My memory ain’t what it used to be! But as I age, one thing is for sure, I yearn for those wonderful TV shows that are now deemed as classics. The go to place for free nostalgic TV is MeTV which is an acronym for Memorable Entertainment Television. The network airs a variety of classic TV shows from the 30s to the 90s. One day, I was channel surfing and came across an old-time favorite TV series on the MeTV network, Mannix. The detective series that ran from 1967 to 1975, featured the beautiful actress Gail Fisher, who played Peggy Fair on the hit CBS-TV show. Fisher was one of the first African American women to play a substantive role on television.

Gail Fisher was born on August 18, 1935 in East Orange, New Jersey. She was the youngest of five children. Fisher’s father died when she was two years old and her mother Ona, supported the family with a beauty shop she ran out of her home. While in high school, Fisher was a cheerleader and performed in plays. As a teenager Fisher started entering and winning beauty contests, including Miss Black New Jersey. She also entered and won a Coca-Cola contest that gave her a two-year scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.

Fisher’s first television role was in 1959, on the program Play of the Week. In 1960, the burgeoning performer starred in the film, The New Girl in the Office. The short film was a United States government sponsored document of integrationist fears. Fisher portrays the new Black girl in an all-white corporate workplace.

The melanin beauty went on to do a TV commercial in the early 60s for All laundry detergent, Fisher became the first Black person to have speaking lines in a nationally televised commercial.

Fisher then went on to eventually win a two-year scholarship from Coca-Cola to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. In 1962, Fisher became the first African American accepted to New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Repertory Theater. She studied with the famed acting coach Lee Strasberg, and worked with directors Elia Kazan, and Herbert Blau, who cast her in the 1965 Broadway play, Danton’s Death. The dusky voiced actress also understudied actress Ruby Dee in the Broadway play Purlie Victorious and toured with a production of A Raisin in the Sun.

Fisher and Mannix co-star, Mike Connors

In 1964, Fisher married her first husband John Levy, a jazz talent manager; the union produced two daughters. The pair would later divorce in 1972. Fisher was then briefly married to Wali Muhammad and Robert A. Walker, before again, divorces ensued.

In 1967, Fisher landed the role of Peggy Fair in the hit TV crime series, Mannix starring Mike Connors. The show was revised for the second season due to mediocre reviews and Fisher’s character was introduced. When the dusky voiced character joined the show, its ratings soared.

In 1970, Fisher became the very first African-American to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Peggy Fair in Mannix. She also won two Golden Globe Awards and again, was the first Black woman to win them. In 1969, Fisher was the recipient of an NAACP Image Award.

Fisher’s Emmy win

Some Mannix viewers who might have thought there was sexual chemistry between Peggy and her good-looking boss..NOT! Any hint of an interracial love pairing on television was completely taboo at the time. As a matter of fact, the CBS network did not even want to hire a Black woman for the role of Peggy. The show was eventually canceled in 1975 and afterward, Fisher’s career began to wane.

Fisher went on to make guest appearances on such popular TV shows as My Three Sons, Love American Style, and Fantasy Island.

In 1978, Fisher became tabloid fodder after being busted for possession of cocaine and marijuana. She would eventually go to rehabilitation and afterward, was able to maintain sobriety.

Fisher’s battles with drugs and failing health from both diabetes and emphysema, resulted in kidney failure. On December 2, 2000, Fisher passed away in Los Angeles; she was 65 years young.  Sadly, Fisher’s brother Clifton died 12 hours later from heart failure.