Robservations: Lee Phillip Bell, ‘First Lady of Chicago TV,’ recalled as ‘gracious and kind’

Lee Phillip Bell (1955 photo)

Robservations on the media beat:

Lee Phillip Bell, the Chicago talk show pioneer who co-created two long-running CBS soap operas, is being remembered as the “First Lady of Chicago Television.” Bell died Tuesday in Los Angeles at 91. From 1952 to 1986 she hosted “The Lee Phillip Show” and “Noonbreak” on CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2. Together with her late husband, William J. Bell, she created “The Young and the Restless” in 1973 and “The Bold and the Beautiful” in 1987, moving Bell-Phillip Television Productions to L.A. with their children, William James Bell, Bradley Phillip Bell and Lauralee Bell Martin. Born Loreley June Phillip in 1928 in Chicago, she graduated from Riverside-Brookfield High School and Northwestern University while working in her family’s floral shop. An opportunity to demonstrate flower arrangement led to full-time employment at CBS 2 and her first show, “Mornin’ Miss Lee.” “Our mother was a loving and supportive wife, mother and grandmother,” the family said in a statement. “Gracious and kind, she enriched the lives of all who knew her. We will miss her tremendously.”

Marquee Sports Network

There’s still no deal with Comcast Xfinity, but Marquee Sports Network announced a carriage agreement Wednesday with the cable provider WOW! (Wide Open West). Starting March 13, Chicago Cubs broadcasts will be available to WOW! customers on Chicago’s South Side and south suburbs, west suburban Naperville and Glendale Heights, and northwest suburban Elgin, Schaumburg, Mt. Prospect and Arlington Heights. “WOW! is the fourth largest provider in Chicago and an important part of our distribution landscape, and we are pleased to have them join the more than 40 carriage partners who have already signed on with Marquee Sports Network,” said Mike McCarthy, general manager of the joint venture between the Cubs and Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Jeff Garlin

Jeff Garlin, the Chicago-born actor and comedian, will headline an April Fool’s Day panel on “It’s Comedy! When Is Edgy Over the Edge?” at a fundraiser for the Museum of Broadcast Communications. With Dean Richards as moderator, the April 1 event also will feature a lineup of Chicago comics to be announced later. (Here is the link for tickets.) “Anyone I know who was funny is still funny and has not changed,” said Garlin, best known for “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Goldbergs.” “They evolve but they’ve not changed. There is no political correctness or no #MeToo movement that’s stopping good comedy.”

Tim Knight

Tim Knight, who stepped down earlier this month as president and chief executive officer of Tribune Publishing, has landed as president and CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. He succeeds David Hiller, another former Tribune CEO, who’s retiring after 10 years as head of the Chicago-based philanthropic grantmaker. “I am thrilled to be joining the McCormick Foundation, whose work helping communities and families in Chicagoland I have known and admired for many years,” Knight said in a statement. With more than $1.5 billion in assets, the foundation was established in 1955 on the death of Col. Robert R. McCormick, longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune.

Lauren Cohn

Welcome back to Lauren Cohn, who returns to work today as news anchor for Big John Howell’s afternoon show on Cumulus Media news/talk WLS 890-AM. Cohn has been out of commission since January 22 while undergoing treatment for a herniated disc in her lumbar spine. She reports she’s “doing a lot better.” Cohn, a former Chicago TV anchor who also co-hosted middays on WLS with Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, rejoined the station full-time as afternoon news anchor in 2019.

CBS 2 Chicago

On a night when there could have been reports on Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, White Sox, Wolves and even some college games, CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 aired no sports segment on its 10 p.m. newscast Tuesday. What happened? Hoping to capitalize on the lead-in audience for the Democratic presidential debate on CBS, the station front-loaded its news with more “enterprise stories” than usual. So the decision was made to drop sports, according to a CBS 2 spokeswoman, who called it a “one-shot deal.”

Anna Vasser

Colleagues are mourning the passing of Anna Vasser, an award-winning political and investigative producer at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 for more than 40 years. Vasser died Wednesday after a long illness at 66. “Anna loved news,” said Frank Whittaker, station manager and vice president of news at NBC 5. “She was constantly curious, always wanting to know what was happening. She delighted in covering breaking news, especially if it came from City Hall. Her contributions to NBC 5 over the years are countless. She will be sorely missed.” In 2011 Vasser and her husband, NBC 5 photographer Paul Nagaro, were inducted in the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Wednesday’s comment of the day: Jim Rocklin: The difference between subscriptions to Marquee [Sports Network] and Oprah Winfrey’s podcast is a matter of choice. If you’re not an Oprah fan, you have the choice of not signing up. But if your cable provider adds Marquee, you have no choice. It’s a done deal whether you’re a Cubs fan or not.