I got such a kick out of interviewing Regis in 2004. We met by phone. His distinct voice and friendly nature awed me. I was like putty in his hands. We laughed, he joked and reminisced. He was just like a TV dad; perfect in every way.
“When I was growing up TV was in its infancy,” he said, “and I was intrigued by it and wondered what I could do. I had no particular talent; I wasn’t a singer or a comedian so I started as a page in NY at NBC and then became a stage hand in Hollywood. I drove a truck for a while until I broke in as a writer for a newscaster. Eventually I wanted to read my own stuff, so I went to San Diego and worked for a little radio station that had a news wagon. That’s when it really started for me. I would go out and cover live news.”
You’ve come a long way, I commented, and he laughed replying," I have done practically everything in the business so I’m not afraid of anything new. Taking over for Dick Clark was tough as he has been the New Year’s Eve guy for years. It was really a great opportunity, as was Millionaire, which was a tremendous boost for my career. It gave me primetime exposure, and you cannot beat the prime time stage for a great audience. I had one of the biggest shows in 1999 --- it was a giant show and I know how lucky I am that I had a chance to be there for that success.”
“The way I see life in my show, what with television becoming so sensational and with personal problems being exposed all the time… I want it to be uplifting, happy and fun. There’s enough stuff going on in the world that I don’t have to make it worse. I want, at 10:00 in the morning, when the audience finishes watching Live with Regis and Kelly, that they will feel uplifted and go on to have a great day.”
Well, what do you do, I ask, when you’re having a bad morning and you have to go on the air? How do you talk to yourself? What do you say to get you motivated?
“I want to tell you what I say, Liz, because I have been doing this same thing for thirty years. Every morning, as I wait for the elevator to take me downstairs, I say this thing that I heard from a well known Protestant minister, a very charismatic guy. And I know there are some mornings that I don’t feel like sitting there and being happy. So I just say…Let’s make it a good day, let’s make it a great day and let’s make it the best day yet. And I’ve been doing it for a long long time. And I tell you, by the time the elevator hits the street I am ready to go!”
On the personal front, I asked. How are you and your wife Joy? “Joy and I are now married for 35 years and we have two grown daughters, Joanna and Jennifer. And our girls are doing great. Sometimes though, when I look back, I often wonder, did I do enough? Maybe every parent thinks that way. Maybe we all question whether or not we could have done more or said more. But I teach by example. I’ve let my girls know they can do anything. As an old Marine Major told me years ago when I was in the service,
"You can achieve anything; you just have to want it bad enough.”
As we all know, life can be like a roller coaster and Regis has had his fair share of ups and downs. “I went through many trials and tribulations,” he told me. “I was out of work for a couple of years -- a couple of times. The last 20 years in NYC have been very productive and the last 20 years have been terrific. I also made eight people very happy millionaires.”
Regis you were the grandaddy of happy television audiences everywhere! Rest In Peace.