Actress and singer Kaye Stevens died on Wednesday at the age of 79 in Central Florida, ending a battle with breast cancer.
Stevens, who was known for her performances with the Rat Pack, died at the Villages Hospital outside of Orlando of breast cancer and blood clots, according to her close friend, Gerry Schweitzer. She was a longtime Florida resident and was regular guest on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show.”
Stevens was discovered by Ed McMahon, longtime sidekick to Carson, while performing in New Jersey. This led to more bookings and when Debbie Reynolds was unable to perform at The Riveria Hotel in Las Vegas, and the up-and-comer got her first big break. Stevens replaced her and became an instant hit, according to The Associated Press.
During her illustrious career, Stevens performed with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Joey Bishop. She also performed at legendary venues like Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and the Plaza Hotel’s Persian Room in New York City. She also performed for American soldiers during the Vietnam War with Bob Hope’s USP tour.
She was so moved by the soldier’s sacrifices that she gave out pairs of her signature gloves to troops. She promised them that if they ever came to one her shows, showing the gloves would make the night her treat, according to The Orlando Sentinel.
Stevens also acted in film and television, appearing in six movies. She received a Golden Globe nomination in 1964 for “The New Interns.” She also appeared in “Jaws 3” and “The Man from the Diners Club.”
Stevens was also a frequent celebrity guest on game shows and even appeared on the soap opera “Days of Our Lives” from 1974-1979.
Originally born Catherine Louise Stephens, Kaye Stevens got her start as a drummer and a singer. She was born in Pittsburgh and later lived in Cleveland, where she began her musical endeavors.
Stevens married bandleader and trumpet player Tommy Amato, who is since deceased. They performed as a couple throughout the eastern U.S.
Over the last twenty years, Stevens started to perform exclusively Christian and patriotic music for her ministry. In addition, she made many appearances on Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral program. She even helped build the St. Vincent Catholic Church in her home of Margate, Fla.
City officials have named a park in her honor.
Stevens is credited with putting Margate on the map, according to The Sentinel. She often mentioned the town on her TV appearances and she did the first commercials for Margate in the mid-50s.