Ernie Kovacs
Comedian, actor
Ernie Kovacs
Ernie Kovacs was an American comedian and actor. Kovacs' uninhibited, often ad-libbed, and visually experimental comedic style came to influence numerous television comedy programs for years after his death in an automobile accident.
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Ernie Kovacs's personal information overview.
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Film calendar: Local events for movie buffs. - Los Angeles Daily News
Google News - over 5 years
"In Kovacsland - A Tribute to Ernie Kovacs": Highlights from Kovacs' television shows and a panel discussion, 7:30 pm Saturday. The Fantastic World of Frantisek Vlacil: "Shadows of a Hot Summer" (1977), 7:30 pm Wednesday. Tickets $11; $9 seniors and
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Around Town: Ernie Kovacs, Joe Dante and 'Thelma & Louise' - Los Angeles Times
Google News - over 5 years
"In Kovacsland: Tribute to Ernie Kovacs," Saturday evening at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre, examines the work of the the innovative comic, who died in a car crash in 1962. During the 1950s and early '60s, Kovacs transformed TV comedy
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The Ernie Kovacs Collection - WNYC
Google News - over 5 years
Film and television historian Ben Model talks about curating The Ernie Kovacs Collection, a 6-DVD box set, which is the first-ever comprehensive collection of Kovacs' work. Kovacs, whose offbeat humor graced the airwaves for just a decade in the 1950s
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Insiders: Events - Variety
Google News - over 5 years
BMI.com SATURDAY: Harry Shearer, Carl Reiner, Merrill Markoe, Bob Odenkirk and others take part in a tribute to Ernie Kovacs. Egyptian Theater. AmericanCinematheque.com SUNDAY: Lady Gaga opens MTV's Video Music Awards. Nokia Theater. MTV.com AUG
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His three loves: family, cigars, philanthropy - NorthJersey.com
Google News - over 5 years
Ernie Kovacs even put him on television" when he filled in as host of "The Tonight Show." Mr. Blumenthal had foreseen the embargo in Cuba in the early 1960s and began gathering up Cuban cigars before Castro took control of the island
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James Stewart's early roles featured Aug 13 on TCM's Summer Under The Stars - Examiner.com
Google News - over 5 years
The film boasts a who's who of comedic talent including Ernie Kovacs, Jack Lemmon, Elsa Lanchester and Hermione Gingold. Originally a hit 1950 Broadway play, it has often been unofficially cited as the basis for NBC's subsequent 1960s hit sitcom,
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Pam Platt | We still love Lucy: A century after her birth, gift of laughter ... - Louisville Courier-Journal
Google News - over 5 years
Edie Adams, who worked on one of those tension-filled shows with her husband, Ernie Kovacs, said, “Every time they wanted to film the funny scene she'd break down and cry. … No one could stand to watch it.” Divorce court was next, and when Lucy came
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Sensationalism in America's Media - Bay Area Indymedia
Google News - over 5 years
No wonder famed comedian Ernie Kovacs (1919 - 1962) once explained why television is called a medium - because it's neither rare or well done. He'd be horrified by today's features, his time tame by comparison. -- "Weinergate" involving Rep
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Peas and bandages? - OpEdNews
Google News - over 5 years
Now the disk jockey will play Ray Steven's "Gitarzan," and "Harry the Hairy Ape," and Ernie Kovacs' Nairobi Trio's version of "Solfeggio." We have to go investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of St. Ronald Reagan's costar,
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Mel Brooks Tells 'Stories I've Never Told' in Career DVD Collection - Hollywood Reporter
Google News - over 5 years
"Ernie Kovacs never had a career-spanning collection that revealed not only his creative peak but his evolution as a TV visionary, so we made one. Mel Brooks has helped define American comedy over the last 60 years, but there has never been a
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Dan Harper: What's wrong with television? Everything - Santa Cruz Sentinel
Google News - over 5 years
The late Ernie Kovacs once said, "Television: A medium -- so called because it is neither rare nor well-done." I share his unhappiness with TV. In its present state, none of us should be watching it. It's not just the programming, which is trite,
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Comedy Veterans Remember TV Pioneer Ernie Kovacs - NPR
Google News - over 5 years
by NPR Staff When Ernie Kovacs was a star in the early days of live television, he was called a clown, an oddball and an innovator. But in the years since 1962 — when he died in a car crash at 42 — he has been hailed as a genius
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Ernie Kovacs' Kitchen Symphony - Village Voice (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
29 2011 at 7:13 PM In the 1950s, American comedian and television personality Ernie Kovacs invented many of the tropes that still prevail today in TV comedy, including sketch comedy, conceptual comic films, and a tendency to ad-lib nearly everything
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Five Other TV Stars Killed in Car Crashes - E! Online (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
Ernie Kovacs: On a rainy night in 1962, the influential comic was 42, and in the prime of his Emmy-winning career when, on his way home from a baby shower for Milton Berle and the star's wife, his car smashed into a utility pole. 4
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Rock Dad's Day with gifts of sight and sound - NewsOK.com
Google News - over 5 years
Or treat him to the best of TV's granddad of cerebral silliness with “The Ernie Kovacs Collection,” packed with six DVDs worth of off-the-wall humor featuring such loony characters as the Nairobi Trio, Uncle Gruesome, Mr. Question Man,
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Ernie Kovacs
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  • 1962
    He also filmed an unaired 1962 pilot episode for a proposed CBS series, Medicine Man (co-starring Buster Keaton, pilot episode titled "A Pony For Chris").
    More Details Hide Details Kovacs' role was that of Dr. P. Crookshank, a traveling medicine salesman during the 1870s selling Mother McGreevy's Wizard Juice, also known as "man's best friend in a bottle". This was abandoned after his death, which occurred the day after filming some scenes for the pilot of Griffith Park. CBS intended initially to broadcast the show as part of a summer replacement program, The Comedy Spot, but decided against it due to problems with Kovacs' estate. The pilot is part of the public collection of the Paley Center for Media. Some of the problems regarding Kovacs' tax problems were still unresolved years after his death. Kovacs had purchased two insurance policies during 1951; his mother was named as the primary beneficiary of them. The IRS placed a lien against them both for their cash value during 1961. To stop the actions being taken against her, Mary Kovacs had to go to Federal court. During early 1966 their ruling resolved the issue, with the last sentence of the document reading: "Prima facie, it looks as if, within the limits of discretion permitted the government by the relevant statutes, an injustice is being done Mary Kovacs."
    While he worked on several other book projects, Kovacs' only other published title was How to Talk at Gin, published posthumously during 1962.
    More Details Hide Details
    Kovacs was killed in an automobile accident in Los Angeles during the early morning hours of January 13, 1962.
    More Details Hide Details Kovacs, who had worked for much of the evening, met Adams at a baby shower party given by Billy Wilder for Milton Berle and his wife, who had recently adopted a newborn baby boy. The couple left the party in separate cars. After a light southern California rainstorm, Kovacs lost control of his Chevrolet Corvair station wagon while turning quickly, and crashed into a power pole at the corner of Beverly Glen and Santa Monica Boulevards. He was thrown halfway out the passenger side, and died almost instantly from chest and head injuries. A photographer managed to arrive moments later, and graphic images of Kovacs dead appeared in newspapers across the United States. An unlit cigar lay on the pavement, inches from his outstretched arm. Years later, in a documentary about Kovacs, Edie Adams described telephoning the police impatiently when she learned of the crash. An official cupped his hand over the receiver, saying to a colleague, "It's Mrs. Kovacs, he's on his way to the coroner – what should I tell her?" With that, Adams's fears were confirmed, and she became inconsolable. Jack Lemmon, an actor who also attended the Berle party, identified Kovacs' body at the morgue because Adams was too distraught to do so.
    Kovacs' last ABC special was broadcast posthumously, on January 23, 1962.
    More Details Hide Details The Dutch Masters cigar company became well known during the late 1950s and early 1960s for its sponsorship of various television projects of Ernie Kovacs. The company allowed Kovacs total creative control in the creation of their television commercials for his programs and specials. He produced a series of non-speaking television commercials for Dutch Masters during the run of his television series Take A Good Look which was praised by both television critics and viewers. While praised by critics, Kovacs rarely had a highly rated show. The Museum of Broadcast Communications says, "It is doubtful that Ernie Kovacs would find a place on television today. He was too zany, too unrestrained, too undisciplined. Perhaps Jack Gould of The New York Times said it best for Ernie Kovacs: 'The fun was in trying'." Other shows had greater success while using elements of Kovacs' style. George Schlatter, producer of the later television series Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, was married to actress Jolene Brand, who had appeared in Kovacs' comic troupes over the years and had been a frequent participant in his pioneering sketches. Laugh-In made frequent use of the quick blackout gags and surreal humor that marked many Kovacs projects. Another link was a young NBC staffer, Bill Wendell, Kovacs' usual announcer and sometimes a sketch participant. From 1980–95, Wendell was the announcer for David Letterman, whose show and style of humor were greatly influenced by Kovacs.
    The 1962 Emmy for outstanding electronic camera work and the Directors' Guild award came a short time after his fatal accident.
    More Details Hide Details A quarter century later, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame. Kovacs also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in television. During 1986, the Museum of Television & Radio (now the Paley Center for Media) presented an exhibit of Kovacs' work, called The Vision of Ernie Kovacs. The Pulitzer Prize–winning television critic, William Henry III, wrote for the museum's booklet: "Kovacs was more than another wide-eyed, self-ingratiating clown. He was television's first significant video artist." Kovacs' father Andrew emigrated from Hungary at age 13. He worked as a policeman, restaurateur, and bootlegger; the last so successfully that he relocated his wife Mary, and sons Tom and Ernie, into a 20-room mansion in the better part of Trenton.
  • 1960
    During 1960, he played the base commander Charlie Stark in the comedy Wake Me When It's Over and the con man Frankie Cannon trying to steal John Wayne's gold mine in the western comedy, North to Alaska.
    More Details Hide Details His own personal favorite was said to have been the offbeat Five Golden Hours (1961), in which he portrayed a larcenous professional mourner who meets his match in a professional widow played by Cyd Charisse. Kovacs' last movie, Sail a Crooked Ship (also 1961), was released one month before his death.
  • 1959
    Kovacs also appeared in roles on other television programs. For General Electric Theater's "I Was a Bloodhound" during 1959, Kovacs played the role of detective Barney Colby, whose extraordinary sense of smell helped him solve many seemingly impossible cases.
    More Details Hide Details Colby was hired by a foreign country to recover their symbol of royalty, a baby elephant, who was being held for ransom. Kovacs found Hollywood success as a character actor, often typecast as a swarthy military officer (almost always a "Captain" of some sort) in such movies as Operation Mad Ball, Wake Me When It's Over, and Our Man in Havana. While working in his first movie role for Operation Mad Ball, Kovacs was filming a wild party scene after midnight; it was decided to use real champagne for realism. After a few hours of work, someone came up to Kovacs and remarked that he had been having quite a good time chasing starlets all night. Kovacs told the stranger to go to hell, since he was following the script; he later learned the stranger was Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures. Kovacs and Cohn later became friends despite the way they had first met, with Cohn giving Kovacs roles in Bell, Book and Candle (1958) and It Happened to Jane (1959).
  • 1958
    Kovacs also wrote the introduction to the 1958 collection Mad For Keeps: A Collection of the Best from Mad Magazine.
    More Details Hide Details Kovacs and Edie Adams were the guest actors of the final installment of the one-hour I Love Lucy format, known in network airings as The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show and in syndication as The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. Kovacs and Adams appeared in the episode, "Lucy Meets the Moustache," which was filmed March 2 and was broadcast 0n April 1, 1960. It was the last time Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz appeared together before the end of their marriage. According to Adams, Lucy and Desi barely talked to each other in between scenes, and divorce proceedings began March 3, the day after the show's filming.
  • 1957
    He also served as host on a jazz album to benefit the American Cancer Society during 1957, Listening to Jazz with Ernie Kovacs.
    More Details Hide Details It was a 15-minute recording featuring some of the celebrities of the art, including pianists Jimmy Yancey and Bunk Johnson, soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet, guitarist Django Reinhardt, composer/pianist/bandleader Duke Ellington and longtime Ellington trumpeter Cootie Williams. Both the Library of Congress and the National Library of Canada have copies of this recording in their collections. Kovacs wrote a novel, Zoomar: A Sophisticated Novel about Love and TV (Doubleday, 1957), based on television pioneer Pat Weaver; it took Kovacs only 13 days to write. In a 1960 interview, Edie Adams related that the novel was written after Kovacs' experiences with network television while he was preparing to broadcast the Silent Show. The 1961 British edition was retitled T.V. Medium Rare by its London based publisher, Transworld.
  • 1956
    Kovacs was also known for his eclectic musical taste. His main theme song was named "Oriental Blues" by Jack Newton. The rendition most often heard was a piano-driven trio version, but for his primetime show during 1956, music director Harry Sosnik presented a full-blown big band version.
    More Details Hide Details The German song "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer" from The Threepenny Opera (anglicized to "Mack the Knife"), frequently underscored his blackout routines. Songwriter Robert Maxwell's "Solfeggio" became associated with the derby-hatted apes. During the 1982 television special Ernie Kovacs: Television's Original Genius, Edie Adams recalled that when Kovacs first heard the melody, he immediately knew what he wanted to do with it, creating a music-box-like trio that moved in time to the tune. Kovacs was introduced to the song during 1954 by Barry Shear, his director at DuMont Television Network. Kovacs matched an unusual treatment of "Sentimental Journey", by Mexican bandleader Juan García Esquivel to video of an empty office in which various items (pencil sharpeners, water coolers, wall clocks) come to life in rhythm with the music; it was a variation on several famous animations of a decade earlier. The original three-minute presentation was outlined by Kovacs in a four-page, single-spaced memo to his staff. The perfectionist Kovacs describes in minute detail what had to be done and how to do it. The memo ends with this: "I don't know how the hell you're going to get this done by Sunday – but 'rots of ruck." (signed) "Ernie (with love)". Kovacs also made careful use of the shrill singer Leona Anderson—- who had somewhat less than a classical (or even listenable) voice, by some estimations—- in comic vignettes.
    Kovacs developed the Eugene character during the autumn of 1956 when hosting the television series The Tonight Show.
    More Details Hide Details Expectations were high for the Lewis program, but it was Kovacs' special that received the most attention; Kovacs received his first movie offer, had a cover story in Life magazine, and received the Sylvania Award that year. During 1961, Kovacs and his co-director, Joe Behar, were recipients of the Directors Guild of America Award for a second version of this program broadcast by the American Broadcasting Company network. A series of monthly half-hour specials for ABC during 1961–62 is often considered his best television work. Produced on videotape using new editing and special effects techniques, it won a 1962 Emmy Award. Kovacs and co-director Behar also won the Directors Guild of America award for an Ernie Kovacs Special based on the earlier silent "Eugene" program.
  • 1954
    They eloped and were married on September 12, 1954 in Mexico City.
    More Details Hide Details The ceremony was presided over by former New York City mayor William O'Dwyer and was performed in Spanish, which neither Kovacs nor Adams understood; O'Dwyer had to prompt each of them to say "Sí" at the "I do" portion of the vows. Adams, who had a middle class upbringing, was smitten by Kovacs' quirky ways; the couple remained together until his death. (She later said about Kovacs, "He treated me like a little girl, and I loved it—- Women's Lib be damned!") Adams also aided Kovacs' struggle to reclaim his two older children after the kidnapping by their mother. She also was a regular partner on his television shows. Kovacs usually introduced or addressed her in a businesslike way, as "Edith Adams". Adams was usually willing to do anything he envisioned, whether it was singing seriously, performing impersonations (including a well-regarded impression of Marilyn Monroe), or taking a pie in the face or a pratfall if and when needed. The couple had one daughter, Mia Susan Kovacs, born June 20, 1959.
    Kovacs never hesitated to lampoon those considered institutions of radio and television. During April 1954, he started the late-night talk show, The Ernie Kovacs Show, on DuMont Television Network's New York flagship station, WABD.
    More Details Hide Details Stage, screen, and radio notables were often guests. Archie Bleyer, chief of Cadence Records, came to chat one evening. Bleyer had been the long-time orchestra director for Arthur Godfrey's radio and television shows. He had been dismissed by Godfrey the year before along at the same time as fellow cast member, singer Julius La Rosa. In La Rosa's case, he hired a manager, defying an unwritten Godfrey policy. With Bleyer, Godfrey was angered when he found Bleyer's record company Cadence Records had produced spoken word material by Don McNeill, host of ABC's Don McNeill's Breakfast Club, which Godfrey considered competition to his show. Bleyer and Kovacs were shown in split screen, with Kovacs wearing a red wig, headphones, and playing a ukulele in a Godfrey imitation, while talking with his guest. Kovacs' television programs included Three to Get Ready (an early morning program seen on Philadelphia's WPTZ from 1950 through 1952), It's Time for Ernie (1951, his first network series), Ernie in Kovacsland, (a summer replacement show for Kukla, Fran and Ollie, 1951), The Ernie Kovacs Show (1952–56 on various networks), a twice-a-week job filling in for Steve Allen as host of The Tonight Show on Mondays and Tuesdays (1956–57), and game shows Gamble on Love, One Minute Please, Time Will Tell (all on DuMont), and Take a Good Look (1959–61). Kovacs was also the host of a program, Silents Please, which showed silent movies on network television, with serious discussion about the movies and their actors.
    Both programs were canceled; Kovacs lost the local morning program for the same reason as Three To Get Ready-the broadcasting time was confiscated by the station's network during 1954.
    More Details Hide Details At WPTZ, Kovacs began using the ad-libbed and experimental style that would become his reputation, including video effects, superimpositions, reverse polarities and scanning, and quick blackouts. He was also noted for abstraction and carefully timed non-sequitur gags and for allowing the so-called fourth wall to be breached. Kovacs' cameras commonly showed his viewers' activity beyond the boundaries of the show set—including crew members and outside the studio itself. Kovacs also liked talking to the off-camera crew and even introduced segments from the studio control room. He frequently made use of accidents and happenstance, incorporating the unexpected into his shows. One of Kovacs' Philadelphia broadcasts included a homeless man who sought shelter inside the TV studio; Kovacs invited him onto the set, where he slept for the duration of the telecast, but nonetheless was introduced on camera to the audience as "Sleeping Schwartz." Kovacs was once knocked unconscious when a pie smashed to his face still had the plate under it.
  • 1952
    Kovacs on the Corner was short-lived; it ended on March 28, 1952 along with Three To Get Ready.
    More Details Hide Details Kovacs then began work for WCBS-TV, New York with a local morning show and a later network one.
    The show made its debut on January 4, 1952, with Kovacs losing creative control of the program soon after it was begun.
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    During early 1952, Kovacs was also doing a late morning show for WPTZ named Kovacs on the Corner.
    More Details Hide Details Kovacs would walk through an imaginary neighborhood, talking with various characters such as Pete the Cop and Luigi the Barber. As with Three to Get Ready, there were some special segments. "Swap Time" was one of them; viewers could bring their unwanted items to the WPTZ studios to trade them live with Kovacs during the show.
    Kovacs continued the EEFMS on his morning show when he relocated to WCBS, New York during 1952.
    More Details Hide Details The success of Three To Get Ready proved that people did indeed watch early morning television and was one of the factors that caused NBC to create The Today Show. WPTZ did not begin broadcasting Today when it premiered on January 14, 1952; network influence caused the station to end Three To Get Ready at the end of March of that year.
  • 1950
    Arriving at NBC's Philadelphia affiliate, WPTZ (now KYW-TV), for an audition wearing a barrel and shorts got Kovacs his first television job during January 1950.
    More Details Hide Details His first show was Pick Your Ideal, a fashion and promotional program for the Ideal Manufacturing Company. Before long, Kovacs was also the host of Deadline For Dinner and Now You're Cooking, shows featuring advice from local chefs. When Kovacs' guest chef did not arrive in time for the show, he offered a recipe for "Eggs Scavok" (Kovacs spelled backward). Hosting these shows soon resulted in his becoming host of a program named Three To Get Ready, named for WPTZ's channel 3 spot on television dials. Premiering during November 1950, Three To Get Ready was innovative, because it was the first regularly scheduled early morning (7–9am) show in a major television market, predating NBC's Today by more than a year. Prior to this, it had been assumed that few people would watch television at such an early time. While the show was advertised as early morning news and weather, Kovacs provided this and more in an original manner. When rain was in the weather forecast, Kovacs would get on a ladder and pour water down on the staff member reading the report. Goats were auditioned for a local theater performance and tiny women appeared to walk up his arm. Kovacs also went outside of the studio for some of his skits, running through a downtown Philadelphia restaurant in a gorilla suit in one, and looking into a construction pit saying it was deep enough to see to China, when a man in Chinese clothing popped up, said a few words in the language, and ran off.
  • 1945
    Kovacs and his first wife, Bette Wilcox, were married on August 13, 1945.
    More Details Hide Details When the marriage ended, he fought for custody of their children, Elizabeth ("Bette") and Kip Raleigh ("Kippie"). The court awarded Kovacs full custody upon determining that his former wife was mentally unstable. The decision was extremely unusual at the time, setting a legal precedent. Wilcox subsequently kidnapped the children, taking them to Florida. After a long and expensive search, Kovacs regained custody. These events were portrayed by the television movie, Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter (1984), which gained an Emmy Award nomination for its writer, April Smith. Kovacs was portrayed by Jeff Goldblum.
    The Trentonian, a local weekly newspaper, offered Kovacs a column during June 1945; he named it "Kovacs Unlimited".
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  • 1941
    Kovacs was also involved with local theater; a local newspaper published a photograph of him and the news that he was doing some directing for the Trenton Players Guild during early 1941.
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    Kovacs' first paid entertainment work was during 1941, as an announcer for Trenton's radio station WTTM.
    More Details Hide Details He spent the next nine years with WTTM, becoming the station's director of Special Events; in this job he did things like trying to see what it was like to be run over by a train (leaving the tracks at the last minute) and broadcasting from the cockpit of a plane for which he took flying lessons.
  • 1939
    While working in Vermont during 1939, he became so seriously ill with pneumonia and pleurisy that his doctors didn't expect him to survive.
    More Details Hide Details During the next year and a half, his comedic talents developed as he entertained both doctors and patients with his antics during stays at several hospitals. While hospitalized, Kovacs developed a lifelong love of classical music by the gift of a radio, which he kept tuned to WQXR. By the time he was released, his parents had separated, and Kovacs went back to Trenton, living with his mother in a two-room apartment over a store. He began work as a cigar salesman, which resulted in a lifelong cigar-smoking habit.
  • 1938
    A 1938 local newspaper photograph shows Kovacs as a member of the Prospect Players, not yet wearing his trademark mustache.
    More Details Hide Details Like any aspiring actor, Kovacs used his class vacation time to pursue roles in summer stock companies.
  • 1937
    Though a poor student, Kovacs was influenced by his Trenton Central High School drama teacher, Harold Van Kirk, and received an acting scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts during 1937 with Mr. Van Kirk's help.
    More Details Hide Details The end of Prohibition and the Depression resulted in difficult financial times for the family. When Kovacs began drama school, all he could afford was a fifth floor walk-up apartment on West 74th Street in New York City. During this time, he watched many "Grade B" movies; admission was only ten cents. Many of these movies influenced his comedy routines later.
  • 1919
    Born on January 23, 1919.
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