20 YEARS OF THE REEGE
NEW YORK ó As Live With Regis and Kelly/Kathie Lee celebrates 20 years in syndication, the man who holds the Guinness world record for hosting the most hours on TV (nearly 16,000) is pondering his future and wondering whether it might be time to pack it in.
His contract has two years to go, but re-upping “is a decision I have to make as we get closer to it,” says Regis Philbin, 76, who will decide in the next year.
“I’ve had a good run. Maybe it’s time,” he says, breaking into Reege-speak. “We’ll see how Regis feels. If Regis isn’t up to it, ‘Adios, amigos!’ ”
Philbin had triple bypass surgery five months ago and says he’s feeling fine; his health is a “minor consideration” when it comes to deciding his future.
He co-hosts four days a week with Kelly Ripa and lives across the street from the ABC studios that are home to Live, averaging 4 million viewers a day.
It’s a short enough commute, Philbin says. “It’s still a job, although it comes easy. When I have a week off I really enjoy the fact that I don’t have to get up, get dressed, shaved and get over here and be ‘on.’ ”
Michael Gelman, Philbin’s producer for the past 25 years, says he can’t imagine Philbin ever retiring. “He has the energy of a 30-year-old,” Gelman says, noting Philbin still plays clubs on weekends. “After his surgery he said, ‘Gelman, any other man would be dead!’ ”
Philbin has an intuitive appreciation for and an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture because he has been talking to celebrities longer than anyone else on TV, Gelman says. “Child stars he interviewed are now playing characters with bald heads.”
Ripa, who replaced Kathie Lee Gifford full time in 2001, says that although she’s still star-struck ó “Oh my God, it’s George Clooney!” ó Regis “has stayed at his house on Lake Como” in Italy.
Ripa says she marvels daily at Philbin’s skill at storytelling. “You and I would say, ‘I went to the store and picked up juice.’ Not Regis,” she says. “He takes you on a journey with twists, turns, layers and characters.”
On Sept. 14, Gifford will make her first appearance on the show since leaving in July 2000. It’s part of a two-week anniversary celebration that begins Monday.
Philbin says both co-hosts “have been great. I’ve been lucky. They learned right away what it was all about and how to do it,” he says. “They kind of remind me of each other: Kathie Lee was Kelly’s age when she joined me and got married and had kids. Kelly was married and had one child and two with us. Kathie Lee got a dog, and now here’s Kelly with her dog (Chewie, a Shih Tzu).”
20 YEARS OF THE REEGE