Dusay, actress and grande dame of life, died peacefully of natural causes
on January 28 at her home in Manhattan. She was 83.
Dusay, known for her sharp wit, sophistication, AND BEAUTY, had a long
career in the public eye that began with modeling work in her native
Kansas. Eventually her innate elegance and high, wide cheekbones propelled
her into the pages and onto the covers of magazines in New York, San
Francisco, and Los Angeles, where she moved upon discovering her love of
performance. While continuing her print work she strove to find her
creative voice, first becoming a founding member of Rob Reiner's
groundbreaking improv comedy troupe, The Session, among whose improvisers
was fledgling actor Richard Dreyfuss.
first break on screen was in the Elvis Presley movie “Clambake,” where,
at the wrap party, she surprised Elvis by shoving a piece of cake in his
face. It wasn't long before she began working non-stop in film and on
television. She played Betty Tobin in Clint Eastwood's “Breezy” and
Gregory Peck's wife in “MacArthur.” Among all the top episodics of the
day on which she guest-starred were “Bonanza,” “The Wild, Wild
West,” “Get Smart,” “Hogan's Heroes,” “The Mod Squad,” and
“Star Trek,” where her episode, “Spock's Brain,” in which she
played the queen of a planet of women, became a Trekkie favorite. Other
series work included “Mannix,” “The FBI,” “Barnaby Jones,”
“Bret Maverick,” and the memorable “Odd Couple” episode “What
Does a Naked Lady Say to You?” in which she played said naked lady. She
recurred for six seasons on “The Facts of Life” as Blair's mother,
Monica Warner, which garnered her two Emmy nominations. It was during her
last two years on the show that she simultaneously began working in daytime
television, replacing the ailing Carolyn Jones as Myrna Clegg on the soap
opera “Capitol.” That part provided a template for 25 years of future
roles as glamorous, ambitious, and sometimes treacherous divas on several
long-running soaps: Pamela Capwell Conrad on “Santa Barbara,” Vanessa
Bennett on “All My Children,” and Alexandra Spaulding on “Guiding
Dusay was born Marjorie Ellen Mahoney on February 20, 1936, in Hays,
Kansas, and was raised in Russell, Kansas. An accomplished horsewoman from
an early age, she became proficient at training her family's horses. In
high school she excelled in debate and sports; at the University of Kansas
she performed in plays and was named Homecoming Queen. Ms. Dusay maintained
ties to her native state, serving on the University of Kansas Board for the
Theater Arts and as Kansas Film Commission Chairwoman for four years. Her
charitable work included lending her name and support to the AIDS
organizations Project Angel Food and God's Love We Deliver. She also
supported and held fundraisers for child abuse organizations.
1956 she had married her childhood sweetheart, John Dusay; the couple first
lived in New York then settled in San Francisco, where he practiced
medicine and she continued to model. When they divorced in 1965, Marj
relocated with their children, Debra and Randall, to Los Angeles. She later
married Thomas Perine in 1972, an Indianapolis business developer, and
became stepmother to his children, Lisa, Tammy, Tomas, and John; they
remained married until Mr. Perine's death in 1987.
Dusay moved East in 1993 to assume the role of Alexandra Spaulding on the
New York-based soap “Guiding Light.” In a couple of real-life plot
twists, she left the CBS soap for a lead on ABC's “All My Children,"
as Vanessa Bennett. When that character drowned, she returned to “Guiding Light” to replace
Joan Collins, who had replaced her as
Alexandra. She stayed with the role until the show's demise in 2009.
Dusay was still living in her adored adopted city at the time of her death.
She was predeceased by her son, Randall; her parent’s, Joseph and Marie
Mahoney; and her brothers John and Joseph Mahoney. She is survived by her
daughter, Debra Dusay Blocker; her son-in-law, David Blocker; her
granddaughter, Deena Blocker; and her siblings, Mary Ann Mahoney, Kathleen
Dunn, and Timothy Mahoney, along with numerous nieces and nephews. She will
be missed by all, including her legions of fans and friends.