To a generation of TV viewers, Kelly Ripa will forever be paired in the public imagination with Regis Philbin. More than a decade after their professional relationship came to a close, Ripa is reflecting on the decade she spent working alongside Philbin with newfound clarity ― and gratitude.
Speaking to People magazine to promote her new book, “Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories,” Ripa called Philbin “the world’s best storyteller” but revealed that their time as co-hosts of “Live With Regis and Kelly” came with a fair share of unexpected challenges.
“There were good and bad days,” she explained. “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.”
Ripa was brought on to co-host the ABC talk show ― which launched in 1983 as “The Morning Show” before being renamed “Live With Regis and Kathie Lee” five years later ― in 2001, shortly after the departure of Philbin’s original co-host, Kathie Lee Gifford.
Though Ripa already served as a guest co-host three times before landing a permanent spot, the transition to full time wasn’t easily, and Philbin’s initial demeanor toward her wasn’t the most welcoming. In one early exchange, Ripa said Philbin griped about her “encourage,” referring to her hair stylist and makeup artist.
In hindsight, Ripa acknowledged Philbin may have been “trying to be funny” but noted 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,” she said. “I don’t think it was fair to him. But it was also not fair to me.”
Media speculation around Philbin’s working relationship with Ripa, however, continued long after his retirement. In 2017, he told talk show host Larry King that he and his former colleague hadn’t stayed in touch.
“She got very offended when I left,” he said at the time. “She thought I was leaving because of her. I was leaving because I was getting older, and it just wasn’t right for me anymore.”
Ripa, however, pointed out that Philbin appeared on the 2015 Halloween episode of “Live With Kelly and Ryan” and said she’d been “steadfast” in her attempt to maintain communication.
“It makes me sad, but it’s not something I will ever understand,” she said. “You can’t make a person befriend you.”