In Depth

In Their Own Words: Joy Philbin

Wife and occasional guest co-host with her on-air clotheshorse of a husband on “Live”

[The Daytime Emmys] will be quite an honor, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. It’s going to be a big night. We’ll be sitting there with some old, old friends and our two daughters and our son-in-law, hopefully. My heart is out there because I have a new grandson and two daughters and sisters. I’ve been trying to talk him into getting a little place out there, but too much family around him scares him, I think. Regis is taking some time off, so we’ll probably come home sometime the following week.

He looks great on the show. He’s always put together, but like most men, when he’s relaxing, he doesn’t bother with it. Not that he doesn’t have a closet full of great clothes, but he doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. He likes to have fun with Kelly about her shoes because Kelly is a shoe-aholic. He teases her about it. But he also likes to brag about his shoes with his initials on them. But I think that’s all in fun, When we’re up in Connecticut, he wears jeans and sneakers.

When I met Regis, he had a different role. He was Joey Bishop’s announcer. I loved his kind of funky personality, his mischievous boyishness.

I think Regis has become really well seasoned. He knows his craft now more than ever. We had some rough spots. He was out of work for a year when he made that move from ABC to NBC and they said, “Well, you know, Regis, nobody cares what you did last night, just get to the show.” They wanted to change everything and it didn’t work.

So he got the offer to come to New York. I don’t have to tell you that was a big move, because we had two little girls and we were living in this lovely big home in L.A. All of a sudden he’s offered a show in New York, which really got his juices flowing. He wanted to do it, but it was really tough. I saw this other side of him come out. He certainly hadn’t lost his confidence, and some men do when they’re unemployed for a year in this business.

So there we were in this apartment, 1,200 square feet, with two little girls who had never lived in cold weather, had had tree-lined streets where they rode their bikes, and now they’re in this chaos in New York. He would take the girls to the elevator every morning because he would drop them off at school on his way in to the show and it was so sweet. He would say to them, “OK, let’s make this a great day. This is going to be the best day.”

Something came out under those circumstances that he drew from and he made that show a success. It didn’t happen overnight. The press was not kind to him when we came here. They regarded him as a California boy. They thought he was some kind of interloper. He was an outsider. They were really killing him every day. He took a camera crew and he went to the Bronx and took everybody on a tour of his neighborhood and where he grew up. Long story short: It’s now called Regis Philbin Avenue, which is a nice ending to that story.

When we lived in L.A. and he was working with Sarah Purcell, she was going on vacation. He asked me to sit in for one day. I had aspirations before we were married and all that, but I had never done anything like that. I was slightly terrified, but I did it, and we had so much fun that I stayed the whole week. He wants whoever is sitting next to him to look good. He has less ego than most people in this business. Whoever sits next to him can feel that they’re going to come off looking good. That’s what he wants.

I’ve told this story that we did have an argument and went to bed not speaking and the next day Kathie Lee called at 6:30 in the morning and she was snowed in, couldn’t get in. I went out there with him and we had not spoken a word. It was very icy out there. We didn’t look at each other until we finally had to tell the audience what was going on. We each told our side of the story and then we took a vote and I won. I was right. Other than that, I can’t recall him saying anything that was really upsetting to me. I think he knew what the parameters were.