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.





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