Eddie Fisher: The Songs, the Sins, the Scandal

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Eddie Fisher was the golden boychik of mainstream pop, the dimpled troubadour from Philadelphia. Pretty and poised, he had the packaging and the product: a clear, confident tenor that could turn powerful or intimate at will. In the 1950-54 prerock period — the most tepid five years in the history of 20th century music — he had 19 songs reach the Top 10, including four ("Wish You Were Here," "I'm Walking Behind You," "Oh! My Pa-Pa," "I Need You Now") that went to No. 1. When he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War, President Harry Truman proclaimed him "my favorite PFC." He transferred his vinyl popularity to a TV variety show and then to movies. Fisher's covenant with Hollywood mythology was sealed with his 1955 marriage to Debbie Reynolds, Hollywood's princess of pert. It marked the perfect merger of adorable and adorabler.

Show-business legend-making is dreams plus lies. Sometimes the truth slithers out from under the parade float, sometimes not — more frequently now than in that sedate stretch between World War II and Vietnam. Fisher was an agent of one of those shocks to propriety in 1959, when he divorced Reynolds to marry Elizabeth Taylor. Liz could wed early and often (this was her fourth marriage, at 27); the public saw her as a creature of exotic allure and mercurial passions. But Eddie, promoted as the boy next door, was declared a war criminal of domesticity for deserting Debbie's dollhouse. Fisher was the victim of another, larger jolt in 1962, when Taylor left him for her Cleopatra co-star Richard Burton. Biter bit, America thought; serves him right. The one-two punch of infidelity and cuckoldry left an instant, perpetual brand on Fisher's résumé. From platinum recording artist to Johnny Carson punch line, he dwelled in oldies purgatory for nearly 50 years, dying Sept. 22 in Berkeley, Calif., of complications from a hip fracture. He was 82....

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