Even before she landed the role of Francesca on the NBC daytime
soap Sunset Beach, Lisa Coles was her own evil twin. As an
actress she went by the name Lisa Guerrero-Coles. As a
sportscaster she used only her deceased mother's maiden name,
calling herself Lisa Guerrero. "When I was looking for work, I
hired different agents, took two different head shots and made
different resumes," says Coles, 35. "I was two different people."
Coles plays both roles well. As a villainous vixen on Sunset
Beach, she helped catapult the campy series to 15th place in the
U.S. and, surprisingly, to the No. 1 daytime show in England. As
a reporter at KCBS-TV in Los Angeles she is the most visible
female sports journalist in either of the two major markets,
L.A. and New York City.
In February, Coles made an impact by standing up to Dennis
Rodman at his surreal Planet Hollywood press conference. Rodman,
who at the time was considering signing with the Los Angeles
Lakers, arrived for the media event a half hour late. Flanked by
his future ex-wife, Carmen Electra, Rodman announced that he had
no announcement to make regarding his status; spewed forth
comments both unintelligible and unprintable; and finally added,
"If I become a distraction, then I'll leave the team."
Coles, who had begun working at KCBS 10 months earlier and was
practically anonymous among her peers, turned on the Worm.
"Aren't you already a distraction to the team?" she asked.
"Aren't you being selfish?"
"I've been a team player, honey! ... For you to say something
like that, you've got problems," answered Rodman.
Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, who had never met
Coles, joined the fray. "She just said what we were all
thinking," said Plaschke.
"That," says Coles, an Orange County native, "is when Dennis
started to cry. The scene took on a freakish, circuslike
atmosphere. Then again, so does Sunset Beach."
Coles has a history of stoking the emotions of the less fair
sex. At 18 she earned a spot on the Los Angeles Rams
cheerleading squad. She performed on the sidelines for four
seasons, working her way up to squad captain. Then, in 1988, she
was hired by the Atlanta Falcons as their entertainment
director. Three years later she moved to Boston to do the same
job for the New England Patriots.
She moved back to Los Angeles in 1996. After bit parts in
sitcoms, including Frasier, Coles landed her Sunset Beach role
on the same day--April 22, 1998--that she was hired by KCBS.
"Both of my agents told me I would have to choose one career or
the other," she says. "I'm still deciding."
But who has time to stop and ponder? Coles's weekly calendar in
the past year allowed for no days off. "My first day off was
just this past week," she said in mid-April. "That's 51 straight
weeks. Seven-day weeks."
A goddess with a routine that even God would shun, Coles was,
until recently, on the Sunset Beach set Monday through Friday,
about 10 to 12 hours a day. Makeup and taping would consume her
mornings, and memorizing lines her nights. On weekends she files
remote reports for KCBS's live, two-hour SportsCentral program.
She also files for the station's evening newscasts. She has
substituted as a studio anchor, too.
"Some days are harder than others," says Coles, who is single.
"On Sundays during the football season, for example, since L.A.
no longer has an NFL team, I visit sports bars--we call it the
FanCam--and just talk to fans about whatever is on their minds."
Chances are it is Coles, unless the fans are blind. "Lisa is
beautiful, of course," says KCBS managing editor Rick Brown.
"But she's got spunk and knows football. She knows how to handle
herself in any situation."
Sent to Dodger Stadium in April to report on a game, Coles was
faced with the team's first home rainout in 11 years. She
quickly composed and delivered a poem. ("How many games have the
Dodgers played straight/Since the last time a rain-out was the
Blue Crew's fate?")
"I don't know about that evil-twin stuff," says Brown. "All I
know is that Lisa brings a fan's passion to what she does and
that she has the chops when the camera is on her. Since she came
to work for us, not one diamond tiara has been stolen."
COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD REINSDORF "I took two different head shots. I was two different people."
B/W PHOTO: COURTESY OF CBS [See caption above]