The truth behind Kelly Ripa and Regis Philbin's relationship

Before there was Kelly and Ryan and Kelly and Michael, there was Regis and Kelly, the second set of co-hosts of the Live brand's history. In retrospect, Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa were an odd pairing. Philbin was a grumpy old TV legend and Ripa was a perky young soap opera actress when they teamed up in 2001 to co-host the long-running syndicated talk show. The two made it work, though, and went on to host Live with Regis and Kelly for 11 years, offering a different on-screen dynamic than the one Philbin had with previous co-host Kathie Lee Gifford

But what was Ripa and Philbin's rapport like off screen? And how has it changed since Philbin rode off into the sunset in 2011? Here is the truth about Ripa and Philbin's relationship.

Ripa and Philbin aren't on speaking terms

It appeared that Ripa and Philbin would be friends forever — especially after their mushy exchange on Philbin's last episode of Live in 2011. But it turns out their bond wasn't as strong as viewers may have thought. To borrow a line from Charlie Puth, Philbin and Ripa don't talk anymore like they used to do. Philbin told Larry King Now in 2017 that they no longer keep in touch, which would explain why he was MIA during Ripa's 15th anniversary show.

Ripa hinted that all was not well with the two in 2013 when she told the Hollywood Reporter "I haven't seen him." It was a stark contrast from her interview in 2012 with OMG! (via Yahoo!) when she said Philbin "called me two nights ago, as a matter of fact. He called to tell me how happy he is for me and how proud he is of the job we're doing there and the great ratings news that came out." 

It should be noted that Philbin and Gifford remained friends after the latter left Live. Philbin has joined Gifford on the Today show and they still get dinner together, proving not everything in Hollywood is fake.

Philbin thinks Ripa is mad at him

You can blame Ripa for the falling out — or at least that's what Philbin seemed to imply on Larry King Now: "She got very offended when I left. She thought I was leaving because of her. I was leaving because I was getting older and it wasn't right for me anymore." He made similar comments in an interview with The Insider when he said, "I left and I think she resented that. I mean, that's how I feel about it. And I'm sorry because I wasn't trying to dive from her. But I was a little tired, you know. And I was just turning 80, so I gotta get out of there."

Philbin didn't point to a specific incident or conversation to back up his claim or say if he tried to reach out to Ripa to clear the air. It's possible he has made just as little of an effort to repair the relationship as Ripa has. We don't know for sure since she didn't publicly respond to his finger-pointing. 

It wouldn't, however, be completely out of character for Ripa to get upset at a co-host for quitting the show. Philbin's replacement and former NFL star Michael Strahan told People he and Ripa "didn't really communicate that much" after it was revealed in 2016 that he was leaving Live With Kelly and Michael to join Good Morning America. Maybe you heard about that one?

Philbin defended Ripa's reaction to Strahan's departure

Ripa was so upset that Strahan and ABC kept her in the dark as he negotiated his move from Live to Good Morning America that she no-showed Live following the announcement, and didn't return until the following week. 

And if you asked Philbin for his take on the much-publicized drama, which TMZ did, he felt his former co-host had every right to be upset. "They should have told her in the beginning," he said. Interestingly enough, Philbin didn't fill Ripa in on the fact that he was leaving Live until 15 minutes before he made the announcement on air, according to a 2011 TMZ story. How's that for irony?

Philbin is open to guest co-hosting Live

There's still hope that Philbin might one day return to the show's co-host chair and give viewers that feel-good reunion with Ripa that has been a long time coming. But don't get your box of tissues ready quite yet. It's complicated. When The Insider asked if he would be willing to host Live again, even if only for a week, Philbin responded "I think it would be fun, yeah. But what am I going to say? I wanna come back!" Philbin reiterated the sentiment in an interview with Newsday when he said, "Well, if they asked me to do a day or two, it might be fun. So far, I haven't heard from anybody." Interesting he would say that, considering it's not actually true.

Contrary to what Philbin said, he has been invited back to Live

Ripa never addressed Philbin's repeated claims that he hasn't been invited back, but Dave Davis did. The president and general manager of WABC-TV, which produces Live, provided indisputable evidence that the show has invited him back. "It was wonderful to have Regis on the show for our 2015 Halloween special," Davis said in a statement to the media. "He's also been invited back several times as a guest, and in fact was confirmed for a date, but was not able to make it at the time."

And yes, Ripa and Philbin did interact when he returned with Gifford for their Halloween cameo. There's backstage footage of Ripa and Philbin hugging and pretending like everything was fine even though their comments in the press said otherwise. "I knew you wouldn't be able to stay away," Ripa joked.

It's highly unlikely Philbin forgot about the one time he went back to the place where he worked for 28 years. That's not the sort of thing a person forgets, even if that person holds the Guinness World Record for most hours logged on US TV. So what gives? Seems like there's something Philbin isn't telling us.

Ripa sometimes felt like Philbin's mother

Don't let the age difference between Ripa and Philbin fool you. The mother of three insisted that she was more like the parent in the relationship, despite being 39 years younger than Philbin. "He's older than me and people always talk about the age difference between us, when in fact I am like his mother," Ripa told the Wendy Williams Show. "I'm not kidding. I'm almost like his grandmother. I irritate him that much. I'm like 'Sit down. You've got to drink this. You can't do that. Don't do that. Don't eat that hot dog. You had heart surgery. Stop it.'" And don't forget the time she removed a splinter from Philbin's finger with tweezers on camera or when she lightly reprimanded Philbin for patting Nicki Minaj's butt. "Regis!" Ripa shouted after noticing his wandering hand. "What just happened?" Yeah, Reege, what did happen there?

Philbin preferred they save their socializing for Live

The secret to Philbin and Ripa's witty banter on camera might have been the lack of preparation and scripting involved beforehand. Ripa told the New York Times in 2017 that "Regis had a mandate: Absolutely no talking off camera. He had almost a superstition about it. You save it for the show. I'd be like 'Good morning,' and he'd say 'Save it for the air.'" Ripa apparently doesn't feel the same way Philbin does. In that same article, Ripa said she and Live With Kelly and Ryan co-host Ryan Seacrest text at night and hang out on weekends.

Philbin's unorthodox approach to TV obviously isn't for everyone, but it spoke volumes of his emphasis on authenticity. He told Newsday in 2016 "I used to force myself to go out the night before because, if I didn't, I wouldn't have anything to talk about the next day. These days, some people have scripts and people writing for them, but in those days, I wanted it to be for real. I wanted it to be about whatever was going on."

Ripa feels there's something Philbin does better than anyone else

Philbin isn't a singer, dancer, comic or actor, so how in the world has he succeeded in an industry where many others more talented than him have failed? Ripa believes he thrived, in part, due to his ability to tell a story like nobody else could. "I think he's the world's greatest storyteller," Ripa told the New York Times. "That's his gift." 

Philbin has plenty of material to work with after having spent six decades on television and befriended the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Barbara Walters, Don Rickles and Donald Trump. But Ripa told Good Housekeeping in 2012 it was the less glamorous anecdotes that she missed most about Philbin: "There was always something going wrong in his life, and that was always very funny. Nobody has luck that bad." 

Philbin glowed about Ripa in his book

What gets lost in the controversy surrounding Ripa and Philbin's fall out is just how highly he thought of her. In his 2011 memoir, How I Got This Way, rather than criticize his former co-host to drum up book sales, Philbin wrote (via the Washington Post) "She could instinctively zero in on the funniest details, which came out of nowhere and somehow hit a comic bull's eye. That knack of hers pretty instantly struck a chord with the audience." 

Clearly he was in awe of Ripa, or Pippa, as he affectionately nicknamed her. Philbin also stated in the book (via the Washington Post) that her talent "came from, frankly, such an unexpected source — I mean, a young soap opera actress?" and added "usually that kind of easy conversational spark is innate only in a special breed of broadcaster types." High praise, right? Maybe their friendship was the real deal after all.

Ripa said Philbin disliked certain popular Live segments

Philbin's lovable curmudgeon act wasn't actually an act. Ripa told the Wendy Williams Show that the Philbin viewers saw on television was the same Philbin the show's staff saw behind the scenes, complainer and all. During a 2012 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, Ripa said no one escaped Philbin's wrath, not even cute babies. "When Regis was there, [Top Teacher Week] was the one thing he never bitched about. He didn't mind honoring the teachers. He hated Beautiful Baby Week. He didn't really like Pet Week. He didn't understand Back To School Prom Fashion Week and any of that."

What did Philbin have against Beautiful Baby Week, exactly? "He didn't like it. He felt all the kids looked the same," Ripa said before launching into an impersonation of a worked up Philbin. "'Pippa, I can't tell. Does that kid look beautiful to you. I don't even think he looks right.'"