‘I felt much more fragility in him’

Before cohosting Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda, Kathie Lee Gifford shared the stage for 15 years with television legend Regis Philbin. The couple led the popular morning show Live with Regis and Kathie Lee from 1985 until Gifford left in 2000, passing his chair to Kelly Ripa.

The two remained close friends over the years. After Philbin’s family announced her death on July 24, 2020, Gifford shared her thoughts on the last time she saw her dear friend.

Kathie lee gifford and regis philbin
Kathie Lee Gifford and Regis Philbin | Bruce Glikas / FilmMagic

Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford created the magic of television

Philbin and Gifford became the morning television show. From 1985 to 2000, the two made early jokes an art form. Their spontaneous conversations in the air gave viewers a panoramic view of their lives along with much laughter.

“When we started, we had no idea what we had, but we knew what we didn’t want,” said Gifford. Today. “We didn’t want writers, we didn’t want a million producers, we didn’t want it to be overproduced. We just wanted to sit there and have fun together. “

Gifford revealed that one of his keys to success was to wait to start any conversation until they were in front of the cameras.

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“We never spoke before the show. We didn’t have what they call ‘elements’ in our business, “the first Today shared host “I’d hold the newspaper, and we’re off to the races. Or would I say, (my son) Cody threw up, and we went to the races. We never planned it. “

Kathie Lee Gifford and Regis Philbin went from being hosts to lifelong friends.

By launching the now infamous morning talk show, Gifford and Philbin began their relationship as colleagues. They shared a professional understanding that solidified their partnership.

“You know, in all the years we were together, we never had a word crossed.” Gifford revealed. “He was an artist in his guts, and so was I. So when we got together, even though we didn’t have a friendship yet, we had mutual respect for what we had already accomplished in our careers.” We had the same sense of humor … and we just took off like a rocket. “

Gifford recalled the humble spirit and gratitude of his former host for his success over the years, and the reason for his electrical chemistry.

“He was the most grateful person in the world, he never forgot where he came from,” he said of Philbin. “I was happy to be on a set. We had the biggest known secret in the whole world, but they don’t. We have fun, F – U – N and it’s contagious. ”

Kathie Lee Gifford’s final visit with her friend

While talking to your friend and ex Today Co-host Hoda Kotb, Gifford shared some details of his recent visit to Philbin when he was in the New York area.

“[Regis and wife Joy] came about two weeks ago. I saw Reg get out of the car with Joy and felt a lot more fragility in him than I had seen in him since the last time in January in Los Angeles, ”Gifford recalled. “We sat here on my screen porch and laughed sick. We always pick up right where we left off. ”

Despite their joyous reunion, Gifford suspected that this might be their last time together. “We had the best time, and after they left, I thought to myself, ‘Sir, is this the last time I go to see my friend?'” She revealed. “Because it was failing, I realized it.”

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After hearing the news of Philbin’s death, Gifford went to visit Joy and their daughters. After mourning the death of her husband Frank in 2015, Gifford also wanted to be sensitive to her need for privacy.

“It’s been five years almost since Frank passed away and you love your friends, but you also desperately need that private time as a family,” she explained. “I was grateful to spend time with them and comfort them a little, I let them know that I believed with all my heart that I know where Regis is and I know who he is with … I had many, many conversations with him.” over the years about faith. ”

Gifford appreciates the time he spent with Philbin shortly before his death. “I am so grateful that the Lord gave me that last time,” she said. “That will forever be a precious gift that the Lord gave me, that I had to laugh again with one of my best friends in all my life.”