|played by Ilene Graff
OWENS is the family's mom who had to struggle,
often hilariously, to raise a family while finishing a law degree. Ilene
has displayed on several episodes her startingly beautiful singing voice,
a talent that the producers wisely made use of. In a couple of episodes
she sung rousing numbers in duets with recurring guest Robert Goulet.
real reason the George and Marsha Owens decided to hire a housekeeper was
so that she could concentrate on getting back to studying law, which she
has always wanted to do. But with the coming of the kids, she's had to
set aside that dream for a moment to raise them. Through the course
of 6 seasons, we can steadily track her progress from being a simple housewife,
to serious law student, to full fledged lawyer. It was a bumpy
road though. She almost didn't become one after being discouraged by the
difficulties of being a housewife and a student at the same time. It was
a good thing Mr. Belvedere was around to set her straight.
ACTRESS, SINGER AND PERFORMER
who plays the lawyer-housewife-mother in Mr. Belvedere, is a familiar figure
on the Broadway stage. However, Ilene has put her Broadway career behind
her-- "at least for 10 years" -- concentrating on broadening her character
on Mr. Belvedere, eyeing additional film and television work, and returning
to her musical roots.
what I was born to do. I've never wanted to do anything else since I was
old enough to make a rational decision", says the Brooklyn-born performer.
" A five-year run for Mr. Belvedere is fullfilling an immediate dream of
having the opportunity to work on the same thing, making it better and
affording me the chance to sing again with a hopefully a somewhat more
Music has always
been a part of Graff's life. Her father is singer-arranger Jerry Graff,
a featured singer with top vocal groups such as the Pied Pipers and The
Beachcombers. Her mom, Judy, who died in 1988 of cancer, was a piano teacher.
Though her mom's passing has left a void in Ilene's life, she has filled
it somewhat by becoming the national spokesperson for the AMC Cancer Reasearch
Center in Denver.
As a teenager,
Graff worked as a studio singer doing background work and commercials.
She attended Ithaca College in upstate New York, graduating in 1970 and
immediately getting a job in the hot broadway musical "Promises, Promises",
as a pit singer and understudy for the lead.
to Broadway for two years as the first "Sandy" in "Grease" and then created
the role of "Cleo" in "I love My Wife". It was during Grease that she met
her future husband, musical director Ben Lanzarone. It was her husband
who sparked the move to the West Coast.
started doing television pilots. "I felt strength in this area because
I knew how to work fast to get a laugh. I knew there was room for me. It's
just taken longer than anticipated to find the right one. " smiles
Though her television
credits are many, including guest roles in "Three's Company" and
"Remington Steele", Graff laughs when asked to compare stage and
television. "We're led to believe that Broadway is the toughest place
to get a job. 'A Chorus Line' has done that. Well there's no comparison.
It's much harder here (TV). The competition is greater and it takes a lot
of adjusting. The hardest part is the time between jobs, even if you work
has another career...raising her five year old daughter, Nikka (who must
be around 14 today). It just might be her toughest.
Ilene has since
appeared in movies like Ladybugs and Abandoned and Deceived and is reportedly
currently performing in musical plays.
One of Ilene's
and her husband's most favorite activities nowadays is to participate in
the annual Cedar Rapids telethon coinciding with the one in Des Moines.
Last year, 1999, she spent her birthday (Feb 28) helping to raise
$45 million for the Variety Club Children's Charity where she got to sing
many of her husband's hits.
Ilene is currently
doing a play called "I Ought To Be In Pictures" with
("Three's Comany"), touring from The Norris Theater in
Estates, and continues on weekends in Santa Barbara
at the LObero
and then the University of Judaism in Bel Air.