|Born||August 18, 1935|
Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||December 2, 2000 (aged 65)|
Culver City, California, U.S.
(m. 1964; div. 1972)
Robert A. Walker
(m. 1973; div. 1973)
Wali Muhammad (Walter Youngblood)
Gail Fisher (August 18, 1935 – December 2, 2000) was an American actress who was one of the first black women to play substantive roles in American television. She was best known for playing the role of secretary Peggy Fair on the television detective series Mannix from 1968 through 1975, a role for which she won two Golden Globe Awards and an Emmy Award; she was the first African-American woman to win those prestigious awards. She also won an NAACP Image Award in 1969. In addition to her acting career, Fisher was a successful jazz lyricist.
The youngest of five children, Fisher was born in Orange, New Jersey. Her father died when she was two years old, and she was raised by her mother, Ona Fisher, who supported her family with a home-operated hair-styling business while living in the Potter's Crossing neighborhood of Edison, New Jersey. She graduated from Metuchen High School in Metuchen, New Jersey. During her teenage years, she was a cheerleader and entered several beauty contests, winning the titles of Miss Transit, Miss Black New Jersey, and Miss Press Photographer.
In a contest sponsored by Coca-Cola, Fisher won the opportunity to spend two years studying acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. As a student of acting in New York City, she worked with Lee Strasberg and became a member of the Repertory Theater at Lincoln Center, where she worked with Elia Kazan and Herbert Blau. As a young woman, she also worked as a model.
Fisher made her first television appearance in 1960 at age 25, appearing in the NTA Film Network program The Play of the Week. Also during the early 1960s, she appeared in a television commercial for All laundry detergent, which she said made her "the first black female—no, make that black, period—to make a national TV commercial, on camera, with lines." In 1965, Herbert Blau cast her in a theatrical production of Danton's Death.
She first appeared in Mannix during the second season, when Mannix leaves a detective firm and sets up shop as a private investigator. She became the second African American woman after Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek to show prominently on weekly television. In 1968, she made guest appearances on the TV series My Three Sons; Love, American Style; and Room 222. In 1970, her work on Mannix was honored when she received the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, becoming the first African-American woman to do so. In 1971, Fisher became the first African-American woman to win a Golden Globe, and won her second in 1973. After Mannix was cancelled in 1975, she appeared on television about once a year, guest starring on popular shows such as Fantasy Island, Knight Rider, General Hospital, and The White Shadow.
Fisher was also a lyricist for a number of jazz songs. With Vincent Levy, she wrote lyrics to Joe Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," first performed by The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in 1966. The song was covered by dozens of artists, including The Buckinghams, who took the vocal version to #5 in August 1967. Fisher wrote lyrics for another Adderley song, "Do Do Do (What Now is Next)," with music by Nat Adderley, featured on the Cannonball Adderley Quintet's 1967 album 74 Miles Away. On the album's liner notes, critic Leonard Feather calls Fisher "the prettiest songwriter in town." Fisher also wrote lyrics for an existing jazz standard, "Stolen Moments," composed by Oliver Nelson; the vocal version was first recorded by Carmen McRae and Betty Carter on their 1987 album The Carmen McRae – Betty Carter Duets.
Fisher was married and divorced three times. She had two daughters, Samara and Jolie, from her 1964 marriage to John Levy. Her marriage to Wali Muhammad (Walter Youngblood), famed cornerman to Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali, ended in divorce when he changed religions. Wali was also an assistant minister to Malcolm X at Nation of Islam Mosque No. 7. Jet magazine reported in its July 26, 1973 issue that she also was married to Robert A. Walker, a businessman from Los Angeles.
Fisher died in Los Angeles in 2000, aged 65, reportedly from kidney failure.[note 1] Twelve hours later, her brother Clifton died from heart failure.
|1960||The New Girl||The New Girl in the Office||Short film co–written by Lewis Freedman and Lester Cooper and directed by Freedman|
|1987||Mankillers||Joan Hanson||Action film written and directed by David A. Prior|
|1959–60||The Play of the Week||Joyce Lane||Episode: "Simply Heavenly"|
|Guest||Episode: "Climate of Eden"|
|1962||The Defenders||The Singer||Episode: "Grandma TNT"|
|1967||He & She||Helen||Episode: "One of Our Firemen is Missing"|
|The Second Hundred Years||Young Matron||Episode: "Luke's First Christmas"|
|1968||My Three Sons||Carla||Episode: "Gossip, Incorporated"|
|1968–1975||Mannix||Peggy Fair||147 episodes|
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (1972, 1974)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (1971–1973)
|1969||Love, American Style||Mercy||Segment: "Love and the Hustler"|
|1970||Insight||Mrs. Carter||Episode: "The Incident on Danker Street"|
|1971||Room 222||Diana Brown||Episode: "Welcome Back, Miss Brown"|
|Love, American Style||Penny||Segment: "Love and the Baby"|
|1972||Every Man Needs One||Pauline Kramer||Made-for-TV-film written by Carl Kleinschmitt and directed by Jerry Paris|
|1975||Medical Center||Bonnie Horne||Episode: "Street Girl"|
|1979||Fantasy Island||Dr. Frantz||Episode: "Hit Man/The Swimmer"|
|1982||General Hospital||Judge Heller||Recurring|
|1983||Knight Rider||Thelma||Episode: "Short Notice"|
|1985||Hotel||Fran Willis||Episode: "Hearts and Minds"|
|1986||He's the Mayor||Lila||Episode: "Take My Father Please"|
|1990||Donor||Secretary||Made-for-TV-film written by Michael Braverman and directed by Larry Shaw|
|1970||Won||Emmy Awards||Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Drama||Mannix|
|1971||Nominated||Emmy Awards||Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Drama||Mannix|
|1972||Nominated||Emmy Awards||Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Drama||Mannix|
|1973||Nominated||Emmy Awards||Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Drama||Mannix|
|1971||Won||Golden Globe Award||Best Supporting Actress - Television Series||Mannix|
|1972||Nominated||Golden Globe Award||Best Supporting Actress - Television Series||Mannix|
|1973||Won||Golden Globe Award||Best Actress - Television Series Drama||Mannix|
|1974||Nominated||Golden Globe Award||Best Supporting Actress - Television Series||Mannix|