“I was known as ‘The Entertainer.’ That's where I got my identity.” Michele Lee
Making her Broadway debut at age 18 in David Merrick's "Vintage '60" (1960), two-time Tony-nominated actress Michele Lee, a former singer and dancer, garnered critical acclaim for her performances in the Broadway productions of "Seesaw" (1973) and "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" (2000). She also held 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 as Karen Cooper Fairgate MacKenzie on the long running CBS primetime television soap opera "Knots Landing" (1979-1993). She also appeared in several episodes of "The Love Boat" and guest starred in an episode of "Will & Grace." Additionally, Michelle became the first woman to produce, direct, write and star in a motion picture made for television, “Color Me Perfect” (1996), which aired on Lifetime and won the Christopher Award. She also executive-produced and played the title role in the USA Network biopic about the best-selling author, "Scandalous Me: The Jacqueline Susann Story" (1998).
On the big screen, Lee starred in the films "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" (1967; reprised her stage role of Rosemary), "The Love Bug" (1968), "The Comic" (1969), and "Along Came Polly" (2004).
More personally, this 5' 8½" perky brunette has been married twice, once to actor James Farentino (1966-1983) and later to producer/writer Fred A. Rappaport (1987-present). She has one son, actor David Farentino.
Lee received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 19, 1998.
Childhood and Family:
The daughter of Sylvia Helen Dusick and makeup artist Jack Dusick, who worked for MGM Studios in the 1950s and 1960s and collaborated with popular actors Clint Eastwood and Richard Chamberlain before his death in early 1970, Michelle Lee Dusick was born in Los Angeles, California, on June 24, 1942. She has one sister who works as a United States District Attorney. In 1960, Michele graduated from Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, California, where she was voted the best entertainer. Her father died in 1970 from a massive heart attack and her mother passed away six years later.
On the set of the 1961 Broadway musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” Lee met her first husband, James Farentino (born on February 24, 1938) and they were married on February 20, 1966. They have one son, David Michael Farentino (born July 6, 1969), who appeared in two episodes of "Knots Landing" and played a small part in her TV movie "Scandalous Me: The Jacqueline Susann Story" (1998).
Lee and Farentino divorced in 1983 and she then met producer/writer Fred A. Rappaport at a party. They tied the knot on September 27, 1987.
Lee, who was a heavy smoker at an earlier age, is an avid jogger. She is a spokesperson for Parents Involved In Educating Teenagers About Alcohol and has participated in the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. She is also a member of the Artists Committee of the John F. Kennedy for the Performing Arts.
Lee is a longtime friend of actor Rick Schroder and the late Bill Bixby. In 2001, she relocated to New York with her son David. She has a cat named Kit Ten.
A former dancer and a singer, Michele Lee landed her first role in the Broadway revival of David Merrick's "Vintage '60" prior to her graduation from Hamilton and her acting career was subsequently launched. After playing a small role in the musical "Bravo Giovanni," she created the role of Rosemary in the stage musical "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" (1962), which she would reprise in its film adaptation in 1967.
Lee made her TV debut on the CBS variety show "The Danny Kaye Show" (1963) and starred in an unsold sitcom pilot called "I Married a Bear" (1967). She was also signed to Columbia Records and recorded the single "L. David Sloane" that charted at #52 in May 1968.
In the 1970s, Lee replaced Lanie Kazan in the 1973 Broadway musical "Seesaw," for which she received a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical and won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance. She also made her TV series debut, playing the regular role of Karen Cooper Fairgate MacKenzie on the CBS primetime television soap opera "Knots Landing." Staying on the show from its premiere on December 27, 1979, until its final episode on May 13, 1993, Lee becomes the only cast member to appear in all 344 episodes. which was a record for most appearances of a female character on American primetime television. The record was later surpassed by S. Epatha Merkerson's character on NBC's “Law & Order.”
Her performance in the long-running show earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1982. She also won Soap Opera Digest Awards' Outstanding Actress (1992), Outstanding Lead Actress (1991), Favorite Super Couple: Prime Time (1988), Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role: Prime Time (1988), and Favorite Super Couple on a Prime Time Serial (1986). Differentiating between her show “Knots Landing” and her favorite show “Desperate Housewives,” Lee explained, “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, Nicolette Sheridan, (Edie Britt), who is much like Donna Mills.”
Post "Knots Landing," Lee became the first woman to produce, direct, write and star in a motion picture made for television, “Color Me Perfect” (1996), which aired on Lifetime and won the Christopher Award. In 1998, she executive-produced and played the title role in the USA Network biopic about the best-selling author, "Scandalous Me: The Jacqueline Susann Story." That same year, on November 19, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Entering the new millennium, Lee returned to the New York stage in a production of Charles Busch's titled "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," which originated Off-Broadway. For her performance in the play, Lee was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. She also lent her voice to the made-for-television movie "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" (2000) and appeared alongside Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston in writer/director John Hamburg's romantic comedy film "Along Came Polly" (2004). She was then spotted as a guest in an episode of NBC’s "Miss Match," the short-lived ABC sitcom "Married to the Kellys," and NBC's Emmy Award-winning sitcom starring Eric McCormack and Debra Messing, "Will & Grace."
“I love doing things that may not be everybody else's cup of tea.” Michele Lee
Soap Opera Digest: Outstanding Actress: Prime Time, "Knots Landing," 1992
Soap Opera Digest: Outstanding Lead Actress: Prime Time, "Knots Landing," 1991
Soap Opera Digest: Favorite Super Couple: Prime Time, "Knots Landing," 1988
Soap Opera Digest: Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role: Prime Time, "Knots Landing," 1988
Soap Opera Digest: Favorite Super Couple on a Prime Time Serial, "Knots Landing," 1986
Drama Desk: Outstanding Performance, “Seesaw,” 1974