‘Elvis was my first,” proudly states twice Oscar-nominated singer-songwriter Carol Connors, who had a relationship with “the King” after her hit song “To Know Him Is to Love Him” with the group the Teddy Bears brought her fame at the age of 16. Years later, when Elvis was discharged from the army, Presley wanted to meet the beautiful girl behind the song, and they were introduced.
“He became my Teddy Bear,” quips Connors. “I should have had his baby.”
The story of Carol Connors is a fascinating one that spans many decades. Born Annette Kleinbard to immigrant Polish Jewish parents (she doesn’t reveal her age, on the advice of her friend Zsa Zsa Gabor), her father was a jockey who married his cousin. Many of her relatives were killed in the Holocaust. The 1.5 meter tall Connors, who is notorious for arriving at gala events wearing high heels and then changing into slippers after the red carpet, says she got her height from her father.
When she was five, the family moved to Los Angeles.
While attending Fairfax High School, she met songwriter and record producer Phil Spector, who was dating her friend. After hearing her voice, Spector wrote a song for her.
“Phil said I needed $10 to record it. Since we were poor I didn’t have the money, so I begged and begged and finally got the money from my parents,” she recounts.
Together with Spector and Marshall Leib, she recorded the song as lead singer of The Teddy Bears in 1958.
“To Know Him Is to Love Him” was a No. 1 hit for three weeks and a Top 10 song for 11 weeks.
The group was a one-hit wonder. Shortly thereafter, Connors was involved in a car accident that nearly killed her. While attending UCLA, she decided that she wanted to return to music and started writing songs. She met automotive designer Carroll Shelby, who designed the AC Cobra sports car.
“He told me that if I wrote a song about the car and it went to No. 1, he’d give me a car. So I did,” says Connors.
The song “Hey, Little Cobra” by the Rip Chords went to No. 1 in 1964. Shelby kept his promise, making Connors – the only female to ever write a hit hot rod song – the proud owner of an AC Cobra.
Connors (not to be confused with the porn star with the same name) continued to write many songs and live the Hollywood dream. She wrote “Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams,” sung by Dionne Warwick for the show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. She dated many celebrities, including actor Robert Culp, whom she describes as “one of the loves of my life,” as well as David Janssen. It was her love for Culp that inspired Connors to write her hit somg “With You I’m Born Again,” sung by Billy Preston and Syreeta Wright. The song has sold millions and has been covered by many artists, including Mariah Carey and John Legend, and has gone on to become a staple at weddings.
“I never wanted to get married,” she says. “Somehow, I max out at about two and a half years with a man.
Familiarity breeds contempt.”
Connors lives alone by with her two Abyssinian cats named Lyrics and Mewsiktoo in a house nestled in the heights of Beverly Hills. She refers to it as “the house that Rocky built” after her colossal hit song “Gonna Fly Now,” which she wrote with Bill Conti and Ayn Robbins.
The song, which has sold many millions, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song and has become an American classic.
CC, as she is called by her friends, is a unique character with a large personality. From her style of dress – every outfit is an ensemble, from matching dress, shoes and purse, with the overall theme being a musical note, piano, dolphin or mermaid – to her crazy emails with naked mermaids, she is a memorable woman.
Her love of scuba diving is expressed by the hundreds of mermaids adorning the walls of her home, along with pictures of her with presidents and celebrities.
Orchids fill up the living room (a male visitor cannot visit CC without an orchid in hand) surrounding her state-of-the-art Baby Grand Digital Kawai piano, a gift from the company.
Connors is one of the woman pioneers of music for film and TV in an industry dominated by men. She has been nominated twice for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, as well as nominated for five Emmys, one Grammy and two Golden Globes. Connors has built a niche for herself in the music world and hasn’t slowed down one bit.
She still scuba dives around the world with her friend and former Playboy cover model and singer Barbi Benton and still writes music. She is currently writing the music for Angels in the Sky, a multimillion-dollar documentary about the birth of the Israel Air Force and the 155 pilots from around the world that came to Israel to fight in the War of Independence.
Last year, Connors conducted a 117-piece orchestra at the Kennedy Center in a benefit concert for the Wounded Warriors charity. Despite all her life experiences, she calls that concert “my Rocky moment and the highlight of my career.”