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Michele Lee

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Michele Lee
Publicity photo of Michele Lee (1974)
Michelle Lee Dusick

(1942-06-24) June 24, 1942 (age 81)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
EducationAlexander Hamilton High School
Years active1960–present
Known for
(m. 1966; div. 1983)
Fred A. Rappoport
(m. 1987)

Michele Lee (born June 24, 1942) is an American actress, singer, dancer, producer and director. She is known for her role as Karen Fairgate MacKenzie on the prime-time soap opera Knots Landing, for which she was nominated for a 1982 Emmy Award and won the Soap Opera Digest Award for Best Actress in 1988, 1991, and 1992. She was the only performer to appear in all 344 episodes of the series.

Lee began her career on Broadway in Vintage 60 (1960) and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1962). She made her movie debut in the film version of the latter in 1967. Her other film appearances include the Disney film The Love Bug (1968), The Comic (1969), and Along Came Polly (2004).[1] She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 1974 for Seesaw[2] and for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play in 2001 for The Tale of the Allergist's Wife. She also played the title role in the 1998 TV film Scandalous Me: The Jacqueline Susann Story and Madame Morrible in the 2015 Broadway musical Wicked.Guest on the "Tim Conway Show" s.1 EP. 1 1981.

Early life[edit]

Michele Lee Dusick was born in Los Angeles on June 24, 1942, the daughter of Sylvia Helen (née Silverstein), and Jack Dusick, a makeup artist.[3][4][5] She attended Alexander Hamilton High School.[6]


Career beginnings[edit]

Her television career began at age 19, on the December 26, 1961, episode of the CBS-TV sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

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, opposite Dick Van Dyke, and The Love Bug, opposite Dean Jones, the latter becoming the second-highest-grossing film of 1969 in the United States. 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", and also peaked at #52 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "L. David Sloane". She recorded two records on Columbia Records in the 1960s, in addition to her singing work on original Broadway cast albums. 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 of the proposed CBS sitcom The Michele Lee Show. She played Michele Burton, a clerk in a hotel newsstand,[7] 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 on Marcus Welby, M.D.; Alias Smith and Jones; Night Gallery; Love, American Style; Fantasy Island; The Love Boat; and The Match Game.

Knots Landing[edit]

In 1979, Lee accepted the role of Karen Fairgate on Knots Landing, a spin-off of the highly 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.[8] 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."[9] Lee was the only performer to appear in all of the show's 344 episodes.[citation needed]

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 in 1982 for "Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series".[10] In 1983, the writer and 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 the social problems of 1990s society and explains how she does not want to be a Pollyanna and see the world through rose-colored glasse, but rather wanted the world to be rose-colored.[11]

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 (1996). She also starred in the reunion miniseries Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac (1997) and portrayed novelist Jacqueline Susann in the television biopic Scandalous Me: The Jacqueline Susann Story (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, Lee returned to feature films in the role of Ben Stiller's character'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 nonfiction special Knots Landing Reunion: Together Again, in which the stars reminisced about their time on the hit series.[12] 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. She returned to Broadway in 2015 to star as Madame Morrible in the musical Wicked.[13]

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.[14] They have a son, David Farentino. Lee and Farentino divorced in 1983.[6] She has been married to writer/producer Fred Rappaport since 1987.[15]


Years Title Role Notes
1961 The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis Lila Episode: "Crazylegs Gillis"
1981 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
1968-1974 The Carol Burnett Show Special Guest appearances
1969 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 Adaptation of the Gershwin musical produced by CBS as a special
1971–1973 Love, American Style Various 5 episodes
1974 The Michele Lee Show Michele Burton Pilot only
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 Marianne Cortino
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 Lewis (voice) Episode: "Extra Large Medium"
2013 See Dad Run Maggie Hobbs 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"


  • A Taste Of The Fantastic Michele Lee (Columbia, 1966)
  • L. David Sloane And Other Hits Of Today (Columbia, 1968)

As member of casts of musicals[edit]

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 November 19, 1998, at 6363 Hollywood Blvd.
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


  1. ^ a b "Michele Lee- Biography". Yahoo!. Retrieved April 12, 2013.
  2. ^ The Broadway League. "Michele Lee | IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". IBDB. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
  3. ^ https://www.allmusic.com/artist/michele-lee-mn0000468819
  4. ^ "Lee Goes 'Scandalous'". Cbsnews.com. December 9, 1998. Archived from the original on November 27, 2022. Retrieved November 27, 2022.
  5. ^ "Michele Lee". BFI. Archived from the original on August 13, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Michele Lee" at Encyclopedia.com.
  7. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 685. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  8. ^ "Michele Lee on Joan Rivers with Lucille Ball (Part 3)". The Joan Rivers Show. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  9. ^ "Knots Landing official website exclusive web only interviews Michele Lee". Knotslanding.net. March 16, 2003. Archived from the original on December 31, 2003. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
  10. ^ "Michele Lee | Academy of Television Arts & Sciences". Emmys.com. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
  11. ^ Knots Landing season 12 (1990-1991) Karen's Pollyanna Speech. YouTube. Accessed 2 May 2024.
  12. ^ "Knots Landing Reunion: Together..." TV Guide. December 5, 2005. Retrieved April 12, 2013.
  13. ^ Viagas, Robert (June 23, 2015). "Michele Lee Will Show How to Succeed in Broadway's Wicked". Playbill. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  14. ^ "Michele Lee Wed To Actor Farentino". Standard-Speaker. February 21, 1966. p. 17.
  15. ^ "Michele Lee weds". The Pittsburgh Press. October 2, 1987. p. 2.

External links[edit]