Neile Adams was born in Manila, the Philippine Islands on July 10, 1932 as María Ruby Neilam Arrastia y Salvador of Eurasian descent as her DNA attests. Her bloodline, to clarify erroneous reports, consists of 26% mixture of Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian, 7% Polynesian and 67% Spanish Basque and English, although her maternal grandmother’s name was changed from Sulse to Schultz when that family emigrated to Spain from Germany. She spent WW2 in Japanese-occupied Manila, came to America in 1948, graduated high school the following year from Rosemary Hall (now Choate Rosemary Hall) in Greenwich, Connecticut and immediately went to New York to study dancing where she got a scholarship at the Katherine Dunham School of Dance. To ward off being cast exclusively as a “señorita” or in just plain old Spanish-speaking parts because of her name, her mother claimed Adams was her father’s middle name. Never having seen nor met her father she soon became Neile Adams.
In 1953, she was cast as a dancer in “Kismet” and shortly became one of the lead dancers in the show. When the show closed in 1955 she was offered a showy role in the Versailles Nightclub where George Abbott and Bob Fosse caught her performance and offered her the Carol Haney role in “The Pajama Gave” just as soon as her contract ended with the club. To meet both deadlines she performed at night and rehearsed during the day. She met Steve McQueen shortly thereafter and married four months after their formal introduction. The couple had two children, Terry McQueen (born 1959) and Chad McQueen (born 1960). The marriage legally ended in 1972. Neile is the grandmother of actor Steven R. McQueen. She remarried in 1980 to Alvin Toffel, a political campaign manager and president of the Norton Simon Museum. This union lasted until Toffel’s passing in 2005.
Broadway credits: featured dancer in “Kismet”, starred in “Pajama Game” opposite John Raitt and Julie Wilson, and Broadway-bound “At The Grand” opposite Paul Muni. She married McQueen while filming MGM’s This Could Be the Night (1957) when she was under contract. Adams opened the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas in 1958 with Dick Shawn and Vivian Blaine. Television revues later became her main staple as she raised her family. She appeared on such programs as Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall (1948), The Bob Hope Show (1950), The Pat Boone-Chevy Showroom (1957), The Patrice Munsel Show (1956), The Eddie Fisher Show (1957) and The Walter Winchell Show (1956), among others. She played opposite McQueen and villainous Peter Lorre on a macabre episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) and starred in two other Hitchcock episodes. In the ’60s and ’70s she guest-starred in almost all the popular dramatic shows, such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964), Vega$ (1978), Fantasy Island (1977), The Rockford Files (1974), The Bionic Woman (1976) and Love, American Style (1969), to name a few. On film, she played Burt Reynolds’ wife in Fuzz (1972), was directed by Billy Wilder in Buddy Buddy (1981) and appeared in Chu Chu and the Philly Flash (1981). Adams continues to perform her cabaret shows in L.A., New York, London and Paris.
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