“I swear to God!” avows Lee, who had a minor pop hit with “L. David Sloane” in 1968, a decade before her signature acting role as Karen Fairgate in the classic primetime TV soap Knots Landing.
“Too many people ask for it,” she adds of the brassy pop tune, in which she pleads for said Sloane to “leave me alone.” “I’m doing it as a medley of my hit!”
As Lee notes, however, she did indeed record a couple pop albums and “loads of turntable hits”—as singles that garnered airplay but not chart success were called back in the day. And she’ll accompany “L. David Sloane” with another lesser known Lee song, “I’m All I’ve Got,” which she sang in the 1962 Broadway musical Bravo Giovanni, long before her lead role in the 1973 Broadway musical Seesaw.
“One of the reasons I’m doing it is that it’s the exact opposite of the song I sing in Seesaw that more people know, 'Nobody Does It Like Me,'” she says, distinguishing the self-affirming “I’m All I’ve Got” with the self-deprecating Seesaw number.
“It’s a great song, and I love every word of what it’s saying,” says Lee, noting that “I’m All I’ve Got” also preceded her breakout role as Rosemary Pilkington in the Broadway musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, which she reprised in the 1967 film adaptation. It and "L. David Sloane" "aren’t expected of me" during her live sets, she adds.
But Lee, who was born Michele Lee Dusick, is hardly limited to Broadway, film and pop singing.
“People who know me from Broadway musicals know me as a belter—and I certainly can belt!” she proclaims. “In fact, my vocal coach told me I could easily have been an opera singer because I had the whole mechanism, and before I was on Broadway I actually lied about my age [she was 18 when she first performed on Broadway] and sang in clubs, with a jazz feel—when on Broadway they said you had to sing exactly the way the songs were written.”
At 54 Below, Lee will perform Broadway songs that she introduced, “plus a few others I love, and also a mixture of music by wonderful composers,” she says. “As you can tell, I’m also trying to do more of what I call ‘Michele Lee-isms—but I call them Michele Dusick-isms: Things I do off-the –cuff, or as I say, that ‘fall out of my mouth.’”
The fun and funny Lee, of course, is no stranger to the 54 Below neighborhood, having lived at The Whitby Hotel in Hell’s Kitchen when she was starring on Broadway in Bravo Giovanni.
“I had a kitchen like the one in Seesaw--when you have a kitchen, you don’t have a kitchen! I was cooking for the guy I was dating and eventually married—James Farentino: steak in the broiler and Kraft’s Mac & Cheese—what I knew how to cook!”
“But that’s my New York!” says Los Angelino Lee. “I’ve always been very bicoastal. Of course, people who know me only from television or certainly Knots Landing have no idea of my beginnings as an entertainer in Broadway musicals.”
“And the beginnings of Michele Lee were my New York parents,” she concludes. “I was brought to the womb in New York and born in L.A., so I was bicoastal before I was bicoastal, and now I’m back-and-forth all the time. New York is always in my blood.”
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