Actress Joely Fisher jokes that she learned how to call for hotel room service around the same time that she learned to talk. “My mom was on the road, and she took us with her,” Joely, the daughter of Connie Stevens and Eddie Fisher, told Closer prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike. “It wasn’t always a first-class and limos kind of thing. She was a working single mom, supporting her family.”

Connie, 84, became a household name on TV’s Hawaiian Eye in 1959 but enlarged her career over the next five decades to include hit records, movies, theater, a nightclub act, writing and directing, and a line of skincare products. “She’s still a badass,” Joely gushed at an event for Race to Erase MS.

But in 2016, Connie suffered a massive stroke. “I was in the hospital about 16 days, and I couldn’t walk, couldn’t move my whole left side,” she said. Today, Connie’s doing much better. “She’s in assisted living, but she’s strong and a fighter,” Joely said of her mom, who still delights in simple things, like a sandwich from Chick-fil-A. “She calls it the Lord’s chicken. She’s says, ‘I don’t like salad. If I’m going out, I’m going out happy!’ ”

Born into a musical family, Connie moved to California to live with her dad in 1953. “Then I left home at 15. I have been working ever since,” said the star, who was discovered by an agent while singing with a group. “I did the movie Dragstrip Riot, and then they showed that to Jerry Lewis and I got Rocka-Bye Baby. I sang in it, and I got a recording contract,” Connie recalled. A series of guest appearances on popular television shows including 77 Sunset Strip and Maverick led to her breakout role on Hawaiian Eye.

Unfortunately, Connie’s greatest successes often coincided with her biggest sorrows. In 1966, she divorced actor James Stacy, who had been abusive to her. She wed crooner Eddie Fisher the following year, but their marriage was cut short by his drug and alcohol issues and infidelity. Connie never wed again.

Connie Stevens and Joely Fisher Global Action Awards
Jim Smeal/BEI/Shutterstock

By 1969, she was a single mom of two young girls. “We were like carni-folk,” Joely, who wrote about her upbringing in the memoir Growing Up Fisher: Musings, Memories and Misadventures, said. “When we were traveling with [Connie], she’d say, ‘You guys feel like coming on stage?’ We became part of her act.”

As Joely and sister Trisha grew up, their mother was always there with encouragement and advice. “She has reiterated to me over the years what an incredible human being I am and how proud she is of me and what a great mother I am,” says Joely. “She is an affectionate, generous, incandescent spirit of a woman.”

Connie remains extremely close with her two daughters today. “It was always the three of us against the world,” said Joely. “She lights up when we all show up. And, you know, we surround her with love.”