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 r�sum�s," 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."