Kathie Lee Gifford Recalls Last Time Seeing Regis Philbin: 'He Was Failing, I Could Tell'
Kathie Lee Gifford is reflecting on her final visit with close friend Regis Philbin, just weeks before his death
This weekend, TV lost an icon with the death of Regis Philbin at the age of 88. On Monday, Kathie Lee Gifford honored her longtime friend and cohost during an appearance on the Today show, remembering their brilliant partnership and her last visit with the late legend.
Calling in to Today from her home in Connecticut, Gifford shared that Philbin and his wife, Joy, had visited her about two weeks ago. “We laughed ourselves sick. We always just picked up right where we left off,” she remembered fondly. She did note, though, that when he arrived, “I sensed much more fragility in him since the last time I had seen him,” and after he left, “I just thought to myself, ‘Lord, is that the last time I’m going to see my friend?’”
The pair became co-hosts of the local The Morning Show in 1985; “We loved being a local-piece-of-slime show, that’s what we called ourselves,” Gifford recalled. “We had no intentions of becoming bigger than that.” In 1988, however, “Disney came along and syndicated us, and it changed the landscape of daytime television forever,” Gifford. “We didn’t know! We weren’t trying to do that! We were just being who we were!”
She attributes the great success of their 15-year partnership to an authentic friendship, which lasted for another 20 years after she left the show — and a belief in having fun. “We had the same sense of humor. And I wasn’t afraid of him and he sure as heck was not afraid of me. And we just took off like a rocket,” she remembered. “You know, in all the years we were together, we never had one cross word. Not one.”
Though Gifford became visibly emotional talking about her friend on the clip, whom she remembers as “the most grateful person” who “was always comfortable in his own skin and always felt like the luckiest guy in the world,” her tribute to Philbin was more celebratory than mournful.
Speaking to Joy after hearing the news, “she said, ‘Kathie, he hadn’t laughed in a long, long time.’ She said, ‘I was so worried about him,’” Gifford shared. “And she said, ‘and the day that we came to have lunch with you was the last time I heard him laugh.’ So that will forever be a precious gift the lord gave me, that I got to laugh again with one of my best friends in all my lifetime.”