51-year-old Kelly Ripa is the cover story of this week’s People magazine, and she’s talking about her new book out, Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories. Kelly Ripa is apparently telling all, so I’m sure there will be stories of how she and her husband, Mark Consuelos, emotionally damaged their children through their abundant sex life, and maybe we’ll hear more about her very interesting earlobe surgery. But Kelly also talks about hosting Live! With Regis and Kelly with Regis Philbin. She calls their relationship complicated and calls the chapter about him in her book “the hardest chapter to write.” Hmm, and yet it’s easy for her to talk about her children walking in on her mid-coitus on TV?
Regis and Kelly hosted together after Kelly took over for his previous host, Kathie Lee Gifford, from 2001 to 2011 when he retired. After his retirement, Regis suggested that he and Kelly’s relationship had iced out and even claimed he was never asked back to the show. Which ended up not being true, as he appeared on it in 2015 for a Halloween episode. But even at the start, Kelly says that while we may think she lived the dream from the jump-off, she and Regis had some friction:
“There were good and bad days. I don’t want to feel like I’m slamming anyone or that I’m being disrespectful. But I also want people to know it was not a cakewalk. It took years to earn my place there and earn things that are routinely given to the men I worked with. Including an office and a place to put my computer.”
“…The biggest misconception is that it all came easily,” Ripa says. “People think I just showed up one day and was handed a job and I lived happily ever after and now everything’s perfect. But it never is that way.”
After serving as a guest co-host a third time and being told repeatedly that the show was not looking for a permanent co-host, Ripa’s agent called her with an offer. It also included a warning: “They want you to know who your boss is… It was very ominous, and it did not feel good.”
Kelly says that her agent told her not to bring “an entourage” and so she showed up with only one hair and one makeup person but still, that was too much for Regis who allegedly made fun of her upon her entrance:
However, moments before she walked on stage, Philbin greeted her and the show’s executive producer, Michael Gelman, with: “Uh-oh, Gelman, it’s got an entourage.”
“I felt horrible,” she says. “He was probably trying to be funny, but at the same time it felt like a pile-on. I understand that probably he didn’t want a co-host, but the network wanted me to be the co-host and I didn’t think I should pass up that opportunity. I don’t think it was fair to him. But it was also not fair to me.”
Kelly says that outside of work, she and Regis actually got along much better and once even had a vacation dinner together that was lots of fun.
“Off camera and outside of that building, it was a different thing. The handful of times we spent together, I so enjoyed. We went to the same resort once on vacation and he came to a dinner I hosted—one of the favorite nights of my life. I never laughed so hard.”
Kelly adds that she isn’t sure why Regis thought the show never asked for him to come back and that she always tried to keep a friendship with him but he was not really interested:
“The show had reached out many times… It makes me sad but it’s not something I will ever understand. I was steadfast in my attempt at communication. You can’t make a person befriend you.”
But Kelly says she has a lot of love for Regis who passed away two years ago at 88:
“If I could become a tenth as good, I’d be happy,” she says. “It’s taking the audience on a ride with you and remembering that you are always the butt of the joke.”
“I loved him,” she adds, “and I still do.”
All’s well that ends well, and Kelly is now living her dream hosting the show with Ryan Seacrest and doing the very important work of interviewing celebrities about frivolities, doing damage control PR for ABC when necessary, and dressing up as outdated cultural references for Halloween. Hey, someone’s gotta do it!
Pic: Roger Wong/INFGoff.com