“I am so tired of Regis’s farewell!” Regis Philbin screeched, disingenuously, on Thursday morning, a few minutes into his penultimate episode of “Live With Regis and Kelly.”
Friday is Rege’s last day on the show and as grand marshal of morning talk TV — a post he’s held without rival since his New York-based local morning show went into national syndication in 1983.
Rege, who’s been hosting talk and game shows since the ‘60s, holds the Guinness World Record for most time spent on television — he’s approaching 17,000 hours. Last January, the 80-year-old announced that he was “moving on.”
All this week on the program, it’s been a Regis Farewell Celebration.
On Wednesday, Rege pal David Letterman came on to wish him well, at the end of which Dave got up and kissed him on the mouth.
On Thursday’s program, Kelly Ripa — Rege’s co-host of the past 11 years — recounted in excruciating detail that from where she sat, she could see that Letterman’s mouth was open. And that he was “eating Rege’s face.” And that “I saw tongue” — turning a touching moment between two longtime friends into an image that will haunt your dreams tonight.
Kelly’s talent is stepping on, and grinding into dust with her Christian Louboutin heel, any Very Special Moment of which she is not the star.
Anyway, Rege played along and said that he noticed Dave has very full lips – all the while managing to look exactly like a man who did not want to hit Kelly over the head with a large blunt object. It’s another of Rege’s talents: wrestling younger, perky, self-absorbed blondes from the spotlight while appearing the perfect gentleman is a skill he’s been honing — not only during his years with Kelly, but also during the 15 years before that, when he co-hosted with Kathie Lee Gifford.
At the top of each episode of “Live,” Rege tells a story. Telling stories, he has said over the years, is his greatest talent.
His penultimate episode was no exception.
He began to talk about driving to Huntington Long Island on Wednesday afternoon to sign copies of his new book of Rege stories, “How I Got This Way.”
That involved driving through “The Tunnel.” As in, “Do you ever take The Tunnel?” – which is what Rege asked Kelly, rhetorically, as a wind-up to The Story.
Kelly smelled another touching story of which she was not destined to be the heroine.
“Yes — but [husband] Mark [Consuelos] has a lot of anxieties about tunnels,” Kelly started, by way of fixing the situation. Regis sat patiently while she nattered on about how her family can only travel out of Manhattan by tunnel when they’re absolutely sure to run into no traffic — which means never — because Mark has panic attacks in tunnels. And, she continued, she can always tell when he’s about to have a panic attack because he starts to take off the tie that he’s not wearing, then asks her to take the wheel of the moving vehicle so he can take off the jacket he’s not wearing.
“Well, tell him never ever go through The Tunnel at five o’clock,” said Regis, skillfully wresting the spotlight back from Kelly, while conveying to the camera an image of a guy who’s not battling an urge to scientifically administer about a fluid ounce of weed killer. Really, the guy’s a genius.
So, Rege continued, “Rege” — talking about himself in the third person isn’t creepy when Rege does it, and he does it a lot — showed up nearly an hour late for his book signing, and he felt terrible because the joint is packed with 700 people, and he sells 730 copies of his new book.
And all 700 people “tell me, ‘I am going to miss you!’ And it’s very touching. Now Regis is wearing down,” Rege continued.
“I don’t know how to handle it. I say: ‘I miss you too. I love you, too – but I’m just moving on!’ We’re talking 700 people!” he screeched.
Screeching entertainingly also takes a certain talent.
Rege continued: “Then, as the night progressed, people coming up, saying, ‘You look so tired!’ I don’t want to hear that! I swear – one after another: ‘Regis, you look tired’ and then, ‘Regis, you look exhausted!’ ”
So finally he gets into the car to make the drive back to Manhattan and he calls his wife, Joy, “and she says, ‘You sound tired.’
“I hung up!”
Thursday’s big “get” was Kathie Lee, who now co-hosts that fourth hour of NBC’s “Today” with Hoda Kotb.
“I didn’t cry when I left — this time I cried walking out,” Kathie Lee began.
Rege did not tear up. He just wanted to know whether there was ever any sexual tension between them during her reign on the show.
“No!” Kathie Lee said vehemently.
“That’s all I wanted to hear,” Rege responded.
She promised to show up again Friday, with husband Frank Gifford in tow, for Rege’s last show, which will not have the usual studio audience. And, she’s found the perfect job for the next stage of Rege’s career. After more than a quarter-century cozying up to younger women on TV and exchanging banter, he should play boy-toy to Betty White’s cougar on TV Land’s sitcom, “Hot in Cleveland,” she suggested.
White is 10 years his senior.
“Didn’t Don Rickles just sign up for that role?” Kelly asked sweetly.
“Monday on ‘Live’ — join Kelly with her first guest co-host – Jerry Seinfeld!” bellowed Voiceover Guy.
[Note: We’ll be live blogging Regis Philbin’s last day as “Live!” co-host tomorrow morning.]