Morning show's behind-the-scenes players
“Live With Regis and Kelly” isn’t a two-person act. Other faces familiar to longtime viewers have contributed greatly to the show’s 20 years of success.
Michael Gelman: The “Live” executive producer began his career with Regis Philbin in the 1980s as a freelance production assistant, back when the program was known as simply “The Morning Show.”
The wunderkind quickly moved to the top spot, successfully aiding “Live’s” transition to the national scene in 1987. Today, the multiple Emmy nominee, who credits Philbin for giving him his big break, remains responsible for every aspect of “Live.”
Gelman attributes the successful chemistry and working relationship that he shares with Philbin to the fact that they each embrace their respective roles.
“Regis loves to host,” Gelman says. “He doesn’t want to produce. He and Kelly (Ripa) leave that to the staff and me.”
Regular viewers know that a staple of the show is Philbin’s lighthearted teasing of Gelman. “Regis developed that device of using a producer as a foil on his earlier shows,” Gelman shares. “It brings the viewers into the production.”
As for Ripa, the “Live” head honcho was instrumental in selecting her as Kathie Lee Gifford’s successor in 2001. “The first time we had Kelly on, you could tell there was something special about her,” Gelman recalls.
While he’s been introduced to many film and TV stars over the years, Gelman says he’s most enjoyed meeting musical acts (like Jethro Tull) and politicians.
“I love topnotch journalists, too,” he says. “Those guys have seen it all.”
Joy Philbin: Joy, Regis’ wife since 1970, is not only the “great woman behind the great man,” as the old saying sometimes goes, she’s also the great woman next to him, as his occasional co-host. In fact, when Gifford quit “Live,” the engaging and quick-witted Joy soon became the front-runner in polls asking who should be Regis’ new partner.
“It was a huge boost to my ego,” Joy warmly recalls before adding, “It’s better that I don’t do it all the time. Kathie Lee was terrific, and Kelly is terrific.”
Joy, who performs along with her husband in his nightclub act, recollects pinch-hitting for a snowbound Gifford one morning. The only hitch, however, was that the Philbins weren’t speaking to each other since Regis had gotten the couple lost on the way to see “Schindler’s List” the previous evening.
“The host chat started (and nobody spoke); we finally told the audience (which sided with Joy) what happened,” she says. “It turned out to be one of the best openings we ever had.”
Art Moore: Moore, “Live’s” executive in charge of production, joined the program a year after it started broadcasting nationally and soon, like Gelman, became a target for Philbin’s tongue-in-cheek rants. “Regis and I really hit it off from the get-go,” Moore says. “Once he knew I could become another foil and didn’t mind it, possibilities opened up. It helped the show.”
The executive, who memorably donned a Wonder Woman outfit for the 2002 Halloween episode, hopes to honor late guests of “Live,” such as Merv Griffin, during the 20th anniversary celebration.
“(Merv) was such a great asset to our show,” the exec fondly recalls.
Claudia Cohen: Cohen, an entertainment reporter and “Live” contributor who died on June 15 after a battle with ovarian cancer, fit perfectly with the show’s celeb-friendly atmosphere. The ex-Page Six editor gave “Live” viewers entertaining (but never salacious) red-carpet reports.
“She was a very courageous, brave and loyal friend,” Joy says. “Claudia knew all the movers and shakers in New York City, and she introduced us to everybody. We miss her terribly.”
Adds Gelman: “(Claudia) started out with all of us and was with us when we went national. She had a great work ethic and was gutsy with what she’d say. It’s been a tremendous loss.”
“(Claudia) didn’t do mean or intrusive gossip,” Moore notes. “That was especially refreshing given what most people do.”