LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Singer Eddie Fisher, a teen idol in the 1950s who sparked an international scandal when he left his wife Debbie Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor, has died at the age of 82.
Fisher died in Berkeley, California, on Wednesday due to complications and a decline in health from recent hip surgery, his family said in a statement on Thursday.
“He was loved and will be missed by his four children: Carrie, Todd, Joely, and Tricia Leigh as well as his six grandchildren. He was an extraordinary talent and a true mensch,” said the statement, using the Yiddish word for a decent, admirable person.
His actress daughter Carrie Fisher highlighted his ailing health earlier this year when she wrote Twitter messages saying her father, who was confined to a wheelchair, was “kind of losing it” with confusion over his whereabouts and friends.
Eddie Fisher started as a nightclub singer and was a chart-topping teen idol in the early 1950s with songs like “Thinking of You” and “Oh! My Pa-Pa.” Legions of adoring female fans sometimes turned his appearances into mob scenes.
Coca-Cola gave him a $1 million contract to be its national spokesman and sponsored his television show.
But by 1956 rock ‘n’ roll was starting to take hold and Fisher’s brand of simple pop music was waning. His singing career fizzled and Fisher endured decades of drug and alcohol addiction as he went through five marriages.
In his autobiography “Been There, Done That,” he wrote: “It isn’t the music that people remember most about me. It’s the women.”
Fisher married Reynolds, a box-office star who was known as America’s sweetheart because of her sunny image, in 1955. Together they had two children, Carrie and Todd.
But the storybook marriage began to come undone in 1958 when Fisher’s close friend and Taylor’s husband, movie producer Mike Todd, was killed in a plane crash.
Fisher helped console Taylor and they eventually began an affair, setting off one of the biggest celebrity scandals of the time.
Fisher married Taylor in Las Vegas 1959. They adopted a child together and he had a role in her movie “Butterfield 8.”
But by 1962 rumors were rampant that Taylor was having an affair with co-star Richard Burton, who also was married at the time, while they filmed “Cleopatra.” Fisher scoffed at the reports but he was proved wrong and Taylor dumped Fisher in a protracted divorce and married Burton in 1964.
Fisher also was married to actress Connie Stevens with whom he had two more children, and had romances with big-name stars such as Marlene Dietrich, Ann-Margret, Kim Novak, Dinah Shore and Angie Dickinson. He also married Terry Richard and Betty Lin.
His rollercoaster personal life was also plagued by substance abuse — her suffered addictions to prescription drugs, cocaine and methamphetamine.
In his autobiography Fisher said the doctor who provided him drugs also tended to President John F. Kennedy and he wrote that “Jack Kennedy and I shared drugs and women.”
Carrie Fisher, 53, who played the feisty rebel leader Princess Leia in the original “Star Wars” movies, detailed her entangled family history as well as her own personal battles in her recent one-woman Broadway show “Wishful Drinking.”
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith and Bill Trott; editing by Mohammad Zargham