Michele Lee

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Michele Lee
Michele Lee.JPG
Publicity photo of Michele Lee (1974)
Born Michele Lee Dusick
(1942-06-24) June 24, 1942 (age 71)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress, singer, dancer, producer, director, game show panelist
Years active 1960–present
Spouse(s) James Farentino (1966–1983)
Fred A. Rappoport (1987–present)

Michele Lee (born June 24, 1942) is an American actress, singer, dancer, producer, director and frequent game show panelist of the 1970s. She is best known for her Emmy Award nominated role as Karen Cooper Fairgate MacKenzie on the 1980s prime-time soap opera, Knots Landing. She is also a two-time Tony Award nominee.

Lee began her career on Broadway, appearing in Vintage 60 (1960) and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961). She made her movie debut in the film version of the latter in 1967. She co-starred with Dean Jones in the 1969 Disney film, The Love Bug.[1] and also starred that year opposite Dick Van Dyke in The Comic. She received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical in 1974 for Seesaw.[2]

She starred in Knots Landing for all fourteen seasons from 1979-1993 and was the only cast member to appear in every episode. The role earned her an Emmy nomination in 1982 and three Soap Opera Digest Awards for Best Actress, in 1988, 1991 and 1992. Her roles since then have included the title role in the 1998 TV movie Scandalous Me: The Jacqueline Susann Story and a return to Broadway in the play The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, for which she received a second Tony nomination in 2001. She also appeared in the 2004 film Along Came Polly.

Early life[edit]

Lee was born Michele Lee Dusick in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Sylvia Helen (née Silverstein) and Jack Dusick, a make-up artist.[3] She is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, her ancestors being from Poland and Russia.[4] She began her career on television in an episode of the late 1950s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. She attended Alexander Hamilton High School where she became popular with her class.

Career[edit]

Early years[edit]

When she was 18, after graduation from high school, she auditioned for the Broadway play, Vintage '60. She soon began appearing in musicals, becoming Broadway performer at the age of 19 in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying opposite Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee, a role she reprised in the film version. She also appeared in dramas such as the Los Angeles production of Jerry Herman's Parade and the Broadway productions of Bravo Giovanni and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife.

After she sang in the film version of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, she became known for her roles in the films The Comic and The Love Bug, the latter becoming the biggest blockbuster movie of 1969. That same year, she starred in a special television production of the Jerome KernOtto Harbach musical, Roberta, in which she sang "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes". After the birth of her son, she worked infrequently until accepting a role on Broadway in Seesaw, which netted her a Tony Award nomination in 1974. After her mother's death, she stopped working to spend time with her son.

In 1974, Lee starred in the pilot episode for proposed CBS sitcom The Michele Lee Show. She played Michele Burton, a clerk in a hotel newsstand, with support from Stephen Collins. However, only the pilot episode was aired and the series did not proceed. Lee became a busy guest actor in the 1970s, appearing in Marcus Welby, M.D., Alias Smith and Jones, Night Gallery, Love, American Style, Fantasy Island and The Love Boat.

Knots Landing[edit]

In 1979, Lee accepted the role of Karen Fairgate on Knots Landing, a spin-off of the immensely popular Dallas. Though slow to start, the series eventually became a ratings hit and became one of the longest running American primetime dramas ever, lasting for a total of 14 seasons from 1979 - 1993.[1] Due to her long-running tenure, Lee's alter-ego is often credited as being the center of the program. Television personality Joan Rivers commented that Lee was, in theory, the "First Lady of Knots Landing" during her guest appearance on The Late Show, which Rivers hosted at the time.[5] The characters of the serial often represented what was happening in society at the time. Lee acknowledged that, saying: "Karen wanted to be a Pollyanna and wasn't ashamed of that. Remember in our society, maybe people don't remember, but remember when we could go over to other people's houses and come in through an open back door? I remember when I was a little girl and my mother and father would have people over and they'd walk into an unlocked door in our house."[6] Lee was the only performer to appear in all of the show's 344 episodes.

Although Lee was enjoying a successful career on television, her marriage to actor James Farentino was failing. She and Farentino separated around the same time Lee's onscreen husband, Don Murray, left the show. Lee thus played a single mother on Knots Landing at the same time she was becoming one in real life. Lee revealed that when her character took off her wedding ring in a 1982 episode, she was taking off her real wedding band.

During the fall of 1982, her character met M. Patrick "Mack" MacKenzie (Kevin Dobson), who became her screen husband the following year. They would continue working together until the end of the series. Lee won the Soap Opera Digest Award for Best Lead Actress (Primetime) three times, and was also nominated for an Emmy Award in 1982 for "Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series".[7] In 1983, the writers/producers of Knots Landing urged her to do a storyline based on prescription drug dependency which became one of her most prominent storylines. Six years later, Lee directed her first of several episodes of the series. In 1991, Knots Landing reached a milestone with its 300th episode. During the same season, Lee filmed her favorite scene from the series, known as the "Pollyanna Speech" among fans. In this scene, for which Lee had much input, Karen reacts strongly against all of the social problems of 1990s society and explains how she doesn't want to be a Pollyanna and see the world through rose-colored glasses, but rather wanted the world to be rose-colored.

As Knots Landing moved into the 1990s, its popularity began to wane although it had outlived all of its contemporaries. The big budget that the series once had was trimmed to the extent that, in the final season, the higher paid cast members were asked to appear in only 15 of the season's 19 episodes as the production company couldn't afford to pay them. However, Lee insisted on appearing in all 19 episodes that season, doing her extra four episodes for "union scale" pay.

Later career[edit]

After Knots Landing ended in 1993, Lee has appeared in many made-for-TV movies, including a biopic of late country star Dottie West (Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story) and she became the first woman to star in, direct, and produce a TV movie for Lifetime, Color Me Perfect in 1996. She also starred in the reunion mini-series Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac in 1997, and portrayed Hollywood novelist Jacqueline Susann in the television biopic Scandalous Me: The Jacqueline Susann Story in 1998. In 2000, she returned to the Broadway stage in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife and received a 2001 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play. In 2004, she returned to feature films in the role of Ben Stiller's mother in Along Came Polly. She guest-starred alongside Chita Rivera in a February 2005 episode of Will & Grace. Also in 2005, she reunited with her Knots Landing co-stars for the non-fiction special Knots Landing Reunion: Together Again, in which the stars reminisced about their time on the hit series.[8] Also in 2005, she appeared alongside Tyne Daly, Leslie Uggams, Christine Baranski and Karen Ziemba for the Kennedy Center Honor of Julie Harris. In 2010, Lee did voice work for an episode of the animated comedy series Family Guy.

Personal life[edit]

In 1963, Lee met actor James Farentino on the set of the play, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and in 1966 they were married. Their son, David Farentino, was born July 6, 1969. Lee and Farentino divorced in 1983. She later married Fred Rappaport in 1987.

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1961 The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis Lila Episode: "Crazylegs Gillis"
1967 The Red Skelton Show Peaches Laverne Episode: "A New York Stripper Is Not Always a Steak"
1967 How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Rosemary Pilkington
1968 The Love Bug Carole Bennett
1969 Roberta Stephanie
1969 The Comic Mary Gibson
1971 Night Gallery Joanna Lowell Episode: "Since Aunt Ada Came to Stay/With Apologies to Mr. Hyde/The Flip Side of Satan"
1970-1972 Marcus Welby, M.D. Katie 3 episodes
1972 Alias Smith and Jones Georgette Sinclair 3 episodes
1972 Of Thee I Sing Diana Devereaux
1971-1973 Love, American Style Various 5 episodes
1974 Only with Married Men Jill Garrett
1976 Dark Victory Dolores Marsh
1978 Having Babies Lucy Episode: "Sterile Wife"
1978 Bud and Lou Anne Costello
1978-1979 Fantasy Island Nancy Weston / Carol DeAngelo 2 episodes
1979 Nutcracker Fantasy Narrator Voice
1977-1982 The Love Boat Various 6 episodes
1985 A Letter to Three Wives Rita Phipps
1989 Single Women Married Men Susan Parmel
1990 The Fatal Image Barbara Brennan
1991 My Son Johnny Mary Anne
1992 Broadway Bound Blanche
1992 When No One Would Listen Jessica Cochran
1979-1993 Knots Landing Karen Cooper Fairgate MacKenzie Series regular, 344 episodes
1995 Something Wilder Joanna Episode: "The Ex Files"
1995 Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story Dottie West
1996 Color Me Perfect Dina Blake
1997 Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac Karen MacKenzie TV Mini-Series
1998 Scandalous Me: The Jacqueline Susann Story Jacqueline Susann
1999 A Murder on Shadow Mountain Barbara Traynor
2000 Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer Cousin Mel Voice
2003 Miss Match Sandy Episode: "Addicted to Love"
2004 Along Came Polly Vivian Feffer
2004 Married to the Kellys Maggie Wagner Episode: "Kansas v. Tom's Parents"
2005 Will & Grace Lucille Episode: "Dance Cards & Greeting Cards"
2010 Family Guy Estelle Harris Episode: "Extra Large Medium"
2013 See Dad Run Grandma Maggie Episode: "See Dad See Through Grandma"
2013 How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) Caroline Episode: "How to Help the Needy"

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result
1973 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Performance Seesaw Won
1974 Tony Award Best Actress in a Musical Nominated
1982 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Knots Landing Nominated
1986 Soap Opera Digest Award Favorite Super Couple on a Prime Time Serial Won
Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role on a Prime Time Serial Nominated
1988 Favorite Super Couple: Prime Time Won
Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role: Prime Time Won
1991 Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role: Prime Time Won
1992 Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role: Prime Time Won
1998 Hollywood Walk of Fame Star on the Walk of Fame
On 19 November 1998 at 6363 Hollywood Blvd.
Won
2001 Tony Award Best Featured Actress in a Play The Tale of the Allergist's Wife Nominated
2009 TV Land Award Anniversary Award Knots Landing Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Michele Lee- Biography". Yahoo!. Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  2. ^ The Broadway League. "Michele Lee | IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". IBDB. Retrieved 2013-11-23. 
  3. ^ Profile at FilmReference.com
  4. ^ IMDb profile/Michele Lee
  5. ^ "Michele Lee on Joan Rivers with Lucille Ball (Part 3)". The Joan Rivers Show. Retrieved January 31, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Knots Landing official website exclusive web only interviews Michele Lee". Knotslanding.net. 2003-03-16. Retrieved 2013-11-23. 
  7. ^ "Michele Lee | Academy of Television Arts & Sciences". Emmys.com. Retrieved 2013-11-23. 
  8. ^ "Knots Landing Reunion: Together...". TV Guide. Dec 5, 2005. Retrieved 2013-04-12. 

External links[edit]