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 did it change after Philbin left the show in 2011? Here is the truth about Ripa and Philbin's relationship.

Kelly Ripa and Regis Philbin weren't on speaking terms

It appeared that Kelly Ripa and Regis 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 didn'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 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," adding, "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 even once joined Gifford on the "Today" show and they still got dinner together from time to time, proving not everything in Hollywood is fake.

Regis Philbin thought Kelly Ripa was mad at him

You can blame Kelly Ripa for the falling-out — or at least that's what Regis 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 made just as little of an effort to repair the relationship as Ripa had. 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?

Regis Philbin defended Kelly Ripa's reaction to Michael Strahan's departure

Kelly Ripa was so upset that Michael 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 Regis 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?

Regis Philbin was open to guest co-hosting Live

Fans had hoped that Regis Philbin could have one day returned to the show's co-host chair and given viewers that feel-good reunion with Kelly Ripa that had been a long time coming. But things were 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 reportedly was not actually true.

Contrary to what Regis Philbin said, he had been invited back to Live

Kelly Ripa never addressed Regis Philbin's repeated claims that he hadn'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 was 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 was something Philbin wasn't telling us.

Kelly Ripa sometimes felt like Regis Philbin's mother

Don't let the age difference between Kelly Ripa and Regis 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 Ripa 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?" Yikes.

Regis Philbin preferred they save their socializing for Live

The secret to Regis Philbin and Kelly 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, "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 didn't feel the same way Philbin did. 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 wasn'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."

Kelly Ripa felt there was something Regis Philbin did better than anyone else

Regis Philbin isn't a singer, dancer, comic, or actor, so how in the world had he succeeded in an industry where many others more talented than him have failed? Kelly 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 had plenty of material to work with after having spent six decades on television and having 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." 

Regis Philbin glowed about Kelly Ripa in his book

What got lost in the controversy surrounding Kelly Ripa and Regis Philbin's fall-out was 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 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.

Kelly Ripa said Regis Philbin disliked certain popular Live segments

Regis Philbin's lovable curmudgeon act wasn't actually an act. Kelly Ripa told the "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.'"

Howard Stern reckons this is why Regis Philbin really left

Everybody and their mother was speculating about the real reason why Regis Philbin ultimately walked away from hosting "Live!" We'll probably never know the full story, but it's fun to speculate about what was happening behind the scenes. As USA Today noted, legendary shock jock Howard Stern joined the conversation during a 2019 episode of "The Howard Stern Show." Chatting with guest Jimmy Kimmel, Stern opined, "Kelly [Ripa] I don't think likes Regis. That's the thing. They have a war." 

The talk show host tried to counter Stern's shocking allegation, but he persisted, insisting it was true and, further, suggesting the duo wasn't even on speaking terms at the time. In fact, Stern reckoned Kelly Ripa's main issue was that Philbin didn't tell her when he was planning to walk away. On that point, co-host Robin Quivers argued, "I don't think Regis left on his own accord," which even Kimmel acknowledged may have been the case.

Kelly Ripa posted a heartfelt tribute following Regis Philbin's death

They might have had their differences over the years, but when Regis Philbin sadly passed away in July 2020, his former co-host Kelly Ripa was one of the first to pay her respects to the late TV legend. According to People, in a moving joint statement with co-host Ryan Seacrest posted to Instagram, she gushed, "We are beyond saddened to learn about the loss of Regis Philbin. He was the ultimate class act, bringing his laughter and joy into our homes everyday on 'Live' for more than 23 years." 

The daytime TV host added they felt incredibly fortunate to have considered Philbin "a mentor" and expressed a desire to live up to his sterling reputation each day they're on the air. Ripa and Seacrest concluded by stating, "We send our deepest love and condolences to his family and hope they can find some comfort in knowing he left the world a better place." 

During their final broadcast together, Ripa had memorably told Philbin (via People), "Your light is what shined around all of us and made us look so bright for so long."

Kelly Ripa's kids 'worshipped' Regis Philbin

Kelly Ripa's relationship with the late Regis Philbin might have been slightly strained at times, but her three children were his biggest fans regardless. According to Closer Weekly, during an episode of "Live! With Kelly and Ryan" that aired just a couple days after the daytime icon's shock passing, Ripa revealed her kids absolutely adored Philbin. "What I love to remember about him is his relationship with my kids because Regis had this ability," the former soap star gushed. As she explained, "He would talk to kids like they were adults. He didn't care if they were 2 [or] if they were 4. It didn't matter." 

Ripa added, "My kids responded to that in a way that was so — they just worshipped him." In particular, Ripa pointed to a moment when he described her daughter, Lola Consuelos, as a "gentile little lady." As the TV star acknowledged, she knew then how sensitively Philbin likely approached his relationship with his own daughter. 

Regis Philbin taught Kelly Ripa this life lesson

As much as they, understandably, butted heads during their many years working in close quarters, Kelly Ripa acknowledged there was nobody quite like Regis Philbin. After more than a decade hosting "Live!" alongside the TV icon, she had plenty of fond memories to share. While appearing on a special ABC tribute to Philbin, Ripa revealed the No. 1 life lesson she'd learned from her late colleague. "I think my biggest takeaway from the 11 years that I shared with him was that you have to be yourself," the former soap star opined (via Twitter).

Ripa clarified, "You cannot be one person on camera and a different person once the light goes off or the audience is gone. You have to be who you are." In fact, the Daytime Emmy winner reckons Philbin's greatest legacy will be how the host made everybody he came into contact with feel like they were the real stars. Likewise, how much Philbin adored everybody equally will ensure he remains beloved, too.