity. Jacobson got Fisher hooked onto even stronger substances. Eventually, Taylor publicly announced their divorce, and the charade quickly ended. The substance use, however, did not.
40. He Was Out Of Control
Eddie Fisher spiraled. He found comfort and confidence in illicit substances and surrounded himself with beautiful women. Single women, married women, it didn’t really matter to Fisher—what mattered was the thrill of the chase. He still occasionally released albums—Eddie Fisher Today and Young and Foolish both released in 1965—but women overshadowed most of his career ambitions.
He feverishly jumped from affair to affair, with no intention of stopping. And then he met Connie Stevens.
41. Their Marriage Was Forced
Fisher and Stevens had two things in common: They had no plans to marry ever again (Stevens was about to divorce her husband), and they were both addicts. Based on those two things they had in common, they started a relationship that quickly spiraled out of control. Stevens ended up pregnant with his child. Great news, right? Not back in his day! This news put Fisher in a terrible bind.
42. The Pregnancy Caused Scandal
Problem 1: His divorce from Taylor wasn’t official yet, which meant he was technically cheating on her. Problem 2: Having a child out of wedlock (gasp!) would be the scandal of the century. Unfortunately, Fisher didn’t have much time to think about his next move. Before he knew it, Stevens gave birth to Joely Fisher on October 29, 1967. Everyone immediately went into damage control mode.
43. They Played The Press
Fisher insisted to reporters that he and Stevens secretly married. This was a lie, of course, but the truth would end his career for good. Fisher did eventually marry Stevens as soon as his divorce with Taylor went through, and the two wed in the year 1967. Here’s the shocker though: It turned out that a relationship built upon desperation and addiction didn’t exactly make for a long-lasting union.
It didn’t take long for Fisher to go back to his playboy ways.
44. He Was A Player
Eddie Fisher continued to see multiple women—at the same time—while married to Connie Stevens. Fisher always carefully scheduled his trysts to avoid anyone bumping into each other, but with the sheer number of women on his schedule, he got caught. After having one more child together named Tricia Leigh Fisher in 1968, the two split in 1969.
Her last words to him were, “I wish you good luck…I do not wish you love as you wouldn’t know what to do with it.” Stevens was right. As Fisher’s life continued to spiral out of control, he needed all the luck he could get.
45. His Addiction Got The Better Of Him
Eddie Fisher continued performing, but only with the “help” of Jacobson and his pills. After so many years of relying on Jacobson, however, the negative side effects began taking their toll. Fisher began forgetting lyrics in the middle of performances, and his hands shook uncontrollably. He became cranky and nasty in between highs. Fisher blamed it all on Jacobson’s ineptitude as a doctor, and not on the stuff he was putting into his body.
He began making connections to other dealers and kept using, until an attempt on his life finally woke him up.
46. Someone Almost Took His Life
It was a man named Sam Quinn who almost did him in. Fisher had been dealing with Quinn for a while, and even “loaned” him some money when Quinn needed cash. At some point, Fisher asked Quinn to give him back a portion of a $100,000 loan he had given him. Instead, Quinn gave him three bottles of liquid. Suspicious, Fisher brought them to a lab for analysis. In a shocking twist, the bottles all contained cyanide.
If Fisher injected the liquid, he would not have survived. It was a huge wake-up call, and Fisher began the difficult task of cleaning up his act.
47. Things Somehow Got Worse
For the next several years, Fisher battled his addiction. He broke off his relationships with Jacobson and Blackstone, realizing they would only lead him to his doom. Heartbreakingly, his father suffered a stroke in 1972 and didn’t survive the ordeal. Amidst all this emotional turmoil, he found a new addiction: The Valium doctors prescribed him. His career? Mostly in the gutter.
And to top it all off, he married a woman named Terry Richard in 1975—a relationship that ended barely a year later. And things just kept getting worse.
48. He Lost His Talent
By the early 1980s, Eddie Fisher moved to New York City, where he barely scraped by. He took on any job he could, and in his own words, “When I performed I no longer cared if the audience liked me.” He developed hearing problems. He tried to make a comeback tour in 1983, which was unsuccessful. A year later, he tried to put together an album, but his voice—his pride and joy—just wasn’t the same. It truly seemed like this was the end of his career.
A woman named Betty Lin changed all that.
49. He Met “The One”
Fisher met Lin at the tail end of the 1980s, and the two fell in love. After realizing how deeply addicted Fisher was, Lin gently directed him to go into rehab at the Betty Ford Centre. There, reality came crashing down on Fisher. Hearing stories from the other addicts broke something in Fisher, and he committed to getting clean.
After 37 years, he overcame his addiction for good—with a little help from the girl of his dreams.
50. His End Was Mostly Happy
Fisher married Lin 1993, and they stayed together until her passing in 2001. He made his final (although unreleased) recordings with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1995, which was “the best singing of his life.” He put on performances all over the United States, and although he didn’t quite regain the same success he had in the past, he was doing what he loved most.
On September 22, 2010, he lost his life due to complications from hip surgery at the ripe old age of 82.