Co-creating television’s top two daytime soaps is reason enough for Lee Phillip Bell to earn the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmys next month, but Bell’s history in broadcasting goes far beyond developing “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.”
More than 50 years ago, Bell was looking for work after graduating with a degree in microbiology from Northwestern U. when Windy City station WBKB-TV (later WBBM-TV) invited her brother Russ to do an on-air floral demonstration. (The Phillip family still owns and operates Phillip’s Flowers & Gifts in Chicago.) Bell appeared as her sibling’s assistant and returned for future spots — even though initially there was no remuneration.
However, when station personality Lucky North went on vacation, she selected Bell as her fill-in.
“I thought it would last a few weeks,” Bell recalls. “When Lucky came back, she said, ‘Stick around, young lady … you may get (another) job.’ ”
The late WBKB executive Sterling “Red” Quinlan, impressed with Bell’s ability to handle the rigors of live TV, also championed her. In 1953, Bell began hosting “Mornin’ Miss Lee,” and, later, “The Lee Phillip Show,” which became “Noonbreak.”
Traveling internationally to Paris and Rome to keep tabs of the latest fashion trends, and interviewing celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland were all part of her duties. At the same time, speaking to social issue dignitaries (such as pediatric cardiac surgeon Dr. Willis Potts) and bringing attention to public health interests are what Bell considers to have been most rewarding.
“(Dr. Potts) performed operations on children with heart problems,” recalls Bell. “He was a very tall, stately man. We also did shows on runaways, breast cancer and date rape.”
Bell’s knowledge of social issues later proved invaluable to her late husband, William J. Bell, who incorporated them into soap storylines.
Last summer, Bell returned to her on-air roots, appearing as herself on “Young” in a scene with show vet Jeanne Cooper.
“I had a few lines,” says Bell. “It was a great time.”
See extended profile on Lee Phillip Bell and her family’s influence in soaps: variety.com/boldandthebeautiful