As Eddie Fisher once put it, by the time he was 33, "I had been married to America's sweetheart and America's femme fatale, and both marriages had ended in scandal.
"I'd been one of the most popular singers in America and had given up my career for love. I had fathered two children and adopted two children and rarely saw any of them. I was addicted to methamphetamines and I couldn't sleep at night without a huge dose of Librium."
Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor, he wrote in his 1999 memoir, "Been There, Done That," that he had learned one important lesson: "There were no rules for me. I could get away with anything so long as that sound came out of my throat."
Fisher, who died Wednesday at 82 at his home in Berkeley from complications of hip surgery, traveled one of the rockier roads in show business, one marked by well-documented personal and professional peaks and valleys.
But there was no denying the impact of "that sound" that came out of the darkly handsome young Philadelphia native's throat during his 1950s heyday.
"He had the biggest voice I ever heard," singer Andy Williams told The Times on Friday. "I used to do numbers with him and Bobby Darin on my show. He used to blast the hell out of us. His voice was so big, round and full."
Beginning with his first hit, "Thinking of You," in 1950, Fisher became one of America's most popular recording artists, a singer whose looks and voice made bobby-soxers swoon and spurred the creation of fan club chapters around the world.
During much of the '50s, Fisher had a long string of Top 10 — and No. 1 — hits, including "Any Time," "Tell Me Why," "I'm Walking Behind You," "I Need You Now" and "Oh! My Pa-Pa."
He also headlined nightclubs, made TV guest appearances and starred in his own popular 15-minute TV music show, "Coke Time With Eddie Fisher," from 1953 to '57. That was followed by "The Eddie Fisher Show," an hour-long music-variety program that aired from 1957 to '59.
But in the end, Fisher told the Miami Herald in 1999, "it isn't the music that people remember most about me. It's the women."
His 1955 marriage to Reynolds, Hollywood's girl next door, was greeted with headlines such as "America's Sweethearts Tie Knot." The marriage produced two children, Carrie and Todd.
But Fisher outraged fans when he left Reynolds for Taylor after Taylor's husband and Fisher's best friend, film producer Michael Todd, was killed in a plane crash in 1958. Fisher and Taylor were married the next year.
But then Taylor fell in love with Richard Burton during the filming of "Cleopatra," which generated another round of international headlines and caused Fisher to check into a New York City hospital with a reported nervous breakdown in 1962 after returning from Rome, where his wife was making the movie. The Fisher-Taylor divorce became final in 1964.
"This was an era when the movie magazines were going full force, and the coverage" of Fisher's romantic entanglements "saturated popular culture to the max, for years on end," recalled film reviewer Kevin Thomas, a former Times staff writer.
Fisher, Thomas said, "was the real loser in all of this. He got heaps of scorn for deserting Debbie. In the magazines, she was the sweet girl next door who had been cast aside for the legendary temptress."
Fisher's 1967 marriage to actress and singer Connie Stevens, with whom he had two daughters, Joely and Trisha Leigh, ended in divorce in 1969. He was married to Terry Richard, a former beauty queen, from 1975 to '76.
Fisher's fifth wife, Betty Lin, a Chinese-born businesswoman whom he married in 1993, died in 2001.
Although Fisher co-starred with Reynolds in the 1956 comedy "Bundle of Joy" and co-starred with Taylor in "BUtterfield 8," the 1960 drama for which Taylor won an Oscar, he never developed his own film career.
With the impact of rock 'n' roll, Fisher's record sales began to decline in the late '50s.
Eddie Fisher dies at 82; popular 1950s crooner was known for his high-profile marriages
The singer had a string of No. 1 hits, headlined clubs and had his own TV shows. But even he admitted that people remembered him for his brides, including Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor and Connie Stevens.
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