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Larry King Live Weekend

A Look Back at Talk Show Giant Regis Philbin

Aired February 25, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Thanks for joining us. You've got to hand it to Regis Philbin. At a time in life when a lot of guys would be kicking back and taking and taking it easy, he's just picked a cute new co-host for his morning talk show. And he's still raking in prime time ratings with "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" But how did Regis get started? My good buddy answered that and a lot of other questions when we sat down with him in December of '97.


REGIS PHILBIN, TALK SHOW HOST: After Notre Dame, I went in the Navy. On the coast, I was discharged, West Coast, went up to Hollywood, went around to everybody, tried to get a job -- stagehand, anything.

KING: Definitely wanted to be in entertainment?

PHILBIN: Well, yes, wanted to be in entertainment. Never thought I would ever have the talent to look into a camera lens and talk to it, just never thought it would happen. So I went around looking to get in some way, even anything vaguely media. And I went into one guy and I lied to get into him. His name was Al Flannigan. And I told everybody I was a personal friend because I was told that's how to get to see him.

So I went through a couple of secretaries and he finally came out. He was running channel 13, KCOP TV in Hollywood. This is in the '50s. And he came out and he had a crew cut and he looked at me. And I knew right away, this was the wrong guy to play this game with, you know?

KING: Hans?

PHILBIN: Yes, "Who the hell are you?" he said. I said, "Well, look, my name is Regis and I need a job, but I had to see you somehow and I told everybody I was your friend." "Come on in." He said, "Look, I don't have a job right now, but I will because there's turnover. I will in a few months." I said, "Can I go back to New York? I have to go back in a couple of years." "You go back, I'll call you."

So I came back to New York. My uncle was a CBS press agent for Arthur Godfrey. And as a little boy, I used to go to all of Godfrey's shows, you know, the talent scouts thing and all of those shows. So in fact, in the Letterman theater, where Letterman has his show now, that's where Godfrey had his show. So I go back to New York. My uncle says, "He says he was going to call you? Forget it! The oldest line in show biz." He says, "You'll never hear from this guy. Let me get you a job as a page at NBC." I said, "All right, fine."

So I go over to NBC and sure enough, I'm a page boy. And I did all those great shows, Hallmark and Kraft, and you know with Jack Hurler (ph), he'd be the announcer. You know, the golden age of television?

KING: Yes.

PHILBIN: Sure enough, the guy calls. Al Flannigan calls from the coast. "Got the job for you. You're going to be parking cars in the parking lot and that's how you're going to start."

KING: Really?

PHILBIN: I said after much discussion -- I used to stop people on the street at (UNINTELLIGIBLE) saying, "Look, you don't know me, but if you were a page here at NBC, would you go back and take a parking lot job in Hollywood? Because it looks like the business is moving to Hollywood and I sure want to be where the business is."

KING: Because the important thing is to get in.

PHILBIN: Exactly.

KING: Yes.

PHILBIN: And I mean, stopping people, asking them.

KING: The guy called you for a coast-to-coast..


KING: For a parking lot job?

PHILBIN: Right. Took the parking lot job. And then I got on the stagehand -- on the stage crew. So I began writing little reviews of programming at the station, which wasn't very good in those days. And I would have a ball, you know, really putting it down and then thumbtacking it around the station late at night, so nobody would know who this was.

Well, he found out, Flannigan. Called me in, chewed me up, spit me out, gave me a job in the news department. The news department was Baxter Ward, all by himself doing news. So in the mornings, I would drive a truck around Hollywood delivering film to the various stations and then in the afternoon, I would write copy for Baxter Ward.

Eventually, I got tired of delivering film in the morning. And Flannigan, of course, was like a father figure to me in those days, but he liked to taunt me. You know?

KING: Flannigan's now interspersed with your life? PHILBIN: That's right. He's running the station and I'm packing the film in the morning. And he would come by and say, "How's it going in there, kid?" Because I had to pack up all the film, put it in the truck and then drive around to the various studios and return it.

And I said, "I'll tell you how it's going. I said you can train a gorilla to do this." He got mad. He said, "You want to see me get one?" I said, "Yes." Wise guy, you know. He said, "You want to quit now or you want to give me two weeks?" "I'll give you two weeks," I said.

So I was out of work. Flannigan then called a month later and said, "There's a news job open in San Diego, California. It's in a little radio car. You're on from 5:00 in the mornings to 2:00 in the afternoon reporting what you see in the streets." I said, "I'll take it."

KING: Television or radio?


KING: Radio.

PHILBIN: Went down and worked out of the U.S. Grant Hotel, KSON Radio. Did that for two years. The TV station heard me, brought me over there. And then one night a few years later, I saw Jack Parr on television. Come out, leaned against the desk and talk into the camera like tell you what he had done that day. And I said, "You know, maybe I can do that."

And that's when my talk show started and that's the opening segment.

KING: Right.

PHILBIN: Sit and talk into the camera.

KING: You always did that.

PHILBIN: And now I'm joined by a co-host. And so that's the genesis of the whole thing.

KING: And Joey Bishop then saw you and said he wants...

PHILBIN: Yes, Joey Bishop saw me. I was interviewing Joe Pine.

KING: I remember Joe.

PHILBIN: And it was a dynamite interview.

KING: He was the first of the Limbaugh-Stern...

PHILBIN: Exactly, a tough guy.

KING: Yes.

PHILBIN: Really a tough guy.

KING: He did everything.

PHILBIN: He did everything. I mean, Joey saw the "Joe Pine Show" and called the next day. His agents, William Morris, called my guy and said everybody in town was auditioning to be this announcer. And it never occurred to me because I had always done my own show. But I thought it over. You know, here's Joey Bishop, a network opportunity, do Sinatra, Dean, or all those guys, national exposure. Why didn't I go up and see him? So I did and I got the job.

KING: And that lasted how long?

PHILBIN: Three years.

KING: When we return, the birth of "Live with Regis." Stay tuned.


KATHIE LEE GIFFORD, CO-HOST: Oh, there's your little button.

PHILBIN: What'd you say? Never mind. Be nice. Don't incite her.

GIFFORD: Oh, they're cute.

PHILBIN: Just put it on there.




PHILBIN: Hey. All right, all right, what I love is that opening line. Watch this, hey! All right, OK.

GIFFORD: Don't you wish you could shut me up the way you could shut up those three?

PHILBIN: Oh, do I wish!



KING: More now of our '97 interview with Regis Philbin. Want to know how he wound up doing his morning show with a female co-host? Watch.


PHILBIN: I was doing it alone. In fact, when I started back in the '60s, I start (UNINTELLIGIBLE) looking into that camera. That was my co-host. And the audience was behind the camera. In 1974 or '5, the whole world went co-host.

KING: Right.

PHILBIN: You know, all the news anchor teams had to be co-host. And John Severino, who was running Channel 7, ABC in Hollywood said, "We got to get a co-host."

KING: For you?


KING: You mean, did you like this idea or?

PHILBIN: Well, it was, you know, I was up for the job myself and so I said, "Sure, let's try it." So they brought up Sarah Purcell who was a weather girl in San Diego, California.

KING: You're in San Diego. Did you know her there?

PHILBIN: No, I didn't know her there, but she worked at my old station. So she came up and we started it.

KING: And was it called "Regis and Sarah?"

PHILBIN: No, it was called "The Morning Show."

KING: No, to be given those names, morning products.

PHILBIN: Yes, they never give you your own name on those local shows.

KING: That's right because you're not there. You're gone. It's still "The Morning Show."

PHILBIN: Exactly, sure.

KING: So you and Sarah worked together?

PHILBIN: Sarah Purcell and myself.

KING: And did you like that right away? Did you like having...

PHILBIN: It was tough getting used to it. And then I decided, you know, I said, "Sarah, the best way to do this is if we don't talk before the show. If we don't exchange what we did the night before so that whatever you say to me is fresh and vice-versa."

KING: Right.

PHILBIN: And that's how the whole thing started. And to this day I never...

KING: And you went from Sarah to who? Let's run down the Regis women.

PHILBIN: Well, Sarah Purcell one day decided that I think she wanted to be an actress, you know, in Hollywood.

KING: Interested in that night show, too, right?

PHILBIN: And she got "Real People."

KING: Yes.

PHILBIN: Remember that on NBC? Five years Sarah did that.

KING: Big hit?

PHILBIN: Big hit, it was, yes. And then we had just interviewed Steve and Cindy Garville.

KING: As a couple?

PHILBIN: As a couple, right. And geez, Severino right away had -- right on the heels of that, Sarah decided she was going to leave. Bang, Cindy got the job just like that.

KING: And then Cindy didn't do a long while with you, right?


KING: Went to New York with her?

PHILBIN: Well, yes, as a matter of fact. She left, went to New York and I was out of a job about a week after that, yes.

KING: She left and you were out of a job?

PHILBIN: Yes, yes. What'll I do? Oh, I went to NBC. Yes, Grant Tinker called me. I was doing this local show in Hollywood all these years. And then one day Grant Tinker called and said, "Why don't -- I'm taking over the NBC network. Why don't you come over and do the show over there?"

And I said yes. It was a big mistake in retrospect because Letterman had already tried that slot at 9:00 on the NBC network and it didn't go.

KING: That 9:00 was a failure for a lot of people for a lot of years.

PHILBIN: Oh, Death Valley, yes.

KING: Then when you -- when Cindy east, did you get another girl here? Did you get another girl rather in L.A.?


KING: Oh you just came...

PHILBIN: No, I went over to NBC at that point.

KING: Right, then you came East? PHILBIN: And then, yes, that didn't work out. And I came East about a year after that; 1983 I came here.

KING: And then did it go up from Cindy to Kathie Lee?

PHILBIN: And Cindy was here, living in New York. And so she went down to the station and they said, "My gosh, we could just reunite the two of you." And that's what happened.

KING: And it clicked here, right?

PHILBIN: Oh, yes.

KING: It clicked in L.A., too, right?

PHILBIN: Absolutely.

KING: Then what?

PHILBIN: And then Cindy left after...

KING: You know, they keep leaving you. You notice this?

PHILBIN: I know, yes.

KING: OK. Then what?

PHILBIN: She left and then a girl named Ann Abernathy came in from Oklahoma City. And then she married a guy named Gary Lieberthal (ph) out in Los Angeles. And she left. Now we're up to 1985. And...

KING: You're doing just local now, all this is local New York?

PHILBIN: Yes, all local and we're trying out ladies. And Kathie Lee heard about it. Kathie Lee was working on "Good Morning America" right down the street.

KING: She was then Kathie Lee?

PHILBIN: Kathie Lee Johnson. And so, she was tired of travelling. She was like the correspondent going around the country. She hot-footed it down that street. "Boy, I'm here." Stepped in, knocked everybody out with her audition and wound up getting the job.

KING: Was it right away a click? Did you two have...

PHILBIN: I think everybody in the room felt it pretty much, yes. She's very glib and a lot of poise and very personable and three years of experience on "GMA," you know, sharpened her...

KING: But you also had it with Cindy and you had it with Sarah, didn't you? I mean, it was -- worked for you with them as well?

PHILBIN: I would say that it worked with everybody. The thing is, I think with Kathie Lee, it probably works the best.


KING: Ahead: the success of "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee."


PHILBIN: Easy, easy, easy, easy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's what I'm telling. We can't do it


PHILBIN: Now you're flipping me over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, you are going to land like that. And you're just going to fall over.







GIFFORD: I never noticed this before, but you are the ugliest woman I have ever seen in my life.


KING: "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" was ranking high when I talked to Reg early in '97. I asked him what made that show click?


PHILBIN: Well, what makes our show click, I think, is our opening segment, the spontaneous exchange between Kathie and myself, the history that we bring to the show, and then of course, the surprises that Gelman is planning. He's always got something going.

KING: He's a good producer?

PHILBIN: He's very good.

KING: What led to that controversy that was existing that Gelman that was having problems with the two of you? Everyone read about everyone. So I mean, the public knows about this. They know about Gelman.

PHILBIN: Gelman had no problems with me. You know, why he didn't have that many problems with her either. That was really blown up. KING: With her, it's Kathie Lee, OK, the singer?

PHILBIN: I know, but you said the two of us?

KING: Oh, I see. You had no problem with him?


KING: With Gelman?

PHILBIN: Well, Gelman gets on my nerves, but you know, I can overlook that. I think that was all blown up. One day, we made a joke out of her. She wanted to have Art Buchwald booked on the guest. And Gelman, I don't know if he knows who Art Buchwald is. For whatever reason, he kind of said no to Art Buchwald. And it became a running gag. And all of a sudden, people think, "They're fighting, the fury." And we have simulated that and kind of played with that, but everybody who watches the show knows that's not true.

KING: The secret of the show is that you talk to each other so spontaneously. When you do it with your wife Joy?

PHILBIN: Yes, same thing.

KING: You don't talk to your wife?

PHILBIN: No, not before the show.

KING: So you get up in the morning, what?

PHILBIN: I don't tell her what I'm going to talk about the next day and vice versa. And one day, that really came back to bite us. We went to see "Schindler's List." And it was a snowstorm here in New York last winter. And so I looked up in the paper where the movie theater was. I thought I knew what street it was on. I mean, the roads were stacked with snow. We finally got the cab and finally got down, and we got on the wrong street, the wrong theater. I had picked the wrong theater. Well, she went crazy. And we had words, a fight. And silence after that, went to bed not speaking, OK?

Next morning, the phone rings. It's Kathie Lee. She's snowed in in Greenwich. She can't make it to the show. Will Joy do the show? And Joy says, "OK, I'll do it for you." Now, we haven't spoken. We go to the station in silence, see? We get on...

KING: As married couples are want to.

PHILBIN: Yes, exactly. And we get on the air and more silence. And then finally I explain what happened. We took a vote, who was right, who was wrong? Of course, the audience sided with her and it kind of broke the ice, but that was a very tense moment.

KING: So when you work this way though, you really have to -- it's an on edge thing? You have no idea what's coming?

PHILBIN: Purposely, we do that, purposely. KING: And that's what makes it work?

PHILBIN: I think so. I think that's one of the main contributing factors.

KING: How long do you want to keep it up, Reg? You? You know, we always talk about Kathie Lee and life. What about Regis?

PHILBIN: What about me? Every year, she's leaving.

KING: What about Regis?

PHILBIN: What about me?

KING: Why don't you get a window and leave?

PHILBIN: Never think of that, you know.

KING: Saul and Kathie Lee.

PHILBIN: I got two and half -- about 2 1/2 years to go on this present contract and then maybe it's time.

KING: Really?

PHILBIN: I don't know. I mean...

KING: Well, maybe it's time.

PHILBIN: Maybe it is time. What about you?

KING: I...

PHILBIN: Every night here, 9:00?

KING: They're going to have to carry me out of here.

PHILBIN: See, you should do it at 9:00 in the morning? Then you can go out and enjoy life, Larry. Every -- people are out wining, dining, seeing basketball games, having fun, 9:00. What do you think? No tuner. Go ahead. Get a life.

KING: Now the night club act?


KING: How's that doing?

PHILBIN: Good, good.

KING: How do you work all these bookings?

PHILBIN: Well, Kathie Lee go out -- Kathie Lee and I go out. We do Atlantic City three times a year. We have isolated dates that we play together. And then she does some alone and then I do some alone. Gelman and I just, you know, did our Florida tour. Last week, Melbourne, `Florida and...

KING: Gelman goes with you?

PHILBIN: Gelman does his own act. Have you heard Gelman sing "Summer Wind?"

KING: No, he sings "Summer Wind" in your act?


KING: Gelman sings?

PHILBIN: Would you like to see it?

KING: But why does he -- we want to put him on here. He refused.

PHILBIN: No, no.

KING: Gelman doesn't sing, right?

PHILBIN: He'd like to sing. He wants to sing, but he hasn't sung yet.

KING: Why don't you let Kathie Lee?

PHILBIN: Boy, did I get a rise out of Larry King. Did you see Larry King jump at that? Gelman sings "Summer Wind." So anyway, we do this night club act and it's a lot of fun. It puts us in touch with the audiences, who...

KING: Why don't you let Kathie Lee sing more on the morning show?

PHILBIN: She just sang. She just...

KING: I mean, she should have a song everyday.

PHILBIN: I -- you know what? I agree with you.

KING: Gelman doesn't want to -- OK. It's been proposed. You know, if she escapes the window, it could be Gelman. Gelman will be out leaving because Gelman didn't let me sing.

PHILBIN: She sings. She probably should sing more. She's got a terrific voice.

KING: She does.

PHILBIN: Great voice.


KING: Still to come: Regis and I talk about health. Stick around.


KING: Flashback to an interview Regis Philbin did with me in February of '94. That sit down came a year after he'd undergone heart surgery and coincided with the release of his personal workout exercise video.


PHILBIN: Over the years, many people have come to me and said, "Hey, you know, why don't you do an exercise video?" But I never thought it was important enough or there was any reason to do it until I had my heart problem, this blocked artery...

KING: Mm-hmm.

PHILBIN: Had it opened. Had it reopened by athrectomy (ph) after an angioplasty didn't hold it open. And then, was told, "Hey, you have to walk." You know, the one muscle I didn't exercise was my heart. So I had to do something. Never got into the jogging craze, Larry, couldn't do it.

KING: No, me either.

PHILBIN: The aerobics didn't mean anything. So I started walking and come to find out that I really enjoy it.

KING: So this video has to be more than just walking. Do we get your whole regimen?

PHILBIN: Oh, well then yes. Then I walk for the first 20, 30 minutes. This is what I do every other day.

KING: Mm-hmm.

PHILBIN: And then I do my weights. In the past, all I did was my weights. But now I think I'm on track with the right workout for me.

KING: So you walk and lift?

PHILBIN: Yes. And Larry, what about you?

KING: I walk, but I don't lift. I ought to lift weights, maybe. I just walk.

PHILBIN: Oh, do you?

KING: Yes, I do a walk and I try it everyday. And -- but I just got your video today.

PHILBIN: Ah, but when the weather's bad, do you walk on a treadmill?

KING: Yes, indoors.

PHILBIN: Good for you. KING: But the weights -- what do the weights do?

PHILBIN: Well, I don't know, they just -- there's such a terrific feeling when you get through with a weight workout. I don't know, psychologically you feel terrific. It's a great high. All the endorphins are kicking in. I've always felt that way about it and I really do love it. Sometimes it's tough to get down in because it really is work, you know...

KING: Yes.

PHILBIN: It's manual labor.

KING: You got to work at doing it. You got to work at going to do it.

PHILBIN: Absolutely, sure, you got to get yourself psyched up to get into that gym and do it. But I do enjoy it. And what we did on the video was we reduced everything to just plain or simple dumbbells.

KING: And your health now is good, right?

PHILBIN: Look at me, Larry.

KING: You look great. Well, hey, it's changed my life seven years ago. It has to change -- you get a heart mishap. You go into a hospital.

PHILBIN: Oh, yes.

KING: If you don't change, you're nuts.

PHILBIN: It really straightens you out, doesn't it, you know?

KING: Quick.

PHILBIN: I was down in your old neck of the woods in Miami Beach when this happened. Actually, I was on a cruise ship with Kathie Lee. And I was feeling these pains. And they would come. And then, I would say to myself, "It can't be a heart attack. Not me, you know."

KING: Yes, I know.

PHILBIN: But sure enough, they would go away and then return. And out on this cruise ship with her making a cameo in one of her commercials. And late at night, boy, this pain came in and I knew it was something. So I went to see the ship's doctor. He said, "You must not fly back to New York. You've got to go to Mount Sinai Hospital down there in Miami Beach when we dock tomorrow." And that's exactly what I did.

KING: Thank God.

PHILBIN: They rolled me into the emergency room. I guess the same thing happened to you?

KING: Yes.

PHILBIN: They put the camera up my groin muscle, right inside my heart, showed me where the blockage was. I saw it. They said, "Do you want to do it now or do you want to wait?" I said, "Do it now." And he did it.

KING: Let's get some more calls in. Lancaster, Pennsylvania, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Hi, Regis.

PHILBIN: Hi, how are you doing?

CALLER: OK. I was wondering, my father has had that operation recently. And -- well, he suffered a stroke from it. He's doing better now, but the doctor said that the percentage is very low of people suffering a stroke and that it wasn't that much for him to be nervous. Were you really as nervous? Did they make you aware of the dangers because I did hear you on your program and...

KING: Were you scared, Reg?

PHILBIN: Well, I was -- you know, I didn't realize the gravity of the whole thing because on my way in, they had me on this gurney and I'm fooling around and being a wise guy. And I guess I should have realized it was a lot more serious. I did sober up when I saw that blockage in my artery. But I realized that there was the possibility of a small percentage of these things ending up in a stroke situation. And, of course, they told me that between 30 and 40 of these angioplasties...

KING: Don't take.

PHILBIN: The fibers just close up again in the artery and there's very little you can do about it. Sometimes it takes a second and a third angioplasty. The second time around, I had an athrectomy, which is the Roto-Rooter. You know, anything can happen when...

KING: And that worked for you? I had to have the surgery. You had the Roto-Rooter, right?

PHILBIN: I had the Roto-Rooter the second time, Larry. Yes, and I had the angioplasty, the balloon procedure the first time.

KING: When you're on that table, you're right. All the statistics in the world don't mean anything when you're on the table.

PHILBIN: Yes, that's exactly right.

KING: Lompoc, California. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, my question is to the both of you guys, Larry and Regis both. I mean, you guys have obviously suffered the consequences of bad habits. My question is, are you -- why don't you folks speak out a little bit more about the bad food and the bad food industry? KING: And bad genes, too, which I had no control over.

PHILBIN: Well, the genes got a lot to do with it, too. Yes, I guess I'm guilty of that. I didn't watch my diet as well as I should have.

KING: Me either.

PHILBIN: My cholesterol was quite high.

KING: Me too.

PHILBIN: And I had made attempts to bring it down, but I never got serious about it. And I still went for the cheeseburger and the french fries and all the stuff I was introduced to as a kid. And never lost the habit. And it isn't until now that I'm a little bit more -- a lot more careful than I was. What about you, Larry?

KING: Same way.


KING: Ate the wrong things.

PHILBIN: Mm-hmm.

KING: Never thought -- because it wasn't going to happen to me, right?

PHILBIN: Yes, exactly.


KING: Coming up when we return: the scoop on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"


PHILBIN: So if you're ready, Jason, let's play "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." Here we go!




KING: It's hard to believe, but a lot of people had doubts about "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" before it went on the air. Host Regis Philbin wasn't one of them. I interviewed him in August of 1999. That's less than a week before "Millionaire" hit the airwaves.


PHILBIN: It is the hottest, most exciting -- I'm not kidding you, the most compelling show I've seen in many years. KING: Yes, how could it be the hottest show if it ain't on yet?

PHILBIN: But it will be.

KING: Ah ha.

PHILBIN: It's the hottest show in England. 72 percent share.

KING: Like "All in the Family" was a hot show.

PHILBIN: Exactly, yes.

KING: But this show is a nightly quiz show.


KING: At what time?

PHILBIN: 8:30 at night on ABC.

KING: Half-hour?

PHILBIN: Half-hour. An hour on Sundays.

KING: A half-hour strip five nights a week.

PHILBIN: But we're not five nights. Larry, we're on every night on the week, bigger than Ted Koppel. Do you understand? Monday through Monday.

KING: Yes. Six nights a week.

PHILBIN: You got it.

KING: Live?

PHILBIN: Larry, seven nights a week. We're preempted one night on Saturday. And it's not live, it's taped the day before. But we're on Saturday and Sunday as well.

KING: Why would you take on this Herculean task?

PHILBIN: Oh, no, no. It's exciting.

KING: Tell me the little history.

PHILBIN: Well, my agent sent me Jimmy Griffin from William Morris, who -- they represent the show in England. Sent it to me, sent me a copy of it and said, "Would you be interested in this?" You know, because recently in the last few years, people have come to me with old shows, perhaps to be revised.

KING: Let's bring back another sequel.

PHILBIN: And it was a lot of fun sitting there watching Johnny Carson 40 years ago do "Who Do You Trust?" KING: Mm-hmm.

PHILBIN: But that's not for me. I didn't want to try to bring that back. And so...


PHILBIN: ... I kind of eased out of all those revivals, but here was something new, something challenging, something really exciting. And as soon as I saw the show, I called out there in Hollywood to see, you know, if I could do it.

KING: What's it called in Great Britain?

PHILBIN: "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

KING: Same title.

PHILBIN: Same title.

KING: OK. Now for it to work, it has to be on every night or is it's kind of...

PHILBIN: No, no, it doesn't have to be on. It is so compelling.

KING: Is it on every night in Britain?

PHILBIN: It's so exciting. It's so big, Larry, it has to be on every night.

KING: Is it on every night in Britain?

PHILBIN: You can't get over that, can you?

KING: I can't get over it.

PHILBIN: Because you want to...

KING: It's on every night, not on Sundays...

PHILBIN: Sunday night. That's right. I got you beat.

KING: OK, unless there's something happening, yes.

PHILBIN: Oh, now he's going to get mad.

KING: No, I'm not mad. I'm happy for you. It's just that it seems like at this stage in your career -- you're a normal success. You've got a hot show for years.

PHILBIN: But it only goes for 13 nights, 13 nights.

KING: That's it?

PHILBIN: Then it's over. Then ABC evaluates it and then...

KING: What if they love it?

PHILBIN: Well...

KING: Then we'll talk.

PHILBIN: ... let's talk.

KING: Ah ha.

PHILBIN: Let's talk.

KING: So this is a 13 nights -- it's a mini-series?

PHILBIN: It's an event.

KING: Oh, you see, now you've got me.

PHILBIN: It's event television, Larry.

KING: Is only one person going to win $1 million? Or could five win a million?

PHILBIN: I hope one wins it every night.

KING: You could save the network.

PHILBIN: I intend to save the network. That is my responsibility: to save this ABC television network once and for all.

KING: It's in your hands.

PHILBIN: If I don't do it, who's going to do it?

KING: OK. And, now, you can't rig this show, right? We can't have like, you know, "Twenty Questions"?

PHILBIN: No, that's why we're flying in 10 people every night. You're going to see them, meet them, watch them take the test.

KING: No coaching, no nothing backstage?

PHILBIN: Absolutely not. No chance. And you'll see who gets to sit in the chair right there. You're not going to get to meet the guy in the chair.


KING: What does the set look like?

PHILBIN: Oh, it's fantastic, very futuristic, very modern. Everybody's got a computer. The whole audience is connected to the show.

KING: Assuming this show is not just a hit, but a hit hit, this show is the hit of the summer...

PHILBIN: Could be, too.

KING: And ABC says, "Regis, we want it every night forever. Give up everything. We'll give you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Would you leave?

PHILBIN: Why would I have to give up everything?

KING: They want you to. They want your focus on this. They want that to be it.

PHILBIN: Well, I...

KING: Here's the money. That's all.

PHILBIN: Then I have a contract with them. They kind of -- my boss, you know.

KING: We'll let you out in the morning.

PHILBIN: If they insist, I mean, if they really need me in prime time, what am I going to say to them, Larry?

KING: What are you going to say to them?

PHILBIN: What am I going to say to Michael Eisner: "No, I can't save your network"?

KING: By the way, there's other aspects to this we should tell -- we'll tell you about. You can call a friend for help when you're...

PHILBIN: This is what I love about the show.

KING: Tell me -- no, tell me more before we get to questions.

PHILBIN: OK, you get stuck. You get stuck for an answer. There are three lifelines that I offer you. Look at you. You're hunched over. You can't wait to hear. You want to know. You want to know what's going on.

KING: I can't wait. What is it?

PHILBIN: You can call anyone in the country for advice, a 30- second call.

KING: When you're calling home, a lifeline, you're calling a friend?


KING: What does that look like though? You don't see the friend?

PHILBIN: No, you don't see the friend because...

KING: It's a phone call. You hear them? PHILBIN: It's a phone call. You hear their voice. And then as soon as you ask them the question, we roll the clock. You have 30 seconds to give them the question, the four possible answers and...

KING: And it's not on because it's taped the night before? So the guy can't see it.

PHILBIN: Can't see it. The clock comes right there: 30, 29, 28. And then this heartbeat music. Boom, boom, 26, boom, 25, boom. So it knocks you out. It just knocks you out.

KING: Are you nervous?

PHILBIN: Oh, no. No, I can't wait to do it. Can't wait.

KING: You're excited?

PHILBIN: Absolutely. I'm a young colt again.


KING: When LARRY KING WEEKEND continues, who wants to talk about one of TV's smash hits? Regis Philbin, of course. Stay tuned.


PHILBIN: All right, everybody, time's up. Let's see the answer in the correct order, starting with the earliest show: "Beverly Hills 90210," "Melrose Place," "Party of Five," "Dawson's Creek." That's the right order. Let's see who got it right now and in the fastest time.

And the winner is Meredith Mansfield (ph)! Meredith Mansfield!



KING: As you heard in the previous segment, Regis Philbin was very high on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" before it went on the air. He did another interview with me in January of 2000, after the game show had become a monster hit. I asked him how he knew "Millionaire" would do so well.


PHILBIN: The show is simple. It's executed beautifully. It's a million dollars and that's still a considerable sum of money in the country. The production values on the show are the best, the writing, the music, all of it combined together makes a very exciting, compelling show.

KING: And the host -- I know I embarrass you when I call you an American treasure, but you are. There's nobody that doesn't like you, Regis PHILBIN: But Larry, a national treasure. You know, the first one who was called that was Johnny Carson by "Time" magazine a few years ago. And frankly, Johnny deserved it. But now every column you read, somebody's a national treasure. I'm not a national treasure.

KING: But how are you handling that frankly? I mean, you've always been successful. Your name -- you don't have to say your last name. And that's when you've made it in the world if you don't have to say the last name. How is all this multiple success -- how have you handled it, really?

PHILBIN: Well, I think I'm handling it OK. You know, it's quite a schedule. I wake up and to go see Kathie Lee. And now I'm -- at the beginning of the day. At the end of the day, I'm seeing Larry King and then I'm going to bed.

KING: Tell me how your day works when you're doing both shows?

PHILBIN: Well...

KING: Let's say a Tuesday or -- do you tape the day before or are you live?

PHILBIN: Yes, well, we're taping every night in the week if we want to get a week off every now and then. So we're live in the morning, as you well know. Get up around 7:30. Get over there about 8:20. Gelman comes in at 8:45. We visit. We talk. We have a few laughs. I go down. I get made up at 8:50. One minute to 9:00, I pick Kathie Lee up. We walk down the hall. We go out. We start the show. And then at 10:00 it's over. And then there's mail and calls and all that kind of stuff.

And then in the afternoon, I like to squeeze in a workout, maybe even a nap once in a while. And then around 4:00, head down the street. The show is now being produced in the old GMA studios on 67th Street. So that's within walking distance. Go down there 4:00. Again go through the make-up. Get briefed. Looked over the questions. Get set. Get ready. Meet the contestants; 5:00 we tape. It usually takes 2 1/2 hours. So I'm out by 7:30. And then it's dinner and then to bed.

KING: Do you watch the show?

PHILBIN: You know, I do watch it, but now that -- you know, in the beginning I didn't have a chance to watch it when we were taping late at night. And we would be taping while the show was in -- was being aired.

KING: Yes.

PHILBIN: Now I can and I enjoy the heck out of it.

Last night I watched it in a New York restaurant here on the East Side over at Nino's. And there it was up on the screen over the bar. And as people were coming in the restaurant, they were stopping to watch. And they could see this guy closing on a million dollars. And I tell you, Larry, it was like the old days when people would stand in front of the store windows and watch TV, you know, with their mouths open. It was a lot of fun. And the bar area just filled up at Nino's. And here this guy was going for the million and he won it. And a cheer went up. And it was terrific.

KING: The host always wants them to win, right?


KING: Yes.

PHILBIN: I really do. I think it makes for a better show.

KING: Are you flattered by the fact that every other network, and it seems every other night has a show?

PHILBIN: Yes, Yes, as a matter of fact, it is very flattering. Well, we all knew that was going to happen. That's what this business is built on, let somebody get a hit and then you try to make it better. And so far, I still think we've got the best show.

KING: Yes, Columbus, Ohio, hello?

CALLER: Hi Larry. Hi Regis.


CALLER: My family and I really get a kick out of your show, Regis.


CALLER: My question is: When you know the contestant is giving you the wrong answer and a lot of money's at stake, how do you keep your poker face?

KING: Good question.

PHILBIN: I tell you, it's like a dagger sometimes in my heart because you know, even though we're just meeting for a few minutes, you do form an attachment for them. You know how important it is to them. You want them to win. And so, when you hear them come out with that wrong answer and then you've got to say again, is that your final answer, hoping that they might reconsider. And then they say, "Yes, it is my final answer." Well, you just feel terrible for them.

KING: You also have to -- you're very understanding, I notice, and handle very well when someone says, "Hey, I'm going to take the $125,000."

PHILBIN: Well, I understand that perfectly, sure. There's a lot of money at stake. You can see it in their eyes. They don't have an answer. They don't have a lifeline left. What are they to do? Take a guess and leave, you know, maybe a quarter million dollars on the table? No, nobody's going to do that. They take it and go. And I can't blame them. KING: Do you remember the old "Honeymooner" thing where Gleason goes on, knows the music and misses the $8 question. Has anyone missed the $100 question?

PHILBIN: Yes, as a matter of fact. We had a real sharp 22-year- old guy, who had just joined the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and was the youngest member of that exchange. The question was: Who did Hannibal -- what animal did Hannibal take across the Alps with him? Was it -- let me give this one to you. Was it a yak? Was it a camel? Was it an elephant? Or was it a dog?

KING: I guess I'm going to guess elephant, but that's a guess. I'm not a...

PHILBIN: And you're right, yes.



KING: What did he say?

PHILBIN: He said it was -- I think he went for the yak. And...

KING: So what did you say to him? He goes away with nothing.

PHILBIN: Well, it was a terrible moment. I felt for the young guy because you know those guys at the Mercantile Exchange in Chicago are going to be all over him the next day. And I'm sure they were.


KING: More of our Regis retrospective coming up. Stay tuned.


PHILBIN: Is this your final answer?

CALLER: It's my final answer.

PHILBIN: You just won a million dollars. Wow! Fabulous!




KING: More highlights from our January 2000 interview with Regis Philbin. He gave me a taste of what it's like to be a contestant on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" We skipped the first four questions. He claimed that they were for kids.


KING: OK, let's go with the $1000. PHILBIN: Here we go. For the $1000 question, which of the following gives plants their green color? Is it chlorophyll, carotene, calcium or chlorine?

KING: Chlorophyll.

PHILBIN: Got it for $1000; $2000: How far can a car going 60 miles an hour travel in one minute? Would it be one mile, 6 miles, 10 miles or 60 miles?

KING: Sixty miles an hour in one minute?


KING: One mile.

PHILBIN: There you go; $4000, Larry King: Before joining the boy band 'N Sync, two members were regulars on what children's TV show: "Sesame Street," "The Electric Company," "Mickey Mouse Club," "Barney and Friends"?

KING: See now, this will be a guess. So I'd say Mickey Mouse Club.

PHILBIN: And you guessed right.

KING: OK, but that's a pure guess.

PHILBIN: And you won $4000. OK.

KING: And help of a producer. So let's see what -- OK, she gave me answer.

PHILBIN: All right.

KING: I was going to say...

PHILBIN: You've used your phone-a-friend.

KING: So I've used my phone help.

PHILBIN: You've called everybody from CNN in L.A. sitting around the studio, whispering, "Larry, Larry."

KING: OK. So I've got one help. So I'm only down to the audience now, OK.

PHILBIN: For $8000, Larry King, how many crayons came in the first Crayola box to contain a built in sharpener? Was it eight, 16, 32 or 64?

KING: Sixty-four.

PHILBIN: Come on, Larry, somebody's helping you.

KING: I was a Crayola freak. No, I love Crayola crayons. You're right up my alley with this one.

PHILBIN: Sixteen thousand dollars, here we go.

KING: Now I'm nervous.

PHILBIN: Until mid-December, 1999, where did protester Julia "Butterfly" Hill live full time for two years? Was it on top a billboard, in a redwood tree, in a cage at the zoo, in a box on the sidewalk? Julia Butterfly Hill.

KING: Oh, the redwood tree.

PHILBIN: I hear people talking back there.

KING: OK, I used the audience.

PHILBIN: No talking.

KING: All right, now I'm out of help. No more help. I used the audience on that, OK.

PHILBIN: Thirty-two thousand dollars.

KING: I've got no more help left.

PHILBIN: All right.

KING: OK, see how honest I am?

PHILBIN: The organization that won the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize was started by a group of what: teachers, lawyers, doctors, architects?

KING: Doctors. That I know.

PHILBIN: Sixty-four.

KING: I had dinner with one of them.

PHILBIN: You're getting up there, Larry.


PHILBIN: Matthew Brady became famous for his photographs for what American war?

KING: Civil, don't even give me the four.

PHILBIN: You know what? I've only got...

KING: Come on. Let's go.

PHILBIN: I've got four more.

KING: OK. PHILBIN: $125,000, Larry King. What is the name of the dog on the packages of the popular snack food, Cracker Jacks: Spot, Bingo, Chance, Fido?

KING: Chance is my son's name. I know it's not Chance. Cracker Jacks, cripes. This is a pure guess. Bingo, but that'll be -- that's a guess.

PHILBIN: Larry, I swear to God, if somebody's giving you these answers, I'm going to find out about it. You want...

KING: You can't stand it, can you, Regis?

PHILBIN: I can't stand it.

KING: I'm going to make celebrity game, aren't I, Reg?

PHILBIN: Stuart Varney standing here with his tongue hanging out.

KING: Still...

PHILBIN: Because if you go down -- if Ted Turner sees you miss these, you're gone.


PHILBIN: Here we go:$250,000, Larry King, a quarter million. Which of these animals is reportedly responsible for most of the human deaths in Africa: lions, crocodiles, hippo or Cape buffalo? I got you now.

KING: Yes, this is pure guess and no one's helping me.


KING: Lion.

PHILBIN: Lion, crocodile, hippo or Cape buffalo?

KING: Well, I'll take the least likely, Cape buffalo because you think lion, you know, "Grr." Lion, crocodile -- so Cape buffalo, they seem the nicest. Cape buffalo.

PHILBIN: No, the answer was hippo, hippo.

KING: Who would -- a hippo can't chase you?

PHILBIN: You would have been...

KING: I want to contest that answer.


KING: I want to contest that answer.

PHILBIN: All right.

KING: Well, how does a hippo get you? You see a hippo, you're running. A hippo goes one mile an hour?

PHILBIN: A hippo, you know, tongues you to death. You know what I mean? Here we go for $500,000. Let's see if you can get this one.

KING: OK, I missed it, but we'll go anyway.

PHILBIN: What ship is believed to have passed by the Titanic, ignoring distress signals, passed by the Titanic?

KING: Saw the movie.

PHILBIN: Serious, Californian, Carpathia and the Kim: passed by it?

KING: I don't -- Carpathia, I guess. That's a guess.

PHILBIN: No, Carpathia picked it up. It was the Californian. Now let me give you the million dollars.

KING: Well, what was the million dollars?

PHILBIN: Here it is.

KING: I didn't do bad. I would have taken home $32,000.

PHILBIN: You're doing better than I thought, believe me. In what country are all U.S. major league baseballs currently manufactured?

KING: Oh, Haiti, give me the money.

PHILBIN: Here you go.

KING: Give me the money, Haiti.

PHILBIN: There you go.

KING: Give me the million. You could make the check out to the Larry King Cardiac Foundation. Haiti.

PHILBIN: Hey, Mr. Big shot, you've missed the last three. They're made in Costa Rica.

KING: You're kidding me, right?

PHILBIN: I'm not kidding.

KING: I challenge this one. When did they leave Haiti? Regis, at this point in your career, it must be extraordinary to have something like this happen late in a career.

PHILBIN: How late is it, Larry?

KING: Well, I mean, you know, you're not 35.

PHILBIN: No, I know exactly what you're saying. And it is. It's -- I never expected it. I never really wanted any more than what we have in the morning, never really dreamed of it. I thought, you know, I climbed all my mountains and then suddenly this comes along and never dreamed it would be this big. And all of a sudden, it's another mountain and we're on top. And it's a great feeling. And I love it.


KING: When we return: back to the long TV saga of Regis and Kathie Lee.



GIFFORD: ... announcing today that I'm going to be leaving our show -- oh, I was hoping you'd do that -- at the end of my contract in July.


KING: As the whole TV world knows, Kathie Lee Gifford bowed out as Regis' co-host last summer. But there were rumors she might be leaving long before that, like all the way back in 1994.


PHILBIN: Yes, I guess she said something in South Carolina at this party she was at and it kind of kicked off a whole speculation thing about whether or not she's going to resign. She's in contract negotiations now. And I guess she's waiting for somebody to kind of come up to what her demands are. I really don't know.

KING: She reaffirms strongly that she doesn't want to leave.

PHILBIN: Yes, she's said, "What would life be like with Reg?"

KING: Yes. Well, from a Reg standpoint, let's take worst-case scenario.


KING: Kathie Lee says bye bye.

PHILBIN: If she says bye bye, you in a dress, Larry. We're together forever.

KING: That couldn't miss, Reg. You know, Reg and I came up with an idea during the break. Tell them.

PHILBIN: You came up with the idea.

KING: OK, I came up with the idea and you bought it. PHILBIN: I keep my morning show. Larry keeps his late night show. We meet in the afternoon. We call it...

KING: Two guys.

PHILBIN: "Two Guys Live."

KING: Two Guys Live and we just take apart the world.

PHILBIN: That's it. We schmooze. We kill. We go. We do and we see.

KING: Do you want her to leave?

PHILBIN: Of course not. Have you heard anything?

KING: No. What's the story? Oh, come on, Reg.

PHILBIN: You know, I said to her today, I said...

KING: What is it now?

PHILBIN: ... now he's going to lean across the table and he's going to say, "Kathie Lee, is she coming or going?"

KING: You do that good.

PHILBIN: And she said, "Tell him you don't know." And I don't know.

KING: But sitting here, she said 50/50.

PHILBIN: Well, we go through this every year. She's got a -- like a one year window in her contract where she can decide whether or not she wants to do the next year, but this has been going on for a long time. And of course, she's decided to stay.

KING: OK. But how -- do you root for this one way or the other or have you reached the point where it doesn't matter?

PHILBIN: Oh, it would be a lot of work to start in with somebody else. Of course, yes, we've been together for nearly 12 years now. And you get used to someone. And you feel their rhythms, you know and so on. And in an ad lib situation like that, that's very important. And history is also important. I can refer to this and she can refer things that the audience knows...

KING: So it would be difficult?

PHILBIN: It would be difficult to start over.

KING: She couldn't take it for an hour you were on your own?

PHILBIN: I know, drove her crazy.

KING: Kathie Lee, are you there? GIFFORD: I'm there, Larry.

KING: OK, we're trying to figure out why you're up. Is Frank asleep?

GIFFORD: No, Frank and Art Buchwald and I are sitting here watching the show. And you know what?

KING: What?

GIFFORD: You guys are mildly amusing.

KING: Mildly...

PHILBIN: Mildly amusing. Well, that's a ream from her, I'll tell you that.

GIFFORD: No, Reg, I told you you'd have a great time. You were terrific.

PHILBIN: You think so? I thought we died.

GIFFORD: You know what? I love all those stories you made up. I told you not to tell the truth and you didn't. Good for you.

KING: Kathie Lee?

GIFFORD: Yes, Larry.

KING: Are you calling with news?


KING: You're staying?

GIFFORD: No, I'm calling to say that my wardrobe is available to you at any time because, God, you'd look good in my clothes.

PHILBIN: See? Don't let her get away with that. Burrow in. Come on. You're King. Go after her.

KING: All right, Kathie Lee?

GIFFORD: Yes, sir?

KING: Why can't you make a decision now? Why don't you wait for the window?

GIFFORD: Oh, you know, I just don't have -- I can't. It's just one of those things where I'm waiting for...

KING: The man has begged you on international...

GIFFORD: Oh, it would never be because of Regis, Larry. And that's the truth. I love that man.

PHILBIN: We have a wonderful time every morning. Why would she leave me?

GIFFORD: We have a great time.

KING: He's taking it personally.


KING: He's taking it personally. The man is in the depth of despair.

PHILBIN: What is it that's pulling her away from me?

KING: All right, what's pulling her away?

GIFFORD: Oh, gosh. You know what? Can we have lunch? Nothing's pulling me away.

PHILBIN: Got to be something big.

GIFFORD: No, no. It's just -- you know what? There -- to everything there is a time and a season. And I'll tell you one thing.

KING: Oh, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

GIFFORD: Under heaven. And if I left tomorrow, I know Reg would be just fine and he'd have a wonderful time. I'd miss him every day of my life.

PHILBIN: Sounds like she's leaving tomorrow?

KING: That sounds like kiss off to me.


KING: Good golly, come on. Gosh, gee.

GIFFORD: I just called to say hi to both of you. You're two of my favorite guys and leave me alone. Can I go to sleep now, Reg?

PHILBIN: What's that?

GIFFORD: Can I go to sleep now, Reg?

PHILBIN: Yes, we're about done here.

GIFFORD: All right.

PHILBIN: I went to sleep about 20 minutes ago. Go ahead.

GIFFORD: You guys have fun. Larry, come see us. You co-host with me when Reg is gone sometimes.

KING: OK, I'll co-host with you.

PHILBIN: There you go. That's a good idea.

GIFFORD: OK. Good night you guys.

KING: Good night. Bye.

PHILBIN: Good night, Kathie. See you tomorrow. See you in the morning.

GIFFORD: Good night, take care. Frank sends his love and so does Art Buchwald.

KING: OK, bye.

PHILBIN: Poor Art Buchwald.

KING: I think she...

PHILBIN: Why did I mention Art?

KING: I think she's leaving.

PHILBIN: You think so?

KING: That didn't sound good. I didn't like the part where she said...

PHILBIN: There's a purpose and a day and an evening and a morning and...

KING: A purpose and a life. And you know I love Regis.

PHILBIN: I love Regis, but...

KING: And you know it's not Regis.

PHILBIN: ... I don't love him that much.

KING: You know, it's not Regis. Don't sound good, Reg.

PHILBIN: When they start saying, "It's not Regis," then you know it is Regis.

KING: Begin the talent -- what do we have, Joe on the phone? Joe, I'll accept it.

PHILBIN: Now do we have a minute for Gelman?

KING: No, ran out of time, see?


KING: Kathie Lee came right in to avoid Gelman getting on.

PHILBIN: I'm going to save this, OK?

KING: The letter?

PHILBIN: "So when? You're due." I'm going to leave. I'm going to leave you.

KING: OK, there's a call from Shawnee Mission, Kansas. Do you want to take it?


KING: Take it.

PHILBIN: Go ahead, Shawnee Mission, Kansas.

KING: Regis, I thank you for a wonderful talk.

PHILBIN: Larry, thank you.

KING: You're a great guy.

PHILBIN: Really, I always wanted to do this with you.

KING: You're a national institution.

PHILBIN: Thank you.

KING: And if she stays or she goes, you stay.

PHILBIN: OK, buddy.


KING: Just for the record, Regis' new co-host on "Live" is Kelly Ripa, who also stars on one of ABC's afternoon dramas. Kathie Lee Gifford's keeping busy, released a new CD and already has a TV movie in the can.

That's it for LARRY KING WEEKEND. Hope you enjoyed the highlights with our many interviews with my buddy, Reg. Good night.



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