From word one — and there have been gajillions since the day Kelly Ripa inherited Kathie Lee Gifford’s stool next to Regis Philbin on Feb. 12, 2001 — the bubbly soap star has been the perfect foil to Philbin’s constantly exasperated man-about-town. While they sip coffee and prepare for the show’s 20th anniversary episode (airing Sept. 14 with Gifford as a special guest), Philbin and his beloved ”Pipa” recall their favorite memories.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Kelly, it’s surprising. The show is celebrating 20 years, and already you’ve been on it for six.
REGIS PHILBIN: Six years in July.
KELLY RIPA: In February!
How’s it been?
REGIS: I think it’s been great. I really love her. Is this going to be part of your conversation?
KELLY: This is like therapy.
REGIS: Well, I think she’s fabulous in so many ways. She not only has a personal life filled with a husband, three kids, and now a dog, but professionally, she’s one of the most talented women in our business. I’m not making this up! I’m going to say it again until somebody listens to me: This is the closest person to Lucille Ball that we have in our generation. That’s what I think. Now let’s hear what she thinks about me!
KELLY: I’m sweating right here.
REGIS: Let’s hear this!
KELLY: I never in my wildest dreams thought that I could have this job. I was a loyal fan of Live With Regis and Kathie Lee. I thought it was the greatest show on TV. I really did. I watched it every morning. When I worked at All My Children, I watched it every morning in the makeup room. We would all sit and have our morning coffee and bagel and watch the two of them and I thought, ”What they have is magic.” And you’d notice that Kathie Lee would take a vacation and it would be Regis and Joy and you would go, ”Boy, what they have is magic.” And then if Kathie Lee took a vacation and Joy wasn’t there, it was Bernadette Peters. You’d go, ”Boy, what they have is magic.” And so the common denominator in all this magic is Regis. He’s the magic of our show. He is the world’s greatest storyteller. Don’t roll your eyes, Regis.
REGIS: Yeah, but you’ve become a great little storyteller yourself. It always surprises me. If I bring up something, anything, my aunt! Well, you had an aunt, but it was back in 1988 that the aunt said — and there’s a direct quote and a whole story that goes with it. You have an incredible memory. That’s a great asset in our opening segment.
KELLY: But what you have to realize is that you have these stories that are so relatable no matter what you talk about, everybody at home says, ”The same thing happened to me!” When you talked about showing up at the Barbra Streisand concert on the wrong night, I had just taken my son to a birthday party on the wrong day. You were telling that story and I thought, ”Oh, it happened to Regis, but on such a bigger scale!” It happened to him at a Streisand concert!
Which interviews most stick out?
REGIS: There are certain people who, as long as I’ve been here, are still fascinating. Robert De Niro is one.
KELLY: Well, you’re amazing with him!
REGIS: Well, you’ve been on six years. Which guests knocked you out? There are a couple guests that you really made a fuss over.
You were pretty worked up when Madonna came.
REGIS: Madonna! You’re absolutely right!
KELLY: I was trying to find somebody else to say besides Madonna because I always say Madonna. But really, Madonna is it for me.
REGIS: Do you think she knew how truly excited you were…or that she’s used to people kind of gushing over her?
KELLY: I think she’s used to people gushing over her and all of that, but I think she quickly sort of came to realize that yes, in fact I do go to every concert. The last concert she did, we made eye contact. Okay, in my mind it was eye contact. Madonna has no recollection, but I know she stared at me. There’s something about her. I think she’s very clever and witty. She’s really funny. She’s really down to earth when she’s here. And I just love that about her. And I love looking at her because she’s a physical specimen.
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