Regis Philbin Talks Leaving 'Live,' Kissing Letterman

After an astonishing five decades on live television, Regis Philbin is hanging up his hat and saying goodbye to "Live!" But he's not going out without a few last words -- Philbin is taking a long look back at his career in How I Got This Way, a new book filled with affectionate portraits of celebrities like David Letterman, Jack Nicholson and Howard Stern.

So are you going to be crying on Friday?

You want me to cry, Nicki? I'll cry. Everybody's asking me, 'Are you going to cry?' No, I'm not going to cry. I'm going to celebrate 28 and a half wonderful years.

And you're in the Guinness World Records book.

Yes I'm approaching 17,000 hours on TV. I think it's pretty incredible.

You had some tough times. Did you ever contemplate quitting?

I really never did because I didn't know what else I could do. I got so involved in the TV business that I just never considered anything else. I just thought something will come my way and sometimes it took a long time.

Your gift is thinking on your feet and being able to tell a story.

I think that's probably my strong suit. I discovered that 50 years ago on a little show I was doing in San Diego. I would do the news during the week and I would have a talk show on Saturday nights. I'm not a joke teller but I could always tell a story when I was a kid growing up in the Bronx. That's how it started. I would tell stories and try to have a happy ending or a funny ending and that became my strong suit, I think.

Do you really believe you have a black cloud over your head?

Not anymore. I spent 28 years out in Hollywood and now these 28 years here in New York. The first 28 years were up and down. There was a struggle in the beginning here to get the show rolling and then it became a hit. It's been a nice conclusion to a life.

Why do you think Letterman loves you so much?

David Letterman came on the show today [Wednesday]. I showed some clips of us together. At the end he got up out of his chair, said goodbye and reached over and gave me a full, full-lipped kiss.


You know Nicki, did you say tongue?

You set me up!

It's funny you should say that because Kelly said, 'I thought I saw tongue.' There was no tongue! If The Huffington Post cares about the tongue, that's what's going to be talked about all the time. I'm going on his show tomorrow night [Thursday] to explain that The Huffington Post said to me, 'Tongue?'

How much of your success is due to Joy?

Oh a lot. She's very smart and all the major decisions have been made by her. I'd still be out of work in L.A. if it wasn't for her.

Do you really get in a bad mood if Notre Dame loses?

Very bad mood. I'm trying to overcome it. I used to kick buckets and get crazy and complain on the air over the years. I'm getting a little bit better but I can't conquer it altogether.

So what are your plans?

I thought one day it was all going to come to an end and I decided one and a half years ago that this was the end -- it doesn't mean I'm not going to go back to work. I just don't know what I'm going to be doing after I leave here. I think I'll do some more TV down the line. I just haven't heard the right thing yet.

So who do you like working with better, Kathie Lee or Kelly?

I think they're both adorable women, good looking, opinionated, smart. Maybe I trained them to be like that, I don't know. I'm kidding, Nicki, I'm kidding!

Regis Philbin Through The Years