Josh Mills says that when he was a child, he thought “‘The Addams Family’ had lived in my house. There were bear skin rugs and suits of armor around, and a trap door that led to a wine cellar.” Mills is the son of the late singer-actress-comedienne Edie Adams and her second husband, photographer Martin Mills — but the house he recalls so vividly was furnished by her first husband, comedy genius Ernie Kovacs.
After Adams passed away in 2008, Josh moved into the role of keeper of the flame of Edie and Ernie — as the popular show biz couple were called prior to Kovacs’ death in a car crash at age 42.
Taken aback by Kovacs’ omission from a PBS series on great comedians of television, he was behind the successful release of a DVD collection of his work last year, and has “The Ernie Kovacs Collection Volume 2” coming out Oct. 23. (Included are a TV pilot Kovacs produced for Buster Keaton, a home movie with Jackie Gleason, three episodes of Kovacs’ oddball game show, and eight episodes of Kovacs’ national morning TV show, featuring Josh’s beautiful young mom providing musical numbers.) He brings to people’s attention the fact that such luminaries as Terry Gilliam and Mystery Science Theater’s Joel Hodgson cite Kovacs as an influence.
“His comedy was fairly cerebral. Ernie didn’t do standup. He said that if asked to tell a joke, he wouldn’t know how to do it,” he notes.
He’ll be celebrating Kovacs’ legacy of humor at a National Gallery of Art retrospective in Washington, D.C. late this month, among other events.
Josh has also been busy seeing to it that his mother’s work gets attention as well. He has “The Edie Adams Christmas Album Featuring Ernie Kovacs” coming out today (10/9) in time for the holiday season.
“She was a Juilliard-trained singer, who all of a sudden was doing this show in which she was singing pop songs. She paid for a transcription company to record the audio so she could hear how she sounded. That’s the reason this audio exists.”
The early 1950’s transcription discs — “giant records, two or three times the size of an LP” — have been stored all this time in the UCLA Film and Television Archives. Adams’ voice is a beautiful blast from the past.