Kelly Ripa on her troubled relationship with Regis: ‘You can’t make a person befriend you’

Kelly Ripa has a new book called Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories. Full disclosure, I kind of love that title. It’s a memoir and probably redundant to point out that it’s a tell-all because Kelly lives her life by telling all. I don’t dislike Kelly, actually. She reminds me so much of myself, only she was smart enough to add the rich and beautiful part to her fairy tale. But I’m a big mouth too and I tend to rub people the wrong way in all the ways Kelly does. That’s probably why I’m so hard on her, because I’m criticizing myself as much as her.

But we aren’t identical because I would’ve skipped this chapter. In her new book, Kelly is dishing on some behind the scenes on Live. While she doesn’t talk about Michael Strahan at all, she casts some shade on America’s favorite grumpy grandpa, Regis Philbin. Not only does she say their on-set relationship was frosty from the day they met, Kelly said she tried repeatedly to stay connected after he retired and he simply didn’t respond.

“What I learned from working with Regis Philbin was that my favorite stories were the imperfect ones. I learned by watching him,” says Kelly Ripa.

From her first appearance on Live! — when a psychic revealed her third pregnancy before she and husband Mark Consuelos had told their parents or their bosses — to the time she told the world about her daughter Lola walking in on her and Consuelos having sex, the 51-year-old talk show host has shown that no one is better at sharing life’s imperfections. But there are some imperfect stories she’s never told — including her early struggles on Live! and her complicated, sometimes difficult relationship with Philbin. “The biggest misconception is that it all came easily,” says Ripa. “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.”

“That was the hardest chapter to write,” she says. “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 the things that are routinely given to the men I worked with. Including an office and a place to put my computer.”

Landing the morning show gig following the departure of Philbin’s cohost Kathie Lee Gifford in 2001 was like “getting shot out of a cannon,” says Ripa, who was also starring on All My Children at the time. When her agent called with the offer, she was told: “They want you to know who your boss is.” No explanation given. “It was very ominous, and it did not feel good,” she says. Her agent also said the show didn’t want her “bringing an entourage.” She brought two people. “I came with hair and makeup,” she says. “It was not an unusual thing for people on a television show to show up with.”

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.” It?! Her heart started racing. “I felt horrible,” she recalls. “He was probably trying to be funny, but at the same time it felt like a pile-on.” The tensions continued. “I understand that probably he didn’t want a cohost, but the network wanted me to be the cohost and I didn’t think I should pass up that opportunity,” Ripa says. “I don’t think it was fair to him. But it was also not fair to me.”

Still, her sassy spark gave Philbin’s curmudgeonly charm a fresh appeal. “There were good and bad days,” Ripa says. “I thought I’d grown on him. I think I did.” She treasures some memorably joyful moments with him away from the show. “Off camera and outside of that building, it was a different thing,” she says. “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.”

Philbin retired in 2011, but wounds opened anew when he told Larry King in 2017 that Ripa was “very offended” when he left, that he’d never heard from her again and had never been asked back. “The show had reached out many times,” says Ripa, pointing out that he appeared on its 2015 Halloween episode. “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.”

[From People]

I actually think Kelly is doing herself a disservice by trying to interpret Regis’ actions and comments here. Like Kelly, if I’d heard, “it’s got an entourage” without any context, I’d probably be taken aback as well. However, it absolutely sounds like a joke Regis would make. I’ve never watched a full Live show and even I knew that. So Kelly’s sort of telling on herself that she didn’t do her due diligence before she walked on set. I’m not condoning calling another person “it”, just saying that I heard Regis refer to many people as “it” in the brief bits I watched of him. The fact that it took Regis a while to warm up to Kelly isn’t a surprise. He was a curmudgeon. Curmudgeons require a certain taste, you either have it or you don’t. (I happen to love them.) But you have to let them be when they need it. If Kelly pushed when Regis wanted her out of his face, she heard about it, I can promise you that.

As for this he said/she said postmortem, we only have the living person’s words to dispute what’s on record. We know that Kelly did not take Regis’ departure well. I don’t blame her, they basically sprung it on her. But “the show had reached out many times,” is not the same as Kelly contacting Regis. And “steadfast in my attempt at communication,” is very particularly worded. I’m sure Kelly wanted to stay in touch, but she is skirting around something here. It sounds like Kelly is still carrying a lot of pain from this. She admitted in the book she forgives but never forgets and that’s what this sounds like. I don’t blame her, but I wonder if her careful wording has anything to do with Joy Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford being around to also set the record straight.

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46 Responses to “Kelly Ripa on her troubled relationship with Regis: ‘You can’t make a person befriend you’”

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  1. BothSidesNow says:

    I just can’t with her. Ripa is speaking about someone that isn’t here to defend himself. I think she should have left that entire scenario out. Regis had retired and if Ripa wasn’t told then Philbin had reasons not to share with her. I watched the show a few times but mostly for their Halloween episodes, otherwise I didn’t watch them. I leaned more into in Don Donahue for talk shows.

    Also Ripa’s antics with Strahan was absolutely unprofessional and disrespectful on every level.

    • Nanz says:

      Yes! It’s notable that she skipped over Strahan entirely. How convenient.

      • Levans says:

        I agree! The way she treated Michael as he was leaving was 1000x worse than how Regis may have treated her as she was beginning. She is rude, unprofessional, and most likely prejudice given the way she treated him.

    • shanaynay says:

      Agree with you 100%. In my opinion, she comes off annoying AF!!! I never understood or ever will what the big hoopla is with her. I just don’t get it.

    • Debbie says:

      There’s something about her that’s always been unappealing to me, and I say this as someone who is absolutely neutral about Regis Philbin. But I used to watch bits their show and remember how she used to hang over him at times and call him “Big daddy” then, when Kelly grew more confident about her position on the job, I read that she did some out of town shows where she made snide remarks about his age and energy level. I always got the impression that they were not very close, so I’m not surprised about what she writes about him. I agree that treated Michael Strahan terribly during his departure but, by then, she had tenure on the show and she was the “Regis.”

    • allyson says:

      THANK YOU! Speaking about someone whose family is around to read all that BS makes me really pissed off. Get some class, Kelly.

  2. Nanz says:

    Agree. Why mention it? And I think you’re right about him making a joke. If anything, this reads more like she didn’t feel like she belonged there.

  3. Carol Mengel says:

    Let me start out by saying I am not a Kelly Ripa fan, but what was the whole purpose of this chapter? Regis is dead. He can’t disagree with any of her snarky comments. It’s all in very poor/bad taste.

  4. Blue Nails Betty says:

    I’ve never like Ripa and this does not change me opinion of her. I wasn’t a fan of Regis, either, and even I’m wondering why she included this chapter? It does her no favors. Between this and how she treated Strahan, she’s confirming a mean girl streak in her.

  5. Pinkosaurus says:

    Eh, I disagree. This may not only be about Regis but about how she was treated as as an afterthought and marginalized in her workplace. She may be terrible but I certainly went through similar situations when I was a new hire and young woman, and I think it’s interesting to hear how it worked for others. It is really hard to advocate for yourself or push for your position or respect as a young woman in a new workplace, especially if you are told you’re lucky to be there.

    • MC2 says:

      Yep. She said it took years to get an office or a place for her computer & how much she had to “earn”.

      • Lilly (with the double-L) says:

        Yes, agreed and if she didn’t talk about him that would be seen as disrespectful. It’s not a bad take, I think. Curmudgeonly is as curmudgeonly does and it worked for him.

    • B says:

      Well the discussion here is on the power dynamic at work, but her comments about her marriage indicate there was a similarly differentiated dynamic she chose to get in to there too.

  6. Emmi says:

    I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the show. I don’t get his appeal and that has nothing to do with the curmudgeon factor. If I walk into a new workplace and my boss calls me “it” the first time we meet, I’m out of there. There is no excuse for that and saying it to many people doesn’t make it better? I hate that we infantilize old dudes being dickish by calling them “curmudgeon”. That’s a euphemism for “I can do whatever I want and you can’t call me rude because I’m an old. I’ve earned it.” It’s fine as a bit on stage when people have agreed to it. But we need to start realizing that the entertainment industry is a workplace. As for him not being able to defend himself … that happens every time someone releases a memoir.

    • Audrey says:

      100%! Just because one is older, does not allow a person to be rude.

    • Chaine says:

      Yeah, I watched the show often on for years and his persona always struck me as a slightly more treacly version of that unpleasant “somebody take my wife” comic genre where women are demeaned and infantilized. Not surprised that someone like him would have a hard time sharing stage and billing with a new woman cohost a half century his junior and treat her dismissively.

    • equality says:

      Yes to all.

    • DiegoInSF says:

      Honestly, yes to all this!
      Memoirs talk about dead people all the time and curmudgeon? how about a-hole.

    • MissMarirose says:

      I completely agree. It’s long past time for us as a society to stop apologizing for rich white men like Regis. You act professionally or you get called out. That’s the way it should be. Also, it seems contradictory to say he’s a curmudgeon and people should know when he wants to be left alone and then, in the next breath, say that it was wrong of a woman not to personally reach out to said curmudgeon. She can’t win here.

  7. equality says:

    Don’t know anything about Regis or Ripa but calling your co-worker “it” isn’t amusing or professional.

  8. Gem says:

    Kathie Lee had big shoes to fill. I remember they auditioned a ton of people before they chose Keli. She and Regis were from two different generations. I’m surprised they lasted as long as they did together.

  9. TheOriginalMia says:

    Eh. I have no problem with her discussing Regis. He was involved in a huge moment in her life. Did she say anything slanderous about him? No. She related a story which was neither funny nor innocent. It was rude and demeaning. Oh well. It’s her truth. It was Regis’ crappy decision how to treat a coworker he didn’t want. First impressions and all. As for not mentioning Strahan, that was probably self-preservation. She knows he has dirt on her. Probably best to leave him tf alone.

  10. Err says:

    Not a fan of how this takes someone being a dick and blames the other person for not knowing they are a dick. She shouldn’t have to know- he shouldn’t do it in the first place

  11. Belle says:

    Regis was friends with Donald Trump. That tells me everything I need to know about him.

  12. Jo says:

    I always felt Regis thought she was below him and a soap actress wasn’t good enough to be his co-host. She’s also a lot so maybe they rubbed each other the wrong way. Also, it doesn’t help the situation if the show chose her over his opinion. That’s a rough way to start a relationship. As far as them not keeping in touch, not everyone has to get along after a job is done.

  13. Gabby says:

    Regis sounds like a dick. Toward the end, his mask was slipping on air, including some questionable comments to guests.

    Whatever you think of Kelly, she has been working her tail off for ABC since her teenage days, sometimes doing two shows concurrently. I don’t understand what happened with Kathy Lee, but if Kelly was brought in to shoulder half the show, she should have been shown she was valued, even if he was the “star”

  14. HeyKay says:

    I have never liked her.
    Too chirpy and fake happy all the time.
    Look at me, look at my handsome hubby, aren’t we perfect? You wish you were us.

    I didn’t really watch the Regis & Kelly show either.
    Those daytime shows are just “happy, fluffy, and now a cooking spot”

    Regis was around for decades in show biz, he and David Letterman should have both gone off air sooner.
    Letterman, what a huge disappointment he turned out to be!

    • Jennifer says:

      To be fair, “chirpy and fake happy” is what is required out of a (especially female) morning talk show host. It’s why I don’t really watch that stuff in the first place.

  15. M says:

    I’m disappointed by the number of comments that just start with “I’ve never liked her…too this, too that.” And we wonder why women have a much harder time than men moving up in the world—because we are so hard on one another.
    She’s too chirpy?! Can’t win.

    She has an interesting career. It’s likely that the publishers asked for some stories about what it was like working with Regis.

    As for Michael strahan—he made moves to host a different morning show and kelly didn’t find out until the announcement itself. Can you imagine how disrespectful that felt? She was cohost for years and years and it was kept from her. Most of her reaction was due in part to the producers and those behind the scenes-not all entirely towards just Michael. I don’t think the withholding major news like that from a cohost would happen with the male counterpart. I would have been furious. I think her unexplained absence from the show was more to the powers that be at the network—she works for them, so hard, and that’s how they treated her? Don’t blame her for not showing up and being upset.

    Just asking you to reconsider your dislike of her—it might seem validated because she annoys you—but really—is your annoyance due to unconscious misogyny conditioning?

  16. May says:

    If people should only talk about people who are alive and can defend themselves in their memoirs, the whole genre would be awfully boring.

  17. detritus says:

    Kelly’s submissive nonsense turns me off.
    That said, I don’t see why she can’t discuss Regis.
    Hell, we are still talking about the Queen and she’s dead too.

  18. Case says:

    I didn’t think much of Regis, but I don’t think much of Kelly, either. She’s very “me me me” on the show and thinks the show IS her, not about her guests.

  19. tealily says:

    I am firmly NOT a Ripa fan, but I think she has every right to talk about this. It’s good gossip, right? Why are people so precious about the way we talk about dead people? Some dead people were assholes.

  20. LaDonna says:

    Yeeeeah, NO.

    Ain’t nobody calling me “it,” and I KNOW you didn’t just rationalize that misogynist BS.

    Turn that around to Ripa referring to Strahan as “it,” and we got a WHOLE different conversation.

    Seriously? Do better.

  21. Jenn says:

    Hmmm. I mean, she’s got her own version of events, and he… god, they’re just such different people. He’s a broadcaster from way back, a showbiz guy, an endearing grandpa insult comic. They were always an odd pairing and, from some stories that have been shared over the years, KR has sounded at times ambitious and hungry and a bit ruthless (isn’t she constantly in the midst of trying to oust Seacrest?). But I can see how that “eat them or be eaten” mindset would propagate if everyone was always patting you on the head just for being perky, pretty, and tiny.

  22. Kd says:

    Drew Carey spoke in detail of his negotiations for Price is Right and how down to the wire it was. “Talent” are often forbidden by their agents AND the network from speaking to anyone (including family) about a new job until the ink is dry – and the network makes the official announcement to the trades.

  23. LovelyRita says:

    So a grumpy, rude old man is a curmudgeon. Wonder what they call a grumpy old lady? Fired, I’m guessing.

    So tired of these double standards and letting mediocre white men get away with everything while everyone kisses their chalky white behinds.

  24. LBB says:

    I will never forgive Regis Philben for normalizing Trump.