Michele Lee

Born Michele Lee Dusick
June 24, 1942
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress, singer, dancer, producer, director

Michele Lee (born June 24, 1942) is an American actress, singer, dancer, producer and director. She is known for her role as Karen Cooper Fairgate MacKenzie on the 1980s prime-time soap opera Knots Landing (1979–93), 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 (1961). 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). She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 1974 for Seesaw, 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 Broadway musical Wicked in 2015.

Lee was born Michele Lee Dusick on June 24, 1942, in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Sylvia Helen (née Silverstein) and Jack Dusick, a make-up artist. She is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, her ancestors being from Poland and Russia. She attended Alexander Hamilton High School. Her television career began at age 19, on the December 26, 1961, episode of the CBS-TV sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

When Lee was 18, after graduation from high school, she auditioned for the Broadway play, Vintage ’60. She soon began appearing in musicals, becoming a Broadway performer at the age of 19 in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying opposite Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee, a role she reprised in the film version. She also appeared in dramas such as the Los Angeles production of Jerry Herman’s Parade and the Broadway productions of Bravo Giovanni and The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife.

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 third-highest-grossing film of 1968 in the United States.

Knots Landing

In 1979, Lee accepted the role of Karen Fairgate on Knots Landing, a spin-off of the immensely 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.

Personal life

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. Their son, David Farentino, was born July 6, 1969. Lee and Farentino divorced in 1983. She married producer and writer Fred Rappaport in 1987.


Year Title Role Notes

1961 The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis Lila Episode: “Crazylegs Gillis”
1967 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 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
1971–1973 Love, American Style Various 5 episodes
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 Episode: “Extra Large Medium”
2013 See Dad Run Grandma Maggie 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”