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Michele Lee Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trade Mark (4)  | Trivia (66)  | Personal Quotes (5)

Overview (3)

Born in Los Angeles, California, USA
Birth NameMichelle Lee Dusick
Height 5' 8½" (1.74 m)

Mini Bio (1)

The daughter of a premier makeup artist and the sister of a United States District Attorney, Michele Lee was born Michele Lee Dusick on June 24, 1942 in Los Angeles, California. Her childhood was consumed by the Hollywood entertainment industry. Lee was outgoing and had taken every chance to do plays in front of her family and friends. In junior high school, she continued acting in school plays. When she was in the 10th grade at Los Angeles' Alexander Hamilton High School, she tried out for the band and was the lead singer for that. Prior to her graduation from Hamilton, she landed her first role in the Broadway revue, "Vintage '60" and her career was launched. A small role in "Bravo Giovanni" and the lead role as Rosemary in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" followed. Her musical talent was brought to the attention of Columbia Records (now Sony) and she signed to the label in a hurry.

Shortly after she appeared in Broadway shows and became a singer, she began making a number of guest appearances on television doing dancing, singing and performing comedy routines on most live-action segments, most notably The Danny Kaye Show (1963). She was only 22 and her career was off to a firing start. She continued making guest appearances on a number of television specials and live-action series. However, the silver screen took precedence as she made her movie debut with the film How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967), followed by The Comic (1969), co-starring Dick Van Dyke. A year that, after her first child was born and soon after, she was back at work, starring as Secretary Carole Bennett on The Love Bug (1968), that it was the best movie of 1970 and it made it to the top of the box office all across the country.

While her laughter was brought unto the world and after giving birth to David Farentino, several months later her father passed away of a severe heart attack in 1970 at age 54. Michele was devastated by the loss of her father but she quickly directed herself to head back to work. She accepted a role on Broadway in "Seesaw", where her work gave her a 1974 Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. However, tragedy haunted Michele when she was unable to spring back for a long time after her mother died in 1974. Near the end of 1979, after being on vacation with her husband and only child, she accepted the leading role of the feisty-yet-friendly neighbor Karen Fairgate MacKenzie in the prime-time soap opera Knots Landing (1979), which spun-off the immensely popular serial Dallas (1978) on CBS. For 14 of those years, Michele was the big asset of the series and by the very first year that it debuted, it had low ratings and producers, at times, wanted to send "Dallas" stars to the cul-de-sac, including that of Larry Hagman, who met Lee after the pilot episode.

By the Fall of 1980, Lee and the producers of "Knots Landing" always wanted to do something better in order to boost up the ratings and in September of that same year, after refusing to accept "no" for an answer, former dancer and movie starlet Donna Mills came to the series by playing Lee's manipulative, nasty and least popular sister-in-law Abby Fairgate Cunningham Ewing Sumner, and the series became #1 for the next 13 seasons, among other 1980s soaps that stood the test of time. By 1982, she was nominated for one Emmy Award, but had won the Soap Opera Digest Award, three times. The triumph of the series was splendid but in real-life, her marriage to James Farentino was a burden and the couple was divorced in 1983. In 1989, while going on strong with her role on "Knots Landing", she also became the series' director, starting to direct several episodes of the series and just before Donna Mills left, making Lee the big star of the series.

By the 14th and the final season, most of her co-stars of "Knots Landing" were asked to be absent (except co-star Joan Van Ark, who left in 1992) a number of times on the series, but for Lee, she had declined to be absent and wanted to show up without pay. In 1993, "Knots Landing" was cancelled when her second family came to a close and due to high salary amongst her co-stars. When the series was dropped away from its schedule on CBS, she was open to new opportunities. She began to produce and develop her own television movies through her own production company. She has had an incredible career that spans almost 40 years in television, film and on stage and in 1999, she earned her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is located not far from the site of her very first audition for "Vintage '60".

In 1995, after learning a great deal from her idol Dottie West, she appeared in the CBS-TV movie Big Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story (1995), playing the character of the same name doing all the singing and knowing what it was like to be Dottie West. Before she came back to do a reunion movie called Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac (1997), she played a retarded woman named Dina Blake on Lifetime's Color Me Perfect (1996) and was the first lady to star, write and produce a movie for Cable Television and, like The Love Bug, it was the best movie on Cable Television in 1996. In 2000, she starred opposite Valerie Harper in the Broadway play "Tale of the Allergist's Wife" in New York and almost four years later after a 35-year-absence, she returned to the big screen to play Ben Stiller's mother in Along Came Polly (2004).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Richard Collins II (hugsarealwaysinorder@yahoo.com)

Spouse (2)

Fred A. Rappoport (27 September 1987 - present)
James Farentino (20 February 1966 - 22 June 1983) ( divorced) ( 1 child)

Trade Mark (4)

Seductive husky voice.
Her unique singing and dancing.
Often portrayed a character who was frequently a fighter.
The role of Karen Fairgate MacKenzie in Knots Landing (1979).

Trivia (66)

Holds the record for the greatest number of consecutive appearances by a leading actress in an hour-long prime-time dramatic series, for her 344 appearances on Knots Landing (1979).
Born at 1:25am-PWT.
Mother, with James Farentino, of son David Farentino.
Daughter of makeup artist Jack Dusick.
Graduated from Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, California, in 1960.
Was a dancer and a singer before becoming an actress.
After the death of her parents, she was approached by producers David Jacobs (creator of Dallas (1978)) and Michael Filerman while on the set of the TV movie, Bud and Lou (1978), in which she was acting in a role without singing or dancing. Two weeks later, Jacobs and Filerman asked her to star in the pilot for a series called Knots Landing (1979). In fact, ever since she had guest-starred in several dramatic and sitcom television series in the early 70s, she'd been looking for a television series to star in, hoping for a situation comedy, but instead she ended up on a dramatic series.
Was a heavy smoker when she was younger.
She participated in the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.
Is a spokesperson for Parents Involved In Educating Teenagers About Alcohol.
Is a longtime friend of former child star Ricky Schroder. She hired him to play her character's son in My Son Johnny (1991) in the early 1990s.
Relocated to New York in 2001, while appearing on Broadway in "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife".
Danced on stage with Gregory Hines.
Is a member of the Artists Committee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, better known as The Kennedy Center, in Washington, DC.
Her father, Jack Dusick, had worked for MGM Studios in the 1950s and 1960s.
During the final season of Knots Landing (1979) when other cast members were required to be "absent" for four episodes due to budget cutbacks, she offered to appear without pay.
On an episode of Knots Landing (1979), her character removed her wedding ring. From real-life, the ring she had been wearing was actually the one given to her by her mother. Although she and former husband James Farentino had already divorced, they remained close friends until his death in 2012.
She lived in the same Los Angeles house from 1963-2001.
Is an avid jogger.
Has a cat named Kit Ten.
Her family is Ashkenazi Jewish (from Russia and Poland).
Dottie West became her idol and she later played the late country singer's life in a television movie, Big Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story (1995).
Game show legends Chuck Barris and Bill Cullen became favorites of hers.
Appeared alongside Bill Bixby on the pilot of a 1970s trashy game show "Cop Out" that has never aired.
She was a longtime friend of the late Bill Bixby, but was not able to attend his funeral in Hawaii, because she was on vacation with her family.
In 1996, she became the first woman to produce, direct, write, and star in a motion picture made for television, Color Me Perfect (1996), which won the Christopher Award.
Watches every episode of 60 Minutes (1968).
The only time she worked with Bob Hope was on Broadway.
Was voted the best entertainer in high school.
Her first car was a Plymouth convertible.
Loves to travel to the Dutch-French island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean (also known as Sint Maarten [Dutch] and Saint-Martin [French]), and to the Canyon Ranch Spa in Tucson, Arizona, USA.
Her father, Jack Dusick, worked with popular actors Clint Eastwood and Richard Chamberlain, before his death in early 1970.
Met her first husband James Farentino after she starred in a 1961 Broadway musical, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" at a theatre on W. 46th Street, and he was simultaneously appearing in the drama "The Night of the Iguana" by Tennessee Williams at a theatre just one block away on W. 45th Street.
Has twice been nominated for Broadway's Tony Awards: in 1974 as Best Actress (Musical) for "Seesaw" and in 2001 as Best Actress (Featured Role - Play) for "A Tale of the Allergist's Wife".
Had a clause in her Knots Landing (1979) contract that her character would never be a grandmother.
Was a huge fan of Desperate Housewives (2004).
Best known by the public for her starring role as Karen Fairgate MacKenzie on Knots Landing (1979).
Went to the same high school with Joel Siegel, Al Michaels and Michelle Phillips.
Her ex-husband James Farentino died in 2012.
Is an alto.
Is the neighbor of Charles Durning, who goes out to a neighborhood restaurant with her.
Is a huge fan of Kenny Rogers's music. Lee co-starred with him in the television movie Big Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story (1995).
Met and worked for Lucille Ball's family when she was a young adult. After Ball's death, she continued her friendship with Lucy's daughter and son, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr..
Stays close to her ex-Knots Landing (1979) co-star, Joan Van Ark.
Her favorite episodes of Knots Landing (1979) are Sid's death, Val's missing twins, Laura's death and the Pollyanna Speech.
Is a staunch Republican.
She appeared alongside Tyne Daly, Leslie Uggams, Christine Baranski, and Karen Ziemba for the 2005 Kennedy Center Honors, paying tribute to her Knots Landing (1979) former co-star, Julie Harris.
After many years of suffering from injuries, between skiing and dancing, she was not able to participate as a finalist on Dancing with the Stars (2005).
Once rapped and danced with Dick Van Dyke about who would have won the People's Choice Awards in 1962.
Her favorite actress is Anne Bancroft.
Acting mentor and friend of Nicollette Sheridan.
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6363 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on November 19, 1998.
(2 November 2000) Co-starring with Valerie Harper in the Broadway Play "Tale of the Allergist's Wife" at The Ethel Barrymore Theater in New York [November 2000]
Aunt of Ryan Dusick.
Both of her ex-Knots Landing (1979) co-stars, John Pleshette and Kevin Dobson were lawyers. The most coincidental thing is, in real-life, they were both born and raised in New York City.
Once had a crush on Kevin Dobson, who co-starred on Kojak (1973), which featured his mentor (Telly Savalas), whose ex-de-facto stepdaughter (Nicollette Sheridan), also co-starred in Knots Landing (1979) with her.
Along with David Jacobs's and Michael Filerman's, it was her call for Donna Mills to audition for a role on Knots Landing (1979), when the show was nearly canceled after low ratings, for the first season. They all proved right and Mills was a big asset to the show for 9 years, until her departure in 1989.
Met Don Murray, her first television husband, on the set of Knots Landing (1979), where they developed an on- and off-screen friendship. When Murray was let go from that show, at the beginning of the third season, he continues to remain friends with Lee.
Met Dick Van Dyke in the movie The Comic (1969), where the two embarked on a lifelong friendship, for over 45 years.
Originally, Knots Landing (1979) was intended to be a soap opera vehicle for both her and Don Murray, from the beginning, who (Murray) also wanted the show to pay him more money that before, but they rejected him, therefore, he left at the beginning of the show's third season. After Murray's departure, he's still friends with Lee.
Along with Ted Shackelford and Joan Van Ark, she is one of only three actors to appear in both the first and last episodes of Knots Landing (1979): Knots Landing: Pilot (1979) and Knots Landing: Just Like Old Times: Part 2 (1993) respectively.
She is most widely known to be a social butterfly.
Her acting mentor was the late [Buddy Hackett].
Credits [Buddy Hackett] as her favorite acting mentor/best friend.
As an actress, she was highly influenced by [Buddy Hackett].

Personal Quotes (5)

I love doing things that may not be everybody else's cup of tea.
I was known as the entertainer, that's where I got my identity.
The first audition I ever went on, I was accompanied by my mother at the instruction of my father. "You have to learn how to take rejection if you really want to be an actor", he said. He had to eat his own words. I got the job.
[Differentiating between Knots Landing (1979) and Desperate Housewives (2004)]: The Teri Hatcher character, ("Susan Mayer"), who is the moral center, if you will, that would be like a "Karen" , my character. Then, there's the bad girl, Nicollette Sheridan, ("Edie Britt"), who is much like Donna Mills.
[on Sharon Gless, who was a young, unfamiliar actress, prior to signing up with Universal]: Sharon was touted as 'The New Talented Miss Thing.' You know the saying, 'You Light Up a Room,' her eyes twinkle, Sharon's eyes twinkle.

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