Kelly Ripa: ‘I loved him’ but working with co-host Regis Philbin ‘was not a cakewalk’
Kelly Ripa is finally ready to reminisce about her complex relationship with former “Live With Regis and Kelly” co-host Regis Philbin.
In a recent interview with People, Ripa spoke of the difficulties she had when writing about her time with Philbin in her new book, “Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories.”
“There were good and bad days. I don’t want to feel like I’m slamming anyone or that I’m being disrespectful,” Ripa said of her experience with Philbin. “But I also want people to know it was not a cakewalk. It took years to earn my place there and earn things that are routinely given to the men I worked with. Including an office and a place to put my computer.”
Ripa, who co-hosted the morning talk show with Philbin from 2001 to 2011, rejected the idea that stepping into the role Kathie Lee Gifford left behind “came easily.”
From “Live!” to “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and beyond, Regis Philbin, who died Friday at 88, was TV’s consummate host: welcoming, energetic, irascible.
“People think I just showed up one day and was handed a job and I lived happily ever after and now everything’s perfect. But it never is that way.”
The 51-year-old recalled the strange circumstances of her onboarding for the talk show. In the wake of Gifford’s departure, Ripa served as guest co-host three times, but was repeatedly told that the network was not looking at the moment for a permanent co-host. Then one day she received a call from her agent saying she had been offered the position full time.
But the offer came with a warning.
“They want you to know who your boss is,” she said, referring to Philbin. “It was very ominous, and it did not feel good.”
According to Ripa, Philbin didn’t want her “bringing an entourage” on set, with her recalling, “I came with hair and makeup. It was not an unusual thing for people on a television show to show up with.” Before taking the stage, Philbin greeted her and executive producer Michael Gelman, saying, “Uh-oh, Gelman, it’s got an entourage.”
“I felt horrible. He was probably trying to be funny, but at the same time it felt like a pile-on,” Ripa said of the incident. “I understand that probably he didn’t want a co-host, but the network wanted me to be the co-host and I didn’t think I should pass up that opportunity. I don’t think it was fair to him. But it was also not fair to me.”
Morning after morning, Regis Philbin would help America brace itself for another workday with a contagious blend of enthusiasm, barbed humor and laments about the mundane ups and downs of everyday life — a visit from his mother-in-law, another tough loss for his bad-luck New York Mets, the wallet he accidentally left in a rental car.
In spite of the rocky times, Ripa noted she fondly remembers Philbin, who died in 2020.
“Off camera and outside of that building, it was a different thing. The handful of times we spent together, I so enjoyed,” she said. “We went to the same resort once on vacation and he came to a dinner I hosted — one of the favorite nights of my life. I never laughed so hard.”
She added she aspires to be as good a raconteur as her former on-air partner, whom she called “the world’s best storyteller.”
“If I could become a 10th as good, I’d be happy. It’s taking the audience on a ride with you and remembering that you are always the butt of the joke. I loved him, and I still do.”
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