Kathie Lee Gifford Honors Regis Philbin on Late Star’s 91st Birthday

by Suzanne Halliburton

Kathie Lee Gifford and Regis Philbin were America’s morning co-hosts for a dozen years. You couldn’t start your day without checking in to hear what either did the night before.

That’s because Regis was the man about town. He loved to tell his fabulous stories about parties he attended or meals he ate. Kathie Lee chatted about her husband (former star New York Giant and Monday Night Football analyst) and her kids. Philbin and Gifford were together on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee from 1988 to 2000.

Regis is gone now. He died in July, 2020. Still, Kathie Lee Gifford paused Thursday to honor Philbin’s birthday. We’re imagining that in a celestial somewhere, Regis gave a great party for his 91st birthday. On Instagram, Gifford went vintage, sharing a black-and-white snap of the two of them together. They’re all smiles. And Regis is animated, so he likely said something funny or maybe threw in some snark. Or, he could’ve been talking about his beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Kathie Lee Gifford wrote: “I miss Regis every day. But this is a particularly difficult day as we remember this amazing man who would have been 91. Sending love to Joy and the rest of their family as they celebrate an extraordinary man and life.”

Now contrast that photo with the one Kathie Lee Gifford shared of the two back when Philbin died two summers ago. They were like an old married couple, except in this case, it was a work-place marriage. They definitely were comfortable with each other as two cherished friends. Gifford described her relationship with the talk-show host:

“I simply adored him and every day with him was a gift.,” Kathie Lee Gifford wrote. “We spent 15 years together bantering and bickering and laughing ourselves silly—a tradition and a friendship we shared up to this very day. I smile knowing somewhere in Heaven, at this very moment, he’s making someone laugh. … There has never been anyone like him. And there never will be.”

Kathie Lee Gifford and Regis Philbin started the New York-based talk show in 1988. The two co-hosted the show until 2000. And to start each morning, Regis and Kathie would talk to the audience, in studio and watching from home, as if they were all friends sharing some morning coffee. They chatted about great meals, cute kids or anything else that might’ve caught their eye since the day before.

Gifford quit the show in 2000, but didn’t reveal why for years. Finally, in 2007, she opened up about her decision, which was family related.

“My daddy was dying, and I was not comfortable making it public,” Kathie Lee Gifford told reporters. “I had a very personal reason for not going through yet one more painful experience in a public way.”

Aaron Leon Epstein, Gifford’s father, died in 2002. He’d been suffering from Lewy Body Dementia, a disease of the brain similar to Alzheimer’s.

Kelly Ripa replaced Gifford. And when Regis retired in 2011, Kathie Lee Gifford was there on the show to help him celebrate.