The ‘Host Whisperer’ Reflects on Regis
June 15, 2008 8:50 PM
Reege makes a good guest but a better host. In fact, his peers say he’s the best. Just ask Peter Lassally, once dubbed “the host whisperer” by the New York Times for having been executive producer for such late-nighters as Johnny Carson, David Letterman and, now, Craig Ferguson.
In a recent conversation occasioned by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Lifetime Achievement Award to be given to Regis Philbin Friday, Mr. Lassally talked about the co-host of “Live With Regis and Kelly,” whom he met 20 or so years ago at a reunion of NBC pages.
“We became friends. Good, close friends. I’ve never worked with Regis except when he was a guest. I was a fan of his, because I’ve seen all his different talk shows. Three of the guys I have worked with, namely Johnny Carson, David Letterman and Craig Ferguson, all are in awe of Regis and would say to me, ‘How does he do it? He can have a bad guest and make them look good.’ I know from experience that any host can have a bad guest and die with them, but Regis somehow doesn’t do that. And yet he’s as insecure as most performers off-camera. So he doesn’t believe it when I say, ‘Well, Dave thinks you’re just the best there is.’ Regis’ [on-camera] relationship with Letterman is sensational. Regis used to be a very bad guest for many years, until he somehow found a hook in saying, ‘I wanna be friends with Dave.’ Ever since he found that, he became better and better and better. So now it’s all, ‘Poor Regis, Dave won’t go out with him, Dave won’t be his friend,’ and it’s a sensational arrangement. Now he’s a great guest. Whenever Dave needs security, he asks Regis to be the guest. That’s his anchor.”