Born Gisele Lafleche in Winnipeg, Canada, Gisele MacKenzie was known for her pop/rock hits "Hard to Get" and "Pepper-Hot Baby." She was a regular vocalist on Your Hit Parade from 1953-57. Her musical and acting career took her from recording studios, to radio stations, to television and to the stage.
Gisele Lafleche learned to play the violin and piano as she was growing up in Winnipeg. Along with her singing ability, learning to play instruments made her more marketable. When she married, she adopted her husband's last name, making her Gisele MacKenzie. She received her first professional job playing in the Bob Shuttleworth Band; Shuttleworth later became MacKenzie's manager.
Her musical career took off in the late 1940s when she got her own radio show on the Canadian Broadcast Channel. It was not until 1955 that she recorded "Hard to Get" and "Pepper-Hot Baby," both minor hits. Her first four albums -- Gisele MacKenzie, Mam'selle Gisele, Christmas With Gisele and Gisele -- were released on the Vik label, a division of RCA Records. Hard to Get: The Best of Gisele MacKenzie is an anthology devoted to the songs she recorded while at RCA. Also on the RCA label is a series of children's albums she produced for the Cricket Playhour.
In 1957, Gisele MacKenzie began her own television program on NBC, which lasted only one season. Her television career had started in 1950 when she made an appearance on The Jack Benny Program, shortly after appearing as a regular vocalist on Your Hit Parade. It was not until 1963 that she reappeared on ABC's The Sid Caesar Show. singing a song each week and sometimes playing Sid Caesar's fourth wife.
In the early '60s, MacKenzie released three albums -- Gisele MacKenzie At the Empire Room of the Waldorf Astoria, Gisele MacKenzie Sings Lullaby and Goodnight, and Losers' Lullabies -- and later toured the United States. She sang in nightclubs and performed the lead vocals in such musicals as The King and I, South Pacific, Hello Dolly and The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
Gisele MacKenzie made a television "comeback" in the 1980s when she made guest appearances on MacGyver and Murder She Wrote. She never lost her interest in singing while pursuing an acting career and in 1996 wrote an anthem to the city of Los Angeles called "My City, L.A.," which proved quite popular in the city. MacKenzie was diagnosed with cancer a few years later and finally succumbed early in September of 2003. ~ Kim Summers