Sunday, September 21, 2014

Elaine Lee Dead at 75


Elaine Lee, the 1970s-era sex symbol and star of the iconic soap opera Number 96, died on Friday. She was 75.

Though she was best known for her role as the flamboyant fashion designer Vera Collins in Number 96, Lee's stage, film and television career spanned four decades.

Her other credits included A Country Practice, Glenview High, and the critically acclaimed miniseries Anzacs.

More recently she was seen in another high school drama, Heartbreak High, the medical drama All Saints and Seven's long-running soap Home and Away.

She also appeared regularly on the stage and, for a time, starred in a one-woman show, "Turn on the Heat," which was loosely based on the last two hours of Marilyn Monroe's life.

Lee was born on December 23, 1939, in Springs, in what was known then as the Transvaal. It is now the Gauteng province of South Africa.

Her first break on the stage came when she was cast in the lead role of a Johannesburg production of "The World of Suzy Wong."

She came to Australia in 1970, initially to support her then-husband, the South African-born actor Garth Meade, to allow him to pursue his career. In time, however, her fame dramatically eclipsed his.

Lee was one of the original castmembers of Ten's Number 96, an adults only soap opera set in an apartment building. The night it premiered on television, in 1972, was famously branded "the night TV lost its virginity."

She remained on the show until 1975. In 1974 she also starred in the feature film version of Number 96, which was released in cinemas.

So popular was she in the role of Vera Collins that the producers considered giving her a spin-off series of her own, titled Fair Game. A pilot was filmed but plans for a series were abandoned.

Though much of Lee's career in Australia was on the television screen, she was an accomplished stage actress.

She had starring roles in "The Little Foxes" for the Queensland Theatre Company and in "Boezman and Lena" for the Q Theatre. She also starred in an Australian production of Tennessee Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth" alongside the iconic American actress Lauren Bacall.

Lee's final stage appearance was for the Marion Street Theatre in a production of "Later Than Spring," written by and starring Barry Creyton, in 2000.

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