In Their Own Words: Michael Gelman
Executive producer of “Live With Regis and Kelly”
I was an intern on this show before Regis was here. I was answering the phones and was opening mail. I would bring it down. He always was very nice, but he never would remember my name. That’s when he started calling me Gelman. Regis’ device for remembering names is to use a nickname. Gelman was my high school nickname. There’s 50 Michaels in every classroom. Finally he started remembering I was Gelman. “Hey, Gelman.”
Then, because he remembered me, he would always call on me to do things. When I was associate producer, I had occasionally babysat for his kids. I was always a problem solver, so I would make things happen. I was the can-do guy who was always there for him. I became the can-do guy as associate producer, producing segments, and then when the head producer would go on vacation, I would fill in for up to a week at a time.
After years of working together, we started developing that kind of more social relationship. It always was odd. I was always an old soul and he still is a very young soul. We would go to certain events together, especially in the early years, when there weren’t as many side people around. There weren’t lots of publicists and assistants, so I would go with him. The show was his life, so we would spend a lot of time together.
He was a part of so many different chapters in my life. His life was very stable. He was a married guy with kids. He saw me through my youngest, just post-college, dating, partying years. Then my different long-term girlfriends, then my breakups, then my new long-term girlfriends. He was really instrumental in me meeting Laurie [Hibberd], my wife. I was accompanying him on a press/show-related event. He was the grand marshal of the Fort Lauderdale boat parade. I came with him. I was his guy. And I was a character on the show.
Laurie worked at a local TV station down there. Regis and this PR guy down there had concocted this whole story where they kept telling this young, single, pretty entertainment reporter that I was very interested in meeting somebody down there. They kept telling me that this girl down there was very interested in meeting me. It was very high school. I kept thinking, “I don’t want to be set up with some reporter down in Florida.” She interviewed Regis and she interviewed me. And Regis was, like, “Oh, my young producer Gelman,” talking me up.
He kept doing his whole Regis shtick, trying to get us together. We were on the boat and she was on the sidelines reporting. She did a segment called “The Buzz.” He called her Buzz Girl, I remember him calling on my cell phone, because back then, even now he doesn’t like to use a cell phone. He was calling, saying, “Get me the Buzz Girl.” “I’ve got Gelman here, and he really wants to see you tonight.” It’s a great story.
After the boat parade, we went to this after-party. Laurie was there. We started talking. Then a bunch of us all went out to some clubs. He felt very involved in that relationship and followed it as she ended up getting a job here in New York for “Fox After Breakfast” with Tom Bergeron on FX. Our relationship continued and he was in on it. He even went on her show as a favor to me. In those days it wasn’t competitive because it was on earlier in the morning, it was cable, and we didn’t even get FX in the city.
He had seen us through the dating, and, of course, they were predicting the marriage for many years, which probably put it off another two years, with me trying to spite Regis. When we finally got married, Regis spoke at the wedding, and he was one of my groomsmen. Marriage didn’t really change anything, because Laurie and I had been living together for a bunch of years. If anything, kids changed the relationship, because all of a sudden Gelman wasn’t available every night to go out on a whim. Now I was caught up in my own family.
He’s very inclusive. He’s a very open heart and a young spirit. He’s impressed by people. He finds people fascinating. So when he interviews people, that comes off. He has a natural curiosity, which is also part of his sort of childlike quality. That gives him some of his sparkle and his youthfulness.
Regis is the first to say he’s had a lot of ups and downs, but he’s lived a sort of charmed life. Because of his career and his path he’s taken and created for himself, he gets to meet some of the most interesting, talked-about people in the world, in the news and the pop culture. They know who he is, because a lot of people are watching us every day. Then he’s seeing them at night as part of the New York media party scene.
Gelman did not create the Gelman character. I would never assume that people wanted to hear about me in any way. I was the behind-the-scenes guy. I was the guy putting the show together. Regis had that knack of breaking through that wall and showing the reality of what’s going on behind the scenes and making it interesting and focusing on other people to make the show more human. So you picked up on the relationship he and I had. It all became part of the fun. He started talking to me a little bit here and a little bit there. If you add up how much air time I actually get, it’s probably not 30 seconds a show. But 30 seconds a show times tens of thousands of hours, all of a sudden people definitely know who I am.
Not that we’ve agreed on everything in 20-something years, but I don’t think there’s ever been raised voices between us. Or any big non-screaming fights, either. It’s not like every day he likes every decision I make or vice versa, but it’s a very even-keeled relationship between us. I think that’s part of the longevity. That’s what my personality is like. He’s more fiery with his screaming, but that’s really more his shtick. Like “Regis getting angry,” you know, kidding. Probably the most yelling that has ever gone on is his on-air kvetching.
There are a lot of things that could have happened, but they didn’t. I chose to stay here on the show. Every time my contract is up I think about what is it I want to do, and there’s always people who are interested in me, but obviously I stayed for a reason. It’s a really exciting job and lifestyle, and there’s that loyalty in our relationship that’s gone on for so long, not just with Regis, but with the whole staff, with everyone here.
It’s been an extremely successful run for everyone. We don’t radically change the show, because we don’t think the show is broken. We’re always tweaking, always twisting it a little bit. We’re getting better, bigger-name guests than ever. There’s rarely an A-name movie star or TV star or musical name we don’t get. Regis still is telling his stories like no one else can. He and Kelly [Ripa] have great chemistry together. It’s a part of America’s morning ritual. If you’re the kind of person who is able to be home at 9 a.m., it is appointment television.