Randee Heller

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Randee Heller
Heller in 2018
Randee Antzis

(1947-06-10) June 10, 1947 (age 76)
Alma materEmerson College
Adelphi University
Years active1971–present

Randee Heller (born Randee Antzis; June 10, 1947)[1][2] is an American television and film actress known for playing Alice in the 1970s sitcom Soap – one of television's first lesbian characters – as well as for portraying Lucille LaRusso in the films The Karate Kid and The Karate Kid Part III, and in the streaming series Cobra Kai; and Bert Cooper's and Don Draper's elderly secretary Ida Blankenship in a recurring role on the series Mad Men.

Early life[edit]

Heller was born in Brooklyn, New York City, and grew up in West Hempstead, New York,[2] on Long Island, of Russian Jewish heritage.[3][4] After initially attending Emerson College in Boston, she returned to Long Island to graduate in 1969 from Adelphi University, where she studied theater.[2]


Heller as Helen Russell in Second Chance, 1987

The summer after graduation, she was cast in an Off-Broadway production of Godspell.[2] She went on to do the Broadway musical Grease, playing Rizzo.[5] In 1978, Heller moved from New York to California to pursue screen work.

Her role as Alice, one of the television's first lesbian characters, on the TV series Soap received mixed reviews, with criticism primarily directed not at her acting but at the stereotyping of her character.[6][7][8][9] The Boston Herald said that the characterization shows how "the networks have generally depicted lesbians either as suicidal losers or sexual predators." For example, it identifies Alice as "TV's first recurring lesbian character," noting that she "first tries to throw herself off a bridge, then falls for Jodie (Billy Crystal), a confused gay man, and finally runs off.".[10] Ahead of filming, producers ordered Heller's newly permed hair straightened at the network's insistence. Of a later episode in which Alice introduces her girlfriend, Heller said, "I went to kiss her in rehearsals and they said, 'No no no … you can’t do that.' I said, 'But she’s my girlfriend!' 'No, no no no, we can’t do that, we just cannot do that.' So it was so careful, it was so delicate in those days that you couldn’t really do your thing. … They wanted me to be a heterosexual homosexual."[9] Heller would appear as a lesbian character again in a 2010 episode of Grey's Anatomy "Almost Grown," playing the partner of a female patient with a brain tumor.[9]

Film career[edit]

After leaving Soap, the actress gained the role of Lucille LaRusso, mother of Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), in the Karate Kid movie series, appearing in the first and, as a cameo, third installments, to positive notices from critics.[11] Reviewer Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune noted her absence from the second film, "Heller's honest portrayal of a single parent trying to raise an adolescent was one of the genuine pleasures of the original film."[12] Ralph Macchio also "argued for her [inclusion]. Those scenes with her were some of my favorites in the original – they had some real emotion – and I honestly don't know why she isn't there."[13] Heller was also the voice that says "Hey Rock, you're a bum" in the first Rocky movie.

Other films include Fast Break (1979), Bulworth (1998), Monster-in-Law (2005), and Crazylove (2005).

Television guest appearances[edit]

Heller had a starring role as Carol in the 1979 TV movie Can You Hear the Laughter? The Story of Freddie Prinze. She has made guest appearances in television series including Murder, She Wrote, Less Than Perfect, ALF, Nip/Tuck, Judging Amy, Felicity, the children's series Drake & Josh, Night Court, Fame, and The White Shadow. She was a regular on the one-season program Husbands, Wives & Lovers (1978). Heller played leading roles in three short-lived sitcoms: Second Chance (1987), "Better Days (TV series)," and Mama Malone (1984). Her TV-movie appearances include Can You Hear the Laughter? The Story of Freddie Prinze and And Your Name is Jonah (both 1979). Heller had a recurring role in the fourth season (2010) of AMC's Mad Men as Bert Cooper's and Don Draper's elderly secretary Ida Blankenship. For this role she received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. Also, in the 2010s, she played the recurring role of Ryan's neighbor Margot on the American version of Wilfred

Since 2018, Heller has reprised the role of Lucille LaRusso in the streaming show Cobra Kai.

Stage career[edit]

Heller has appeared in such theater productions as Bermuda Avenue Triangle,[14] The Tale of the Allergist's Wife,[15] and Cabaret. Of her role in Cabaret, with one reviewer remarked that:

...she proved in her first five minutes that she knows how to develop a character, command a stage and deliver a song. Heller made a role that seems peripheral in some productions into a central part of the story. When her engagement to her Jewish beau, Herr Schultz, is called off, it symbolizes many of the small human tragedies brought about by Nazi hate.[16]

Heller also played the role of Barbra Streisand's mother in the stage performances of Streisand's Timeless concerts in 2000. She performed the role after having been diagnosed with breast cancer the year before and undergoing a double mastectomy and chemotherapy and radiation treatments.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Heller has been in a long-term relationship with TV writer-producer and former mime Robert Griffard and has two daughters.[1][3]



Year Title Role Directed by Notes
1979 Fast Break Jan Jack Smight Film debut
1984 The Karate Kid Lucille LaRusso John G. Avildsen
1986 The Ladies Club Harriet Janet Greek
1989 The Karate Kid Part III Lucille LaRusso John G. Avildsen
1993 The Baby Doll Murders Mrs. Maglia Paul Leder
1994 Frame-Up II: The Cover-Up Ruth Epstein Paul Leder Alternatively titled "Deadly Conspiracy"
1997 Matter of Trust Stoddard Joey Travolta
1998 Bulworth Mrs. Tannenbaum Warren Beatty
2005 Monster-in-Law Beverly Hills Dog Owner Robert Luketic
2005 Better Days Harriet Winners Raul Ingils
2005 Crazylove Principal Gail Ellie Kanner
2017 A Crooked Somebody Phylis Trevor White


Year Title Role Notes
1978 Husbands, Wives & Lovers Rita DeLatorre Season 1 (10 episodes)
1979 Supertrain Tammie Tyler Season 1, episode 5: "Superstar"
1979 240-Robert Joan Laurent Season 1, episode 3: "Bathysphere"
1979 Soap Alice Recurring role • Seasons 2 & 3 (9 episodes)
1980 The White Shadow Susan Season 2, episode 17: "The Stripper"
1980 Number 96 Marion Quintzel Unknown episode(s) • adaptation of the Australian soap opera
1981 Quincy, M.E. Iris Season 7, episode 5: "D.U.I"
1982 Today's FBI Unknown / unnamed role Season 1, episode 9: "A Woman's Story"
1983 Amanda's Barbara Mehrin Season 1, episode 7: "Last of the Red Hot Brothers"
1984 Oh Madeline Faye Rollins Season 1, episode 16: "Ladies' Night Out"
1984 Mama Malone Connie Malone Karamkopoulos Main role • Season 1 (13 episodes)
1984 Night Court Anita Fries Season 2, episode 1: "The Nun"
1985 Hunter Peg Sullivan Season 2, episode 5: "Killer in a Halloween Mask"
1985 Night Court Renee Season 3, episode 11: "Walk Away, Renee"
1985–86 Fame Peggy Persky Recurring role • season 5 (3 episodes)
1986 Better Days Harriet Winners Main role • season 1 (11 episodes)
1987 The Bronx Zoo Jeannie Recurring role • season 1 (2 episodes)
1987–88 Second Chance Helen Russell Main role • season 1 (21 episodes)
1989 ALF Elaine Ochmonek Season 3, episode 23: "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?"
1989–90 Who's the Boss Carol Recurring role • season 6 (2 episodes)
1990 Major Dad Lt. Colonel Maggie Connell Season 1, episode 15: "That Connell Woman"
1990 Midnight Caller Katie McGill Recurring role • season 2 (2 episodes)
1990 His & Hers Lynn Season 1, episode 1: "Pilot"
1990 The Fanelli Boys Viva Fontaine Season 1, episode 6: "Take My Ex-Wife, Please"
1990 WIOU Janet Harper Season 1, episode 3: "The Inquisition"
1991 Pacific Station Charlotte Season 1, episode 4: "Love and Death"
1991 Murder, She Wrote Lt. Cynthia Devereaux Season 8, episode 5: "Lines of Excellence"
1993 Camp Wilder Mom Season 1, episode 15: "Bringing Up Brody"
1993 Melrose Place Police Detective Altman Season 2, episode 2: "A Long Night's Journey"
1994 The Mommies Gary / Mary Season 1, episode 20: "Valentine's Day"
1994 Love & War Marjorie Season 3, episode 5: "A New York Yankee in Queen Dana's Court"
1994 ER Mrs. Goldberg Season 1, episode 11: "The Gift"
1996 High Incident Unknown / unnamed role Season 2, episode 5: "The Godfather"
1996 Family Matters Judge Jennifer Mooney Season 8, episode 12: "The Jury"
1997 Ink Woman Season 1, episode 14: "Life Without Mikey"
1997 Crisis Center Grocer's Mother Season 1, episode 1: "The Center"
1997 Coach Kathi Season 9, episode 20: "The Neighbor Hood"
1997 Fired Up Tina Recurring role • season 2 (3 episodes)
1999 Clueless Judge Geyser Season 3, episode 18: "Big Sissies"
1999 Chicago Hope Pam Miller Season 6, episode 2: "Y'Gotta Have Heart"
2000 Family Law Jessica Bronson Season 1, episode 18: "Necessity"
2001 Jack & Jill Mrs. Weyman Season 2, episode 6: "Pressure Points"
2001 Popular Judy Julian Recurring role • season 2 (2 episodes)
2001 Judging Amy Ms. Pankow (uncredited) Season 3, episode 4: "The Right Thing To Do"
2002 Felicity Psychiatrist Season 4, episode 21: "Felicity, Interrupted"
2002 Judging Amy Ms. Madsen (uncredited) Season 4, episode 10: "People of the Lie"
2003 Less Than Perfect Mrs. Ross Season 2, episode 3: "It Takes a Pillage"
2003 Judging Amy Paige Lange's Attorney Season 5, episode 8: "The Long Goodbye"
2004 Drake & Josh Grammy Nichols Season 1, episode 6: "Grammy"
2004 The Stones Lila Season 1, episode 3: "The Lawyer Trap"
2004 The Division Paul's Attorney Season 4, episode 20: "Be Careful What You Wish For"
2004 Clubhouse Interviewer Season 1, episode 4: "Trade Talks"
2005 Judging Amy Evelyn Pankow Season 6, episode 13: "Dream a Little Dream"
2005 Crossing Jordan Julie Harvey Season 4, episode 14: "Gray Murders"
2006 Nip/Tuck Saleswoman Season 4, episode 5: "Dawn Budge"
2009 Brothers & Sisters Karin Season 3, episode 24: "Mexico"
2009 Hawthorne Shirley Riddle Season 1, episode 9: "Mother's Day"
2010 Mad Men Ida Blankenship Recurring role • season 4 (5 episodes)
2010 Grey's Anatomy Joanne Ratigan Season 7, episode 5: "Almost Grown"
2011 Honey and Joy Dottie Television short
2011 In Plain Sight Dora Alpert Recurring role • season 4 (3 episodes)
2011 Desperate Housewives Karen Season 8, episode 5: "The Art of Making Art"
2011 Prime Suspect Mrs. Minoff Season 1, episode 7: "Wednesday's Child" • adaptation of the British TV series
2011 Generator Rex Additional voices Season 3, episode 5: "Phantom of the Soap Opera"
2012 The Mentalist Marta Roman Season 5, episode 8: "Red Sails in the Sunset"
2013 Emily Owens, M.D. Maggie Season 1, episode 13: "Emily and... the Leap"
2013 Modern Family Rita Season 5, episode 8: "ClosetCon '13
2013–14 Wilfred Margot Recurring role • seasons 3 & 4 (4 episodes) • adaptation of the Australian TV series
2014 Partners Judge Miller Season 1, episode 1: "They Come Together"
2016 Mary + Jane Aunt Grace Season 1, episode 3: "Sn**chelorette"
2018–present Cobra Kai Lucille LaRusso Seasons one, two, and four
2019 Station 19 Maria Season 2, episode 17: "Into The Wildfire"

Additional credits[edit]

Television film

  • Husbands and Wives ... as Rita Bell (1977)
  • ...And Your Name is Jonah ... as Connie (1979)
  • Can You Hear the Laughter? The Story of Freddie Prinze ... as Carol (1979)
  • Obsessed with a Married Woman ... as Rita (1985)
  • The Last Fling ... as Mimi (1987)
  • Changes ... as Carol Kellerman (1991)

Short film

  • Coma ... as Doug's Mother (2009)
  • Haunted with a View ... unknown / unnamed role (2011)

Selected theatre credits

  • Grease ... as Betty Rizzo (replacement) (February 14, 1972 – April 13, 1980)
  • Hurry Harry ... as Helena / writer / Native No. 4 / Not-So-Grand Lama / Gypsy (October 12, 1972 – October 13, 1972)


  1. ^ a b "Randee Heller Biography". TV Guide. Archived from the original on June 20, 2016. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e Eissner, Bonnie (November 24, 2014). "Randee (Antzis) Heller '69: That's Show Business". Garden City, New York: Adelphi University. Archived from the original on February 9, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Handy, Bruce (September 24, 2010). "An Interview With Randee Heller, Mad Men's Miss Blankenship". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved February 9, 2020. I was born in Brooklyn. But I was only two when we left and then we moved to Long Island.... I had grandparents that grew up in Russia.
  4. ^ Hochberg, Mina. "Q&A with Randee Heller" Archived 2010-09-23 at the Wayback Machine, AMCtv.com, 19 September 2010.
  5. ^ Jim Kershner. "Sandpoint schedule shaping up." The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), May 13, 2001, p. F3
  6. ^ Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Television Characters (1971-1980)
  7. ^ Clifford Pugh. "Much ado about Ellen/Houstonians plan parties to watch tonight's controversial episode", Houston Chronicle, April 30, 1997, Houston section, page 1.
  8. ^ "Gay TV history", The Orlando Sentinel, April 30, 1997, page E1.
  9. ^ a b c Taylor Cole Miller. "Don't Drop the Soap: American Television's Long-Lost Lesbian", The Huffington Post, May 28, 2013.
  10. ^ Mark A. Perigard. "Networks' record shows gay stereotyping", Boston Herald April 30, 1997, page 44.
  11. ^ George Williams. "'The Karate Kid' doesn't have to fight to be a winner", Sacramento Bee, June 22, 1984, Scene section, page D.
  12. ^ Gene Siskel. "In 'The Karate Kid Part II', Daniel and Miyagi are in the wrong fight", Chicago Tribune, June 20, 1986, p. 29
  13. ^ Gene Siskel. "Ralph Macchio's baby face can't mask maturing talent", Chicago Tribune, June 15, 1986, Arts section, p. 10
  14. ^ Jeff Murphy. "Walk down this 'Avenue' for a raucous night out", The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware), January 21, 2006, p. D3
  15. ^ Paul Hodgins. "'Allergist's Wife' finds sea legs - After a wobbly start, the comedy about Manhattan manners gathers steam and heads into a strong finale" (review), The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, California), May 30, 2005, p. A
  16. ^ Jim Kershner. "Dark musical: CdA Summer Theatre's `Cabaret' an entertaining show despite setting", The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), July 10, 2001, p. D7

External links[edit]