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'B&B' Soap Actress Darlene Conley


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'B&B' Soap Actress Darlene Conley

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Darlene Conley

LOS ANGELES, California -- Darlene Conley, a veteran stage and television actress who entertained daytime audiences for nearly two decades as the feisty fashion mogul Sally Spectra on "The Bold and the Beautiful," died Sunday, January 14 of stomach cancer at her Los Angeles home surrounded by family and friends. She was 72.

She was diagnosed with cancer about three months ago, and the show's producers were deciding how to portray the fate of her character, according to Eva Demirjian, a publicist for the CBS serial drama.

"She constantly entertained us with every move, every breath, every inflection of her voice. Whether she was the villain, the damsel, the sexpot or the comedienne, Darlene was brilliant," said Bradley P. Bell, the show's executive producer.

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Darlene Conley as Sally Spectra

She started on the long-running soap in December 1988, playing the flamboyant, red-haired chief of Spectra Creations and rival to Forrester Fashions. Her portrayal of Spectra earned her two Daytime Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actress and six Soap Opera Digest Awards.

With a career spanning fifty years, Conley once said, "Daytime television is really the best medium today for women of a certain age to do something really flashy; it's where what we do well as actresses matters."

Conley was born on July 18, 1934 in Dublin, Ireland. Raised in Chicago, she began her acting career at 15, when she was cast in the touring production of the Broadway hit, "The Heiress." After graduating from high school, she appeared in several stage productions, including "Cyrano de Bergerac," "The Baker's Wife" and "Night of the Iguana."

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Darlene Conley as Sally Spectra

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Conley was employed with the travelling theater group, The Chicago Uptown Circuit Players and Playwrights Company. She later found work in front of the camera, making small appearances in the movies, "The Birds," "Valley of the Dolls" and "Lady Sings the Blues."

Conley appeared on such television shows as "Murder, She Wrote," "Cagney & Lacey" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." She landed meatier roles, however, on daytime television in the late 1970s, playing a range of characters on "Days of Our Lives," "General Hospital" and "The Young and Restless."

A well-received performance as Rose DeVille on "The Young and the Restless" followed, with Conley playing many small roles on other soaps for most of the 1980s. An encore as Rose DeVille inspired William J. Bell to cast her as flamboyant fashion maven Sally Spectra on his newer serial.

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Joe Mascolo as Massimo Marone and

Darlene Conley as Sally Spectra

She was close friends with Fabio, who has appeared on "The Bold and the Beautiful" a number of times in the past, usually under the guise of celebrating her birthday. She was also friends with comedienne Phyllis Diller, who also appeared on the show as Sally's friend, Gladys.

Conley had reportedly been ill for several years due to a fall resulting in several broken bones. Although she recovered from the accident, Conley returned to work usually by performing her scenes while seated. In the fall of 2006, news reports disclosed that Conley had surgery and received treatment for stomach cancer.

Conley, who was divorced twice, is survived by her son, Raymond Woodson, and sisters, Carol Fontana and Sharon Wilson. Funeral arrangements were pending.

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