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CNN Larry King Live
Regis Philbin Discusses His Career in Showbiz
Aired May 07, 2001 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAT SAJAK, GUEST HOST: Tonight, he's the prince of the prime time, turning ordinary people into millionaires. He works a day job, too, teamed with Kelly Ripa instead of Kathie Lee. Regis Philbin, TV's final answer man, for the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Pat Sajak in for Larry King. You'll notice, we are not in Larry's usual digs, we have moved over to WABC television in New York, Studio One, one of one, the site of "Regis and Kelly Live," with the inestimable -- is that a good word?
REGIS PHILBIN, GAME SHOW AND TALK SHOW HOST: Good word.
SAJAK: Regis Philbin with us.
PHILBIN: Yes, thank you very much for joining us.
SAJAK: Nice to see you. It still sounds, after all those years -- it still sounds odd to say, "Regis and Kelly," but the transition has gone beautifully it looks like.
PHILBIN: Yeah, well, both names begin in "k" so that helps a little bit, But yeah, I -- for a few days there, when Kelly joined us, I was still saying Kathie Lee.
SAJAK: Sure. When I was here less than a year ago and it was near the end of Kathie Lee's run and everyone knew what was going on, but I -- the atmosphere was interesting. I didn't detect among the staff or anyone a lot of panic about change and change sometimes does scare people.
SAJAK: But it was a very professional, you know -- we've still got Regis who will find someone else, the show will go on, things will be great. Was that your attitude inside? I mean, were you just as calm as could be about it?
PHILBIN: Yeah, I thought so. I hate to see change to begin with. And after 15 years of the same person sitting there, you know, there is a lot of history, and I think that's how these host chats are built, on the history and what you know about the other person so that you can relate to that, you know, in a dull moment and still make a laugh out of it.
PHILBIN: So I hated to see change, and I hated to see her go.
SAJAK: The host -- you mentioned "host chat," which is -- you know, chat implies, "Yeah, we'll sit down for a couple...
PHILBIN: I hate that phrase, "host chat." I hate it.
SAJAK: But's that what you guys call it here.
PHILBIN: That's what they call it, yeah.
SAJAK: And it's -- but it's more than a little chat. I mean, it's 15, 20, 25, a half hour depending on how things are going.
PHILBIN: Yeah, it's deceptive, isn't it?
PHILBIN: I mean, you watch at home it's one thing, but then to do it, to carry it off, to make it flow and make it humorous...
SAJAK: And if you were just -- you were just looking for someone who could come in and be a good co-host and do a good interview, you could have found someone in a day-and-a-half because there are lots of good people like that. But to sustain host chat for 25 minutes.
PHILBIN: Just to say it.
SAJAK: Starting from nowhere. It is not -- you don't have a pre-show meeting, the two of you, and get together and have a list.
PHILBIN: No, no.
SAJAK: I mean, you sit down, you open your mouth and you hope something will come out.
SAJAK: I mean, that's the way it works.
PHILBIN: That's the way it works and it works best that way for me, and selfishly, that's way I've kept it all these years. But fortunately, I've always had ladies who were able to get in -- get in the sway of it -- "feng shui" of it -- and make it happen.
SAJAK: You -- you've done shows like this before. You've done a lot of shows like this. You've done a lot of talk shows.
SAJAK: You've had a wonderful run with this show. Obviously, we're going to talk about "Millionaire" a little bit later.
SAJAK: But the first time I met you was at -- and I'm sure you remember this and wrote this in your diary -- but it was at KNBC in Los Angeles, and I had just started "Wheel of Fortune" in daytime and you had just left a successful local talk show out there, as I recall, at KABC and moved over to the NBC network...
SAJAK: ... to bring your show to the nation.
SAJAK: And it didn't go the way you hoped it would go.
PHILBIN: No. First thing they did at NBC was to cut it down to a half hour, which made it impossible for me to function the way they -- they expected I would. But you can't do what we do in a half hour. That first segment is the linchpin of the show. That's what develops the theme for the show.
SAJAK: And you always did that? I mean, you always...
PHILBIN: Always did 20 minutes -- at least 20 minutes, between 20 and 25.
SAJAK: And we've got a 30-minute show, which is probably 20 minutes, and when you take commercials out...
PHILBIN: It shows you how smart they were at NBC. They cut it down to a half hour after Grant Tinker had brought me over there. Now, Grant Tinker was a brilliant guy, brilliant programmer. He got that whole network going again with "Hill Street Blues" and all those shows. But I was his first hire, and I was the one they cut back
I followed David Letterman, who had an unsuccessful morning show, because he was doing his night show, you know. It shows you the difference in -- in temperaments for the different times of the day. Letterman: beautiful at night, but at daytime, for whatever reason it didn't work.
SAJAK: By the time you came aboard, Dave was there and the show did so poorly -- I know this is hard to believe for Letterman fans, as we all are...
PHILBIN: Sure, yeah.
SAJAK: ... the show did so poorly it lost a lot of affiliates.
PHILBIN: That's right
SAJAK: And you came out with a very...
PHILBIN: Exactly. And the affiliates were clamoring, "Another talk show, are you kidding?" So they cut it back to a half hour, thereby eliminating any chance I had. SAJAK: But if I had pulled you aside...
SAJAK: ... and said -- after the show was canceled -- did it run a year, did it run less than that?
PHILBIN: I think half a year.
SAJAK: And it couldn't have been the bright spot of your life...
PHILBIN: No, it was very...
SAJAK: ... when the show was canceled, a network show -- you know, high profile. It's network time.
PHILBIN: It hurt a lot.
SAJAK: It had to. But if I had pulled you aside and said: Look, don't worry, in 20 years, you'll be celebrating the 16th or 17th year of a long-running syndicated daytime show, and if you look at the prime-time ratings in any give week, you'll find you hosting a show, not just one of the top 10 shows, not just two, but maybe three or four, you would have said, "Commit this guy, this cannot happen."
PHILBIN: Well, you know, that happened, though, Pat. On the last day of "The Joey Bishop Show," I had Sydney Omar, who has the astrology column for "The Los Angeles Times" syndicate, on the show to predict what would happen to all of us. Now, I'm going back to 1969. And Omar said -- he talked about Joey and he talked about Johnny Mann, and then he said -- and I said, "What about me?"...
PHILBIN: ... "What's going to me?"
SAJAK: Good question.
PHILBIN: He said, "Well, your name is going to become a household word."
PHILBIN: I said, "What? You're kidding me? How?"
He said, "No, actually, everybody is going to know your name."
So I said, "How long?" He said, "Well, it's going to take a while."
I said, "I can wait. What is it a year, a year-and-a-half?"
He said, "Twenty years."
SAJAK: No, this was '69.
PHILBIN: Twenty years -- '69. '89 -- '88-89 is when Kathie Lee and I went national with our show. That's what he meant. SAJAK: Yeah.
PHILBIN: So a couple of years after that the show took off and I saw what he said came true, so I called him up. I said: "You know, Sydney, it was a gutsy call, 20 years. We all waited and worked for it and it happened. And I want to tell you, congratulations on a great call."
He said: "No, no. There is more to come."
And I said, "What?"
"Oh, yeah," he said, "this is just the beginning."
And then, of course, another 10 years -- everything happens in two 10-year-cycles. I'm running out of time.
SAJAK: Man, when you're a hundred, you're going to be hot.
PHILBIN: So -- so anyway, along came "Millionaire" and that's what he meant, I assume.
SAJAK: Do you buy -- because you have some people on the daytime show who are, do the astrology.
PHILBIN: Yeah, I've always bought that, Pat. I've always gotten into that.
PHILBIN: Not that I believe that you don't have the free will to make your own way, but I do think that there are certain influences that you're under that either make it harder or easier for you to achieve what you want to achieve.
SAJAK: So you had -- you had Sydney's prediction in you back pocket, somewhere?
PHILBIN: Well, you know, I totally have -- frankly, not forgotten about it, but never gave it much credence, because you wait 20 years and you work and your life goes on. And then all of a sudden, you see something happen 20 years later and you realize, that's what he was talking about.
SAJAK: Wow. Do you have Sydney's phone number? I'm just curious.
PHILBIN: He's still there out in Los Angeles...
PHILBIN: ... still writes that column. SAJAK: ... enough about Sydney, but back with more Regis in a minute. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILBIN: Thanks for everything. It was a great 15 years.
KATHY LEE-GIFFORD, FORMER CO-HOST OF "LIVE WITH REGIS AND KATHY LEE": I love you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILBIN (singing): Thanks for the memories, of all the fun and tears. through all the years and years, our host chat every day, now you're on your way. Forget it all, but please recall, I love you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILBIN: We announced last Monday that Kelly Ripa would be the new co-host and this is our first official day together.
PHILBIN: There you go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAJAK: You have had so much success -- we're back with Regis Philbin, like I need to introduce you to America -- in the last couple years especially, but you have enjoyed a lot of success for the last 15 years with this show. What season are we in, actually, of the "Live" show?
PHILBIN: Well, the "Live" show began in '88, so it is 13 years nationally.
SAJAK: And yet, it is hard to describe to people the difference and sort of the levels of heat that are generated by having a successful daytime show and the kind of huge success that "Millionaire" had. As you are -- success and people knowing you, and what goes along with celebrityhood, it had to bowl you over a little bit?
PHILBIN: You mean when the "Millionaire"...
SAJAK: When the "Millionaire" hit.
PHILBIN: Oh, absolutely.
SAJAK: It changed -- it must have changed everything in your personal life.
PHILBIN: Oh, it really did.
SAJAK: And certainly you professional live.
PHILBIN: Oh, it really did, because you know, what we do in the morning is live from 9:00 to 10:00. After 10:00, you can hang around, you can take a meeting, you can do the phone calls, you can answer mail, you can do all that, but essentially you are through. You can walk out of here, too, and still continue to do that show.
Because it is what happens to you between the time that the show ends, and when you start another one that gives you the fodder to talk about whatever it is that's going on in your life. Well, suddenly, I'm in a studio most of the afternoons now, and so it made a tremendous difference in the way I live.
SAJAK: But also, just the excitement of around you, and the people -- people knew you, America knows from you the show. But there is something that does get elevated, doesn't it, by prime-time?
PHILBIN: Well, the audience -- oh, prime-time, Pat, is still the largest...
SAJAK: I mean, I wouldn't know, but I'm presuming. I'm presuming this.
PHILBIN: No, you must know your ratings are the highest! I mean, I want to tell you something: I have been looking at the ratings, and I love when the "Millionaire" follows your show.
SAJAK: We do in a lot of markets.
PHILBIN: Absolutely. It's a tremendous lead-in for anybody, and "Millionaire" just, you know, gobbles up that audience.
SAJAK: But prime-time is special in terms of the audience...
PHILBIN: Prime-time is still the biggest arena in our business.
PHILBIN: There is no doubt about it, and I found that out right away. I've been on daytime television for 30 years, longer than that. And it was always nice, and we always had an audience, but nothing like the audience that you get in prime-time, nothing like it.
SAJAK: Why -- if you are in prime-time -- why are you nominated for a daytime Emmy? I want to know this! Explain this to me, I don't understand it!
PHILBIN: Please, I don't understand it either.
SAJAK: You are up against me every year. Last year, you and I were among those nominated, and it ended up in a tie -- not involving us, I should say. PHILBIN: That's right!
SAJAK: So, we were at best third and fourth.
PHILBIN: I have told that story so many times. We've met at the correspondents banquet down there in Washington, and you came over and said: "I'm not even going this year. It's a wrap, you are going to, you know."
PHILBIN: And new kid on the block, new show, big hit.
SAJAK: Sure, hot prime-time, big guy.
PHILBIN: Well, the show won, but the host didn't win! Old Bob Barker, and Bob -- the "Hollywood Squares."
SAJAK: Tom Bergeron.
PHILBIN: Tom Bergeron, yes. Shared.
SAJAK: You know, it's funny. This year, and I know you will be saddened to hear this, I'm not nominated. Now, that means...
PHILBIN: Now, how can that be? That is so ridiculous.
SAJAK: At best, I'm sixth best this year.
PHILBIN: How many nominations?
SAJAK: Most -- I don't know.
PHILBIN: Every year!
SAJAK: Most years I'm nominated, this year I am not nominated. However, this year I'm going, because I called the Dick Clark Company, and I said: "You know what would be fun? Let me present the award." So, I am actually going to present the award to the game shows. But I understand you are not going to be there?
PHILBIN: No. I have given up. I have given up.
SAJAK: Have you ever won an Emmy for a talk -- or the national Emmy?
PHILBIN: No, I have never won it for best host. A couple of my shows...
SAJAK: So, you are up for both.
PHILBIN: The shows that I lost at NBC won best talk show of the year.
SAJAK: Isn't that funny?
PHILBIN: And NBC still canceled it, even in its half-hour truncated form.
SAJAK: That happens a lot. I think "Donny and Marie" are nominated this year, and they're not on the air.
PHILBIN: This is their year. I predict "Donny and Marie" will win it.
SAJAK: You know, I think that there is a perverse nature among the voters. I think they like to stick it to networks and vote for canceled shows. That's my theory.
PHILBIN: Have you ever voted...
SAJAK: Now, I don't know anyone who had voted. It's like, do you know anyone who won the sweepstakes? I don't there is a vote. I think there are three guys in Florida with a butterfly ballot, and I think that's probably...
PHILBIN: Probably it.
SAJAK: But you are not going to be there because you are going to be on the 18th, as I understand it, you're going to be in Atlantic City.
SAJAK: What are you going to be doing there?
PHILBIN: Well, I have my nightclub act.
SAJAK: With another daytime icon.
PHILBIN: Yes, Susan Lucci.
SAJAK: But she won't be there either.
SAJAK: But she's won.
PHILBIN: She's won, she's won. No, we are not going to be there, we'll be down in Atlantic City. We do a nightclub act -- at least, I have been doing it for a number of years now, and La Lucci, this will be her first foray on the board, so to speak, although she was a big hit on Broadway in "Annie Get Your Gun." SAJAK: So, you never performed with her in this venue?
PHILBIN: No. And what we do is she will come out and do her act, I will do mine, and then we will join together, and...
SAJAK: Do some host chat.
PHILBIN: Do some host chat, right, yes. We'll make a cake, I don't know what we'll do.
SAJAK: Well, that sounds like fun. We will miss you at the awards, because -- here is what I'm thinking about doing. I figure the only people who see the results -- I don't know if the people in the control room see it, just the...
PHILBIN: You are the only one who will see it!
SAJAK: So, I'll just announce...
PHILBIN: Mention my name!
SAJAK: I'm going to announce you!
PHILBIN: Whether I win or not!
SAJAK: Whether you win or not...
PHILBIN: Regis is the winner!
SAJAK: ... I don't care.
SAJAK: That's what I'm going to do. That's my present to you for doing this show. That's what I'm going to do.
PHILBIN: You got it!
SAJAK: OK, we'll come back and talk about awards, and games, and other things with Mr. Philbin. Stay right there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?")
PHILBIN: What did you think it was before we went into this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was L.
PHILBIN: L, I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I though it was L or N.
PHILBIN: Well, L is gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: L is gone. L, A -- final answer, Regis!
PHILBIN: He just made $1 dollars! (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE," FEBRUARY, 1994)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAJAK: You are in remarkable shape for a man who is slightly beyond middle age.
SAJAK: Would you describe yourself as slightly beyond middle age?
PHILBIN: Yeah, that's fair.
SAJAK: I love when people when they're, you know, 85, say they're middle aged, like they're going to live to be 107.
PHILBIN: Exactly. That's what they think.
SAJAK: What do you do? Do you have a regimen, are you one of those who has a...
PHILBIN: No, I do. I work out every chance I get. Of course now, with the schedule I'm on, it gets a little tough, but I do manage to get over there to the gym three times a week, at least.
SAJAK: When was the heart issue for you?
PHILBIN: That what around nine, 10 years ago. I had a blocked artery, nothing really serious compared to what a lot of guys go through.
SAJAK: But if it's your heart, it's probably serious.
PHILBIN: Yeah, it was my heart, it was blocked, it was painful. And Gelman, who thinks he is my doctor, kept saying: "Oh, it's a pulled muscle, you know, gym, bench presses."
SAJAK: Yeah, he's good.
PHILBIN: So, six months, this thing would come and go, and come and go, and then, one day on a cruise ship -- with Kathy Lee as a matter of fact, making little cameo in one of her commercials -- it started really acting up. So, I went to the ship's doctor, and he said, well, he gave me an electrocardiogram. Can't find anything, but why don't you go to Mt. Sinai hospital when we dock tomorrow in Miami Beach, which I did.
They discovered it was blocked. "Do you want to blow it out?" I do. Opened it up. Four months later, closed up again, which it is wont to do, you know.
PHILBIN: And this time, I had the arthrectomy, the little rotor rooter, and it stayed open ever since.
SAJAK: Now, did they say anything like: "You are lucky you came in, if you had let this go X number of months..."
PHILBIN: Well, I don't think -- you know, it was just one. There was just one. A lot of guys have three or four blocked. But it was just one. It was painful, and I should have gotten it opened when I did. I don't know how serious it was, though.
SAJAK: Does it -- does something -- does an event like that -- and again, you say it's not serious compared to what other people go through, but if, you know, if you are the one dealing with it, sure it's serious. And you think about the maybes and the -- does it alter things for you much?
PHILBIN: You know, I had a funny feeling. When I was on the gurney, being wheeled out of this room, I said: "My gosh, we are not joking about this anymore, this isn't Gilman's analysis. This is the real thing." And a lot of things did flash through my mind, and you really value life a lot more -- not to get melodramatic about this, but those are the thoughts I had.
Going down with that gurney and realizing that these guys are serious. You know, they're all in there, and they are waiting with their instruments, and they're going to tell you how bad it is.
SAJAK: And now, I can understand immediately after that, in the short term, sort of, you are getting up every morning and saying, life is good, but does that sustain itself? I mean, do you think...
PHILBIN: Well, you know, you say to yourself, from now on, boy, I am going to be -- I'm not going to eat those fatty foods -- I'm not going to do the ice cream, the steak, and all that. You do kind of drift back into that, but, always, it serves as a reminder.
Hey, you know, you can only do so much of that before you pay the price, it does have an effect on you psychologically. And, I'm glad it does, because it kind of tempers the way you live. You know, the effect it has on you -- you know David, you know the effect it had on him? David Letterman, the man made of steel, you know what I'm saying? Nothing gets to David Letterman; that got to him.
SAJAK: And I think it has altered him perceptively for the better.
SAJAK: Not that you should have to go through that...
PHILBIN: Let's talk for a minute about a mutual friend Jack Paar. Just celebrated a birthday.
SAJAK: We have a love affair with Jack, as do so many -- don't you find that incredible? Here's a guy who did "The Tonight Show," Johnny Carson did "The Tonight Show" for 30 years and was marvelous and wonderful. Jack did "The Tonight Show" for only five years, ended what in '63, '62?
PHILBIN: Tremendous impact.
SAJAK: And still...
PHILBIN: To this day.
SAJAK: He just revere this guy.
SAJAK: What do you think it was about Paar?
PHILBIN: I thought it was his informality, as opposed to everybody else, the fact that he wasn't a singer, he wasn't really a standup comedian, but yet, he was charming, he was funny as anybody. And he had a way to put you at ease, whether you were a viewer, or a guest, but yet, get the best out of you.
I admired him tremendously. And I loved when you got your talk show on CBS and you brought him on.
SAJAK: We did an hour with Jack.
PHILBIN: That was a thrill for you, I could see.
SAJAK: It really was. I had the best time. You know, it's like a Little Leaguer bringing Babe Ruth on, and sitting down and talking to the guy. And he -- it's interesting about Jack, and that was 10 years ago, and Jack is getting up there, as he will tell you, and he has the aches and pains that go with that, and some days are better than others.
But when you are with Jack, and I'm sure you see this, this it is, oh, pal, I'm going through this, this hurts, that hurts, but you talk to him for five minutes, and it is Jack again.
SAJAK: He loves...
PHILBIN: He loves to talk, there is no doubt about it. He was a natural born talker. He had a great career, I mean, for as short as it was, as you say to last this long. Now, he left in '63.
SAJAK: I think so.
PHILBIN: Or '64, whatever it was, we are talking 36 years out of the public eye, and yet still in the public.
PHILBIN: And to walk away and stay away -- he did a little thing for ABC a little bit after that. That's pretty amazing, too, because normally, that bug gets you, and it is difficult to walk away.
PHILBIN: Years ago, he guested on "The Joey Bishop Show." And I of course was Joey's announcer, and I was always sitting at Joey's side. But on that particular night, they were both so nervous that they -- the producer, Paul Orra (ph), said to me, "Do you mind if Joey does it alone?"
And I was heartbroken, because I wanted to meet Jack Paar. Well, I never met him that night. As soon as the show was over, Bishop ran that way, Jack ran that way, and they were gone. And I was standing there.
So, all these years go by, and I come back to New York City and one night, Jack is having a special over at NBC, and I -- Rick Ludwin invited me and I sat there, midway up in the audience, and just taking it all in and loving his stories and this was oh, gosh, in early '80s.
And showing the clips and it great fun, brought back a lot of memories, because he was the guy that told me, what I should try to do in this business. So I am waiting there at the end of the show, he starts coming up the aisle, while the credits are rolling, and he is shaking hands, well, by God, I'm right on the aisle, and he is shaking hands and he's shaking hands.
And there was an attractive lady sitting right in front of me, and he stopped with her, and he took her by the hand, took her out of the audience and it was Miriam, his wife, and the handshaking stopped and they walked down the aisle and out the door. And I missed him again.
SAJAK: Where is Omar?
PHILBIN: Anyway, years later, we got together, but, I love him.
SAJAK: He's a great man and I do, too, and there are still millions who do. And I'm happy to say Jack is doing OK.
We are going to take a break. And maybe we'll talk about Notre Dame.
PHILBIN: Whatever you like to know, "Saj," I'm with you.
SAJAK: We will peel away the facade and find out if there is another facade under there, with Regis Philbin. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILBIN: Why should Larry King be the only one wearing suspenders? Strutting around like it is his world? Sick of him, anyway. (LAUGHTER)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAJAK: Welcome back.
Pat Sajak for Larry King, happy to be with Regis Philbin. If Mohammed will not come to the mountain, we will come here.
PHILBIN: I appreciate you coming here.
SAJAK: We're happy to be here.
PHILBIN: Are you wearing suspenders?
SAJAK: No. I'm not.
PHILBIN: Regis. When? Why? Who? Where? My favorite impression of Larry King, and I do it every time I see him.
Late at night, the old radio show Larry -- up all night, everybody is asleep except a few cranks left at 3:00 in the morning, and King has got somebody on the phone, and you hear him say, "Altoona, go ahead."
PHILBIN: And there's silence, you know.
SAJAK: How, man. I used to occasionally sit in for Larry on that all night show and there would be some very sparse moments...
PHILBIN: I don't know how he did it. He writes the column, he had the TV thing, he had the radio thing.
SAJAK: But I love Larry's column.
PHILBIN: It is fun, isn't it? It really is fun.
SAJAK: It's kind of stream of thought, "I like juice."
PHILBIN: And he is exactly the right guy to do that column, and I'll tell you why. Because he is there every night, meeting people, and he's going around, hearing a lot of things, put it in the column, because a lot of times, it is the first time you will hear that story.
SAJAK: I understand, before this show began, the run of the show, if you were to graph your career, in terms of success, failure, cancellation, hiring, firing, whatever, it would look like a bad EKG. There were a lot of ups and downs.
PHILBIN: Not like yours, Saj. You started going up and you never stopped.
SAJAK: I'm waiting for that plateau; it hasn't arrived yet.
PHILBIN: It hasn't arrived yet.
SAJAK: So, I can understand that when things are popping, you grab them, and, I'm amused when I see interviews with you, and people will say, so, what are you doing after this? Like this is a paper route, until something better comes along.
PHILBIN: I don't know; I have no idea. I'm so busy doing what I have to do.
SAJAK: I understand all that. But what drives you to go to Atlantic City? What drives to travel around with Rickles to a show? Beyond the heavy schedule, what's pushing?
PHILBIN: Well, I...
SAJAK: Settle down a little bit.
PHILBIN: All of my work is confined.
SAJAK: Go home and say hi to Joy.
PHILBIN: I do that. All of my work is confined in a studio. And I have found to go out there and get in the different venue, and not have a camera in front of you, is great fun. It is a different phase of our business and I really enjoy it. I love the week with Rickles. We toured Florida, we had screams, we had laughs, on stage and off.
So, it is great therapy.
SAJAK: So, you don't look at that as another job.
PHILBIN: As work? I don't look at it as work, no.
SAJAK: We have a couple of -- we are going to try to disguise them and pretend they're not plugs, but you've got something coming up this very week on your morning show. This is a big thing for you, actually. The...
SAJAK: The mom thing.
PHILBIN: This is very, very popular segment and it happens once a year, right around this time, as we go into Mother's Day, we celebrate Mother's Day all week. And we have various prizes and people that we are bringing on the show.
But on Friday, that is our big show where we salute five or six mothers whose letters we have picked from those that have been written by their daughters and sons, why they should be saluted, what they want, and we try to provide that for them, and it is turns into be a very heart-warming show.
PHILBIN: He cries. Kathie Lee used to cry. Kelly will probably cry. I'm the only one that doesn't cry.
SAJAK: Are you a crier? What moves you to tears? Movies make you cry? Do TV shows?
PHILBIN: I get sentimental once in awhile, when Notre Dame loses. I go into a bad scene.
SAJAK: I promised we'd talk about Notre Dame, but we have to take another break, and we'll be back with Regis Philbin and Notre Dame. I swear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILBIN: Let's find out who want to be a millionaire.
JASON ALEXANDER, ACTOR: It's D. It's D. It's D. Don't even ask me, it's D.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN SHORT, ACTOR: I don't have a good tailor, and he trims things too tight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENNIS FRANZ, ACTOR: I'd like to phone a friend. That would be...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAJAK: Do you like doing the celebrity shows on "Millionaire"?
PHILBIN: I love them. I love them. You know, the people that we have the "Millionaire" show are what we like to call civilians, but they're real people.
SAJAK: People who have real jobs.
PHILBIN: Yes, that's right, and they're scared to death in the first place, and there's a lot pressure, a lot of tension, the lights are flashing and the music is going on. So, there's lot for them to absorb, and meanwhile, keeping their brains fresh and coming up with the right answers.
With the celebrities, I know most of them. It's always great fun. They're scared to death. They're just as scared, in fact, even more so because their reputations are at stake, and they don't want to look foolish. We allow them to help each other for the first up to $32,000, and after that, the lights go down and everybody shuts up and then it's...
SAJAK: Who's on this week? It's celebrity week, right?
PHILBIN: It's celebrity week: Marty Short, Chevy Chase, Jason Alexander, Edie Falco, great people.
SAJAK: Well, we want to try to help the ratings.
PHILBIN: But the thing is, Pat, who's going to wind up last? You know, who is going to wind up last because that's always -- Kelly Ripa will be there, too.
SAJAK: Oh, will she?
PHILBIN: But last year, it was Norm who came in last, Norm MacDonald, you know, and yet he exploded on a stack of questions and went to half million dollars and almost had the million for his charity, but in the end walked away. But that's the big -- who is going to be the last one in the seat.
SAJAK: You know what's really tough for a celebrity, have you ever done a game show where you've played with a civilian, like a "Pyramid," that kind of thing, where you've been paired with a...
PHILBIN: Years ago, I did a show called...
SAJAK: It's terrible position because if you screw up, this poor person from...
PHILBIN: But what about the people you work with every night?
SAJAK: Well, I don't control their destiny.
PHILBIN: But are they nervous?
SAJAK: Oh, sure. They're petrified. But you know, we have celebrities on our show as well, and one of questions I get asked often, which I will now turn on you, is well, don't you make the puzzles easier for the celebrities? Do questions change celebrity week, the nature of them, the difficulty?
PHILBIN: No, I don't think so.
SAJAK: Because they're for charity.
PHILBIN: They're for charity.
SAJAK: But you don't want to be gimmies. You want some drama.
PHILBIN: Yes, the first questions, generally, are very, very easy because we want the kids in the family...
SAJAK: Is this a spoon or is it a fork?
PHILBIN: There you go.
PHILBIN: So, we get through those...
PHILBIN: .... the kids enjoy it, and the whole family can play along and then when we get up higher, of course, the questions get progressively tougher. But, no, they're the same for the celebrities.
SAJAK: Can I tell you a flaw in the show?
SAJAK: This has nothing to do with the...
PHILBIN: I think I know what the flaw is...
SAJAK: It's a flaw for you personally and your personal schedule. Your flaw is these people can take forever to answer.
PHILBIN: That's right.
SAJAK: You can sit there -- I mean, they edit it down, right.
PHILBIN: But I'm there for 2 1/2, maybe three hours.
SAJAK: What's the longest anyone's ever ruminated over an answer?
PHILBIN: Fifty-two minutes...
SAJAK: Fifty-two minutes, what are they doing there?
PHILBIN: A woman just sat there, and could not make up her mind. And actually, I could see was having like a nervous breakdown, an emotional breakdown in a chair. Her face was contorted. She was inside, chewing herself up, whether she goes for it or not, walk away with the $125,000 or go for $250,000, and you know, a lot of greed enters into it as well, and a lot of need does. These people need the money. They want to enjoy it. That 52 minutes, it was agony.
SAJAK: But theoretically, she could have sat there for three hours, right?
SAJAK: See, you've got to work on that because we do a half- hour, and I'm done.
PHILBIN: Exactly, I envy you a lot. We do 2 1/2 hours and I'm still there.
SAJAK: Speaking of envy, when --- a couple of notes on that. First of all, I don't know anyone in business, and this is very unusual and a tribute to you and I don't know what it says about you or your relationship with people, I don't know anyone who begrudges your success, and that's extraordinary. This is not a business known for its generosity.
PHILBIN: Well, I appreciate that.
SAJAK: I've never heard -- everyone's happy for Regis.
PHILBIN: Oh, yes.
SAJAK: I'm a little annoyed, but most people are happy for you. But the other thing is when it became apparent "Millionaire" was going to be big and it was going to be around for a while and you had to go in and make a deal, what a position to be in. Here was this network owned by folks who are not known to say, let me open my wallet and what do you want, and they absolutely, it seems to me, had to sign you.
You can make argument, but it would have been the boldest move in history of television had they not. How do you approach a negotiation? What do you say to your people?
PHILBIN: Well, first of all, I wasn't sure what the pay should be, because it very unusual situation. Here I was doing -- well, first of all, when the show started it was supposed to run 14 nights in a row and then we would stop for three months. That's how the British do it, and then it would come up again three months down the road, another 14 nights.
Well, suddenly, it's on three nights a week and then four nights a week, and we never really settled a contract in the beginning because we didn't know. But now, it's going on for an hour four nights a week. That's four hours of prime time network time a week, and all of those shows in the top 10.
SAJAK: What you are making now? I though I'd just ask. Sometimes, if you just ask, it pops up.
PHILBIN: You know, now that you bring it up, I don't know if I'm short-changed or not. Well, I didn't know where to go with it. I had -- I said just get what you can.
PHILBIN: I probably short-changed myself a couple hundred million.
SAJAK: I am -- I am...
PHILBIN: That got your attention, Sajak. Sajak was looking up like, what?
SAJAK: I am obligated to ask you about the new show, the woman and the -- there's a new game on, "Weakest Link."
PHILBIN: Oh, "Weakest Link." I saw it the other night for the first time.
SAJAK: What do you think?
PHILBIN: Well, it's a very clean show. It looks almost...
SAJAK: Clean? Is this your tribute, it's clean?
PHILBIN: Well, when I say clean, I mean clean-looking. I mean its shot well, they know what they're doing. It's not a like a show that has been created here where you've flaws that you've got to overcome and work out in the first couple of months. No, it was all honed to perfection in Britain, technically, but it looks like the same thing we're doing, with the eight people, whatever it is, lined up, and she's there facing each one.
SAJAK: It's funny, when your show hit, a number of other shows went on the air, and I was approached by some of the producers asking if I'd be interested in doing it. And I looked, and they were all attempting to do your show. So, the conventional wisdom was that you were the harbinger of this rebirth of game shows, and I said, I don't think so. I think what's happened is the show is a hit, and everyone is trying to copy it and copies generally don't work.
PHILBIN: Well, they didn't the first year. Now, this one comes along. This one is off to nice start.
SAJAK: Why do we have go to England to get all our TV? What is that?
PHILBIN: And she's quite a character.
SAJAK: She is, she is that. Now, the tabloids are trying to make something out of it, that she is the anti-Regis, and I know that. I know how interested you are in all that stuff, but you are, as the game show king now, you have to be drawn into these conversations. She has a completely different style.
PHILBIN: Yes, absolutely, and I think somebody approached me on that when she was coming here. You know, there are all kinds of ways to play this game, and that's the not my way. I wouldn't do it million years.
SAJAK: Is the "Millionaire" guy in England rougher on people?
PHILBIN: He is a little more suspenseful. I mean, he keeps you waiting. And it becomes obvious, I think. But that's his way of doing it. And he gets a lot of attention and he's awfully good.
He's the guy to taught us all to play this game. Chris Tarrant is his name. But he will keep you waiting after you give an answer. And look you right in the eye.
SAJAK: You can't do that? And you're saying, you can't do that? PHILBIN: I don't want to do that. I think, I mean, I give them a little suspense, but then I let them know, whether they won or lost. But he will stare you down; they'll look you over. He'll check your shoes out. And then maybe he'll tell you if you won or lost.
SAJAK: You can't help but root for these people; you want the suspense. But you have to, as a human being, you want these people to win.
SAJAK: I want them to win a Buick. You must really want them to win.
PHILBIN: But you know, Pat, it's all show business, is what this woman is doing, is just another phase of our business. She is putting a different slant on an old theme.
SAJAK: We have to take a break and when we come back, do you want to talk about Notre Dame? I have a Notre Dame question.
PHILBIN: Have you ever been to Notre Dame?
SAJAK: No, I never have.
PHILBIN: You never have? You dare to talk to me...
SAJAK: Well, I understand this may be something you're interested in. And we hope you are too. We will be back with Regis Philbin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILBIN: You can phone one of your friends. I understand Gelman is one of your lifelines.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think Gelman would know this?
PHILBIN: Absolutely not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He wouldn't.
PHILBIN: He took down Kathie Lee; he'll take you down, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAJAK: Where did you go to college?
PHILBIN: Where did you go to school?
SAJAK: I went to a little commuter school. I don't mean to demean it. It is a city school called Columbia College in Chicago. It was a small, liberal arts school, so I never had the big campus, football.
PHILBIN: Are you from Chicago?
SAJAK: Yes, I grew up there.
PHILBIN: I'll be darned.
SAJAK: This may be your set, but it's my show.
PHILBIN: Sajak, Polish. A lot of Polish people in Chicago.
SAJAK: We have the pope now, pal.
PHILBIN: That's right. I'm amazed. You lived in Chicago, and you never took 90 miles east and went to Notre Dame just for a football game.
SAJAK: Now, you grew up in New York, I swear we will get back to Notre Dame. Chicago is a very neighborhood-oriented city.
PHILBIN: Yes, it is.
SAJAK: I don't think I went downtown until I was maybe 15 years old really. You stayed in your neighborhood.
SAJAK: You stayed in your neighborhood.
PHILBIN: Just like New York.
SAJAK: Was it the same thing?
PHILBIN: Absolutely. I was born here right down the street.
SAJAK: You hung out with other Irish Catholic kids.
PHILBIN: It was a melting pot, but I grew up in the Bronx, and we had everybody up there. I never came to Manhattan, or when I did come to Manhattan, it was like visiting Oz. I mean, it was the highlight of the -- your year.
SAJAK: People find that odd...
PHILBIN: That's the way it
SAJAK: You had your neighborhood and everything was in your neighborhood. The grocery store you went to, the tavern...
PHILBIN: Sure. The candy store where we all hung out, the park where we played baseball, the school auditorium where we played basketball, the streets where we played touch football. It was all there for us.
SAJAK: When you -- you graduate from Notre Dame. What was your degree?
SAJAK: What did you hope to do with that? What were you thinking at the time?
PHILBIN: I didn't know what to do with it. I didn't now what I would major in. I wanted to be in this business, but I never felt I had the talent to succeed in it.
And here I was in liberal arts program -- which subject should I take? And it came time for junior year, a decision, and I picked sociology. Which was fine, which gave me a great insight into human nature.
SAJAK: That's funny how those things work out. You go back every year.
PHILBIN: Oh sure. Three, four times a year.
SAJAK: For football, primarily?
PHILBIN: For football, for banquets, for...
SAJAK: Who was coaching when were you there?
PHILBIN: Frank Leahy.
SAJAK: Some great names have gone through there. So, you go back opening game every year?
PHILBIN: Not the opening games. Not so much anymore. But usually, I find a way to go back at least twice, three times a year.
SAJAK: One of the questions I get all the time from younger people, and it's a tough, tough question to answer in this business, when they come to you for advice.
What do I do? How do I get to where you are? You can talk to 50 people who are successful, and you get 50 different stories. Were do you start? Sociology degree at Notre Dame. You can't give that advice. What do you say, because you must get that question?
PHILBIN: I thought I lost a lot of time, Pat, not going for it while in school. Not participating even in the school play. Not doing anything. Not getting into whatever little radio class they may have had in those days, you know.
I stayed away from it, because I, honest to God, didn't think I could do it. And didn't want to have anybody laugh at me for trying. So I hung out too long. So, I went all through high school, through college. Once I went to WNDU Studios -- they have the NBC affiliate there, right on campus, and couldn't even knock on the door to ask for a job sweeping the floor. I just couldn't do it. So I backed away. It wasn't until I got into the service -- the last day of my service.
I had a tough old marine major, told me, you can have anything you want in this life. You just got to want it bad enough. Now, do you want it? I said, yes, sir.
SAJAK: So the advice is do it.
PHILBIN: Yes, sir. The earlier, the better.
SAJAK: Otherwise, you will end up...
PHILBIN: What about you, Sajak? Were you in the school play? Were you in the lead?
SAJAK: No, I'm not much of a self-promoter.
PHILBIN: What did you major in, in college?
SAJAK: I was a broadcast major.
PHILBIN: There you go.
SAJAK: Yes, exactly, I was a disc jockey.
PHILBIN: But it certainly didn't hurt you at all.
SAJAK: We're both incredible examples.
PHILBIN: Where did you go after school? I know you spent some time in Nashville with the weather.
SAJAK: You know, when you're sitting in for Larry one night, you can ask me that question.
We will take a break and spend our remaining moments with...
PHILBIN: Sajak, a little touchy. You thought he was a nice guy, watching him for years. Didn't matter.
SAJAK: Do you have any questions you wanted to ask me?
PHILBIN: No! I don't want to ask you anything. Did you see what -- how Saj snapped at me? I'm really curious about it, because you're sort of an enigma. We don't know that much about the Saj. All we know is that wheel spins around, and she walks around in the dress and that's all we know about it. SAJAK: Wait a minute. It seems to me, oh, Mr. Philbin, that Mrs. Gifford on the show was kind of cover for you, too, in terms of baring your soul. You know, she was the lightning rod. She was the lightning rod for the controversy and that tabloid stuff, and you could just come out and have fun and joke about that, and you had the feeling that you knew Regis, because he was out there every day, but you know, Regis wasn't talking much about Regis. Isn't that fair to say that it probably worked for you that a lot of the heat went the other way.
PHILBIN: Oh, sure. Oh, absolutely. That's, I guess -- well, she was kind of forced into some of those situations. She could have made a decision not to pursue, but she's a fighter.
SAJAK: Whether she did or didn't and how she handled it, that's her business, and she's entitled to do it the way she wanted. But my point is, I think for a guy, like you, who maybe doesn't necessarily want to bare his soul to America on a daily basis, it kind of worked that...
PHILBIN: Yes, no doubt about it.
SAJAK: I mean, Vanna is cover for me in that sense.
PHILBIN: And look what happened to you with Vanna. Vanna took all the heat all these years. I didn't know until today that the Sage went to a small community college in Chicago.
SAJAK: Anything else you'd like to know?
PHILBIN: No, no. No questions, but one day, sage, when I'm sitting here for Larry King, you're going to get it.
SAJAK: I'll be there in a minute. Are you are doing the Rose Parade, too?
PHILBIN: I'm grand marshal of the Rose Parade, yes. Pat and I both worked in L.A. for many, many years, so we know how big that is, especially out there. It's a huge honor, and I couldn't believe it. They asked me.
SAJAK: So, you'll be the grand marshal.
PHILBIN: Grand marshal, waving to all the Sages in the audience, you know.
SAJAK: Do you have any duties besides -- I mean, do you have to...
PHILBIN: Oh, I have to attend the ball, you know, and the breakfast and the lunch and the branch, some of those events, but I'll be happy to do that. And then, of course, in the car 8:00 in the morning and do the Colorado Avenue thing.
SAJAK: It's a wonderful -- I assume you've been to the parade.
PHILBIN: Oh, sure. I've come to it myself.
SAJAK: It's a wonderful...
PHILBIN: Yes, it is.
SAJAK: That must be -- it's exciting. It's funny, when people ask about what you like about -- it's nice to get a big salary and it's nice to get the recognition, but aren't the perks the best part?
PHILBIN: I think so.
SAJAK: I was -- we were in Dallas, and I was playing catch with my son in the outfield in the ball park. You can't do that, and that's the...
PHILBIN: It's really a great business, and I -- right now, we're talking about strikes and things like that, and it's hard to believe it would come to that because there should be enough for everybody who is lucky enough to be in this business.
SAJAK: We've got just a couple of minutes left. A little more business to take care of, and then we'll wrap it up with Regis Philbin, from his very own studio, empty right now.
PHILBIN: And very quiet.
SAJAK: So, now, you have a new co-host who is pregnant.
SAJAK: Which means she is going to be gone for a little while. What are you going to do?
PHILBIN: I think she is going to take at least four weeks off, at least four to six weeks off. Well, we're going to use some hosts that we had before who proved themselves to be a lot of fun. We're also -- Gelman wants to do a college co-ed week, where we get...
SAJAK: Oh, he does, does he?
PHILBIN: Yes, college co-eds that want to get in the business. Gelman would like to help them become stars, and so they're going to be invited to do our show. They've got to send in a tape, a letter. whatever it is, and we'll look at it and Gelman will make a decision who's going to come here.
SAJAK: On a scale of one to 10, how exciting does this seem to you?
PHILBIN: Ah, it's about a 3 1/2. Now, we're looking forward to it.
SAJAK: You did some shows...
PHILBIN: Well, we had a lot of fun.
SAJAK: .. with civilians. I hate that word.
PHILBIN: I hate it, but I don't know what else to call regular people.
SAJAK: Regular people.
PHILBIN: Non-show business folk.
SAJAK: Is there ever a morning where you get up and you say, I don't know. I just -- can't talk to this -- second lead in a sitcom. It's going to be on six more weeks, anyway.
PHILBIN: And he or she as been here at least 18 times in the last three years.
SAJAK: I know, and I've got to pretend I'm excited about this. I mean, there have to be days.
PHILBIN: There are days, a lot of days.
SAJAK: But you fight your way through it?
PHILBIN: You try to get a different slant. Whatever is working on the show, maybe you bring that up. Yes, that's one tough aspect about doing a daily show. Some of the guests have got to be repeated, otherwise you're dead. You know, and not all of them are great.
SAJAK: There are days...
PHILBIN: Most of them are, but there are some days...
SAJAK: But there are days when you're about halfway through the show, and you look at the clock and you're sure the show is over.
PHILBIN: And it's not. Just like right now, you glanced at your watch.
PHILBIN: Running dry, are we?
SAJAK: Luckily, we are out of time.
PHILBIN: Are we? Just made it. We didn't get to Sajak just ran dry right in front of me.
SAJAK: Here's some of the stuff we didn't get to -- ah, this was kind of boring stuff anyway. I appreciate you doing this. PHILBIN: You bet. My pleasure.
SAJAK: I love coming here as a guest, and you're always...
PHILBIN: And you've been terrific for us on the days I can't be here that you've guest-hosted. You've always been great.
SAJAK: It's a lot of fun.
PHILBIN: In fact, too good.
SAJAK: I don't think so. How do you say congratulations to someone who has been around a long time, but just the last two years have knocked everybody's socks off.
PHILBIN: Well, thanks. I appreciate it.
SAJAK: And you deserve it all. Good to see you, Reg. Thanks very much.
PHILBIN: Good to be with you.
SAJAK: Pat Sajak for Larry King. Tomorrow -- well, not here. Someone will be in his seat, it might be me. You never know, and we'll have a fascinating guest, I'm sure -- not that we could ever top tonight's.
PHILBIN (as Larry King): Altoona, go ahead.
SAJAK (as Larry King): Altoona, you're on.
SAJAK: Good night.
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