Adams led a prolific and widely varied career on stage, screen, television, and the nightclub circuit. A graduate of Julliard's music department, she burst onto Broadway playing Rosalind Russell's sister in the musical Wonderful Town. Three years later, she brought comic strip character Daisy Mae to life in Li'l Abner, a role for which she won the Tony. By then she had met and married television pioneer Ernie Kovacs, and appeared frequently on his program.
Though she lost her role in the film version of Li'l Abner to Leslie Parrish (go here for that Dance Party!), she appeared in many other films of the 60s, including The Apartment, The Best Man, Lover Come Back, and Under the Yum Yum Tree.
In 1963, she held her own among what may be the largest gathering of first-class comics ever to appear in a single film, when she played a dentist's wife in Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Here is a still from that now iconic film, where she is surrounded by Sid Caesar, Phil Silvers, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney, and Peter Falk:
Adams may be best remembered as the voice, and body, for Muriel Cigars. Her glamorous image and knock-out figure did not hide the fact that she was a gifted mimic, and her trademark slogan, delivered as a salute to Mae West, became an American catchphrase for over 19 years:
"Pick One Up and Smoke it Sometime..."
It's been estimated that while Adams starred in their commercials, Muriel increased their sales ten-fold.
Adams endured more than her share of personal sorrow, as she lost her first husband (Kovacs) in a car accident in 1962. She was left with a staggering debt to the IRS, which she struggled to repay. Twenty years later, she lost her daughter Mia in another car accident.
Yesterday, she passed away from pneumonia and cancer.
It was said that the crew taping the episode was in tears.