On Nov. 18, Regis Philbin, 80, will step down from his ''Live!'' post after 28 years. Jerry Seinfeld has been tapped as the first guest cohost alongside Kelly Ripa, but a permanent replacement may not be named until next spring. Because who can possibly take the place of our one-of-a-kind Reege?
1. He has a long and unique showbiz history.
Regis’ first prominent gig was as a sidekick on Joey Bishop’s late-night talk show (think Regis as a skinnier Ed McMahon). Philbin quit one night in 1968, saying he felt ”not wanted.” (He returned shortly thereafter, but the show was canceled a year later.) In 1975, he moved to morning TV, turning A.M. Los Angeles into must-see viewing with his new style of off-the-cuff chat.
2. He plays well with the fairer sex.
Regis became a hit once he was paired with Cyndy Garvey (then wife of baseball’s Steve Garvey) on A.M. L.A. They started what became his trademark: commenting on the day’s events and each other’s foibles in a spontaneous way. He moved back to New York in the early ’80s and found his first TV soul mate in Kathie Lee Johnson (later Gifford) in 1985. Star squabblers were born! This has continued until today, with a cohost as feisty as he is, Kelly Ripa.
3. He’s a master improviser.
This remains the key to Regis’ success. He made TV art out of discussing the morning headlines, a movie screening he’d been to the previous night, or an argument with wife Joy. He made his bosses nervous but gave morning audiences something new, and viewers have loved his quarrelsome approach.
4. He’s passionate.
Whether Philbin is talking with Ripa about his beloved Notre Dame football team or the misadventures of the Kardashians, he can work himself into an entertaining froth. This could sometimes escalate into mock arguments with his cohost or with the barely off-camera producer Michael Gelman. (A strangled ”Gelman!” became Regis’ war cry.)
5. He’s tireless.
Regis once jumped off the roof of his L.A. studio as a stunt, and over the years he’s subbed for his pal David Letterman, who adores Reege, and moonlighted as the host of shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. He holds the Guinness World Record for ”Most Hours on U.S. Television.” Top that, replacement!