REGIS PHILBIN- DONE IN BY EGO AND $$$ DEMANDS- not your average "retirement"
In 1994 Regis Philbin left the Upper Eastside and his Park Avenue apt. which had been his home since he returned to New York from Los Angeles in the 80’s to begin his morning chat show, syndicated nationally by Disney/ABC’s Buena Vista division. A life-long Catholic, he lived near his St. Ignatius church where his daughters would be married. Footnote: this was the church of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s funeral as well as Jackie Onassis’ funeral in 1994.
He moved across Central Park to the Upper Westside to a new condo tower-Millenium Tower, where his famous neighbors have included: Tony Danza, Ben Affleck & Jennifer Garner, Liam Neeson, Alan Alda (Regis’ next door neighbor on 53rd floor), Julie Andrews, Howard Stern and others. But more importantly, his new condo was across the street from the ABC studio where he did “LIVE WITH REGIS & KATHIE LEE”…later to become LIVE WITH REGIS & KELLY. So he could now sleep late and stumble across the street to do his show LIVE….and collect his paycheck of roughly $18-$20million per year…without breaking a sweat chatting for ONE HOUR a day! But this wasn’t enough—Regis wanted MORE.
I was always a fan of Regis Philbin…something about the magic chemistry he had with his perky blonde co-hosts who were all young enough to be his daughters. And then 2 years ago, he abruptly resigned from his perch co-hosting one of the most popular morning chat shows! After a tearful on-air goodbye which went on for weeks, the truth began leaking out. It was all about MONEY. Regis Philbin was a great actor…greater than anybody realized…he played a nice guy on morning TV and everybody bought it—but apparently the truth is pretty ugly. He’s a Bronx-born small-minded ego maniac who believed his own publicity and thought he was the biggest star in the world who could never be fired.
Apparently, it was time for contract negotiations and Regis told his longtime agent Jim Griffin he wanted a big increase from the $20million per year he was getting. According to TMZ, Griffin talked with Disney execs about a new contract for Regis when his current deal expired and told them Regis’ demands. The Disney/ABC execs made it clear that Regis would not be getting an increase, in fact he’d be getting a pay CUT, partly because the show was not performing as well in the ratings and partly because Regis takes a lot of time off. Regis, who has one of the world’s biggest egos, was furious at the lowball offer and that was the trigger for his announcement that he’s leaving the show. He fired Griffin immediately, who had been his agent for decades. So much for loyalty.
Regis told Kelly Ripa about his decision 15 minutes before they went on the air…she was stunned and later became very angry because (reportedly) she felt it showed a total lack of respect for her. Apparently, the entire production team was angry at Regis because they felt he hurt the show by “blindsiding” everyone. . The media was immediately full of reports that “Regis is retiring…” stories which Regis and his P.R. reps immediately shot down. On shows like Letterman and The View, Regis almost shouted at interviewers “I’m not retiring! I’m just moving on…!” But the real story, the bottom line: it was all about MONEY.
Disney’s arguments made sense: so-so ratings, an 80 year old host who takes a LOT of time off and let’s face it….what else is he going to do? He literally lives across the street from the studio…he walks across the street just before show time, chats for an hour and then collects a gigantic paycheck, which he felt wasn’t enough for his “talents.” Regis had experienced more than a few health issues over the years and he was closing in on 80 years old. As we know, TV is all about younger demographics and they were a little afraid that their senior citizen host could literally “drop dead” on LIVE TV ….and what would THAT do to their ratings and their “brand” which is a show called LIVE with…..? So they did a bunch of “farewell shows” for Regis and let him say goodbye gracefully over a couple months and replaced him with football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, and guess what? The ratings have soared…never better in the show’s history, which reportedly, has made Regis even more furious- partly because Regis brought Strahan into the show over the years including a pre-taped bit where he and Strahan are baby-sitting Kelly’s three kids.
What’s Regis Philbin doing now? Unsuccessfully trying to be a sports commentator on FOX, doing an occasional guest-starring role here and there and I just heard him on his new gig: contributing little pre-taped opinion pieces on WOR Radio. How the mighty have fallen!