CHICAGO (CBS) — Lee Phillip Bell, who hosted a popular daytime talk show for decades on CBS 2 and also co-created two iconic soap operas, has died. She was 91.
Better known to Chicago viewers just as Lee Phillip, she was once known as the First Lady of Chicago television.
Phillip hosted a daily talk show on CBS 2 for more than 30 years going back to the station’s very origins. The show was originally titled “Mornin’ Miss Lee” in 1953, and became “The Lee Phillip Show.” At its height, “The Lee Phillip Show” also aired on other CBS stations around the country.
Phillip had studied microbiology at Northwestern University, but found her way into broadcasting thanks in part to her father’s west suburban flower shop.
It was the early 1950s, and local TV programmers were looking for low-budget ways to spruce up their shows. One local floral association was offering free flowers and segments on flower arranging to any TV station interested.
As a result of that offer, the part-time flower shop worker made her first TV appearance on WBKB-TV, the long-defunct Channel 4, arranging flowers. Shortly afterward, Phillip got a call from Red Quinlan, general manager of WBKB-TV, who asked if she wanted a job.
WBBM-TV, CBS 2 was established in 1953 after Channel 4 was vacated, and Phillip was one of the first on-air personalities.
CBS 2 Vault: A Salute To Lee Phillip
U.S. presidents Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan; Mayor Harold Washington; and the Daley family were among those whom Phillip interviewed. Also among her subjects were John Wayne, Judy Garland, Richard Simmons, Jerry Lewis, Liberace, Mike Royko, Michael Jordan, Billie Jean King, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, and the Rolling Stones – to name just a few.
As Ryan Morton wrote in Northwestern Magazine in 2007, “The Lee Phillip Show” was known for tackling social problems that were otherwise not often considered. The article noted that Phillip focused on such issues as the lives of prison inmates and runaways, and broadcast one of the first televised self-exams for breast cancer.
Phillip told Northwestern Magazine that her favorite interview was with Chicago pediatrician Willis Potts, who was the first full-time surgeon-in-chief at what was then known as Children’s Memorial Hospital.
Upon being renamed “Noonbreak” in 1977, the program was paired with a news report with one of CBS 2’s anchors – Mort Crim, Bob Wallace, Harry Porterfield, or the late Mike Parker – and a weather forecast by the late Harry Volkman. In its final years, the program went back to the name “The Lee Phillip Show” and moved to Sunday mornings.
The talk show ran until 1986.
From 1955 to 1965, Phillip also hosted “The Friendship Show,” a children’s program that introduced youngsters to their heroes, and also offered comfort to those left homeless and confined to hospitals.
The CBS News Special on Saturday nights also made Phillip Chicago’s first news anchorwoman. She worked alongside Jerry Dunphy and Fahey Flynn.
Phillip also hosted “The Rape of Paulette,” one of the first frank documentaries on sexual assault in 1973. It earned numerous regional and national Emmy Awards.
She also handled variety shows as host of “Lee Phillip’s Chicago.”
In the earliest days of “Mornin’ Miss Lee,” Phillip also forecast the weather.
“I used to wear hats with part of the weather forecast. I wore a rain hat and sun hat, and a cloudy hat,” Phillip told CBS 2 Meteorologist Megan Glaros back in 2013.
Phillip and her husband, William J. Bell, were also co-creators of the soap opera “The Young and the Restless,” which debuted on CBS in 1973. Phillip’s husband wrote his scripts from Chicago until 1987, when the couple created “The Bold and the Beautiful” and moved to California, according to Northwestern Magazine.
William Bell passed away in 2005 from complications related to Alzheimer’s’ disease, the magazine reported.
Lee Phillip Bell is survived by her three children.