Friday, December 30, 2011

Singer, actress Kaye Stevens dead on Wednesday

Kaye Stevens, who acted upon with the Rat Pack and was a common visitor on Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show," has died at a central Florida hospital. She was 79.

Close friend Gerry Schweitzer established that Stevens died Wednesday at the Villages Hospital north of Orlando subsequent a fight with breast cancer and blood clots.

Stevens, a longtime South Florida resident, presented with Rat Pack associates counting Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop. She also sang alone at locations like Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and the Plaza Hotel's Persian Room in New York City.

Throughout the Vietnam War period, Stevens acted upon for American soldiers in the war region with Bob Hope's USO trip.

According to a newsletter from friend Rhonda Glenn, Stevens was born Catherine Louise Stephens in Pittsburgh. Her family eventually moved to Cleveland, where a teenage Stevens got her start as a drummer and singer. She later married now deceased bandleader and trumpet player Tommy Amato, and the couple performed throughout the eastern U.S.

During a gig in New Jersey, Stevens was discovered by Ed McMahon, Carson's longtime sidekick, which led to new bookings. Her big break came when she was playing a lounge at The Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. Debbie Reynolds became ill and was unable to perform in the main room. Stevens filled in and was an instant hit.

Besides singing, Stevens also acted in film and television. She appeared in six movies, earning a Golden Globe nomination in 1964 for "The New Interns." She was a regular celebrity player on game shows and appeared as a regular on "Days of Our Lives" from 1974-79.

During the past two decades, Stevens started her own ministry and began performing only Christian and patriotic music. She staged benefits to help build St. Vincent Catholic Church in her longtime home of Margate, Fla., where city officials named a park in her honor.


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