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Famous Like Me > Actress > L > Michele Lee

Profile of Michele Lee on Famous Like Me

Name: Michele Lee  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 24th June 1942
Place of Birth: Los Angeles, California, USA
Profession: Actress
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Michele Lee (born on June 24, 1942) is an American singer, actress, producer, director and frequent game show panelist, most known for her role as Karen Fairgate MacKenzie on the 1980s soap opera Knots Landing.

Born Michelle Lee Dusick to a Jewish family in Los Angeles, California, and to a popular makeup artist and a stay at home mother, she began singing in 1945, in front of her parents, and she was consumed into the entire community. When she was in high school during the 10th grade, she tried out for the band and served as lead singer. At her parents' wishes that in order for Michele to become an actress, she would drop the name Dusick, and drop the extra 'l' in Michelle, leaving her name Michele Lee.

She began her career on television in an episode of the late 1950s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and then began in musicals, becoming a star on Broadway at the age of 19 in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in the role of "Rosemary", opposite Robert Morse and the late Rudy Vallee, a role she repeated in the film version. After graduating from high school in 1960, she tried out and audition for Broadway plays in Vintage '60. Veteran producer David Merrick was used in the show when it came to a complete halt, thus, the play moved to New York. She also appeared in more plays like the Los Angeles production of Parade and in the New York-Italian production of ‘’Bravo Giovanni’’, that same year. .

In addition to starring on Broadway plays, she also made guest appearances on a number of variety & game shows, where she made her 1963 debut on an episode of The Danny Kaye Show. This part led into other guest appearances such as The Match Game, What’s My Line, (where she became a guest panelist twice), The Carol Burnett Show, Hollywood Squares, among many others. As her popularity grew in the late 1960s, she was also a recording artist signed to Columbia Records. Between 1967 & 1968, she recorded 2 separate albums in a year. The first album she recorded was A Taste of the Fantastic which followed by L. David Sloane. Those two albums had made it a bona fide hit. While singing, she performed mostly in nightclubs, and traveled to the famous Persian Room in New York and the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.

After she sang and starred in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967), she first became known for her saccharine sweet roles in the films The Love Bug (1968), and The Comic (1969). Soonafter The Love Bug hit the theaters, the couple had a son, David Farentino (born 6 July 1969), and at the same time, Lee’s movie, The Love Bug became the biggest blockbuster movie of 1969. Also, she appeared frequently as a game show panelist on a number of game shows, including The $25,000 Pyramid and Hollywood Squares. The 1970s were especially trying on Michele, as her father died in 1970. She worked infrequently until accepting a role on Broadway in Seesaw, which netted her a Tony Award nomination in 1974. In 1976, her mother died, and she stopped acting for years.

In 1979, she accepted an acting job after a three-year sabbatical, a role for a series called Knots Landing, a spinoff of Dallas, on which she played feisty matriarch, Karen Fairgate MacKenzie. The first episodes of the series were not high-rated and cancellation was rumored, but the network continued to support it and eventually the show took off. While her character was soaring, her real-life party ((in marriage)) was shaking when she & James Farentino were on the verge of divorcing, and as a result, Lee suggested to the producers/writers to work on a story based upon her character’s activity as a single mother in late 1981, after losing her 1st TV husband Don Murray due to complications of an automobile accident and after surgery. While she & James were divorced in 1983, she met Fred Rappaport at a party, a couple of years, before then, and the two got married in 1987. During the fall of 1982, she would soon work with yet another actor who was qualified to play her second husband Kevin Dobson. Dobson, who was a fan of Knots Landing, for years was hired to work with Lee, and would stay with his role until the very end, having to appear in every single episode, with the exception of the 1992-93 season. As one of the leads, Lee became very popular with fans, winning the Soap Opera Digest Award for Lead Actress five times, and was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, only once in 1982. In 1983, during the fifth season, the writers/producers of Knots Landing, had urged her to do a storyline based on her drug dependency. As she hated the script, she had no choice other than to do it and that part of the storyline had won her more awards than any other actress, and six years later, she started directing several episodes all the way until the very end. In 1990, Knots Landing was starting to reach a milestone, with almost at 300 episodes in a can (and was almost matching its parent’s soap, Dallas), and during its 12th season, she wrote the famous Pollyanna speech as to why she wouldn’t be a Pollyanna.

As the show moved into the 1990s, Knots Landing's popularity waned. The big budget that the series once had was trimmed, and in the final season, the higher paid cast members were asked to appear in only 15 of the season's 19 episodes, as the budget constraints had become so much that the production company couldn't pay them anymore. Lee refused and appeared in all 19 episodes that season (doing her extra four for union scale).

Since the cancellation of Knots Landing in 1993, Lee has appeared in many made-for-TV movies including a biopic of late country star Dottie West, as well as the Knots Landing reunion special, Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac. In 1996, she became the first woman to star, direct and produce the TV movie for Lifetime, Color Me Perfect. In 2004, she returned to feature films in the role of Ben Stiller's mother in Along Came Polly. She and her son moved to New York, at least temporarily.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Michele Lee