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Regis on the Red Carpet, Again

Feb 17, 2008  •  Post A Comment

One of Regis Philbin’s signature lines used to be “I’m Only One Man.” It became the title of a best-selling book.
But for one man, the host of “Live With Regis and Kelly” has always popped up in a lot of places other than next to co-host Kelly Ripa. But his career is not limited to the syndicated hit; he’s juggled “Live” with prime-time shows for ABC (“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”), NBC (“America’s Got Talent”) and soon CBS (“Million Dollar Password”).
He’s a go-to guest for David Letterman. During his appearance last week, Mr. Philbin kissed the “Late Show” host while they slow-danced. Don’t ask. But they do make a cute couple of jokesters.
On many weekends he takes his singing act on the road, often with his wife, Joy. “Baby Joy,” he called her until recently; after she was asked to host an event herself, he re-nicknamed her “Shecky Joy.”
Next weekend, he’ll be hosting “Oscar’s Red Carpet Show,” the official half-hour warmup for the Academy Awards ceremony on ABC. His co-hosts will be “Access Hollywood’s” Shaun Robinson and “Dancing With the Stars’” Samantha Harris.
Mr. Philbin turned down the volume on the Dean Martin soundtrack in his office to talk with The Insider about why this assignment is a homecoming, and other subjects, including the schedule for a day that will start early Feb. 24 and won’t end until nearly 36 hours later, after he’s taped two installments of “Live,” done the whole Oscar evening and followed that up with a live “Live” from Los Angeles.
The Insider: Here you are with yet another job.
Regis Philbin: Well, it’s a one-nighter. I did it years ago. In fact, I was the first one to do it, I think. I was the only one out there. It was the late ’70s and part of the early ’80s. We just took a camera down there. I was working locally at KABC. ‘Here’s the red carpet laid out every year and people walk on it, some stars show up. Why don’t we go down and cover it? OK, let’s see what happens.’ So we went down and did it.
The Insider: At that point, how many people walking the red carpet recognized you on sight?
Mr. Philbin: Well, I had, believe it or not, a very popular show in L.A., called “A.M. Los Angeles.” I had a lot of recognition, although there were a couple of people, like Richard Burton, who had no idea who I was or where I was from, or what I was doing there.
The Insider: Did you try to speak to him?
Mr. Philbin: Yes, I did. We shook hands and I forget what the heck I said to him then, but we had a very brief conversation and it was a thrill to hear his voice. It was a great voice.
The Insider: Was he gracious?
Mr. Philbin: Yes, he was. But it was Academy Awards night, so everybody was on their best behavior. It certainly wasn’t like the circus we have today, with people screaming and yelling and fighting for the interviews, girls twirling around in their gowns so you can see who dresses them. It was much more subdued. Army Archerd was in the stands announcing the arrival of these people to the folks who had been in the stands all day waiting for the stars. I happened to be at the far end of the red carpet so that when they reached the end of it, there I was, and then they would proceed into the theater.
The Insider: You can claim so many firsts on television. I recently caught part of a show doing a story about athlete-turned-artist Ernie Banks, and there you were talking about how you may have been first to have him on TV. Do you know how many people you can say that about?
Mr. Philbin: At this point in my life, quite a few. But those were my early years in San Diego. If a guy was from San Diego and was well known—there were no talk shows, well, there was “The Tonight Show” and Mike Douglas had a show in Cleveland, but that was it. So to start your own talk show in San Diego on Saturday night, anybody on the San Diego Chargers was a major star in that city. But Banks was a special guy. He donated his time to the local YMCA, which happened to be in an area that was a little on the run-down side. I drove out there with a cameraman and interviewed him about what he was doing. We hit it off right off the bat. He was starting his artistic career. I interviewed him again on my Saturday-night show. He brought his art. I did it again on my show that preceded “The Joey Bishop Show” up in Hollywood. I kind of stayed in touch with him and what he was doing through the years and he ended up living in the L.A. area.
The Insider: Truly, you do know the world.
Mr. Philbin: It just happens I was in Hollywood all those years. I remember Henry Winkler. First TV interview he did? Regis. This was his first interview as he came into town.
The Insider: Is the red-carpet show something you need to prepare for?
Mr. Philbin: I think so. The whole ballgame has changed. But [Oscars producer] Gil Cates through the years remembers me doing it at the beginning. He’s called me and asked me and I’ve always said, ‘Ah, Gil, I’m back here in New York now.’ This year he called again and I said, “You know? I’m going to do it one more time.” So I accepted it. I saw all the movies that got the nominations this year. I’ve met most of the people before I got this job on the red carpet, so I’m kind of well balanced in background and research.
The Insider: That will be on Sunday night. Will you take that Monday off, then? Or will you do like Claudia Cohen used to do and do something live from the West Coast.
Mr. Philbin: For the last two or three years we’ve taken the show out to L.A. the last week in February, and it just so happens that’s Oscar week. Sunday morning I will tape a show for airing later that week from L.A.; jump in a car and go down to the red carpet; get ready, do the red-carpet thing live from 5 to 5:30, go to the awards, go for a little bit to the Governors Ball, go back to the hotel, go to sleep, I hope, and get up at a quarter ’til 5—’cause we have to be live on Monday morning and the show starts at 6. I’ll do a live show. Later on we’ll tape one more show for later in the week.
The Insider: Does Shecky Joy get to go with you?
Mr. Philbin: Shecky Joy will be there.
The Insider: Has Shecky Joy picked out her gown?
Mr. Philbin: She’s working on that right now. I don’t know what the conclusion is there.
The Insider: Are you getting a new tux?
Mr. Philbin: No. I have one, but I feel more comfortable in the ones I’ve been wearing for the last couple of years.
The Insider: You’ve done live television in so many forms for so many years. Is there any reason you would feel at all nervous about this?
Mr. Philbin: I was looking at the cast of characters that may loom ahead of me, you know. Javier Bardem. You really should see “No Country for Old Men.” He’s got a couple of scenes, he plays a very creepy, spooky killer. He’s really terrifying. So I’m looking forward to meeting him. But I know nothing about him. Daniel Day-Lewis is someone you rarely get to interview. But I’ve got a time limit there. I think it’s a minute and 10 seconds. They have a half-hour show on ABC and it’s part of the awards show. It comes at the end of all the red-carpet pandemonium. By then a lot of people are already in. I will have interviewed them on their way in, with some editing tying the whole thing together.
The Insider: Who else will you visit or have on your show while you’re out there?
Mr. Philbin: One of my dearest friends is Peter Lassally, who was David Letterman’s producer and Johnny Carson’s and is working with Craig Ferguson, whom I like a lot. I promised him I’d be on his show. Jimmy Kimmel is another pal, but I have to [alternate] every time I go out. So it’s Craig’s turn.
The Insider: Any other stops you’ll make out there?
Mr. Philbin: Well, I’m going to try to get backstage and show people what it’s like just minutes before the big show begins. I’m told I won’t be able to talk to Jon Stewart because he will be—I don’t want to disturb or shake anyone up because I know what a monumental job it is. But I am going to go back there and see what’s going on and make that part of the show. Walk out on stage and say, “Ladies and gentlemen, is Jack Nicholson—there’s Jack, hey, Jack, the shades look good, Jack, we’re ready to go here. The writers strike is over. Everybody is ready for a little fun tonight. Here comes the Academy Awards!” That’s how I’m going to end it, I hope.
The Insider: We’ll be watching.
Mr. Philbin: Well, thanks. It’s going to be fun. I haven’t done it in, gosh, more than 25 years, and it’s all changed, it’s all different, so I’m anxious to see what it looks like now. Only I remember what it was like then.

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