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TV Actress Gail Fisher Dies at 65

February 22, 2001 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Gail Fisher, who won an Emmy as secretary Peggy Fair on the 1970s TV series ``Mannix,″ has died at 65.

Fisher died at a Los Angeles hospital Dec. 2 of kidney failure.

``I think she opened new ground for a lot of people and allowed African-American actresses to be seen in a different light,″ ``Mannix″ star Mike Connors said Thursday.

Her acting roles became sporadic after her part on the detective series ended. She battled drugs and agreed to enter rehab after she was arrested in 1978 for cocaine possession.

She was on ``Mannix″ from 1968 to 1975, winning an Emmy Award for best supporting actress in 1970.

CBS initially balked at casting Fisher as the widowed secretary of tough-guy detective Joe Mannix, Connors said, but he and show producer Bruce Geller insisted she be hired. The network said Fisher would be immediately removed if there was any public backlash; there was none.

Fisher became one of the first black actresses to appear in a national TV commercial with speaking lines when she did an ad for All detergent in 1961.

Fisher was born in Orange, N.J., was named Miss Black New Jersey and won a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. She also was a member of the Repertory Theater at Lincoln Center, training under director Elia Kazan.