Who wants to be a perky talk-show host? For the producers of top-rated Live With Regis, soap star Kelly Ripa is the final answer. After a six-month search, Ripa, 30, will debut as Regis Philbin’s permanent cohort Feb. 12 on the newly renamed Live With Regis & Kelly. ”There’s an honesty that they both have that is very refreshing,” gushes exec producer Michael Gelman on the stars’ chemistry. ”They’re not afraid to kid one another.”
Ripa, who’s starred for 10 years as willful heroine Hayley Vaughan Santos on ABC’s All My Children, beat out a slew of contenders for the job. She replaces Philbin’s 15-year foil, Kathie Lee Gifford, who said a long, teary goodbye last July.
”I don’t think there’s any replacing her,” notes Ripa, in a startlingly adoring tone. ”She’s a singer and a dancer, and she’s gorgeous.” Ripa’s on-air dancing experience is limited to a stint on Dance Party USA in the ’80s, and she says she’d sing ”only to save the life of my own son.”
A similarly fawning Gifford said in a statement that Ripa ”seems to have just the right balance of sparkle and sass.”
The actress, who’ll continue a scaled-back schedule on AMC, has a 3-year-old, Michael, and another child due in June, with actor husband Mark Consuelos, 29. So should we expect more Cody/Cassidy-style ramblings to accompany our morning lattes? ”I defy you to go on live TV every day for 20 minutes … and not talk about your family,” she says. ”It can’t be done.”
WHAT’S HER LINE?
As a nod to Regis’ other gig, here’s a quiz about morning TV’s newest personality:
What terrible fate has Ripa not met on All My Children?
A She was kidnapped and buried alive.
B Her husband had an affair with her mother.
C She discovered an evil twin named Kathie.
D Her personality split after allegedly killing her mom.
ANSWER: C. ”I don’t have to kill my mother on [Live],” says Ripa. ”Regis is glad to hear that.”
In what way is Ripa not like her Live predecessor?
A Her husband performs with her on TV.
B She’s an aspiring fashion designer.
C She appears pregnant on the talk show.
D She has experience in music television.
ANSWER: B. ”I’m not creative that way. I’m a mess,” says the pregnant Ripa, whose husband costars on AMC. ”I can barely get myself dressed in the morning.”
What music TV show did Ripa briefly cohost in 1994?
A Yo! MTV Raps
B Music Scoupe
C Solid Gold
D Headbanger’s Ball
ANSWER: B. ”It aired maybe twice,” says Ripa of the syndicated dud. ”I was just sent flowers from the cohost of that show [Kyle Gates], and on the card it said, ‘Forget Regis — let’s do Music Scoupe 2!”’
Which college did Ripa’s husband attend for two years?
A Boston College
B Pine Valley Community College
D Notre Dame
ANSWER: D. Ripa says that rabid Fighting Irish alum Philbin was thrilled. ”Regis tells me that I got the job because my husband went to Notre Dame.”