On the 32nd Anniversary of Darlene Conley’s Bold & Beautiful Debut as Sally Spectra, a Loving Tribute to the Late Legend and Her Larger-Than-Life Character
CBS/Courtesy of the Everett Collection
There never was, nor will there ever be, another like her.
Longtime fans of The Bold and the Beautiful will recall that for its first couple of years, it was a pretty show about pretty people. Susan Flannery’s Stephanie Forrester had bite, of course, but otherwise, The Young and the Restless’ sister soap was populated by fairly interchangeable mannequins.
That all changed in a big way on January 17, 1989.
On that day, you see, The Bold and the Beautiful introduced to its canvas the singular sensation that was Darlene Conley. And though today she’s revered as one of daytime’s greats, and deservedly so, back then, she was just a hardworking actress going from one tough-broad role (“modeling agent” Rose DeVille on The Young and the Restless) to the next (prison warden Edith Hopkins on Days of Our Lives) to the next (ex-hooker Trixie on General Hospital).
How Lightning Struck
Conley might never have been cast on The Bold and the Beautiful had William J. Bell, the co-creator of both that show and Young & Restless, not brought her back for another run as the nefarious Rose in 1986. (The second time around, the character stole away Nina Webster’s newborn, Chance, to sell on the black market).
Inspired, Bell created for Conley what would become the role of her lifetime, that of Sally Spectra, an indomitable original who, ironically, peddled knockoffs of finer fashion houses’ designs. Both the conniver and her portrayer were instant hits. Nobody — not even Brooke Logan — pushed queen bee Stephanie’s buttons like Sally could. (Want proof? Watch their introduction below.)
But Sally was much more than just an antagonist for Stephanie. Outré as she was, she was also down-to-earth, a maternal figure not only to her actual kids but to the ragtag band of misfits that she employed at Spectra Fashions. She was lustful enough to make Brooke by comparison seem demure and innocent. And she was as funny as all get-out, as sassy and irrepressible as any three drag queens — combined.
One of a Kind
In her nearly 18-year run on The Bold and the Beautiful, Conley was twice nominated for a Daytime Emmy but didn’t take home the gold. Which sucks on one hand but makes sense on the other — what’s the point of giving a trophy to someone so clearly in a league of her own? She deserved her own category, never mind her own statuette.
Heck, there’s a reason that her alter ego is the only soap character to have her likeness on display at Madame Tussaud’s in both Amsterdam and Las Vegas; she was just. That. Special.
That being the case, when Conley died in 2007 at age 72, The Bold and the Beautiful was faced with a helluva dilemma: What to do about Sally? Ultimately, the powers that be decided that a character so much larger than life should just go ahead and defy death. So instead of inform viewers that Sally had passed away off screen, the show told its audience that she was on permanent vacation, soaking up the sun in St. Tropez while a cavalcade of scantily clad cabana boys tended to her every need.
It was, not to put too fine a point on it, perfect.
In 2017, The Bold and the Beautiful elected to write a new chapter of Sally’s story — through her namesake grandniece. While it would’ve been impossible for the soap to catch lightning in a bottle a second time, Sally 2.0 — as played by Courtney Hope with a go-for-broke attitude that Conley surely would have appreciated — proved so popular that when her storyline had run its course, she wasn’t discarded. Oh no, she was simply transferred to The Young and the Restless, where she continues to stir the pot just by entering any given room.
So, Bold & Beautiful fans, what’s your favorite memory of the original Sally? Drop it in the comments below, and while you’re here, check out the below photo gallery of some of her most legendary exploits.