THE VILLAGES, Fla. - Singer and actress Kaye Stevens, who performed with the Rat Pack and was a frequent guest on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show,’’ has died at a central Florida hospital. She was 79.
Ms. Stevens died Wednesday at the Villages Hospital north of Orlando following a battle with breast cancer and blood clots.
Ms. Stevens, a longtime South Florida resident, performed with Rat Pack members including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop. She also sang solo at venues like Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and the Plaza Hotel’s Persian Room in New York City.
During the Vietnam War era, Ms. Stevens performed for American soldiers in the war zone with Bob Hope’s USO tour.
According to her friend Rhonda Glenn, Ms. Stevens was born Catherine Louise Stephens in Pittsburgh. Her family moved to Cleveland, where as a teenager she got her start as a drummer and singer. She married band leader and trumpet player Tommy Amato, and they performed in the eastern United States.
Ms. Stevens was discovered in New Jersey by Ed McMahon, Carson’s longtime sidekick, and that led to new bookings. Her big break came at The Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. Debbie Reynolds became ill so Ms. Stevens filled in and was an instant hit.
Besides singing, Ms. Stevens also acted in film and television. She appeared in six movies, earning a Golden Globe nomination in 1964 for “The New Interns.’’ She was a regular celebrity player on game shows and appeared as a regular on “Days of Our Lives’’ from 1974 to ’79.