Regis Philbin–an Icon who was anything but

There is an old wives’ tale that famous people die in threes.   My sister and I will often text one another whenever an old movie or TV star passes away, then comment like “two more to go!”

Just this weekend Olivia de Havilland died at 104 along with John Saxon at age 84.  But when I heard about Regis Philbin dying at 88, it bothered me.  He is one of the few celebrities which I hoped would never die.

It’s incredible to think that when his morning show with Kathie Lee Gifford went into syndication in 1988, I was doing my student teaching.  Through the years of his show I got married, had two sons, and my mother died.  No wonder I felt attached to him—he was on the air nearly half of my life.

My favorite part of the show (I’m sure many of you would concur) was the opening chat between the hosts.  I liked it primarily for its spontaneity.  The unscripted segment was refreshing compared to all other TV talk shows which are meticulously pre-written and rehearsed.  It felt more real, more authentic.

What also made is pleasurable was Regis himself who never came across as a big shot, a host with a big ego.  He was natural not pretentious, someone you could imagine talking to at a coffee shop for 30 minutes in an easy way.

I saw Regis twice in my life, both times from afar.  One time he was at a Barnes & Noble signing his book.  The line was too long; otherwise, I would have done it.

The other time was at the 2002 Rose Parade when he was Grand Marshal.  Coincidentally, I was in that parade riding in a vintage automobile.  I was one of two teachers chosen from Glendale Unified School District for the honor.

As all the floats, cars and horses lined up in the dark on Orange Grove Boulevard at six in the morning, I walked around and saw him leave the Rose Parade Tournament House after eating breakfast.  I was so excited that I videotaped it.

Because I was embarking on my new career as a teacher, I was unable to watch many episodes of “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee.”  However, whenever I was home during a week day, I would make sure to watch the opening segment to see what Broadway show he and his wife Joy went to see or which restaurant they ate at because there would always be a story about some mishap that occurred in their evening out that would put a smile on your face.

So many famous people are phonies, but Regis was the real deal.





Dependence Day–What We Need on this July 4th

It is July 4, 2020.   Independence Day.

But what’s there to celebrate?

In terms of instant gratification, restaurants are closed, firework displays canceled, family gatherings shunned.

Covid-19 does not look at a calendar, sees a holiday and takes a day off.  In America yesterday, 53,000 people tested positive for it and close to 600 people died.  This virus remains untamed not so much in the whole world, but mainly in America.

Remember America?  The greatest country on earth.  The one place where people from all backgrounds can plant their flag and have opportunities nowhere else to be found.   Geographically, it is a land mass of 50 different states.  Kansas is not Hawaii is not Florida is not California.  Yet the name of the country has been the UNITED states for 244 years.

At no time in my lifetime has the United States seemed so divided.  The coronavirus has given a test to Americans:  can they roll up their collective sleeves and tame this malicious malady?  Can they follow basic ways to protect themselves and others by wearing masks, keeping apart and washing their hands?

After four months, the answer is “No.”   The 2020 version of the U.S. is not the 1941 version or the 1929 version where most Americans worked together for a common foe be it a financial collapse or a threat to democracy.  What happened to those type of people that used to be plentiful?

As a nation, we don’t all trust science.  We challenge scientists and doctors.  These aren’t politicians who have agendas.  These are intelligent people who study evidence and come to conclusions.  Too many people think they are wrong.

That’s a problem.  Because if we all can’t agree that Covid-19 is highly contagious, that if you contract it you will be very sick and depending on your biology could die from it, then we can’t agree that the sun is in the sky during the day and the moon appears at night.  Facts don’t exist.

But the most important fact about Covid is that the majority of people who contract it are asymptomatic.  They feel fine, no signs of illness.

That aspect of the virus is the cruelest because it gives people a false sense of security that they can beat this thing or, worse, that it is a big hoax.

When people think of the word “pandemic” they picture millions upon millions around the globe dying.   Thank goodness most people who have it won’t die.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t out there.

Think of a serial criminal that has broken into several homes in your community.  Have you seen the criminal yet?  No.  Do you know anyone who has?  No.  So logic leads you to a wrong conclusion—the criminal does not exist for only one reason—he hasn’t reached your house yet.

Why do people allow themselves to be fooled in believing that if something bad hasn’t happened to them that means it doesn’t exist?

There is a worst disease out there.  It is selfishness.  That seems to be a trait common among many.  Is that how we define “united” these days?   Live one’s life any way you want, to hell with everyone else?   Because that describes many today.

Journalist Damon Linker who writes for explains what is happening this way:  “It amounts to a refusal on the part of lots of Americans to think in terms of the social whole—of what’s best for the community, of the common or public good.”

Two trends over the past decades have contributed to the decline in people thinking of others:  one, the decline in parents teaching values, two, the elimination in schools teaching citizenship.

The old saying of reaping what one sows is happening in front of our eyes right now.   It has taken years for this to grow and it will take years for Americans to reset and learn not only what it means to be American, but what it means to be human.