Eddie Fisher with then-wife Debbie Reynolds, right, and future-wife Elizabeth Taylor in 1958 (Getty Images / Hulton Archive)
In the pre-rock 'n' roll era of the early 1950s, Eddie Fisher – born Aug. 10, 1928, 85 years ago today – was among the top pop singers, charting dozens of hit singles as one of the last of the classic crooners. But music is only one part of his legacy. When we think of Fisher, we can't help but remember his many romances. Singing made Fisher famous, acting brought him nationwide name recognition, but it was marrying – and the scandals that came with it – that made him notorious.
When Fisher first married, it was 1955. He was a teen idol still dominating radio play, and his blushing bride was one of the loveliest young stars in Hollywood, Debbie Reynolds. It was a romance straight out of a teen dream, America's Sweethearts made one. They soon had two children, Carrie and Todd Fisher, who would grow up to be actors just like Mom and Dad. Things seemed perfect for the couple… until all of a sudden, they weren't.
Fisher's best friend was Mike Todd – third husband of the much-married Elizabeth Taylor, who was herself a close friend to Reynolds. When Todd died suddenly, Fisher was there to console his lovely widow. But perhaps he gave her a few too many friendly hugs, because soon Fisher and Taylor were embroiled in a love affair that would destroy his marriage and the friendship between Taylor and Reynolds.
Reynolds, though devastated by her husband's behavior with her best friend, was reluctant to get a divorce. She didn't believe in giving up on a marriage. But Fisher and Taylor were determined to marry, and, according to Reynolds, they guilted her into divorce, telling her they'd carry on the affair no matter what. Reynolds finally agreed, and in 1959 – three and a half hours after the divorce was finalized – Fisher wed Taylor.
As Fisher tells it, Taylor was the true love of his life. But given what happened next, one has to wonder whether Taylor would have said the same of him. Perhaps for Taylor, Fisher was more of a dear friend who was there when she needed a shoulder. At any rate, her romantic devotion to him didn't last long. She began an affair with her next husband, Richard Burton, while still married to Fisher, and she and Fisher divorced in 1964. It was a sad ending to a love triangle that devastated Reynolds and left Fisher's career in dire straits. Perhaps the only positive outcome of it was that many years later, Reynolds and Taylor buried the hatchet and renewed their friendship.
It's not too surprising that after losing Taylor, Fisher took a few years off before jumping into his next marriage. But jump he did, this time into a partnership with singer and actress Connie Stevens. The marriage didn't last long before it too ended in divorce, but did result in two children who would also one day become actors, Joely and Trisha Leigh Fisher.
Terry Richard, Fisher's next wife, was less than half his age – 21 to his 47 – and a former beauty queen, having been crowned Miss Louisiana two years before their 1975 marriage. It would be his shortest marriage, dissolving into divorce after just six months.
If the universe was trying to tell Fisher something, maybe it was "don't marry celebrities." He finally took the advice in 1993, when he married Betty Lin, a businesswoman. It was his longest-lasting marriage and the only one that didn't end in divorce, enduring until her death in 2001. And the only scandal that came during this marriage was a comparatively mild one – the publication of Fisher's autobiography, Been There, Done That. Its exhaustive, graphic detail on Fisher's past loves – and the intimacies that came with them – made daughter Carrie Fisher remark, "That's it. I'm having my DNA fumigated."
When Fisher died Sept. 22, 2010, he left behind a rich legacy – a wide body of work as a singer and actor, four talented children, two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame… and many loves.
Written by Linnea Crowther