C.J.: Regis and the people who made him

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 17, 2012 - 3:54 PM

Regis Philbin has become so used to asking questions before a camera that answering them does not come easily. But the former host of "Live with Regis and Kelly" and "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and king of "host chat" was so charming and funny, I could only revel in getting the full-Regis -- including faux yelling.

Philbin was recently at the Mall of America promoting the paperback version of his book, "How I Got This Way," a memoir about people who've had an impact on his life. The way the public has salivated over Kelly Ripa selecting Michael Strahan as Philbin's replacement, he could be forgiven for feeling resentful of all the attention lavished on the NFL analyst and former player who appeared to choreograph a sack record with Brett Favre, then of the Packers. But based on Philbin's response to questions, he's not sick of talking about Strahan, so maybe Reg wasn't forced off the air as Wikipedia claims.

Our interview was videotaped before the Fighting Irish's unlikely, at least to me, 30-13 defeat of the Sooners in Norman, Okla. The game was the object of a sight gag I prepared for Regis, to whom I also gave one of my "I WANT A TSA AGENT WITH A SLOW HAND" T-shirts to commemorate Philbin's 2011 airport search.

Q I love the format of your book. You broke it down into chapters about famous people. I can read about the people about whom I'm interested and skip the others. Was that your idea to do it that way?

A I didn't think about it, but it is a good idea. No, I just picked out certain people I admired and who meant something to me, [who] changed my life in another direction.

Q I'm also impressed with how each chapter DOES NOT begin with the pronoun "I" -- even though you are writing about yourself. I don't know if you noticed this but, of the chapters I've read, the Jack Nicholson chapter goes the longest before you write "I" -- about 155 words, if I counted correctly.

A Boy oh boy, aren't you something? Can I take a look at that for a minute? I have written about myself; it's time for these other people to get their [due]. Wait a minute, the Joey Bishop chapter: "I'll admit ..."

Q When did talking about yourself in the third person start?

A [Laughter] How did that start? It was somebody on the show who referred to themselves and I said, "Regis doesn't know that." It was funny to hear somebody call himself by [his name] and especially Regis -- not a familiar name. Yeah, you're absolutely right. During the last 10 years of the show: "Regis says." I think it's ridiculous.

Q Do you ever have days with nothing to do but veg?

A As a matter of fact I do. I've gotten so familiar around the house that my wife's beginning to stare at me: "When are you going to do something?" It's really in the morning when I [feel the strongest urge] to do something. I feel it in the morning because now I don't have anything to do but sit here.

Q I think your 2011 departure from your show was just a damn shame. You should have been allowed to stay as long as you wanted to do the show.

A That was my decision. A lot of people think I was pushed out. I wasn't.

Q There was a joke made about your feet when Michael Strahan first [began work as Philbin's replacement]. What size are your feet?

A The joke is that he's a size 18, or 14 I think he is; he's a big one. And there they are: I'm a size 8. You don't miss a thing, do you?

Q Should Michael Strahan have his diastema removed?

A Diastema? What is that? Oh, the gap [between his front teeth]. What do you think? Strahan's a good-looking guy. [I disagreed.] No? He's not a good-looking guy?

Q He doesn't do anything for me, but that's just me.

A What does it take to do something for YOU?

Q I think you're more appealing than he is.

A I think C.J.'S COMING ON TO ME! I've never had this happen before! What goes on in Minneapolis!

Q You had a Pippa before the world became enthralled with the derriere on the English one.

A You're right about that. I called it first. I like that name, Pippa. There are a couple of little books for kids, babies I think; we bought one of our daughters a book about a girl named Pippa. And Kelly looked like a Pippa to me.

Q Could you lift Kelly off the ground?

A Oh yeah.

Q Does "Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush remind you of yourself as much as he reminds me of you?

A You're very observant. I don't know many people who've [made the connection]. He has been, since he was a young kid, following and watching [my TV show]. I feel like he may be MY OWN the way he carries on.

Q Have you seen the tramp stamp of your name on Joy Behar?

A What happened? She has a tramp stamp of me on her back? You know, I just did her show. She's on Current TV. She's an old friend. I never knew she felt that way. I'm, ah, kind of impressed. I've got to take another look at the Behar.

Q Nah, you've got a Joy [Philbin], you're OK. How many times do you predict that Boomer Sooner will be heard when Oklahoma plays Notre Dame?

A I'm afraid of that offense. Boy, they're good. [Then I lifted up my Auburn "War Eagle, baby!" shirt to reveal another reading "SOONERS."] Oh, I see what the problem is. I see at the end of the interview the woman exposes herself to say "Sooners." I don't know if we can beat them this time. I certainly would love it.

Interviews are edited for space and clarity. Reach C.J. at cj@startribune.com and see her on Fox 9.

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