The First 15 Minutes of Regis Philbin's Career
by Gary North: Boomer
I am not
a big Regis Philbin fan. The only time I watched one of his shows
was on Friday night his final show. I had set the machine to
record it show that morning. In his total career, I had watched
him for fewer than 15 minutes. This gives you some indication of
my commitment to Mr. Philbin.
I wish I had
seen his first on-camera performance. It lasted 15 minutes.
I grew up in
southern California. The least watched TV station in the region
was KCOP channel 13 which was appropriately numbered. The
station was always trying to find performers who could attract a
large audience. It never did.
One of KCOP's
celebrities in the mid-1950s was a lively talk show host named Tom
Duggan. I did not watch him until the early 1960s, when I was in
college. By then he had switched to a rival station. At KCOP he
had two shows: an evening show and a 15-minute sports show during
a drinking problem. Sometimes he would not show up for the afternoon
show. One of his writers was Philbin. One day when Duggan did not
show up, the manager put Philbin in front of the camera. He later
said he was scared, but at the end of the show, he knew he wanted
to be on TV.
He had wanted
to be in the industry for years. He had been a page in New York
City for Steve Allen's The Tonight Show. But this was the
first time he had been on-camera.
The story of
what happened next is in this
biography. He did not think he could break in full-time at KCOP.
He quit. He had no replacement job, no fall-back position. Fortunately,
his now ex-boss helped him find a job a newscaster at a low-powered
AM radio station in San Diego.
In a way, his
career then mimicked Allen's. Allen had started out in Los Angeles
as a late-night disc jockey. But, to liven up things, he invited
people to come to the studio. More and more came. He began interacting
with them, taking the microphone into the audience. Then local celebrites
started asking to be on the show. Allen invented the talk show format.
He went from radio to TV.
the same, with lots of ups and downs.
There was this
difference. Allen's career slid after the Steve Allen Show, a variety
show he quit The Tonight Show to host. He walked away from
a gold mine for a silver mine. Then the ore played out. I have written
about this before.
Philbin's career never slid for long.
He had a gift
for improvisation, or so I have read. He was not a comedian. He
was a writer. But he could interact well with a live audience.
As it turned
out, Philbin became the longest-running survivor in the genre. The
other talk show hosts came and went, but at 80 he looks a
decade younger he was still at the top of his game on Friday.
He almost died of a heart attack a few years ago, but still he would
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North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com.
He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible.
2011 Gary North
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