Lee Phillip is a success in any rating
By Mary Daniels
April 4, 1976
Lee Phillip is not the kind of character her husband, Bill Bell, would write into one of his soap operas.
Yes this stable, pleasant woman as hostess of her own daily show on WBBM-TV (Channel 2) is as much must-viewing for a large segment of Chicago as the soaps. She has been around as long as some of them, too - 23 years.
Why has Lee lasted?
One gets a clue on tour of her airy, elegant apartment on East Lake Shore Drive overlooking Oak Street Beach.
Her husband, who writes two highly addictive soap operas, DAYS OF OUR LIVES and THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, has staked out most of the dining room with his work desk and jumbo TV set. A small book-lined den is his, also.
When asked where her study is, Lee shows you her bathroom sitting room, a mirrored, feminine retreat. Resting on the shelf that also serves as a dressing table are several books and some framed prayers.
It isn't something she particularly wants to talk about, but she is matter-of-face when asked.
"We are on this earth to serve, to make the most of ourselves. I always ask, 'Give me the opportunity to serve someone,' when I say my prayers in the morning. If I have not done someone something tangible during the day, that night I write out a check to charity; I call up someone I know is lonely or sick. A day that is not used to do something for someone else is a wasted day."
It doesn't take long to realize that this is a major theme in her life. Ask her about her show's longevity, and she modestly talks about its influence on others and not her influence on the show.
"The purpose of this show is to serve our viewers, leave them with something that applies to their lives." She says it is aimed at everyone. "This is not a woman-oriented show anymore. We never concentrated on the idea of change. It just happened. Basically, our program is to serve and entertain at the same time."
Lee Phillip is proof that a nice person doesn't have to finish last.
"I've been working since I was 5. I did a lot of sweeping the floor." However, it wasn't a cheerless childhood. She remembers playing Tarzan and other jungle games with her brother Jim. "I used to dance and pretend I was Shirley Temple."
Sometimes during busy holiday seasons, you may catch Lee and her children helping out at the main shop in La Grange. "We are a very close, religious family," she says.
Both she and her husband have similar backgrounds, she says. "Bill was a pinball boy, picked up golf balls, sold water sprinklers, mowed lawns."
"We lived in a one-room apartment with a pull-down bed when we first got married. We worked so hard we never had time to spend any money," she recalls. "Whatever we earned we saved. Bill believes in paying cash for things. We never had anything we couldn't afford." She stops and thinks for a moment.
"Bill did want a farm. We bought cattle, chickens, equipment. I used to feel I was working to feed the chickens. We gave each other a calf, and a manure spreader for Christmas. We lost money on everything!
To Time magazine's reference to her husband's income as more than $1 million a year, she replies, "Money has never been stressed in our family. We don't think how much are you making? All we know is, we're fulfilling what we want to do. That is one of the greatest luxuries in the world.
Some people dream of things. That's another thing we tell our children. Tangible things are not important; the only thing that is important, is us as a family unit."
And these strong family ties have kept her in Chicago. "I've been asked to go to Los Angeles and to New York. I've never seriously thought about it," she says. "From a practical point of view we should go to California because of Bill's work. He's nice enough to stay here. Both of our families are here."
When Lee first began her career, "somebody came into the store and said to my mother, 'What a shame your daughter is going into show business,'" Lee remembers. "She gave me a small Bible with my name on it so I wouldn't go astray."
Her mother can relax.