A northern California native with Italian and Portugese heritage, Karen always had a reputation as a fresh-faced, nice girl. She was a straight A student and a member of Future Teachers of America in high school. She competed in the Miss Teenage America pageant, prompting Ed Sullivan to proclaim, "I want that girl on my show," when he saw her performing her dancing talent act.
After "Room 222," Karen starred as Gidget in the film "Gidget Grows Up" and "Coffee, Tea or Me?" She guest-starred in "Starsky and Hutch," "Murder She Wrote," and numerous episodes of "The Love Boat" and "Love American Style." She was also a familiar face on "Hollywood Squares."
Karen became a regular on Dinah Shore's "Dinah's Place" talk show in the 1970s. She had two more shots at a regular TV series, "Karen," in 1975, and "Our Time" 10 years later. Both programs were canceled after one season.
In the past 10 years Karen has mostly worked on the stage, starring in "Romantic Comedy" on Broadway and in the Los Angeles production of "Steel Magnolias."
Karen hated to be called "cute," but even as she aged and attempted to diversify her acting roles, she found it difficult to break away from her image.