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A Seat on the Board

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TAKE OUR DAUGHTERS TO WORK Day is no once-a-year thing on the set of the CBS soap The Young and the Restless. William and Lee Phillip Bell, the husband-and-wife producers who created Y&R in 1973, gave daughter Lauralee Bell, 27, her first role on the show at 11 and made her a regular seven years later, in 1986. But mention nepotism, and the actress’s blue eyes flash. “The crew knows that if there’s a problem, I won’t tattle to Dad,” says Bell. “I grew up with them.”

And with Y&R fans. In her years on the show, Bell has matured from perky “Cricket” Blair to earnest, once-married attorney Christine Blair Romalotti. This week, prime-time viewers can see her in full flower when CBS airs an hour-long episode of Y&R, the top-rated soap since 1988, as a prelude to the Daytime Emmys on May 22. Bell isn’t up for an award, but no less a pro than the late Bette Davis vouched for her skill. In Bell’s scrapbook is a 1990 letter from Davis’s secretary, quoting the film legend as noting, “That actress playing Cricket is very talented. The way she played [her role] was brilliant.”

Bell’s parents figured she would never act at all. In 1979 when the family lived in Chicago, William Bell says he took the youngest of his three kids to L.A. for a walk-on part to show her that TV work was dull. But she enjoyed it, and after a taping in 1983, Bell found her sobbing in fear she would never return to the show. “That’s when we knew she really wanted this,” he says.

These days, there’s little to cry over; Lauralee spends hours on the phone with Scott Martin, 27, a Chicago graphic artist and old high school pal she says she called for a date “out of the blue” this year. It looks serious: in February, the two got tattoos together—hers a tiny heart on her hip. “I’m still young,” says Bell, “but no longer restless.”