Two soap opera icons died a day apart this week. Lee Phillip Bell was 91 and James Lipton was 93. Bell and her husband, William Bell, were the Rodgers and Hammerstein of soap writers. She came up with the stories and he wrote the music
She received a degree in microbiology from Northwestern University. Bell returned to work in her family's floral shop with her brother. On occasion, she accompanied her brother, Russell, to the local television station where he worked on a local talk show demonstrating floral arrangements.
For more than 30 years in Chicago, "The Lee Phillip Show" tackled rarely considered social problems. She investigated the lives of prisoners, the struggles of runaways and the dangers of breast cancer (one of the first televised self-exams was demonstrated on her show). She interviewed Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter (and his entire extended family).
Lee Bell would learn about important issues via her television show, and pass them along to her husband, who left advertising and began writing for soap operas like "Guiding Light," "As the World Turns" and "Another World with Irna Phillips." He would then write stories around these issues. The couple lived on Howard Hughes' lavish California estate.
"Guiding Light" alum and soap writer James Lipton played the sinister Dr. Dick Grant on "Guiding Light" in the early 1950s. He was best known as the host of the interview series "Inside The Actors Studio." He passed away at the age of 93 from bladder cancer.
"Aw, man. If Heaven exists..." Scott Clifton, who plays Liam Spencer on "The Bold And The Beautiful," posted on Twitter.
"R.I.P. James Lipton," actor Jeff Daniels tweeted. "He made you want to tell him everything."
Lipton hosted "Inside The Actors Studio" from 1994 until 2018, in partnership with the New York Actors Studio. He asked probing questions to the likes of Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Glenn Close, Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro. Lipton said his favorite interview was with one of his former students.
"The night that one of my students has achieved so much that he or she comes back and sits down in that chair would be the night that I have waited for since we started this thing," Lipton told Larry King in a 2016 interview. "It turned out to be Bradley Cooper."
Lipton was also a prolific soap writer. He wrote episodes of "Another World" in 1965, more than 400 episodes of "The Doctors" between 1972 and 1974 and was the head writer for eight episodes of "Capitol" in the 1980s.
He survived by his wife of 50 years, Kedakai Lipton.
Let's put the "soap" in soap opera. The other day, I was walking in the Cleveland Clinic. A doctor approached another doc, hand outstretched. The medico pulled his hand away and gave a fist bump. Who knew that Howie Mandel, no-hand-shakes-just-fist-bumps Mandel, would be a medical pioneer?
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