UPDATE Regis Philbin announced this morning he’s leaving “Live with Regis and Kelly.” He’ll be 80 years old in August.
He is not retiring, friends tell me. Not at all. He will continue to perform live at clubs and casinos around the country. Regis will likely wind up hosting a nighttime game show like his very successful ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
This also has nothing to do with health issues. “He’s never been better,” says a source.
I am told there was some sort of negotiation with Disney and ABC. It may be that Philbin decided enough was enough after 28 years.
“I can’t imagine what’s going on at Disney and WABC,” a source observed this morning. “They’re losing Regis in the morning and Oprah in the afternoon.”
I’m told the decision to leave was “organic.” It may also have to do with Regis and Joy’s daughters living in Los Angeles. They could be contemplating a move or a lifestyle change.
Regis is one of a kind. He invented the format that’s been so successful–the host chat that takes place in the first 15 to 20 minutes of his live–not taped–show. The great charm of the host chat came from Regis’s wonderful off the cuff monologues, not jokes, but rambling stories of what he’d been up to in the 24 hours since we’d last seen him on TV. Often the anecdotes involved misadventures concerning Regis and his bw (beautiful wife) Joy, their daughters JJ and Joanna, their cats, and — in the early years of the show–Joy’s mother and sister, who were nicknamed, wickedly, The Winds of War and “Hello, let’s eat!”
I don’t want this to sound like a eulogy for Regis. He’s very much alive. I’ve been lucky to to have enjoyed a nice friendship with Regis and Joy over the years. They are true mensches, the nicest people imaginable, landmark New Yorkers who’ve enriched our lives personally and professionally. I think at 80 Regis will deserve a break; who needs to get up every morning at 7am and plug all those movies, TV shows, Broadway fare, and blatant celebrity?
Can anyone replace Regis? Not really. He’s a storyteller from another era, pre computers and Facebook. For Regis “Social networking” means going out and doing things. When he is out, he and Joy are always asking questions. They are not wallflowers. They aren’t texting anyone. They’re people who engage. ABC has tried a bunch of substitutes over the years including Howie Mandel, Anderson Cooper, and so on. None of then have Regis’s joie de vivre, his complete surprise at the world around him, and his ebullience. So let’s enjoy him for the next seven months like never before!