Born an only child in New York City, she was one year old when her parents divorced. Her mother, Jessica Sugar worked as an executive secretary for the New York City Water Department and was a single parent until her remarriage to insurance agent Harry Heller. Cindy Heller grew up in the Washington Heights section of the Manhattan borough of New York City, and in the Jamaica Estates section of Queens, another New York City borough. She left Andrew Jackson High School, in the Cambria Heights section of Queens, at age fifteen without graduating (she was academically qualified but the principal reportedly refused to graduate her unless she learned to sew).
She began to work as a photographer's model in Manhattan, meeting her future husband, Joey, a year later when they appeared on the same radio show. Married on Valentine's Day 1952, they had no children, and Joey Adams died in 1999 following a long illness.
Since 1979, Adams has written a gossip column for the New York Post, New York City newspaper. She additionally contributes to Sunday Today in New York, a newscast on WNBC television in New York City. She had previously contributed twice a week on WNBC's Live at Five newscast until it took on a new format on March 12, 2007.
Her husband wrote a newspaper column for the Long Island Press on Long Island, New York, and later the New York Post. She also wrote for local papers, eventually writing for the New York Post at the same time as her husband. In 1965 she co-wrote an English-language autobiography of Indonesia's President Sukarno, about whom she wrote another book two years later. In 1975 she published a biography of Jolie Gabor, the mother of the Gabor sisters, Eva, Magda and Zsa Zsa. Among those she interviewed in 1970 was Mohammad-Rez? Sh?h Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. She later became friendly with Imelda Marcos, the widow of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos.Staff writer (undated). "Living a Dog's Life: Jazzy, Juicy, and Me" (click on "Meet the Writer" tab). Barnes & Noble. Accessed August 13, 2010.
Adams became a syndicated newspaper columnist in 1981; she was an original contributor to the syndicated, tabloid-television series A Current Affair and has appeared often on Good Morning America, a morning news-and-talk show on the ABC television network. In 1990, Adams served as a panelist on To Tell the Truth, an NBC television network game show.
After her husband died in 1999, Adams found a new love — dogs. Given the dog by her friends, Jazzy, her Yorkshire Terrier, not only trailed her in public, but actually became a celebrity within himself. Adams and Jazzy would often dine together at New York City's finest restaurants, including Le Cirque. Adams would dress her dog in expensive designer clothes and jewelry. She wrote a memoir about Jazzy, "The Gift of Jazzy" and launched the "Jazzy" line of merchandise.
One weekend, Adams put Jazzy in a kennel in Upstate New York when she left the city. By the time she returned Jazzy had died. She had an autopsy performed, which showed E. coli bacteria in the dog's system. In an article published The New York Times, Adams was quoted as saying "Now this is a dog that I hand-fed. I would lie on my stomach in the kitchen and hand-feed him kosher chicken. We would go to Le Cirque and eat off of Limoges porcelain. Where would he get E. coli?"
She became a vocal advocate for strengthening regulations of boarding kennels. In 2004, she garnered the support of the television journalist Barbara Walters, the socialite Ivana Trump, the lawyer Barry Slotnick, the writer Tama Janowitz, as well as New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, to pass the "Boarding Kennel and Regulation Act", also known as "Jazzy's Law". According to Adams: "To prevent others from suffering my Jazzy pain this local "Boarding Kennel and Regulation Act" will: license kennels, monitor them regularly, fine those in violation, require records and rules, demand boarded pets prove vaccination and immunization against contagious doggy diseases."
Despite the strict New York City health code which only permits service animals (i.e., seeing-eye dog) in restaurants, Adams continues to bring her dogs — Juicy and the new Jazzy, Jazzy Jr. — to New York City restaurants. The New York City Health Department, whose inspectors enforce the restaurant regulations, is the same department that enforces "Jazzy's Law".
Adams lives and works from a nine-room penthouse apartment with a verandah at 475 Park Avenue in Manhattan, that she and her husband purchased from the estate of billionaire heiress Doris Duke in 1997. Because of the apartment's connection with Duke, Adams hosted the wrap party for the television biographical film Bernard and Doris (2008) about Duke's later years and her relationship with her butler.
Illness in 2010
Adams ceased writing her regular New York Post column in May 2010 without notice and there was no news beyond brief mentions that she was "unwell". In late June Liz Smith, another gossip columnist (whose column used to be carried in the Post), reported in her online column on wowOwow that Adams had fallen ill with a stomach malady. A Christian Scientist, Adams had avoided medical help until forced by friends Barbara Walters and Judge Judy. The diagnosis was said to be an almost-burst appendix. Smith reported that "she [Adams] is now on the mend". From July 2001 thorugh 20 September 2010, the New York Post noted that Adams will be "returning soon". She returned with a column detailing her illness on 20 September 2010. She wrote that she had a ruptured appendix and anemia, and is still in recovery.